Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 40.2020
2020.09.28 — 2020.10.04
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's greetings to the organisers, participants and guests of the BRICS Film Festival (Приветствие Министра иностранных дел Сергея Лаврова организаторам, участникам и гостям кинофестиваля БРИКС) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, movie, quotation

Please accept my warmest greetings to the organisers, participants and guests of the 5th BRICS Film Festival.

The strategic partnership of the five BRICS countries is successfully developing in all areas across the board, from politics and economic cooperation to science and culture. Its humanitarian component invariably plays a special role. It is no coincidence that one of the priorities of the Russian chairmanship is working to improve the living standards and the quality of life in our countries.

The BRICS Film Festival makes a valuable contribution to the common effort – although a relatively new initiative, it has already won recognition among cinema lovers and the public in general. It is hard to overestimate its importance for developing professional contacts, promoting national films, and, ultimately, strengthening our five countries' prestige in the global cultural landscape.

I am certain that the festival's eventful programme will help consolidate friendly ties between our citizens even more. I wish the organisers and participants every success in their creative work and all the best, and may the audience members keep bright, unforgettable memories of the event.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
De-Risking Trade and Reforming CRA towards Intra-BRICS De-dollarization via Smart Contracts (Снижение рисков в торговле и реформирование CRA в направлении дедолларизации внутри БРИКС с помощью смарт-контрактов) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges

BRICS countries have maintained a longstanding goal of "de-IMFing" and "de-dollarizing" their trade settlements and reserves in order to increase their sovereignty over transactions and avoid currency crisis, and proposed the creation of a Multilateral Clearing Union towards that goal. The Contingency Reserve Arrangement was the implementation of the Multilateral Clearing Union, but fell short of meeting the original purpose due to its IMF linkage requirements and limited scope, symptomatic of a lack of trust between BRICS member states. Furthermore, there existed several economic forces preventing the wider use of BRICS national currencies in trade. This paper seeks develops a proposal to overcome these forces via a near-term solution, using Smart Contracts to de-Risk trade in a manner that promotes national currency stability and reduces dependency on both dollars/euros and Western institutions (such as IMF and western commodities markets).

Implementation Considerations

The key considerations in designing and implementing a distributed multi-functional large-scale integrated solution such as above on blockchain are: 1) latency and throughput 2) interoperability, scalability, and versatility 3) data privacy and security, and finally, 5) costs of energy consumption and token fees.

To address these concerns, it is necessary to integrate the latest developments in protocols underway.

Ethereum 2.0, to be released in November 2020, will increase transaction throughput from a current bottlenecked 14/second to 100,000/second, as well as moving computations from an energy-intensive proof-of-work blockchain to a proof-of-stake one and have enhanced data security.22 Furthermore, it will be necessary to deploy scriptable smart contracts to both program variable fulfillment criterion and tie-in with external data. Chainlink has modular "middleware" for external data connectivity as well as a decentralized Oracle network which is necessary for trust validation amongst BRICS transacting parties. For data access control, BRICS-on dapps can be built on a permissioned version of an enterprise blockchain, and integrated using secure APIs for the intra-BRICS payment systems. Current western trade finance tracking systems such as MAERSK's Tradelens, IBM's WeTrade, and R3's Marco Polo use enterprise blockchains Hyperledger Fabric and CORDA; BRICS may be interested in either adapting these existing platforms or developing its own, depending on its core requirements and integration requirements with the BRICS settlement interbank messaging systems.

There is however an inherent issue of token fees, which in Ethererum are known as gas fees. With the Ethereum native token Ether (ETH) constantly rising in price, and Ethereum 2 not being a viable solution to this23, an alternative implementation is possible by using Smart Contracts with a Centralized Ledger,without blockchain, tokenization or distributed ledgers. The world's biggest commodities pricing firm, S&P Global Platts, has implemented such an exchange (TradeVision), sacrificing an additional level of security and verification in return for greatly lowered cost and efficiency.24 BRICS may be interested in tracking this model for feasibility.

