Contribution on the BRICS 2023 Presidency of South Africa by the Secretary general of Eurispes, Marco Ricceri, at the international conference “The Rise of Asia”
INTERNATIONAL AND INTERDISCIPLINARY CONFERENCE
“THE RISE OF ASIA – GLOBAL CRISIS: WHAT PERSPECTIVES
FOR ASIA AND THE WORLD?”
Paris, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, February 8, 2023
Le Havre, University Le Havre Normandy, February 9-10, 2023
South Africa and the BRICS 2023 Presidency
What prospects for the coordination’s internal and external cooperation?
by Marco Ricceri
Secretary general, Eurispes Institute, Rome – Italy
BRICS Laboratory Coordinator
As of January 1st 2023, South Africa assumed the Chairmanship of the BRICS Coordination and will host the 15th Summit scheduled for August 2023 on the theme: “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism”. Unlike the previous three Summits, which were held by video conference due to Covid restrictions, the 15th Summit will be held in presence, with the direct participation of Heads of State.
This Note is intended to offer insights into the following main aspects of current BRICS cooperation:
- South Africa’s objectives and strategy for the BRICS 2023 Presidency;
- BRICS internal cooperation;
- external cooperation and prospects for enlargement of BRICS coordination;
- possible impact on ongoing multilateralism processes;
- impact of the BRICS action on the areas of interest of the European Union and Italy.
South Africa and the BRICS 2023 Presidency: goals and strategies
South Africa has made the objectives of its BRICS 2023 Presidency very clear. According to South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, the BRICS group must play an important role in leading the process of creating new decision-making mechanisms within the United Nations and other international organisations in order to build a more inclusive, equal and stable world order. With this goal in mind, South Africa has defined two focal points on which to guide BRICS policies during 2023.
The first line of action refers to the principle that one of the main purposes of coordination is to protect and promote the national interests of member states (domestic cooperation). Accordingly, South Africa aims to benefit from the cooperation of the other BRICS states in order to support its National Development Plan with appropriate trade and investment initiatives.
The second focus of intervention refers to the external projection of BRICS cooperation, which operates on the principle of contributing to the construction of a more balanced and shared development model than the one currently in place. In this case, South Africa intends to act in the following multiple directions:
a) on a regional level, with reference to the African continent: engage the BRICS in supporting the initiatives of the African Union (AU), the main coordinating body of the continent and, above all, its strategic programme of the 2063 Agenda. In essence, create a close BRICS-Africa synergy;
b) on an international level, promote the Global South Agenda with the BRICS, linking this commitment to the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda’s sustainable development goals;
c) on a global level, finally, to pressure international fora to ensure adequate representation of emerging and developing countries and their effective participation in the governance of global processes. It is, in essence, a matter of giving further impetus to the BRICS’ external cooperation in order to influence the current global balances/unbalances and contribute to the establishment of a new multilateralism.
As was the case in 2022 – on the occasion of the previous BRICS Chairmanship by China, which promoted the organisation of a dense agenda of thematic meetings and sectoral agreements – South Africa prepared a similar intense programme of activities for 2023 in preparation for the August Summit: as many as 117 events with the most diverse levels of participation (ministers, sherpas, heads of relevant national agencies, primary economic actors, academics, civil society representatives); an undeniable sign of South Africa’s and the entire coordination’s commitment to pursuing the stated objectives.
The BRICS internal cooperation process
It is a fact that – contrary to some negative assessments that have emerged in recent times on the resilience and effectiveness of the coordination – the process of internal cooperation of the BRICS has consolidated in recent years, considerably widening the area of interventions and progressively assuming a well-oriented and structured set-up, as demonstrated, for example, by the “Economic Partnership 2025” strategic programme, which has identified the areas of greatest intervention: from energy to industry, from digital to agriculture, from trade to services. These are shared projects and plans aimed above all at satisfying needs related to the national interests of each member state, in a historical phase of growing international changes and tensions: from the practice of sanctions on a member country involved in a conflict (this is the case of Russia for the war in Ukraine), to the effects of ongoing processes of structural change, such as climate or demographic ones (the case of India, which in 2023, according to UN forecasts, should surpass China in population numbers and become the most populous country on Earth).
This advancement of internal cooperation, particularly in the area of the real economy and services, has been recognised and commented on favourably by Heads of state as the main way to “strengthen the effectiveness of the organisation”, as, for example, Indian President Modi expressed it at the last Beijing 2022 summit, citing, among other things, the value of the entry of external partners into the BRICS bank, the New Development Bank (NDB), «coordination between customs departments» and «the creation of a shared satellite system».
