BRICS buildup meetings help summit deliver

By Fulufhelo Netswera Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/23 20:33:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



The BRICS Summit is largely an international relations conference that brings together the heads of states of the five BRICS nations -Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The annual ritual takes place in the same fashion as the G20 wherein BRICS members come together to pledge economic and political commitments to each other.

We seem to have come to accept that the world functions through multipolar, bilateral and multilateral institutions to facilitate economic, political and social hegemonic agenda. And for this reason, the talk about whether BRICS is relevant and if it will last seems to be slowly fading away.

At the same time, the Bretton Woods institutions seem to be facing a continuous crisis of credibility and relevance despite being originally intended to be all inclusive and unbiased in addressing global economic and political interests. This further strengthens the relevance of alternative commons like BRICS.

The BRICS presidency and the hosting of the summit is rotational among member states. The eighth BRICS Summit took place in Goa, India in 2016 and the ninth one was hosted by China in Xiamen in 2017. This year 2018 the presidency of BRICS falls on South Africa for the second time (first in 2013), and the summit takes place in Johannesburg between July 25 and 27.

The build-up to the BRICS heads of states summit is a series of meetings of various role players who pave the way by negotiating trade, economic, security and political agreements. Some among these agreements would form the resolutions of the BRICS summit to be endorsed and signed off by the heads of states.

There is a full annual schedule of meetings of BRICS stakeholders that includes various government ministries, academic conferences, business forums and civil society meetings. Among the series of these precursor meetings worth mentioning is the BRICS Academic Forum that took place in Johannesburg between May 28 and 31. The meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers took place on June 4 in Pretoria. The civil society (Civil BRICS) summit took place from June 25 to 26 in Johannesburg and the BRICS Network University conference at Stellenbosch, South Africa between July 5 and 7, 2018.

The theme of the Academic Forum was "Envisioning inclusive development through a socially responsive economy." Although the forum made numerous recommendations, two are noteworthy.

The first is important as it responds to the current global economic upheavals. It observed that global economic growth and prosperity are not inclusive and beneficial to all nations. The recommendation is for strengthening commitment by BRICS to multilateral rules-based economic practices embodied in the WTO. There is a strong repudiation of unilateralism seen in recent days that is likely to spark trade wars.

The second observation is that the status of women has not significantly improved over the years in comparison to that of men irrespective of global economic growth. The Academic Forum recommended the establishment of a Forum on Women's Inclusion to champion women's economic and social rights. Equally so, the United Nations has attempted to address women's status through its UN Women directorate with a not-so-significant impact.

The meeting of the Foreign Ministers which took place in Pretoria, South Africa celebrated a decade of BRICS and reiterated commitment to implementing the historic outcomes and resolutions of the BRICS summits. The theme of the 10th BRICS in South Africa is "Collaboration for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the 4th industrial revolution."

The ministers reiterated the call for outreach and to extend BRICS cooperation with other developing and emerging economies. South Africa's two-pronged outreach approach through the 10th summit (BRICS-Africa Dialogue and the BRICS Plus cooperation) was praised.

The ministers also endorsed once more the importance and relevance of the UN as a multilateral institution that should be strengthened for more effective and efficient implementation of the mandates conferred upon it.

The theme of the BRICS Network University conference was "Unlocking BRICS Universities' Partnerships: Postgraduate Education Opportunities and Challenges."

It is hoped that more cooperation between the BRICS nations will be strengthened and the historic North-South/South-North patterns of culture and knowledge exchange and production will slowly give way to South-South cooperation.

Of interest is strengthening cooperation in the areas of mutual interest and global importance - energy, computer science, information security, ecology, climate change, water resources and pollution treatment, among others.

As a norm, the BRICS summit does not deviate much from resolutions taken by the series of BRICS forums and meetings that precede it. It is also expected that the BRICS summit will sound the relevant alarm bells in respect of among others the current global economic trade wars, the Middle East wars, international and European migration problems, the fourth industrial revolution and jobless growth economies.

What is of importance however among the BRICS nation states and their citizens is proof that resolutions are implemented and that there are tangible economic and political benefits derived from them.

The author is director of the North-West University Business School and former director of the South African BRICS Think Tank. He writes in his personal capacity. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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