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BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas Hold First Meeting under Russian Chairmanship in Moscow
BRICS Sherpas and Sous Sherpas in Moscow, Russia (photo: Embassy of Russia in South Africa)

5 February 2024

The first meeting of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas as part of Russia’s chairmanship of the association kicked off in Moscow on 30 January. Key priorities for the coming year concerning BRICS interaction on trade and economic issues were outlined on the first day of the meeting. Presentations by representatives of Russian government agencies resulted in a lively discussion among the participants.

Opening the meeting, Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and BRICS Sherpa Sergey Ryabkov particularly noted the association’s role in creating a new and more just and fair multipolar world order, which would fully reflect the real situation in the international arena and allow developing countries to have a louder and clearer voice.

Ryabkov confirmed Russia’s commitment as BRICS chairman in 2024 to ensure continuity and consistency as part of the association’s cooperation. “We firmly believe that the joint efforts of BRICS countries to implement the common agenda this year will make a significant contribution to promoting the interests of the global majority,” Ryabkov said.

Representatives of the Russian ministries and line agencies gave detailed briefings on the key areas of cooperation. They noted the importance of implementing a number of Russian initiatives, in particular, the launch of the Integrated Early Response System to the Risks of Mass Infectious Diseases, the establishment of the UNIDO-based Industrial Competence Centre, the BRICS Medical Association, a specialized medical journal, and stronger cooperation in transport and tourism.

Per instructions of the BRICS leaders following the XV BRICS Summit (Johannesburg, 22-24 August 2023), the modalities of the category of BRICS partner countries were discussed as well as the ways to enhance the role of national currencies and payment instruments in cross-border transactions of the BRICS states. All the participants confirmed their focus on the continued constructive work within the three “baskets” of the BRICS strategic partnership: politics and security, economy and finance, cultural and humanitarian ties.

BRICS Expansion

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained at the BRICS Sherpa and Sous-Sherpa meeting that the motto chosen for Russia’s BRICS chairmanship this year is ‘Strengthening Multilateralism for Equitable Global Development and Security’.  “We regard BRICS as a bulwark and a prototype for a multipolar world, the development of which all of us are trying to contribute to in the name of a brighter and more harmonious future for our people.

“BRICS is a global organisational principle for the Global South and East. However, it is not based on the bloc principle, which I want to emphasise, but on the principles of mutual respect, a sovereign choice of development path and the implementation of the fundamental principle of the UN Charter, that is, the sovereign equality of states,” Lavrov said.

READ: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a BRICS sherpa and sous-sherpa meeting, Moscow, January 31, 2024

Speaking about BRICS expansion Lavrov said that the accession of new countries – Egypt, Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, will strength the strategic partnership and the international standing of the group. He said that during this year’s chairship particular attention will be paid to the many countries who are interested in developing partner relations with BRICS and have officially declared an interest.

The figures are self-evident, explained Lavrov. “The aggregate GDP of the BRICS countries in terms of purchasing power parity has reached about one third of the global value and has exceeded that of the G7 countries. The BRICS countries account for 30 percent of dry land and 45 percent of the world’s population, a substantial part of the global production of oil and other resources, and about 25 percent of global exports. With this huge potential, we cannot be a passive observer or follow in the wake of historical processes, especially in light of the hopes the countries of the Global South and East are pinning on BRICS. Our group has the ability to form a global agenda by consistently upholding the interests of the Global Majority and offering our views on the contours of the future world order based on objective events rather than artificial schemes designed to hinder humankind’s development.”

Order of Friendship
Ambassador Anil Sooklal receiving the Order of Friendship from Minister Lavrov (photo: Embassy of Russia in South Africa)

At the meeting Minister Lavrov awarded the Order of Friendship to Ambassador Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director-General responsible for Asia and the Middle East at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa and South Africa’s BRICS Sherpa on instructions from President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

“We know the Ambassador as a principled and skilled diplomat, who firmly and sincerely believes in the need for collective development and prosperity of the entire humankind. He staunchly adheres to the sacred BRICS principles of openness, equality and consensus.  Mr Anil Sooklal played an important role in many important BRICS initiatives, including the launch of outreach-format meetings between the Five and leaders of like-minded nations, and the creation of the New Development Bank and the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre.

“It is no secret that Mr Anil Sooklal is a great friend of all countries represented here. He has visited Russia multiple times, and is familiar with every aspect of our national traditions. To a large extent, this is due to the BRICS events held during Russia’s Chairmanship years. He is a real veteran, endowed with youthful enthusiasm and energy, which, I am sure, will help promote many BRICS initiatives. We appreciate his disposition and his contribution to strengthening the strategic partnership between South Africa and Russia,” Lavrov said.

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