What does BRICS do?
Since its first Summit, held in 2009, BRICS has significantly expanded its activities in the fields of political coordination and economic, financial and multisectoral cooperation.
With respect to BRICS political coordination, it focuses on economic and financial governance as well as on political governance. In the former, the BRICS agenda gives priority to coordination within the G20, including the IMF reform. In the latter, BRICS advocates the reform of the United Nations and its Security Council, with a view to enhancing its representativeness, and favors the democratization of international governance. In parallel, the BRICS members are deepening their dialogue on the main issues of the international agenda. It should be mentioned that political coordination among the BRICS countries is carried out and will continue to be carried out without confrontation with other countries. BRICS is open to cooperation and constructive engagement with third countries, as well as with international and regional organizations in dealing with current international issues.
The economic and financial cooperation is the area that showed the first tangible results. Two documents of special relevance were signed in the 6th BRICS Summit (Fortaleza, July 2014): the agreement for the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) – aimed at funding infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging economies and developing countries – and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA), designed to provide mutual support to BRICS members in situations of instability in their balance of payments. The initial subscribed capital of the NDB was US$ 50 billion, and its authorized capital, US$ 100 billion. The resources allocated to the CRA will amount to US$ 100 billion. In regard to multisectoral cooperation, the intra-BRICS activities already cover more than 30 areas, including health, science, technology & innovation, energy, agriculture, culture, outer space, think tanks, social security, intellectual property, tourism, among others.
Areas such as health, science, technology & innovation and energy for the consolidation of the multisectoral cooperation are a priority for Brazil. Coordination in these areas can produce concrete results: improved quality of life of the Brazilian population; innovation of the domestic industrial and technological park; diversification of the Brazilian energy matrix. In the field of health, positive results can be achieved, including better quality of life of the Brazilian population; innovation of the national pharmaceutical industry and improved access to first-line drugs. Cooperation in science, technology and innovation is important to bridge the scientific and technological gap between Brazil and developed countries; in that sense, it includes relevant initiatives, with great potential for knowledge sharing and availability of resources for research projects. Although recent within BRICS, the energy dossier has the potential for becoming one of the most complex areas, since the development of their energy matrix sustainability is of interest to all members of the group.
The BRICS History
The coordination among Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) began informally in 2006 with a working meeting of the foreign ministers of the four countries, on the margins of the UN General Assembly. In 2007, Brazil took over the organization of the meeting. On this occasion, it was noticed that the interest in holding a closer dialogue called for the organization of a specific meeting of foreign ministers.
The first formal meeting of the BRIC foreign ministers was held on May 18, 2008, in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Since then, the acronym, coined a few years earlier by the financial market, was no longer limited to describing four emerging economies: BRICs was now a new political and diplomatic entity.
Since 2009, the BRICS Heads of State and Government have met annually. In 2011, at the Sanya Summit, South Africa joined the group. Over the past ten years, nine Summit meetings have taken place with all leaders of the mechanism in attendance.
- First Summit: Yekaterinburg, Russia, June 2009;
- Second Summit: Brasília, Brazil, April 2010;
- Third Summit: Sanya, China, April 2011;
- Fourth Summit: New Delhi, India, March 2012;
- Fifth Summit: Durban, South Africa, March 2013;
- Sixth Summit: Fortaleza, Brazil, July 2014;
- Seventh Summit: Ufa, Russia, July 2015;
- Eighth Summit: Benaulim (Goa), India, October 2016;
- Ninth Summit: Xiamen, China, August 2017; and
- Tenth Summit: Johannesburg, South Africa, July 2018.
The First Summit established cooperation at the level of Heads of State and Government of the group by then referred to as BRIC. Held against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, the meeting focused on economic and financial issues, with emphasis on the reform of international financial institutions, the role of the G20 in the recovery of the world economy and discussions on political issues, such as the need for reform of the United Nations. In addition to the Declaration, the First Summit issued the follow-up document ‘Prospects for Dialogue among Brazil, Russia, India and China’.
The Second Summit, held in Brazil in 2010, deepened political coordination among BRIC members through the significant expansion of intra-BRIC cooperation initiatives, including the meeting of the Heads of Statistical Institutions and two joint statistical publications by member countries; the meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture; the meeting of the Presidents of Development Banks; the Think Tank Seminar; the meeting of Cooperatives; the Business Forum; and the Second Meeting of High-Ranking Security Officials. During the Brasília Summit, the need for reform of economic institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank, and for support of Russia's accession to the WTO as well as the UN Alliance of Civilizations initiative were discussed, among other issues of the multisectoral cooperation.
