Environment and Population:
The North-South Gap:
- Environmental problems are an example of international interdependence and often create collective goods problems for the states involved. The large numbers of actors involved in global environmental problems make them more difficult to solve.
- To resolve such collective goods problems, states have used international regimes and IOs, and have in some cases extended state sovereignty (notably over territorial waters) to make management a national rather than an international matter.
- International efforts to solve environmental problems aim to bring about sustainable economic development.
- Global warming results from burning fossil fuels—the basis of industrial economies today. The industrialized states are much more responsible for the problem than are developing countries, but countries such as China and India also contribute to the problem. Solutions are difficult to reach because costs are substantial and dangers are somewhat distant and uncertain.
- Damage to the earth’s ozone layer results from the use of specific chemicals, which are now being phased out under international agreements. Unlike global warming, the costs of solutions are much lower and the problem is better understood.
- Many species are threatened with extinction due to loss of habitats such as rain forests. An international treaty on biodiversity and an agreement on forests aim to reduce the destruction of local ecosystems, with costs spread among states.
- The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) establishes an ocean regime that puts most commercial fisheries and offshore oil under control of states as territorial waters.
- Pollution—including acid rain, water and air pollution, and toxic and nuclear waste—tends to be more localized than global and has been addressed mainly through unilateral, bilateral, and regional measures rather than global ones.
- Most Western states import energy resources, mostly oil, whereas the other world regions export them. Oil prices rose dramatically in the 1970s but declined in the 1980s as the world economy adjusted by increasing supply and reducing demand. Prices spiked again around 1991 and 2007–2008 before collapsing in 2008. Such fluctuations undermine world economic stability.
- The most important source of oil traded worldwide is the Persian Gulf area of the Middle East. Consequently, this area has long been a focal point of international political conflict.
- World population—now at 6.8 billion—may eventually level out around 9 to 10 billion. Virtually all of the increase will come in the global South.
- Future world population growth will be largely driven by the demographic transition. Death rates have fallen throughout the world, but birthrates will fall proportionally only as per capita incomes go up. The faster the economies of poor states develop, the sooner their populations will level out.
- Government policies can reduce birthrates somewhat at a given level of per capita income. Effective policies are those that improve access to birth control and raise the status of women in society. Actual policies vary, from China’s very strict rules on childbearing to pronatalist governments that encourage maximum birthrates and outlaw birth control.
- The global HIV/AIDS epidemic creates huge costs for many poor states. Currently 33 million people are infected with HIV, and 30 million more have died. Most are in Africa, and new infections are growing rapidly in Asia and Russia.
The North-South Gap:
- Most of the world’s people live in poverty in the global South. About a billion live in extreme poverty, without access to adequate food, water, and other necessities.
- Wealth accumulation (including the demographic transition discussed in Chapter 11) depends on the meeting of basic human needs such as access to food, water, education, shelter, and health care. Third world states have had mixed success in meeting their populations’ basic needs.
- Hunger and malnutrition are rampant in the global South. The most important cause is the displacement of subsistence farmers from their land because of war, population pressures, and the conversion of agricultural land into plantations growing export crops to earn hard currency.
- Urbanization is increasing throughout the global South as more people move from the countryside to cities. Huge slums have grown in the cities as poor people arrive and cannot find jobs.
- Women’s central role in the process of accumulation has begun to be recognized. International agencies based in the North have started taking women’s contributions into account in analyzing economic development in the South.
- Poverty in the South has led huge numbers of migrants to seek a better life in the North; this has created international political frictions. War and repression in the South have generated millions of refugees seeking safe haven. Under international law and norms, states are generally supposed to accept refugees but do not have to accept migrants.
- War has been a major impediment to meeting basic needs, and to wealth accumulation generally, in poor countries. Almost all the wars of the past 50 years have been fought in the global South.
