Global apartheid

Global apartheid is a term used to mean minority rule in international decision-making. The term comes from apartheid, the system of governmental that ruled South Africa until 27 April 1994 when people of all races were able to vote as equals for the first time.

The concept of global apartheid has been developed by many researchers, including Titus Alexander, Bruno Amoroso, Patrick Bond, Gernot Kohler, Arjun Makhijiani, Ali Mazuri, Vandana Shiva, Anthony H. Richmond, Joseph Nevins, Muhammed Asadi, Gustav Fridolin, and many others.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Origin and use

The first use of the term may have been by Gernot Koehler in a 1978 Working Paper for the World Order Models Project. In 1995 Koehler develop this in The Three Meanings of Global Apartheid: Empirical, Normative, Existential.[14]

Its best known use was by Thabo Mbeki, then-President of South Africa, in a 2002 speech, drawing comparisons of the status of the world's people, economy, and access to natural resources to the apartheid era.[15] Mbeki got the term from Titus Alexander, initiator of Charter 99, a campaign for global democracy, who was also present at the UN Millennium Summit and gave him a copy of Unravelling Global Apartheid.


Minority rule in global governance is based on national sovereignty rather than racial identity, but in many other respects the history and structures of apartheid South Africa can be seen as a microcosm of the world. Following the Great Depression in the 1930s and the Second World War, the United States and United Kingdom used their political power to create systems of economic management and protection to mitigate the worst effects of free trade and neutralise the competing appeals of communism and national socialism. In South Africa civilized labour policies restricted public employment to whites, reserved skilled jobs for whites and controlled the movement of non-whites through a system of pass laws. In the West, escalating tariff barriers reserved manufacturing work for Europeans and Americans while immigration laws controlled the movement of immigrants seeking work.

At a political level, the West still dominates global decision-making through minority control of the central banking system (Bank of International Settlements), IMF, World Bank, Security Council and other institutions of global governance. The G8 represent less than 15% of world population, yet have over 60% of its income. 80% of the permanent members of the UN Security Council represent white Western states, 60% from Europe. The West has veto power in the World Bank, IMF and WTO and regulates global monetary policy through the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). By tradition, the head of the World Bank is always a US citizen, nominated by the US President, and the IMF is a European. Although the rest of the world now has a majority in many international institutions, it does not have the political power to reject decisions by the Western minority.

In The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P. Huntington describes how "the United States together with Britain and France make the crucial decisions on political and security issues; the United States together with Germany and Japan make the crucial decisions on economic issues."[16] Huntington quoted Jeffrey R Bennett to claim that Western nations:[17]

  • own and operate the international banking system
  • control all hard currencies
  • are the world’s principle customer
  • provide the majority of the world’s finished goods
  • dominate international capital markets
  • exert considerable moral leadership within many societies
  • are capable of massive military intervention
  • control the sea lanes

Huntington presents a ‘framework, a paradigm, for viewing global politics’ to protect “Western civilization”. He argues that other civilizations threaten the West through immigration, cultural differences, growing economic strength and potential military power. ‘If North America and Europe renew their moral life, build on their cultural commonality, and develop close forms of economic and political integration to supplement their security collaboration in NATO, they could generate a third Euroamerican phase of Western affluence and political influence. Meaningful political integration would in some measure counter the relative decline in the West’s share of the world’s people, economic product, and military capabilities and revive the power of the West in the eyes of the leaders of other civilizations.’ However, this ‘depends overwhelmingly on whether the United States reaffirms its identity as a Western nation and defines its global role as the leader of Western civilization.’ [p308]

Alexander identifies numerous pillars of global apartheid including:[1]

  • veto power by the Western minority in the UN Security Council
  • voting powers in the IMF and World Bank
  • dominance of the World Trade Organisation through effective veto power and ‘weight of trade’ rather than formal voting power
  • one-sided rules of trade, which give privileged protection to Western agriculture and other interests while opening markets in the Majority World
  • protection of ‘hard currency’ through the central banking system through the Bank of International Settlements
  • immigration controls which manage the flow of labour to meet the needs of Western economies
  • use of aid and investment to control elites in the Majority World through reward and punishment
  • support for coups or military intervention in countries which defy Western dominance

International decision-making has a legacy of inequality which some authors have compared to historical apartheid in South Africa.


  1. ^ a b Titus Alexander, Unravelling Global Apartheid: An Overview of World Politics, Polity Press, 1996
  2. ^ Bruno Amoroso, Global Apartheid. Economics and Society, Federico Caffè Center, Roskilde, Città di Castello, 2004
  3. ^ Patrick Bond, Against Global Apartheid: South Africa Meets the World Bank, IMF and International Finance, Zed Books Ltd; 2nd edition February 2004
  4. ^ Gernot Kohler, Global Apartheid, Working Paper No 7, World Order Models Project, New York, 1978
  5. ^ Adekeye Adebajo, James Jonah, Ali A. Mazrui and Tor Sellstrom, From Global Apartheid to Global Village: Africa and the United Nations, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Aug 2009; Leith Mullings, New Social Movements in the African Diaspora: Challenging Global Apartheid (Critical Black Studies) February 2010
  6. ^ Arjun Makhijiani, From Global Capitalism to Economic Justice, Apex Press, 1992
  7. ^ Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights, 2008)
  8. ^ Ali Mazuri in conversation with Fouad Kalouche, Universalism, Global Apartheid, and Justice
  9. ^ Vandana Shiva, 'The New Environmental Order' Third World Resurgence, 20 April 1992, Third World Network, Penang, Malaysia, p 2 -3
  10. ^ Anthony H Richmond, Global Apartheid: Refugees, Racism and the New World Order, Oxford University Press, Ontario, 1995
  11. ^ Joseph Nevins, Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (Open Media), City Lights Books, October 2008
  12. ^ Muhammed A. Asadi, Global Apartheid, iUniverse, February 2003
  13. ^ Per Gustav Edvard Fridolin, Från Vittsjö till världen - om global apartheid och alla vi som vill någon annanstans (From Vittsjö to the world - about global apartheid and everyone of us that want to go somewhere), 2006
  14. ^ Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, Vol. 20, No. 3 (July-September 1995), pp. 403-413
  15. ^ Haviland, William (1993). Cultural Anthropology. Vermont: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers. p. 250-252
  16. ^ Samuel P Huntington The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (p81)
  17. ^ Jeffrey R Bennett ‘Exclusion as National Security Policy’, Parameters, 24, Spring 1994, 54

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