In assessing implementation steps towards this all-in-one integrated solution for de-risking trade finance, BRICS working committees should perform a gap analysis of key requirements for an ideal comprehensive intra-BRICS trade finance solution, supplementing some of the key concerns this paper has outlined. The most important factor to keep in mind is interoperability between all of the BRICS trade, settlement, payment, and crypto solutions under development, individual Central and Commercial Banks, and the NDB CRA's swap line facilities. Only then can a comprehensive IT architecture be performed, followed by large-Scale feasibility studies, project budgeting, and , and cost-benefit analysis before deciding whether such a comprehensive system can be commissioned. This paper is high-level effort to set the ball rolling in that direction, in the hope that Smart Contracts will be used to disintermediate and de-risk BRICS trade finance in the near future.

Antitrust in BRICS: Agenda and achievements in comparative perspective (Антимонопольное законодательство в БРИКС: повестка дня и достижения в сравнительной перспективе) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: research, economic_challenges

1. Introduction

In the XXI century antimonopoly policy with its extensive laws and intensive enforcement is not the sole "privilege" of developed countries. There are three points addressed in this article which opens the special issue of Russian Journal of Economics (RuJE) devoted to antitrust in the BRICS countries:

  • Why are BRICS and antitrust a topic for RuJE?
  • What is the focus of attention in the special issue?
  • What is important but not discussed in the special issue, and what further analysis is it aiming to incentivize?
As an invited editor I'd like to express my sincerest gratitude to all the authors of the special issue who shared their ideas about various aspects of antimonopoly policy in the BRICS countries with the journal's audience. I'd also like to thank all the referees who read manuscripts and gave recommendations on their development. RuJE is a hospitable platform for the publication of original research on competition issues and antitrust policy. Throughout the almost six years of the journal's existence, this topic has constantly recurred. I hope that this special issue will arouse additional interest among readers and potential authors and trigger a discussion on competition policy issues in the journal.

2. Why are BRICS and antitrust a topic for RuJE

Recent developments regarding antitrust in the BRICS countries — they represent more than 40% of the world's population and about 25% of the world's economy — demonstrate a qualitative transformation, which expresses itself in multiple aspects. Firstly, there has been a dramatic growth of fines imposed on antitrust law violators — both in absolute terms and compared with two leading jurisdictions (the EU and the US). Secondly, there are persistent attempts by the BRICS countries to coordinate their activities in the world arena more in line with the OECD countries. Overall, the characteristics and conduct of the BRICS countries demonstrate that BRICS is more than a simple acronym. There are definitely common features in their national economies as well as corresponding issues of antimonopoly policy at the national level. There are also grounds for a common agenda in the field of international relations on competition issues. For more details, see, for example, Avdasheva et al. (2020).

Yet attempts to understand national antitrust in the BRICS countries in international discourse, as well as the discourse in the countries concerned, reveals a dichotomy. Economists tend to discuss antitrust in general without paying much attention to historical context and institutional details, or the actual implementation of competition rules. This special issue aims to help fill this gap and create better understanding of competition protection policies in Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 1

Last but not least, 2020 is the year of Russia's chairmanship in BRICS. Competition protection and development are among a wide range of issues to be discussed in events planned for this year.

3. What is the focus of attention in the special issue

The special issue contains six papers devoted to different issues of competition protection. These papers demonstrate not only the wide diversity of topics, which is an important specificity of competition policy as compared to other economic policies, but also some achievements (and in some cases — problems) which might, and should be, analyzed by economists. At the same time there are points that reflect certain similarities not only for the BRICS countries, but also for other jurisdictions, regarding particular issues of competition protection. Below, we describe the content of the special issue and discuss some important aspects of competition policy in a comparative way in order to reflect the spirit of contemporary antitrust in the BRICS countries.

In the article on China's Anti-Monopoly Law and the role of economics in its enforcement, Heng Ju and Peng Lin present a panoramic view of Chinese antitrust law and enforcement, highlighting the most notable events and antitrust cases that provide insight into Chinese antitrust. China has the youngest competition law among the BRICS countries. Just like in Russian legislation, and along with the hard core of antitrust (deterrence against individual and collective monopolistic activity of market participants, 2 merger control), China's antitrust law contains prohibitions on so-called administrative monopolies related to the actions of authorities.

