Photo source: - Photo: 2017

BRICS: From Economic Partnership to Global Governance

By Somar Wijayadasa*

NEW YORK (IDN) – The leaders of the five BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held their 9th annual Summit in Xiamen, China, from September 3 to 5, 2017, under the theme “Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”

A significant change from the norm was to invite non-BRICS countries, and name the event as “BRICS Plus Summit”. Expanding its participation is a positive manifestation that the BRICS nations are now ready to translate their economic power into global governance.

Over 1000 delegates from many countries attended the meeting including leaders of Egypt, Mexico, Thailand, Guinea and Tajikistan.

The association of BRICS was founded in 2006 to enhance economic cooperation both within the bloc and with other countries, and to conduct bilateral relations among BRICS members on the basis of non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit.

As of 2015, the BRICS nations together represent 26% of the planet’s land mass, is home to 46% of the world’s population (i.e. over 3.6 billion people), and have contributed to more than 50 percent of the world economic growth during the past 10 years.

Strategy for the next decade

The Summit discussed issues related to economic collaboration, regional and global security, the need for open trade and fight against protectionism, work of the New Development Bank, establish a bond fund in national currencies, provide loans in national currencies of the BRICS member states, and cyber security.

The common theme proclaimed by all leaders was that BRICS has developed a “robust framework for cooperation,” and contributes “stability and growth in a world drifting towards uncertainty.”

Addressing the Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the BRICS cooperation has now reached a crucial stage of development, adding: “In the past ten years, our combined GDP has grown by 179%, trade by 94% and urban population by 28%, and has delivered tangible benefits to over three billion people.”

Reviewing the past progress, Xi said: “Our world today is becoming increasingly multipolar; the economy has become globalized; there is growing cultural diversity; and the society has become digitized.”

He added: “The law of the jungle where the strong prey on the weak and the zero-sum game are rejected, and peace, development and win-win cooperation have become the shared aspiration of all peoples”.

Saying that BRICS is not a talking shop, but a task force that gets things done, Xi stressed that since the very beginning, our five countries have been guided by the “principle of dialogue without confrontation, partnership without alliance”.

Innovative suggestions

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the need to establish a transparent, non-western dominated, sovereign credit rating agency for the BRICS countries – to serve the financial needs of developing nations.

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, proposed to create a platform for BRICS energy research, which will entail sectoral, analytical and scientific exchanges that could be beneficial to all developing countries.

Economically, BRICS has succeeded in setting up global financial institutions that directly challenge the U.S.-led economic world order, the monopoly of the Washington-influenced Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), and displace the monopoly of the U.S. Dollar.

Accordingly, the financial architecture of the world began to change, in 2014, when the BRICS set up the New Development Bank (NDB), and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects both within BRICS and other emerging economies.

Saying that the NDB had already approved seven investment projects worth around $1.5 billion, Putin said that it would soon approve new investment projects worth up to $3 billion.

Also speaking about the need to decrease the dominance of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency, Putin said that BRICS nations have already agreed to trade in national currencies.

From Economics to Politics

The Summit’s political and security discourse demonstrates that the bloc is gradually evolving from their strong economic cooperation to promoting global governance.

This is most opportune as our world is beset with a multitude of political problems (sanctions and counter sanctions, illegal military escapades into sovereign states, numerous regime changes), and now, the threat of a nuclear war hanging over the world like the sword of Damocles.

Among the smouldering geopolitical tensions are NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe and surrounding Russia with military bases and THAAD missiles; the United States’ efforts to limit China’s dominance in the South China Sea; India’s opposition to China’s One Belt One Road (New Silk Road) initiative; India’s desire to dominate the Indian Ocean; and the belligerent behaviour of North Korea against all established norms of International Law.

Also, the never ending – decade long – crises in the Middle East thanks to illegal regime changes and the Arab Spring to force feed democracy have caused death and destruction, failed states, civil wars, terrorism, mass migration, millions dead and multi-millions homeless.

BRICS Leaders’ Xiamen Declaration

The Summit concluded with the BRICS leaders signing the 70 paragraphs long Xiamen Declaration that underscores their commitment to globalization – in contrast to the West’s more protectionist and inward-looking policies.

President Xi said: “Our ever closer ties with the rest of the world require that we five countries play a more active part in global governance,” adding that “without our participation, many pressing global challenges cannot be effectively resolved.”

The Declaration states: “Cognizant of the profound changes the world is undergoing and the global security challenges and threats faced by the international community, we commit to enhance communication and cooperation in international fora on issues concerning international peace and security.”

Furthermore, the Declaration expresses the BRICS countries’ resolute position on Syria, Palestine, Qatar, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, etc., and affirms readiness to contribute towards a just and lasting resolution of these conflicts.

It strongly deplores the nuclear test conducted by North Korea, and emphasizes that “it should only be settled through peaceful means and direct dialogue of all parties concerned.”

The Declaration confirms BRICS group’s “commitment to safeguarding world peace and security and to upholding the basic norms of international law, and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations including sovereign equality and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”

Most importantly, the BRICS nations condemn “unilateral military interventions, economic sanctions and arbitrary use of unilateral coercive measures in violation of international law and universally recognized norms of international relations.”

And, they emphasize that “no country should enhance its security at the expense of the security of others.”

BRICS: A lesson to Western countries

It’s time for Western countries to learn from BRICS – the most powerful developing countries that are eagre to maintain their sovereignty, and have no desire to undermine the sovereignty of other countries.

If the U.S. threats over North Korea ultimately lead to a senseless nuclear war, it would momentarily destroy the multi-trillion dollar economies of the BRICS nations and their aspirations for the future well-being of all emerging countries.

With conflicts and wars raging all over our world, all world leaders and peace loving citizens should focus on developing a new concept of international security under the auspices of the United Nations – to guide the world towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

*Somar Wijayadasa, an international lawyer, was a UNESCO delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1985-1995, and was Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. [IDN-InDepthNews – 11 September 2017]

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IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate –

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