Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Latin America and the UN

Subproject of the ERC project 'Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within: The Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South'.

2020 - 2025
Alanna O'Malley
European Research Council European Research Council

Clashing Latin American projects for economic sovereignty in the post-war global order, investigates Latin America's clashing projects for sovereignty and economic independence in post-World War II global order. In doing so, this research is set to offer a different, more nuanced, perspective on the standard tale of the intellectual, economic, and political movements that emerged from the state-led developmentalist propositions of UN’s CEPAL in the late 1940s which gained traction with UNCTAD’s G77 in the 1960s, and reached its peak when the NIEO was launched in 1973. By focusing on the clashing positions — both through diplomatic channels at the United Nations system and non-state actors beyond them —, this research intends to explore how Latin American actors navigated between three different dimensions (global, regional, and domestic levels) — in which these projects for economic sovereignty were both being defended and attacked.

Pan-African giant Kwame Nkrumah is a key figure, as I delve into his ideological commitment to the unification of Africa under a socialist banner of a ‘United States of Africa’ and his aim to increase Black solidarity and African coordination. The project investigates the influence of early Pan-African sentiments on regional liberation politics, including the Rhodesian struggle. Providing a didactic framing of African’s agency in Western-dominated spaces, such as the UN, an insight will be offered into how Africans, rather than give into limiting systems, surpassed the constraints of Black agency and contributed significantly to the shaping of global affairs as they created a dignified niche for themselves in the international system.

The project contributes to the study of international history through its analysis of Pan-Africanism as a worldview that significantly impacted international order and global politics. My project purports that the UN as a Western-founded organization, despite its commitment to the decolonization of the Global South, both advertently and inadvertently, maintained international liberal order. By analysing the inversions that occur when emancipatory discourses are held in spaces of political asymmetry, the project will bring to the fore the contribution and exercise of (Pan-)African agency across UN bodies, committees, and agendas by highlighting the myriad of ways this agency was both influential at times and suppressed at other times, as a spirited African community formed within the UN realm.

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