The authors believe that the economic analysis in relation to cartels is relatively straightforward. However, the separation of cartel practices from commercial practices that are aimed at improving welfare may be of particular interest. For Russia, there is a well-known antitrust case concerning large-diameter pipes for infrastructure projects of Gazprom ( Shastitko and Golovanova, 2013; Shastitko et al., 2014). Avoiding errors in the assessment of particular conduct as an anticompetitive agreement in contrast to welfare-improving business practice is also of special importance for the effectiveness of leniency programs as a particular enforcement tool (Pavlova and Shastitko, 2014). Also, the authors note a very interesting configuration of antitrust regime related to the practice of Resale Price Maintenance with de-jure per se prohibition but de-facto (according to court cases) — rule of reason approach.

In the special issue, two articles are devoted to the discussion of the hard core of antitrust in Russia. This has become possible due to the rich experience of law enforcement of antitrust in Russia over the past 30 years, as well as significant changes in legislation over the past 15 years. The article Coordinated practice of law enforcement in Russia: How judicial review determines evidence standards and the number of objects of law enforcement, by Svetlana Avdasheva and Svetlana Golovanova, discusses the issue of standards for the application of norms prohibiting concerted actions. The authors show that the judicial review of Russian antimonopoly authority's decisions on infringement significantly affects the level of evidence in enforcing competition requirements, as well as the structure of cases that the antimonopoly authority accepts for processing. Using statistics regarding enforcement, they show that in Russia the ability of the higher court to influence the criteria of first instance courts is limited when compared with the ability of the first instance court to influence the strategy of enforcement by the competition authority. Moreover, the increase in the burden of proof motivates the competition authority to refrain from an investigation of concerted practice, in accordance with the prediction of the model of the selection of enforcement target by reputation-maximizing authority. Thus, this article contributes to the discussion on how enforcement cost in combination with the probability of enforcement success might shape results of competition law implementation. The article contributes to the explanation of uneven application of economic analysis under competition enforcement in Russia ( Shastitko, 2018): it depends among others on the definitions of illegal conduct. Changes and amendments of the Russian law "On protection of competition" regarding the definition of concerted practice limit the scope of enforcement against tacit collusion and decrease demand for economics.

The second article on the hard core of Russian antitrust is devoted to issues of abuse of dominance in the digital economy. The article The calling card of Russian digital antitrust by Natalia Pavlova, Andrey Shastitko and Alexander Kurdin uses three recent cases from Russian antitrust policy in the digital sphere to illustrate typical patterns of platform conduct that lead not only to a restriction of competition that needs to be remedied by antitrust measures, but also to noteworthy distribution effects. The cases also illustrate the approach taken by the Russian competition authority to some typical problems that arise in digital markets, e.g., market definition, conduct interpretation, behavioral effects, and remedies. In this article we find explicitly a very important policy issue for all the BRICS countries: balancing of antitrust and industrial policy. The recent Bayer–Monsanto merger case, which has led to the creation of the "Technology Transfer Center" to select recipients interested in the technology transfer and to monitor the execution of the remedy, is one of the most important examples of attempts to find such a balance.

The problems of digital antitrust in India are discussed in the article Convergence of competition policy, competition law and public interest in India by Geeta Gouri. Based on a historical retrospect of antitrust in India, the author addresses fundamental questions of the goals of antitrust and the criteria for their achievement. The idea that competition benefits consumers is undisputed and almost axiomatic. However, according to the author, monopolistic market structures can also lead to enhancing total welfare. Moreover, contemporary trends towards monopolistic markets provide grounds for rethinking competition policy and law and their convergence for public interest. To illustrate these points a description of three antitrust cases is used: MCX-Stock Exchange vs. National Stock Exchange & Ors, the Print India case and the Google case. All of these cases are related to issues of monopolistic unilateral conduct and also might be considered as cases in digital markets.

