By Somar Wijayadasa*
NEW YORK. 29 August 2023 (IDN) — The historic three-day BRICS Summit, held in South Africa from 22-24 August 2023, attended by 65 leaders from BRICS and the Global South and heads of several international organizations, concluded on 24 August with the expansion of BRICS.
In Part One, I summarized the BRICS’s background, the unprecedented participation at the Summit, and my views on the much-awaited admission of new members to the organization.
Here, I highlight the discourse in Johannesburg, with all speakers displaying a high degree of consolidation, decorum, and unanimity and new ideas they presented at the Summit.
The Summit concluded with a 94-point long Declaration known as the Johannesburg II Declaration—which I wish to highlight in Part Three of this article.
Deliberations at the Summit
During the first two days, BRICS leaders addressed the most crucial global and regional problems that affect their countries.
The speakers showed remarkable unanimity on almost all issues before the Summit, attributed the economic growth of their countries over the past decade to BRICS, and highlighted their vision for the group’s future and pressing issues faced by the international community.
It was evident that at all times, the participants strictly adhered to the principles upon which BRICS has been established.
The leaders called for more economic cooperation and collaboration in areas such as health, education, and climate change while reflecting on a growing sentiment in some parts of the world that institutions seen as Western-led, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, do not serve developing nations.
Saying that the BRICS leaders will continue to consider “practical measures” to facilitate trade and investment flows through “the increased use of local currencies”, President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, said, ”We are concerned that global financial and payment systems are increasingly being used as instruments of geopolitical contestation”.
He called for reform of the global financial system and lauded NDB’s role.
Saying that “the global economic recovery relies on predictable global payment systems and the smooth operation of banking, supply chains, trade, tourism, as well as financial flows,” Ramaphosa said, “We require a fundamental reform of the global financial institutions so that they can be more agile and responsive to the challenges facing developing economies”.
Also referring to the swirling conflicts across the world, Ramaphosa suggested that those “must be resolved through peaceful means—diplomacy, dialogue, negotiation and adherence to the principles of the United Nations”.
Saying that the US dollar is losing its global role in an “objective and irreversible” process, Russia’s President Putin (speaking via a video link) said that the “de-dollarization among BRICS members is irreversible”, adding that BRICS members are seeking to reduce their reliance on the greenback in mutual transactions.
Putin also committed to providing six African countries, namely Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea, with 25-50 thousand tons of grain free of charge.
Describing the importance of Russia’s two major long-term logistic projects—the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC), Putin emphasized that these two through arteries are designed to provide the shortest and most cost-effective trade routes linking major industrial, agricultural and energy hubs with consumer markets, but will also reinvigorate Africa-Eurasia ties.
Summing up, Putin reiterated that the multifaceted partnership and interaction through BRICS not only makes a significant contribution to ensuring the sustainable growth of our states but also generally contributes to the improvement of the situation in the world economy and the achievement of the global development goals set by the UN—such as the tasks to combat poverty, expanding people’s access to quality health care, eradicating hunger and improving food security.
Arguing that the global military spending in a single year exceeds “Two Trillion dollars while 735 Million People Starve,” Brazil’s President Lula da Silva forewarned about “the UN Security Council’s impotence to solve security crises, stressing that while the international body has concentrated on the Ukraine conflict—many other pressing issues do not receive due attention”.
He further stressed that “the search for peace is a collective duty and an imperative for fair and sustainable development”.
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, praised BRICS as a new viable hub for the global economy, stressing that the group helps overcome emerging economic challenges.
BRICS space exploration consortium
Among key remarks by Modi are:
- India will be the growth engine of the world;
- Reforms in ease of doing business in India have improved investor sentiment; Direct bank transfer benefits have increased transparency and reduced corruption;
- Infrastructure development—10000 km of highways every year, airports have doubled; India is among world leaders in the area of renewable energy;
- The income of Indians has tripled in the last nine years.
Saying that we are already working on the BRICS satellite constellation, Modi suggested the creation of a BRICS space exploration consortium—under which we can work for global good in areas like space research and weather monitoring.
Global Security Initiative
Speaking about the Shared Future of Humankind, China’s President Xi Jinping(speech delivered by China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao), underlined Beijing’s vision for the world’s development and prosperity based on the idea of a shared future for all humanity.
China has learned the lessons of the two World Wars and the Cold War well, according to Xi. Therefore it rejects the new “bloc” mentality and yoke of colonialism while embracing win-win cooperation, universal security, global peace, and diversity in which different civilizations flourish together. The Chinese leader particularly cited the nation’s Global Security Initiative.
The document lays out practical measures to address current security challenges and maintain peace around the world. According to Xi, a whopping 100 countries have already supported China’s vision for global security and the futility of zero-sum games.
Reform of the global multilateral architecture
Addressing the Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the “reform of the global multilateral architecture” based on the UN charter and international law.
Pointing out that today’s governance structures were created in the aftermath of the Second World War when Colonial powers still ruled African countries, Guterres said that the UN Security Council and Bretton Woods institutions were among those that needed reform.
Guterres said that, on average, African countries pay four times more for borrowing from international financial institutions than the United States and eight times more than the wealthiest European countries.
“Redesigning today’s outdated, dysfunctional, and unfair global financial architecture is necessary, but it won’t happen overnight,” Guterres said. “Yet we can and must take practical action now”.
Many interesting meetings were held on the sidelines of the Summit. For example, the BRICS-AFRICA Outreach and BRICS+ dialogue; and China-Africa Leaders Dialogue.
All speakers showed unanimity and concentrated on highlighting their vision for the group’s future and resolving problems that hinder the legitimate aspirations of emerging and developing countries worldwide.
Since most rich and poor countries of the Global South yearn to remain neutral without taking positions with powers engaged in power struggles—a sine qua non for a multipolar world—I hope that BRICS will soon serve as a beacon for peace and security around the world.
*Somar Wijayadasa, an international lawyer, was a UNESCO delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1980-1995 and was the Director and Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Image source: BRICS Architecture
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