At the Third Summit, in Sanya, South Africa joined the BRICS group. It is believed that its accession makes an important contribution to the mechanism given South Africa’s economic relevance in the African continent, its constructive political engagement in the international scene, and its geographic representativeness. On the sidelines of the Summit, a meeting of trade ministers was held to discuss the future of the Doha Round. In the Sanya Declaration, the BRICS leaders reaffirmed the need for reform of the United Nations by including, for the first time, a paragraph on the expansion of the Security Council membership. The document covers themes such as economy and finance, condemnation of terrorism; incentive to the use of renewable energies and the peaceful use of nuclear energy; importance of the Millennium Development Goals and the alleviation of hunger and poverty. An action plan annexed to the Declaration was also approved in the Summit, providing guidelines aimed at deepening existing cooperation and institutionalizing the Foreign Ministers meetings at the margins of the General Debate of the UN General Assembly.
The Fourth Summit laid the foundations for the establishment of the BRICS Bank, an institution led by the five countries and aimed at financing infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the BRICS countries and other emerging economies and developing countries. The Fourth Summit Declaration established a working group to study the feasibility of this initiative. In addition, the BRICS Development Banks signed agreements with a view to facilitate credit approval in local currencies.
The Fifth Summit was held on the theme of ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization’. The Durban meeting concluded the first round of the BRICS Summits, with each country having hosted a meeting of Heads of State or Government. The main results of the Summit were: kick-starting the negotiations of the Contingence Reserve Arrangement, with an initial amount of US$ 100 billion; adoption of the ‘BRICS Development Bank’ viability and feasibility report; establishment of the BRICS Business Council and the BRICS Think Tanks Council.
At the Fifth Summit, BRICS heads of State met with African leaders in the session ‘Unlocking Africa’s Potential: BRICS and Africa Cooperation on Infrastructure’. This meeting marked the beginning of the BRICS external involvement (outreach) with South African Union countries. The external engagement is based on the decisions of the BRICS Leaders (Declarations of Sanya, 2011; Durban, 2013, and Fortaleza, 2014), which establish that the group is open to increased engagement and cooperation with non-member countries and, in particular, emerging economies, developing countries and relevant international and regional organizations.
The Sixth Summit was held in Fortaleza, Brazil, in July 2014, with the theme ‘Inclusive Growth: Sustainable Solutions.’ Prior to the Summit, meetings of the Think Tanks Council and the Academic Forum were held in Rio de Janeiro, in March, initiating the series of meetings related to the Summit. At the Fortaleza Summit, the agreements on the establishment of the New Development Bank and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement were signed, in addition to the Memorandum of Understanding on Technical Cooperation among BRICS Export Credit and Guarantees Agencies and the Cooperation Agreement on Innovation cooperation among the national development banks of the five countries.
The Seventh BRICS Summit was held in Ufa, Russia, in July 2015, under the theme "BRICS Partnership – a Powerful Factor of Global Development". The highlight of the summit was the signing of agreements establishing the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserves Arrangement. The first meetings of the Council of Governors and the Bank’s Board of Directors were also convened. The Contingent Reserves Arrangement came into force thanks to agreements reached among the BRICS Central Banks during the Summit. The BRICS leaders also adopted the “Strategy for the BRICS Economic Partnership”, a guideline for increasing, expanding and promoting trade and investment exchanges between the five countries. In addition, agreements on cultural cooperation and cooperation between the BRICS Development Bank and the New Development Bank were signed.
The Eight BRICS Summit, convened in Goa, India, in October 2016, under the theme "Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions”, was marked by discussions on the global economic recovery. Some of the main issues addressed included economic growth, fiscal accountability, social responsibility, investment attraction, progress of the New Development Bank and fight against terrorism. In the Goa Summit, BRICS proved once again to be able to reach agreements and launch new initiatives. On the occasion, the BRICS leaders signed four memoranda of understanding on: the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform; (ii) for the creation of the BRICS Customs Cooperation Committee; (iii) on the mechanism of cooperation among the New Development Bank and the national development banks, and (iv) on cooperation between diplomatic academies.
The Ninth Summit, held in Xiamen, China, in September 2017, under the theme "BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future", marked the beginning of the second decade of BRICS with prospects of expanding financial, trade and investment cooperation. In addition to intra-BRICS cooperation, the BRICS leaders discussed the main issues of the international agenda, in particular cooperation development in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
During the meeting, the BRICS leaders signed an action plan for the promotion of innovation cooperation (“BRICS Action Plan for Innovation Cooperation 2017 – 2020”) and agreed on the creation of the BRICS Tuberculosis Research Network. In the field of economic and trade cooperation, the “BRICS Action Plan on Economic and Trade Cooperation” and the “BRICS Strategy for Customs Cooperation” were also signed. The BRICS leaders also expanded cooperation by signing the “Memorandum of Understanding between the New Development Bank and the BRICS Business Council”.