The Brazilian experience of merger control is presented by Eduardo Ribeiro with the article Tropical medicine: The economics and the evolving practice of antitrust remedies in Brazil. The author shows there has been a shift towards agreements instead of unilaterally imposed remedies, with extensive use of trustees. The argument is built on the basic principles of transaction cost economics and agency theory. The article shows that the practice of remedies based on the contract approach also reflects the goal of enhancing the Authority's bargaining position by closing opportunistic behavior loopholes in incomplete contracts. The extensive use of trustees is explained on the basis of managing negative consequences due to information asymmetry between the Authority and merging parties in favor of the latter. The issue raised by the article is especially important in the context of the development of new business models by digital platforms (see Pavlova et al. in this issue, mentioned above).

Competition protection embraces a wide range of issues and spheres of relations between economic agents, including international trade. One implication of the concept of the first sale is different regimes of regulation of parallel trade analyzed by Yannis Katsoulakos and Kalliopi Benetatou in An economic approach to parallel imports effects and competition policy, providing insight into modification of per se restrictions on parallel imports in Russia as compared with the other extreme in the EU: complete exhaustion of initial producers' rights just after the first sale. The authors raise a set of questions on the choice of a parallel import restrictions regime with an effects-based approach, recommending rule-of-reason investigations of the specific economic facts of each case and what these imply for welfare (and, specifically, consumer welfare).

4. What is important but not discussed in the special issue, and what further analysis is it aiming to incentivize

The special issue does not purport to cover all significant competition policy issues in each BRICS country or for BRICS as a whole. Moreover, this format does not allow a discussion of particular characteristics of national antitrust regimes, which, on the one hand, form the backbone of policy, but, on the other hand, are not included in the agenda for broad discussion by experts. There is a set of examples, based on Russian experience.

Firstly, collective dominance issues. Unlike the US practice where this concept is simply absent, and the EU, where this concept is implemented almost exclusively for merger control, Russian practice demonstrates a unique particularity: implementing it for abuse of dominance cases (article 10 of the Federal law "On protection of competition"). In our opinion, this is an expression of regulatory bias of Russian antitrust which might be explained as a consequence of imbalance of competition and industrial policies, protective and active tools of competition policy ( Shastitko, 2012). It is these imbalances that create cases where we find antitrust in form but economic regulation in terms of content.

Secondly, antimonopoly exemptions for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. We know that there are no exemptions for actions and agreements containing competition restrictions either in the EU or the US jurisdictions. Moreover, the experience of other BRICS countries demonstrates a similar picture (see as an example the Qualcomm case in Ju and Lin in this issue). At the same time there are some regulations and other documents explaining the specific regime of antimonopoly law enforcement as far as IPR issues are concerned. However, articles 10 and 11 of the law "On protection of competition" contain exemptions both for individual behavior of dominant economic entities and for agreements between undertakings. Despite the obvious deviation from international antitrust standards in relation to intellectual property rights, in a discussion ongoing for almost 10 years, there is nevertheless still strong opposition to the lifting of IPR-related exemptions.

Thirdly, antitrust under bilateral monopolies. Russian antitrust enforcement practice demonstrates a wide diversity of methods to manage problems with competition restrictions in situations of bilateral monopoly, in spite of the pessimism of economists on the prospects for the application of antitrust laws in the context of high bilateral switching costs due to high risks of enforcement errors (first of all, type I errors). However, to avoid regulatory intervention in an economy that still has a structure inherited from the Soviet times with territorial-production complexes and non-alternative technological chains controlled by independent owners after the privatization of the 1990s — the antimonopoly agency implemented, for example, an instrument of compulsory mediation ( Shastitko et al., 2018).

Fourthly, merger control in concentrated markets. At the beginning of the XXI century, the Russian economy experienced a set of large-scale mergers with CR1 (concentration index based on a market share of the biggest seller) close to 100%. Instead of blocking these deals, the Russian antimonopoly authority demonstrated loyalty to the proposed mergers, allowing them with mainly behavioral remedies to compensate the higher risks for internal consumers. The effects of this practice are studied, for example, in Avdasheva et al. (2018) not only from a nationwide perspective, but also from a worldwide one.

