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Enhanced cooperation among the BRICS amid the pandemic

The XII BRICS Summit, which was to be held in St. Petersburg in July, is scheduled to be held on November 17 via videoconference. What are the main topics on the agenda that the leaders of the countries plan to discuss in October? How is the interaction of the BRICS member states developing today?

On October 5, the press service of the Foundation Roscongress confirmed the message that the meeting of the leaders of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) will be held on November 17 via videoconference. The heads of state will discuss the topic: “BRICS Partnership in the Interests of Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth”. It should be noted that this summit meeting would become the central event of Russia’s presidency in the association. Despite the fact that due to the pandemic, physical communication had to be “paused”, this year the BRICS countries have already managed to hold about 50 events using modern technologies.

Today, the five countries continue to develop cooperation in three key areas – politics and security, economics and finance, culture and people-to-people contacts. One of the central themes of interaction between the members of the association remains – the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB). In August, the Russian government proposed to ratify the agreement on the location of the Eurasian Regional Center of the organization’s financial institution in the country. Now, the bill has already been submitted to the State Duma and stipulates that the center will be located in Moscow. The purpose of creating a center in Russia is to facilitate the implementation of the main activities of the NDB on the territory of the state, “and subsequently, with the expansion of the bank’s shareholders in the countries of the Eurasian region”, performing such functions as cooperation with public and private structures.

The Brazilian Report

XI BRICS Summit in Brasilia, November 2020. Source: The Brazilian Report

The agreement on the location of the Eurasian Regional Center of the NDB in Russia was signed on November 13 last year in Brasilia during the XI BRICS Summit. The document provides for a number of privileges and immunities for the bank and its employees. One of the measures taken was that the NDB, its property, assets, income, transfers and transactions are tax-free. In addition, they are now exempt from customs duties. The property and archives of the bank are protected from search, revision and confiscation. All directors, managers, their deputies, officials and employees of the bank will be immune from legal prosecution, immigration and tax restrictions.

In addition, the participants come to the XII BRICS Summit with a “package” of new agreements concerning the prevention of new challenges and threats. One of the most significant topics on the agenda of the Summit, which will take place in November, will be a document on counterterrorism, which will be submitted for approval by the heads of state. This year, activities to combat drug trafficking and drug crime were also resumed, and the joint work of the “five” countries in the field of cybersecurity continues to grow.

In 2020, special attention was paid to Russian initiatives that were presented a year ago at the XI BRICS Summit in Brazil and supplemented the activities of the association with two new formats. We are talking about the Women’s Business Alliance, which has been formed and is starting to work, as well as an energy research platform designed to more actively involve the scientific community in practical activities on drawing up energy plans. Within the framework of this energy research platform, two major events have already taken place, the results of which will also be presented to the heads of state for consideration in November.

Emphasizing the importance of the BRICS association in the context of global transformations in the world, it is worth referring to the opinion of a researcher at the Faculty of International Studies at the Queen Phnom Penh University in Cambodia, an expert at the Japanese Asia-Pacific University Ritsumeikan Chansok Lak. He stressed that this interstate alliance has become an integral part of the global geo-economic and geopolitical landscape of the 21st century. According to the expert, the association has done a great deal of progressive development work, ranging from geopolitical to socio-economic issues, with an emphasis on South-South cooperation without the participation of the West and the United States.

China Daily

Meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers by videoconference, April 28, 2020.
Source: China Daily.

On the other hand, Chansok Lak notes that the joint work of the BRICS countries continues to be complicated by a number of internal challenges caused by economic inequality, geopolitical diversity and political differences, however, these problems do not diminish the importance of the autumn Summit. The Japanese expert believes that, first of all, the platform will be used to re-evaluate the existing cooperation strategies of the association. This year, within the framework of the theme of the meeting, issues related to problems, opportunities and ways to advance the role of the UN, as well as the sustainable development goals for the period until 2030, including improving global health and the state of the environment, will be raised. In addition, in accordance with the Russian-proposed BRICS+ mechanisms, the Summit scheduled for November will include meetings of five foreign ministers and national security advisers, which will be important for the normalization of Sino-Indian relations and strategic trust between the alliance members. The parties will also discuss issues of economic and innovative growth, which are becoming increasingly important for the BRICS countries, since all economies have been affected in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting the importance of the upcoming Summit, Professor of the Department of Economics and Management of the Kirikkale University (Turkey) Harun Ozturkler focused on the fact that each BRICS member country has a serious regional and global weight from military, political and economic points of view. According to the expert, it is already obvious today that the virus has provoked the emergence of a new world order, which is developing together with the regime of “shortened” globalization, localization and the growth of nationalism. Thus, the BRICS Summit in November is vital as it will provide its participants with the opportunity to reflect on their past achievements and develop new strategies for the future. According to the Turkish professor, the BRICS strategies to be developed during the upcoming Summit will have a direct impact on the formation of the world order after the pandemic.

According to a number of analysts, the worst impacts of the coronavirus pandemic to date are unemployment, underemployment and weakened food security, which exacerbate social vulnerability and create preconditions for conflict around the world. Through the upcoming XII BRICS Summit in November, the countries will have to demonstrate that the strength of the alliance is not presentation, but practical, and their joint efforts can mobilize global cooperation in creating the necessary resources to solve global problems, and not only that appeared as a result of the pandemic, but also environmental problems, development issues and growing socio-economic inequality.

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