- Moving from poverty to well-being requires the accumulation of capital. Capitalism and socialism take different views on this process. Capitalism emphasizes overall growth with considerable concentration of wealth, whereas socialism emphasizes a fair distribution of wealth.
- Most states have a mixed economy with some degree of private ownership of capital and some degree of state ownership. However, state ownership has not been very successful in accumulating wealth. Consequently, many states have been selling off state-owned enterprises (privatization), especially in Russia and Eastern Europe.
- Since Lenin’s time, many Marxists have attributed poverty in the South to the concentration of wealth in the North. In this theory, capitalists in the North exploit the South economically and use the wealth thus generated to buy off workers in the North. Revolutions thus occur in the South and are ultimately directed against the North.
- IR scholars in the world-system school argue that the North is a core region specializing in producing manufactured goods and the South is a periphery specializing in extracting raw materials through agriculture and mining. Between these are semiperiphery states with light manufacturing.
- Various world civilizations were conquered by Europeans over several centuries and forcefully absorbed into a single global international system initially centered in Europe. Today’s North-South gap traces its roots to the past colonization of the southern world regions by Europe. This colonization occurred at different times in different parts of the world, as did decolonization.
- Because of the negative impact of colonialism on local populations, anticolonial movements arose throughout the global South at various times and using various methods. These culminated in a wave of successful independence movements after World War II in Asia and Africa. (Latin American states gained independence much earlier.)
- Following independence, third world states were left with legacies of colonialism, including their basic economic infrastructures, that made wealth accumulation difficult in certain ways. These problems still remain in many countries.
- When revolutionaries succeed in taking power, they usually change their state’s foreign policy. Over time, however, old national interests and strategies tend to reappear. After several decades in power, revolutionaries usually become conservative and in particular come to support the norms and rules of the international system (which are favorable to them as state leaders).
- Economic development in the global South has been uneven. In recent years many poor countries, led by China, have grown robustly. But the 2009 global recession creates new obstacles for development.
- Evidence does not support a strong association of economic growth either with internal equality of wealth distribution or with internal inequality.
- The newly industrializing countries (NICs) in Asia—South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore—show that it is possible to rise out of poverty into sustained economic accumulation.
- China has registered strong economic growth in the past 25 years of market-oriented economic reforms. Though still poor, China is the world’s leading success story in economic development.
- Export-led growth has largely replaced import substitution as a development strategy. This reflects the experiences of the NICs and China as well as the theory of comparative advantage.
- The theory that democratization would accompany and strengthen economic development has not been supported by the actual experiences of poor countries. But the opposite theory—that authoritarian government is necessary to maintain control while concentrating capital for industrialization—has also not been supported.
- Government corruption is a major obstacle to development throughout the global South.
- Given the shortage of local capital in most poor states, foreign investment by MNCs can be a means of stimulating economic growth. MNCs look for favorable local conditions, including political and economic stability, in deciding where to invest.
- Debt, resulting largely from overborrowing in the 1970s and early 1980s, is a major problem in the global South. Through renegotiations and other debt management efforts, the North and South have improved the debt situation in recent years. However, the South remains $2 trillion in debt to the North.
- The IMF makes loans to states in the South conditional on economic and governmental reforms. These conditionality agreements often necessitate politically unpopular measures such as cutting food subsidies.
- The WTO trading regime works against the global South by allowing richer nations to protect sectors in which the global South has advantages—notably agriculture and textiles. The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) tries to compensate by lowering barriers to exports from the global South.
- Foreign assistance, most of it from governments in the North, plays an important part in the economic development plans of the poorer states of the South.
- Only a few states in the North meet the goal of contributing 0.7 percent of their GNPs as foreign assistance to the South.
- Most foreign aid consists of bilateral grants and loans from governments in the North to specific governments in the South. Such aid is often used for political leverage and promotes the export of products from the donor state.
- Donors in the global North use various relief models to distribute aid to the developing world, each with advantages and drawbacks.