Why we started using the Equal Earth map

This article was originally published by onthinktanks.org

Southern Voice‘s vision is a world in which power has been realigned between countries and hemispheres. We contribute to the adjustment by showcasing excellent evidence-based research from the Global South by Global South scholars. We aim to balance the discussion on a variety of current development topics.

Maps are, by nature, a representation of power. And the most widely used ones, be it the Mercator projection or similar ones, put power in the Northern Hemisphere, in particular, in Europe. Indeed, the Mercator map was necessary for navigation. But by making the European continent and its member countries look far larger than they are, such representations contribute to a sense of might, maybe even superiority. It is so common to use this 16th-century projection, that – I admit – we at Southern Voice didn’t realise or question it either. It was a comment on Twitter by one of our followers that made us aware of the mismatch between what we are trying to achieve and what we were showing. To be precise, the follower was looking at the map in our network video.

The first time I heard about a chart that tries to depict the sizes of continents more accurately, was during an episode of the series “West Wing”. Many (my age) might recall that episode. It is the one where civil society organisations are invited to the White House to present their rather “unusual” research or causes. In the (slightly exaggerated) scene, the cartographers show the Peter’s projection. They argue that the size of a country can be mistakenly equated with its value. And that if a state is represented smaller or bigger than it is, well, then it can be perceived as mightier or weaker. The same goes for continents.

For me, the explanation of the Peter’s projection and what it implied was a pivotal moment. I had never heard of a map misrepresentation before, but I had experienced its repercussion first hand. My entire life I have found myself explaining to European friends why distances in South America are so vast. Or how a country like Germany fits three times into a country like Bolivia. Even today, in 2019, they look at me like “yeah, right!”. And of course they do. If you grow up with a representation that shows your country much bigger than it is, then you are allowed to be sceptical. Even Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, recently turned to social media to demonstrate that her country was not as small as everyone thinks. Sites like thetruesize.com help us understand the real proportions of countries and continents.

Within Southern Voice‘s Secretariat, the internal discussion about changing to an equal earth projection was brief. It certainly helps that we are all ‘Southerners’ and know well that the Mercator map is not accurate and frankly, out-dated. We see and experience distances on this side of the world daily. And yet, why is the Mercator projection still the main one used in 99% of schools across the globe? Or why aren’t we, at least, taught that there are many kinds of maps, each one trying to depict something else and serving different purposes?

The world is changing. Power is shifting. Maybe not (yet) to the Global South. The deficits in this part of the world are still manifold, both home-grown and remnants of colonial times. But by showing real size (and might), we can at least contribute to the psychological aspect of the discussion. NASA is already using the equal earth chart, and also Google maps now shows the Earth as a globe to avoid distortions.

Our switch is somewhat a symbolic ‘revindication’, yes. But it is also in line with our core mandate: using evidence-based research and facts.

Ultimately, it is not about one state being ‘larger’ or ‘more powerful’ than the other. That is not what this modification or Southern Voice is about. But it is about creating balance and meeting each other at eye-level. Let’s leave the 16th century behind.

Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos: Head of communications of Southern Voice, a network of think tanks from the Global South working on sustainable development.

Southern Voice hosts its first communications workshop

Published on: southernvoice.org

by Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos, Head of Communications

What does a teddy bear have in common with a blog post? Can a presentation about research findings be done only with images? And what is the connection between a famous couple like Jay Z and Beyoncé with the “State of the Sustainable Development Goals” project?

All these questions were posed to six communications officers from six different Southern Voice partners during an interactive communications workshop in Bangkok-Thailand.

Thanks to the Think Tank Initiative, Southern Voice was able to get together in one place the people in charge of communicating the flagship project “State of the Sustainable Development Goals”. Participants came from: Peru, Bolivia, Ghana, Nigeria, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

During one day, they had the opportunity to learn new tools or improve skills. The sessions were on: how to enhance a presentation, creating a storyboard for videos of the project, training for potential podcasts and discussing how to write powerful blog posts.

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What is the new UN technology bank for?

Published by: southernvoice.org

Interview with Ms Bitrina Diyamettfounding/executive director of the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization (STIPRO), Tanzania

The United Nations recently established a “technology bank” (TB) for least-developed countries (LDC). One of its aims is to strengthen the science, technology and innovation capacity of LDCs, including better management of intellectual property rights. This is part of the effort to ‘leave no one behind’ by the UN Agenda 2030.

Southern Voice interviewed Ms Bitrina Diyamett, who was appointed by the UN Secretary General as a member of the Governing Council of the UN Technology Bank (TB).

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Bolivia’s current foreign policy: A primer

September 1, 2017 by Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos 

published in: The Global Americans


Bolivia’s current foreign policy stands out, characterized by a fierce loyalty to Cuba and Venezuela and a recent friendship with countries like Russia, Iran and China.

Since President Evo Morales assumed office in 2006, Bolivia has embarked on a new foreign policy path, often times resulting in confrontation. Although decisions are argued on the basis of standing against imperialism, Bolivia’s position quite often leaves the country isolated and in a difficult spot diplomatically.

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Source: Qantara.de (read in Arabic here, Spanish here, German here)

Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos recently visited Saudi Arabia on a UN fellowship. What she encountered there surprised her and completely changed her views on the lives of women in the kingdom. This is a personal account of her experiences.


For the first time this summer, women from Saudi Arabia will be allowed to take part in the Olympic Games. The fact that this subject is even being debated in the twenty-first century is a sign of just how closed the Gulf kingdom has been. Indeed, before I went there recently on a fellowship from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, I had never heard anything good about the place. Nothing, niente, nada.


Oppressed women, gruesome beheadings, human rights violations: you name it. The fact that one of our fellows was denied a visa and we had to say good-bye to him in Amman did not improve my opinion. To top it all off, the women in our group had to spend the first evening “locked” up in a hotel, as we didn’t have black head-to-toe abayas to cover up with. Needless to say, after that great start, we weren’t exactly looking forward to our visit.

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What does it take to bring down a head of state? In Germany it took only nine days and 138 characters.

While the rest of the world’s media is busy following the Gaza flotilla raid, a different story dominated Germany’s news this week: Horst Köhler, German President, unexpectedly resigned on 31 May. This has never happened in the history of post-WW2 Germany. Some fear it might even shake the foundations of German democratic institutions.

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