Overall, the articles in the issue show that questions of competition enforcement in BRICS are far from being settled. On the contrary, they require further analysis. Comparative analysis of the goals that competition authorities try to achieve (see Gouri in this issue), approaches to enforcement towards particular types of conduct (see Ju and Lin, and Avdasheva and Golovanova in this issue), and merger enforcement (see Ribeiro in this issue), or towards particular industries and business models (see Pavlova et al. in this issue) in different countries would help explain common regularities of competition enforcement in BRICS. The presented articles are sufficient to show that BRICS antitrust enforcement, first, is mature enough to be analyzed as a particular policy model, second, differs from the competition policies in the US and the EU; and third, the specific features of BRICS enforcement are not incidental. The specific approach to competition enforcement is an answer to particular challenges that the BRICS countries face.

Additional evidence on the effects of specific policies — including restrictions on parallel import (see Katsoulacos and Benetatou in this issue) — is even more important, in order to confirm or reject the prevailing presumptions on the impact of particular business conducts. In this way, the analysis made for the BRICS countries may provide substantial contributions to global competition law and economics.


  • Avdasheva S., Golovanova S., Shastitko A. (2020). The contribution of BRICS to the international competition policy regime. In L. M. Grigoryev, & A. Pabst (Eds.), Global governance in transformation challenges for international cooperation (pp. 241–259). Springer.
  • Avdasheva S. B., Korneeva D. V. (2019). Does competition enforcement prevent competitive strategies of digital platforms: Evidence from BRICS. Russian Management Journal, 17 (4), 547–568.
  • Avdasheva S. B., Korneeva D. V., Radchenko T. A. (2018). Antitrust price remedies may facilitate collusion in global commodity markets. World Competition: Law and Economics Review, 41 (4), 603–621.
  • Shastitko A. (2012). Antitrust in Russia: To be or not to be? Social Sciences, 43 (4), 3–17.
  • Shastitko A., Golovanova S. (2013). Competition issues regarding procurement for large companies and suppliers — the Gazprom case. CPI Antitrust Chronicle, November 26.
  • Shastitko A., Golovanova S., Avdasheva S. (2014). Investigation of collusion in procurement of one Russian large buyer. World Competition: Law and Economics Review, 37 (2), 235–247.
  • Shastitko A., Menard C., Pavlova N. (2018). The curse of antitrust facing bilateral monopoly: Is regulation hopeless? Russian Journal of Economics, 4 (4), 175–196.
  • Shastitko A. (2018). Empirical assessment of the role of economic analysis in the Russian antitrust: Why is economic analysis used? European Journal of Law and Economics, 45 (2), 313–330.

New Development Bank Prices USD 2 Bn Benchmark Bond to Further Support COVID Emergency Response (Новый банк развития повысил цену на облигации на 2 млрд долларов США для дальнейшей поддержки мер реагирования на COVID) / United Kingdom, September, 2020
Keywords: ndb, covid-19
United Kingdom

On September 22, 2020, the New Development Bank (NDB) priced its USD 2 billion, 5-year COVID Response Bond in the international capital markets, following its inaugural issuance on June 16, 2020. This is the NDB's largest-ever USD benchmark bond to date.

The net proceeds of the bond issuance will be used to finance sustainable development activities in the Bank's member countries, including COVID-related emergency assistance programs. NDB is targeting to provide up to USD 10 billion in crisis-related assistance, including financing healthcare and social safety-related expenditures, as well as supporting economic recovery efforts. NDB has approved USD 4 billion of COVID-19 related emergency assistance projects to date.

The transaction marks NDB's second foray into the international capital markets following a highly successful inaugural benchmark issuance. The transaction garnered notable demand from a geographically diverse investor base, and substantial participation from central banks and official institutions, which accounted for 66% of final allocations. The geographic distribution of investors of the final bond book was: Asia – 57%, EMEA – 34%, Americas – 9%.

