BRICS Partnership: United for a Better World
23 December 2020
On 17 November 2020 XII BRICS Summit took place – the main event of Russia’s chairmanship in the organization. The Summit, which was originally scheduled to be hosted in “Russia’s Northern Capital”, Saint Petersburg, for the first time in history, was held online, due to difficult epidemiologic situation around the globe. Still, it is noteworthy that despite COVID-19 pandemic and severe challenges it posed before humanity, BRICS did not cease its activities – under Russia’s chairmanship over 150 events of various levels were held, both via videoconferences and in-person meetings. The most tragic paradox of the COVID-19 pandemic, to our mind, is that its very logic suggests strict isolation of the countries from each other, yet none of them can withstand pandemic’s hardships on its own. BRICS countries proceeded from a common understanding that the only way to overcome the coronavirus crisis is through mutual aid. As a result, the five countries provided each other valuable support (this includes material help: PPE, test systems etc). We believe this alone describes better than words that BRICS has proven itself a strong, reliable alliance and that it is truly one of the priorities of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy. Instead of isolation, the BRICS members displayed unity and mutual aid, reaffirming organization’s status as one of the world’s most important ones.
According to Russia’s BRICS Sherpa and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov: “Today BRICS is an integral part of international relations and global media landscape”. The way we see it, it is quite natural, given BRICS’ economic potential: BRICS countries overall share in world’s GDP is 25% (21 trillion USD).
Aside from its economic strength, there is one specific factor that ensures BRICS relevance on modern international arena - 42% of world population is concentrated in BRICS member states. BRICS is the voice of almost half of the world, the voice of almost 3 billion people living on 3 continents – South America (Brazil), Eurasia (Russia, India, China) & Africa (South Africa). In the context of the pandemic, it is safe to say that BRICS became one of the mechanisms of providing a joint response to COVID-19. In a broader sense, this also means continuing multilateral activities on various tracks regardless of limitations of present day.
Continuity of BRICS process is traditionally in the centre of attention of presiding country and Russia’s Chairmanship 2020 is no exception to that. One of Russia’s primal objectives was to ensure harmonious transition from Brazilian chairmanship in 2019, preserving and further developing the ideas formulated at the Brazilia Summit. Against this background, Russia continued to promote all three pillars of the BRICS strategic partnership. The priorities of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 lie along these three pillars: policy and security, trade, economy and finance and finally, humanitarian area. The priorities themselves are quite versatile and numerous for simple listing, so we would rather follow the path of highlighting the key ones in each pillar.
Starting off with policy and security, strengthening multilateral principles in global politics and promoting shared interests of the BRICS countries in international fora is the objective that this particular pillar is designed to achieve. In this field, the most remarkable practical result of the XII BRICS Summit was the adoption of BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Just like COVID-19, terrorism is a common threat on a par with the former in terms of its dangerousness. It is clearly underscored in the Strategy’s preamble: «Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any act of terrorism, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever motives and purposes, is a crime and has no justification». The Strategy also contains the principles of BRICS counter-terrorism cooperation and its goals. One of the goals is that BRICS countries “call upon all nations to take appropriate measures to prevent the use of their territories for terrorist bases or the perpetration or organization of terrorist acts intended to be committed against other States or their citizens”, thus building another link with the countries and organizations beyond BRICS itself. The main purpose of the Strategy is to become the next evolutionary step in organization’s efforts in combating terrorism, streamlining the BRICS efforts on anti-terrorist track and reinforce the input of BRICS countries to the combat against terrorism.
When it comes to second pillar - cooperation in trade, economy and finance – a major milestone on this track became the adoption of a new Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025. It defines a development path of BRICS and sets the framework for cooperation of its members in accordance with current economic trends and conditions. By adopting this Strategy the BRICS countries express their aspiration to stimulate strong economic growth, confront macroeconomic shocks and financial volatility, support the multilateral trading system based on the rules and principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and resist emerging global uncertainty caused by a number of factors, including rise of unilateral and protectionist measures that run counter to the spirit and rules of the WTO.
It is also noteworthy that Russian Chairmanship marked the launch of practical activities of BRIСS Women’s Business Alliance. According to Anna Nesterova, Chairperson of the Board of GlobalRusTrade and Head of the Russian National Chapter of the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance, “Generally, women’s business development is one of the most promising economic growth drivers. Goldman Sachs data indicates that an equal male/female involvement in BRICS economic processes can accelerate GDP growth by an average of 0.8 percent per year.
Therefore, creating a cooperation mechanism intended to promote and support women’s entrepreneurship in the BRICS countries is a very timely step”. The Alliance has already launched its own website, www.bricswomen.com, that we will expand and develop as a platform where women can get access to online education, best business administration practices and reliable partners from across BRICS. Right now, companies can apply for the WBA membership via the website by stating their business interests and providing contact information.
Lastly, the humanitarian area. 2020 saw a new stage of comprehensive development of the five countries cooperation in this field. Just a couple of examples to illustrate: the next round of BRICSMATH competition was held as well as numerous other contests for young scientists, providing a platform to showcase their projects. BRICS Film Festival 2020 was held with SA movie “Poppie Nongena” claiming its grand prix. Moscow Declaration of XII BRICS Summit also confirms the shared historical legacy of all BRICS members: “We recognize the Victory in the Second World War as our common legacy and pay tribute to all those who fought against fascism, tyranny and militarism, colonialism and for liberation of the colonized, for freedom of nations, and stress the importance of preservation and inadmissibility of desecration or destruction of monuments erected in their remembrance. We recall that, born out of the horrors of the Second World War, the United Nations, as a common endeavor for humanity, was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and since then has helped to shape the very structure of relations between nations in the modern age. We further urge for a resolute stand against the rehabilitation of Nazi ideology, racism, xenophobia, colonialism and the distortion of history”
In conclusion, we would like to point out that regardless of difficult circumstances created by COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of BRICS cooperation, 2020 proved to be fruitful. BRICS demonstrated a brilliant example of multilateralism in the times that dictate isolationism. In spite of all the hardships and challenges, BRICS remains united, “United for a better world”, to quote the Moscow Declaration.
Embassy of Russia in South Africa