What will be the role of Latin America in the new global order?

For Melany BarraganLatin America21

The global agenda in recent years has been marked by events of great magnitude that have captured the attention of the media, citizens and elites. The financial crisis of 2008, the Covid-19 pandemic and, in the last two months, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have occupied the political and media agendas. This has kept Latin America in the background and out of the orbit of the global debate.

In this new world context, claiming the relevance of Latin America is complicated for at least two reasons: firstly, because an excessively simplistic narrative of bipolarity is being developed, which articulates international relations around two great colossi: China and the United States Joined. And in this scenario, actors such as Latin America or the European Union itself are relegated to being peripheral actors and subordinate to the great powers.

Second, because despite the fact that the region has structural deficits and pending agendas, the fact that it does not generate imbalances with a global impact places it in a peripheral space.

Fortunately, there are initiatives that continue to invite us to rethink the role of Latin America in the world order and underline the relevance of the region. Such is the case of the meeting of research centers and study associations dedicated to the analysis of Latin America and the Caribbean and bi-regional relations with Europe, held in Berlin on April 28 and 29. This meeting, organized by the EU-LAC Foundation, the Ibero-American Institute of Berlin and the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), provided an interesting forum for discussion on the state of the region and generated new synergies to rethink the role of Latin America in the new global order.

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The new scenario is especially critical because many of the global challenges are the consequence of overlapping situations. When the world had not yet managed to fully recover from the financial crisis of 2008, the pandemic arrived and recently the Russian invasion. These events, in turn, have generated distortions that have transcended specific spheres and have permeated many dimensions of the public sphere. Thus, consequences such as the economic, energy or migration crisis have numerous ramifications that involve the action of multiple actors and from different spheres of action. They are complex phenomena that therefore require complex actions.

Latin America cannot stay on the sidelines of decision-making or become a mere passive actor. For this reason, today, more than ever, it is necessary for the governments of the region to create a joint agenda that breaks any bipolar logic and opens the doors to multilateralism.

And, in this sense, the European Union can be a great ally because, possibly, it is also trying to redesign its place in the new world order and move away from the long shadow of China and the United States.

Within this logic, it is necessary for Latin America to equip itself with the means to be able to integrate into the game of the world order. In this sense, one of the most urgent measures is that, within the region, the summits of presidents be resumed after a seven-year hiatus. Today more than ever it is necessary to recover the dialogue, although great consensus is not necessarily reached, and it is especially relevant that there is an independent discussion forum that does not have the tutelage of third countries or organizations.

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Secondly, it is important to rethink the narrative of the integration agreements, since previous experiences are the result of a past context. New projects should be promoted that are understood as instruments of a geopolitical nature with economic interdependence, and not mere trade agreements. Finally, efforts must be dedicated to the execution of coordinated actions, at least in the main agendas, despite the maintenance of bilateral relations between States.

Once the dialogue within the region is strengthened, Latin America will be able to place itself in a more solid position within the international order and find allies, such as the European Union, to face the new global challenges and minimize, as far as possible, the preponderance geostrategic of the United States and China.

The crisis of globalization, climate change, the energy transition or the migratory crises cannot be resolved efficiently by considering a bipolar logic or under acute geostrategic rivalries. This could lead to more imbalances and the persistence over time of many of these problems.

For this reason, Latin America must take advantage of the opportunities that the new context offers and position itself as a key player in processes as relevant as energy policy or the supply of raw materials.

We live in turbulent times in which the different agendas need greater economic, social and territorial cohesion. Even, why not, should renew the social contract. But this is no longer viable by thinking only of a state or bipolar logic. Facing the new challenges, it is necessary that all the pieces find their place on the board. That is why initiatives such as the one promoted last week by the EU-LAC Foundation are so important. Hopefully many more to come.