The 5-year benchmark bond was issued at a spread of 37 bps over mid-swaps and pays a fixed annual coupon of 0.625%. Bank of China, Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs International and Standard Chartered Bank are acting as lead managers of the bond issuance.

"We are grateful for the enthusiastic response from investors to our second benchmark transaction which supports NDB's fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in our member countries. The transaction resonated well with investors and led to an extremely high-quality book, which saw a significant contribution from central banks and official institutions," said Mr. Leslie Maasdorp, NDB Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. "I would like to express my appreciation to investors for their continued support for NDB and our sustainable development mandate. It allows us to work together with our member countries to respond to the adverse public health and economic challenges caused by the pandemic."

Qiu Wei, Deputy General Manager, Investment Banking & Asset Management Department at Bank of China said: "The successful pricing of the USD bond not only demonstrates NDB's market impact and JLMs' expertise, but also strengthens the ties between NDB and its member countries. Furthermore, this issuance will help push forward NDB's efforts to help member countries in fighting the challenges brought by the COVID-19 epidemic."

Harry Koppel, Managing Director, SSAR Origination at Barclays said: "Huge congratulations to the New Development Bank for this remarkable result on their second-ever USD benchmark transaction in the international capital markets. NDB took another large step forward, issuing both a larger size and at a longer tenor than its debut issue. And indeed, this was all achieved with a minimum new issue concession vs. estimated fair value. It has been a privilege to work with the NDB team on this transaction, beginning all the way back in July with virtual marketing, and this outcome is a testament to all the work and dedication by the team."

Philip Brown, Head of Public Sector Debt Origination at Citi said: "This was a terrific second Dollar Benchmark for the NDB, who is seeing the benefit of their considerable and continuous program of investor relations. Building on the successful debut 3-year benchmark in June, we've now gone longer, larger and tighter. Congratulations to the NDB Treasury team, it's been our privilege to travel on this exciting journey with them as NDB builds out its capital markets presence so successfully."

Maud Le Moine, Head of SSA DCM at Goldman Sachs International at Goldman Sachs International said: "NDB's second COVID-response USD benchmark comes at a critical time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect many countries globally. Building on the success and performance of their debut USD issuance before the summer, today's USD transaction extends the NDB curve with a new $2bn 5yr, priced 1bp inside of their inaugural issue. The deal achieved an orderbook of $2.4bn and 66% participation from official institutions, a testament to NDB's continuous marketing effort globally. It has been an honour to be a part of NDB's story this year and we congratulate the team on another incredible milestone."

Annemarie Ganatra, Managing Director, Capital Markets at Standard Chartered Bank said: "Standard Chartered is honoured to support New Development Bank's highly successful second USD benchmark bond issuance. The 5yr issue, NDB's largest to date, achieved a flat yield and spread to the outstanding 3yr USD benchmark, and attracted a diverse and high-quality order book; a testament to the borrower's strong profile in the international SSA markets."

In December 2019, the NDB registered its inaugural USD 50 billion Euro Medium Term Note Programme in the international capital markets. The Programme has been rated 'AA+' by Fitch and has been assigned 'AA+' long-term and 'A-1+' short-term issue ratings by S&P. The Base Prospectus, each supplement thereto and any Final Terms published in relation to any series of Notes is or will be available for viewing at here.

The NDB established Emergency Assistance Facility to meet the emergency needs of its member countries. Emergency loans to the member countries could be used to finance direct expenses related to the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak or provide support to governmental measures contributing to economic recovery. The NDB targets to provide up to USD 10 billion in crisis-related assistance. As at September 22, 2020, the Bank has provided RMB 7 billion Emergency Assistant Program Loan to the Government of China, USD 1 billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to the Government of , USD 1 billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to the Government of the republic of South Africa and USD 1 billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to the Government of Federative Republic Brazil.

The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. The NDB received 'AA+' long-term issuer credit ratings from S&P and Fitch and 'AAA' foreign currency long-term issuer rating from Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR) and Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA).