Other important joint initiatives are maturing and being developed in the monetary, financial and credit spheres. This brings us to one of the most significant aspects of the BRICS internal cooperation. Reading the projects that are being implemented, one can clearly see the concrete steps forward that the coordination is taking to build its own original monetary system and to contribute – this is the point that is highlighted – to greater stability and balance in the world’s financial markets. The BRICS are proceeding towards the formation of their own common currency (the name to be given to the new currency is also under discussion), common investment reserves, and the expansion of the system of reciprocal agreements concerning the use of national currencies – a step that is also viewed with particular favour by many states outside the coordination, emerging and developing countries. In addition to their development bank – NDB, and the Reserve Fund – CRA, in recent times the BRICS have set up several important bodies such as the Insurance Pool, the BRICS Exchange Alliance; they have elaborated a specific support programme for trade relations called “Financial Trade Promotion”, a programme for special transactions related to import-export activities, etc. Certainly, a strong impetus to intensify initiatives in this direction has come from the tensions that have emerged on the international scene, from the Western sanctions against Russia, and from the breakdown of many elements of trust between the main players in world development.
The BRICS external cooperation process
As mentioned above, the BRICS external cooperation aims at the strategic objective of promoting the construction of a multilateral system more suitable than the current one for the affirmation of a balanced and just model of development, capable of better representing the multiple needs of the different national systems and of meeting the demands of those realities most affected by structural inequalities, the suffering in which the majority of the world’s population struggles. In order to understand the value and scope of the BRICS external cooperation, it is worthwhile to keep in mind the directions in which it takes place.
The first direction concerns the reform of the existing global order. Indeed, ever since their formal constitution in 2009 and then throughout the following years, the BRICS have always positioned themselves as reformers, not destroyers of the existing global order and its system of governance; for example, they have always recognised the central role of the United Nations and other international institutions such as the Monetary Fund itself and the World Trade Organisation (whose reform they obviously call for). This reform framework also includes the informal G20 summit whose role the BRICS have always explicitly recognised as the main economic instrument for building a more equilibrated and valid model of global development. This BRICS position has also been confirmed at the latest Coordination Summits, i.e. in a phase marked by the emergence of an unexpected process of polarisation of the international system marked by strong and growing tensions and conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine.
The second direction of the BRICS external projection concerns the expansion of regional and national areas of cooperation and the enlargement of coordination members. These are the “BRICS Outreach” and “BRICS Plus” projects through which it is intended to strengthen cooperation with the so-called Global South and to respond to the requests for BRICS membership received from numerous states on different continents, from Latin America to Africa, from the Mediterranean to South-East Asia. Emblematic is the approach of the strategy that South Africa intends to promote on the occasion of its 2023 Presidency to intensify the cooperation of the BRICS coordination with the major development organisations of the entire African continent.
As for the possible enlargement of the grouping’s membership, it is a fact that the BRICS are faced with numerous membership applications from states that play an important role in the continents and regional areas of reference. This is the case with the membership applications and expressions of interest submitted, for example, by Argentina, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia; as well as the close collaborations initiated with regional organisations such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and others. A situation that undoubtedly marks the growing influence of BRICS coordination in the global arena.
The impact of the BRICS action on the areas of interest of the European Union and Italy
This process of strengthening and expanding BRICS external cooperation undoubtedly impacts areas of primary interest for the EU as well as Italy.
In Latin America, for example, where the signing of the long-standing agreement between the EU and the Continent’s main organisation, the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), has not yet taken place, one wonders what change of perspective Argentina’s recent request to join the BRICS may generate, bearing in mind that Brazil already participates in the grouping from the outset, being one of the founding members. There is no doubt that such a preference in favour of the BRICS by two important states of the Latin American continent can be interpreted as a reflection of a state of dissatisfaction with Europe.
A similar situation arises in the Mediterranean area, where BRICS membership has been formulated by three important states: Turkey, Egypt, Algeria. Also in this case, such a strategic choice by three important states is undoubtedly destined to reshape the role of the EU in the Med area and change the general conditions of development. What is valid for the EU could be valid for Italy, for which the Mediterranean is an area of primary strategic interest.
A similar situation, of shifting the strategic axis of relations, especially political and social, could be envisaged on the entire African continent with the BRICS 2023 Presidency by South Africa.
It is a fact that the BRICS have succeeded in maintaining and strengthening over time their system of cooperation, both internal and external, despite the limits of coordination related to the different internal situation of the member states and also the contrasts between some of them, the weak institutional set-up, the insufficient effectiveness in reforming the main institutions of world governance.
It is a fact that their attractiveness as a new pole of reference has increased over time, as evidenced by the numerous participation in the Summits by states outside the coordination and the applications for membership.
It is equally clear that a process is underway on the international scene to build a new multilateralism aimed at promoting a more balanced and fair model of development for the populations most affected by the current imbalances and inequalities. It is a process that is leading to the revitalisation of numerous important regional coordination structures or the creation of new ones.
The question of whether and how, in the context of this ongoing process on the international scene, the role of the EU and its member states – as far as we are concerned, Italy – can be confirmed and, in particular, how the conditions can change for us to be able to continue, as Europeans, to participate actively in the new development dynamics.
Prof. Marco RICCERI
Eurispes Secretary general – Coordinator, Eurispes BRICS – Lab
Prof. Darwis KHUDORI
Coordinator, International Conference “The Rise of Asia”
Sorbonne University – Université Le Havre Normandie, France