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The objective of this document is to formulate a long-term vision for BRICS. This in turn flows from substantive questions such as what BRICS will look like in a decade and what the key priorities and achievements will be. It is true that BRICS is a nascent, informal grouping and its agenda is evolving and flexible. Therein lays the uniqueness of BRICS. The BRICS leaders have reiterated that BRICS will work in a gradual, practical and incremental manner. Nonetheless, the grouping needs a long-term vision to achieve its true potential for two reasons: (1) to dove-tail the tactical and individual activities into a larger framework and direction; and (2) to help in monitoring the progress of the various sectoral initiatives in a quantifiable manner.
The Track II BRICS dialogue, under the chairmanship of India in 2012, has been robust. On March 4th – 6th, 2012, academics and experts from the five BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa— assembled in New Delhi for the 4th BRICS Academic Forum. The overarching theme was “Stability, Security and Growth.” This theme is useful for understanding the motivation and ethos of BRICS as a platform for dialogue and cooperation on issues of collective interest.
The dialogue led to the drafting of a comprehensive set of recommendations for BRICS leaders (Annexure 1). The 17 paragraphs that capture the recommendations to the BRICS leaders were reached through a consensual process between 60 academics and experts from the five countries. Forum delegates contributed a number of research and policy papers that formed the basis for the enriching discussions. Each of these papers highlighted key areas for cooperation, within the overall construct of the BRICS agenda. This research led to a significant build-up of knowledge on BRICS. This long-term vision document is an attempt to aggregate the dialogue and research that has fed the Track II process so far and to build upon it.
Broadly speaking, the document is divided into four sections. The first, on ‘Common Domestic Challenges’, aims to pinpoint multiple areas in which sharing experiences and best practices within the BRICS Forum will help to respond to common problems. For example, BRICS nations have vastly differing levels of educational attainment and healthcare policies. As large developing countries with significant governance challenges, but also ‘demographic dividends’ and other drivers of growth to reap, BRICS can greatly benefit from innovative ideas emanating from similarly positioned nations.
The second the matic section focuses on ‘Growing Economies, Sharing Prosperity’. Given the huge distance that the BRICS nations have yet to cover in tackling poverty and providing livelihoods to their rising populations, there is no option other than maintaining and accelerating economic growth. This section outlines the necessity of deepening intra- BRICS and worldwide trade and economic synergies. Additionally, it documents growing energy needs and discusses how the economic growth imperative affects the BRICS discourse on climate change.
The third section, titled ‘Geopolitics, Security and Reform of International Institutions’, outlines an enhanced role for BRICS within an increasingly polycentric world order. Within the United Nations (particularly the Security Council), enhanced BRICS representation can institutionalise a greater respect for state sovereignty and non-intervention. In Bretton Woods Institutions, like the IMF and World Bank, BRICS seeks to reform voting shares to reflect the evolved global system, different from that forged in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Finally, as leaders in the developing world, BRICS nations seek to create a development discourse that better represent their aspirations.
The fourth thematic section, on the ‘Other Possible Options for Cooperation’, outlines possible developments to further collective engagement once the necessary prerequisites are achieved. At the present juncture, it may be too early to think of BRICS becoming a formal, institutionalised alliance. However, it is important for the grouping to envision a commonality of purpose, continuity of operation and dialogue beyond annual summit meetings.
There are five prominent agendas of cooperation and collaboration that emerge from this vision document. These themes are integral to the very idea of long-term engagement between the BRICS nations and provide a framework for accelerating momentum and increasing significance over the long term:
1. Reform of Global Political and Economic Governance Institutions: This is the centrepiece of the BRICS agenda, which in many ways resulted in the genesis of the grouping. With the move towards a polycentric world order, BRICS nations must assume a leadership role in the global political and economic governance paradigm and seek greater equity for the developing world. Over the coming years, they must continue to exert pressure for instituting significant reforms within institutions—such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Various suggestions outlined in this report provide a constructive framework for enabling substantive reforms.
2. Multilateral Leverage: There are multiple formats for engagement and cooperation in order to leverage the BRICS identity at the global high table. The outcome of the BRICS officials meeting on the sidelines of the November 2012 G20 in Mexico, where it was decided to create and pool a currency reserve of up to USD 240 billion is one instance of enhanced intra-BRICS cooperation. Similarly, the Conference of Parties, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organisation are existing cooperative frameworks,
within which BRICS countries can collectively position themselves by fostering intra-BRICS consensus on issues of significance. The United Nations is central to a multilateral framework, and there is significant potential for BRICS to collaborate and assume a more prominent role in global political and economic governance, conflict resolution etc., through institutions such as the Security Council.
3. Furthering Market Integration: Global economic growth has been seriously compromised in the years following the Global Financial Crisis. Each percentage point reduction in global growth leads to a significant slowdown of economic development within BRICS which hinges upon a necessary component of economic growth. In this regard, market integration within BRICS, whether in the context of trade, foreign investments or capital markets, is a crucial step to ensure that the five countries become less dependent on cyclical trends in the global economy.
4. Intra-BRICS Development Platform: Each BRICS nation has followed a unique development trajectory. In the post-Washington Consensus era, developing economies within BRICS must set the new development agenda, which in turn must incorporate elements of inclusive growth, sustainable and equitable development, and perhaps most importantly, uplifting those at the bottom of the pyramid. The institution of BRICS-specific benchmarks and standards, as well as more calibrated collaboration on issues of common concern including the rapid pace of urbanisation and the healthcare needs of almost half the world’s population represented by BRICS, must be prioritised.
5. Sharing of Indigenous and Development Knowledge and Innovation Experiences across Key Sectors: Along with the tremendous potential for resource and technology sharing and mutual research and development efforts, coordination across key sectors—such as information technology, energy generation, and high-end manufacturing—would prove immensely beneficial for accelerating the BRICS development agenda. Moreover, the BRICS nations must share indigenous practices and experiences to learn and respond to the immense socio-economic challenges from within and outside. This vision document contains multiple suggestions for instituting such sharing mechanisms through various platforms and cooperation channels.
This document analyses the above themes in detail. Each section concludes with recommendations specific to the chapter’s theme. The final section contains synthesised suggestions which serve as an outline/framework for enhancing intra-BRICS cooperation and collaboration. The official declarations/statements of BRICS leaders are available in Annexure (s) 2 to 5.