Courtesy of Brookings
BRICS - A coalition of emerging economies represents a significant shift in global power, aiming to challenge post-World War II structures. Through fostering alliances and economic integration, they seek to reshape the current balance of global influence. It represents its five member countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.It symbolizes the aspirations and interests of the Global South, aiming to create more equitable and inclusive international governance.
This year’s 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa has marked a transformative phase for the coalition, evolving into BRICS+ by reaching an agreement to admit six new member countries: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
This expansion signifies BRICS+ enhanced appeal as a consensus-building institution in the developing world, attracting members beyond traditionally “acceptable” partners in Western eyes, with Iran’s presence being notably significant. The coalition is united in its aspiration to alter global finance, trade, and other standard-setting procedures, presenting a united front in emerging and developing countries against a world order that fails to meet their needs and necessities.
The BRICS+ countries, seizing their geopolitical moment, are not predominantly anti-Western. However, they advocate for a new form of open and inclusive multilateral cooperation. This stance represents a substantial challenge to the West in several ways. Firstly, the BRICS+ bloc's growing economic and political influence diminishes the unilateral decision-making power historically held by Western nations. Secondly, their emphasis on multiplicity and inclusivity in global affairs contrasts with the West's often exclusive diplomatic circles.
Furthermore, the collaboration among BRICS+ countries showcases an alternative model of international relations, which could attract other nations seeking a departure from Western-led initiatives. All these factors converge to create an atmosphere of global uncertainty, wherein the West must reassess its strategies and adapt to this emerging paradigm.
South Africa, as the host, has successfully negotiated the inclusion of two African countries, emphasizing its commitment to promoting integration, development, and growth in the continent. However, the expansion also brings challenges in reaching agreements due to the diverse and sometimes conflicting interests of member countries.The BRICS presidency, rotating annually among its member countries, oversees the group's agenda and hosts the annual summit.
In its capacity, the presiding country has the responsibility to guide discussions, foster collaboration, and shape the collective vision for the year, ensuring that the coalition's objectives are advanced and that member nations work cohesively towards shared goals. Russia’s upcoming BRICS presidency in 2024 will focus on using local currencies and payment systems, reflecting a collective effort to reduce dependence on the dollar. The Russian government has put forth an intriguing proposal, especially as they currently face sanctions from the West because of the conflict in Ukraine. Clearly, Russia deems it crucial to explore alternative avenues to sustain its economic growth.
the 15th BRICS summit was the conspicuous absence of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a development attributed to concerns over potential arrest due to aggression in Ukraine, as South Africa is a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC), an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that prosecutes individuals for crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.Russia was represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while Putin gave a speech to the coalition from a remote location. His critique of Western "neo-liberalism" emphasized the coalition's stance against a singularly dominated world order by countries such as the United States, Germany, or Japan.
While the member nations seemingly have diverse interests, their shared underlying goal is to forge a future where they are not dependent on Western hegemony, believing that such independence can lead to more equitable global relations, self-determined economic growth, and a diversified geopolitical landscape. Steve Tsang, director of the Soas China Institute, suggests that the coalition offers nations a path to pursue their own developmental trajectories without the constraints typically set by Western democracies. The institute is housed within the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, a renowned institution specializing in the study of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. This expansion is indicative of a broader, more inclusive dialogue, emphasizing mutual respect and value for diverse perspectives, with more nations anticipated to join upon the establishment of membership criteria.
BRICS expansion is a testament to the evolving global landscape, where diverse nations converge to foster mutual growth and development, challenging the prevailing norms and advocating for a more equitable and inclusive world order. This newly formed alliance, BRICS+, is not just a symbol of unity among emerging economies but a formidable challenge to the established Western-centric world order. It signifies a transformative phase in international relations, reflecting the dynamic interplay of cooperation and negotiation in the pursuit of a multipolar world. The coalition's diversified membership and its pursuit of alternative developmental paths are indicative of its potential to reshape international norms and standards, prompting a crucial reflection on the adaptability and resilience of existing global structures and ideologies. The development of BRICS+ highlights the shift towards a more inclusive global dialogue.
This evolution signifies a growing emphasis on the contributions of emerging and developing nations in international cooperation, aiming for a more balanced distribution of global influence and resources, and seeking novel approaches to address global challenges.
The unfolding dynamics between the West and this burgeoning alliance will be pivotal, potentially reshaping diplomatic, economic, and geopolitical landscapes. It will be intriguing to observe how the West navigates this paradigm shift and how the ensuing interactions between contrasting worldviews will sculpt the global narrative. The world watches as new alliances form, reshaping the future landscape of international relations and global governance, symbolizing the shifting sands of global power.