World of Work
BRICS Young Innovator Prize Competition results announced (Подведены итоги конкурса молодых новаторов БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, research

Winners of the BRICS Young Innovator Prize Competition were announced during the BRICS Young Scientist Forum, which took place on 21‒25 September.

The contest's aim was to encourage best research and innovation projects in three areas: ecology, materials science and the use of artificial intelligence in environmental protection and materials science. The jury consisting of scientists and innovation experts from each of the BRICS countries evaluated the contestants based on whether their projects offered innovative and technological solutions to the current social, economic and environmental issues in the BRICS countries.

Gift Lubele, researcher from South Africa, won the first prize in the competition for developing a waste recycling programme, which he calls "an Uber for waste recycling." The South African innovator proposed a programme for coordinating people who "produce" rubbish and people who process it – namely, by managing the waste collection and recycling process, from the rubbish bin to the recycling plant, and building relationships with recycling companies to boost the efficiency of the waste recycling industry and reducing the processing costs. The project creator also proposed possible uses for recycled materials – for example, clothing production.

Winners of the BRICS Young Innovator Prize Competition:

1st place: Gift Lubele (South Africa), for a waste recycling programme;

2nd place: Ivan Shortsky (Russia), for the development of eco-materials;

3rd place: Hanyang Wang (China), for the development of automatic environmental monitoring systems.

Russian prize winner Ivan Shortsky representing Kuban State Technological University commented: "The Forum was held online for the first time; however, this did not prevent the participants from collaborating efficiently. It was exciting to hear reports by other participants and establish contacts with colleagues from different countries. Perhaps eventually, we will come up with a new joint project. This year we focused on developing eco-materials based on food waste."

BRICS countries have agreed on a new astronomy cooperation initiative (Страны БРИКС согласовали новую инициативу сотрудничества в области астрономии) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: cooperation

On 24 and 25 September, the 6th Meeting of BRICS Astronomy Working Group took place via videoconference.

The event was attended by over 70 experts from BRICS countries.

The meeting participants discussed prospects for implementing the BRICS Intelligent Telescope and Data Network project and the establishment of a BRICS Centre for Observation Data Processing.

Under the project, in 2021, the countries plan to start assembling a prototype distributed network of large-area telescopes based on the infrastructure available to academic organizations in the BRICS countries. The implementation of the first phase of the project is believed to help form scientific and organisational ties, train staff members and start developing the necessary equipment and software for its main phase.

The meeting included an annual research workshop, also held via videoconference. Leading BRICS scientists and engineers presented reports on the project's characteristics and prospects.

The parties discussed contributions already made by each BRICS country and further steps to be taken to implement the project. They also agreed to submit information for consideration to the relevant Ministries and Line Agencies in the five countries.

BRICS Civil Forum 2020. Mikhail Petrosyan: "BRICS countries show high digital ambitions" (Гражданский форум БРИКС-2020. Михаил Петросян: «Страны БРИКС демонстрируют высокие цифровые амбиции») / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, social_issues

The BRICS Civil Forum concluded on 25 September. Participants of the session "BRICS Economies: Digital Transformation" discussed the development of cooperation between the BRICS countries in the field of digitalization.

Mikhail Petrosyan, Adviser for international cooperation to the Director-General, Data Economy Russia 2024, discussed the scale of the growth of e-commerce and the greater demand for digital services in the BRICS countries during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus infection.

  • Mr Petrosyan, the digitalization of all spheres of life has gathered a truly record-breaking pace during the pandemic. What is the current level of the Russian economy's digitalization?
Indeed, the digital sector has become unprecedentedly important during the active phase of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The high level of digital technologies development allowed us to obtain various benefits after a lockdown was introduced. First of all, I am referring to delivery services, the food-tech sector, e-commerce and distance learning. Consequently, it became possible to meet people's basic needs whenever possible. We teamed up with the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and tried to compile a detailed catalogue of similar services in the crowdsourcing format on the «Все.онлайн» website. The catalogue includes over 500 services. Over five million people contacted this platform in the first three months. This confirms the fact that digital products remained highly popular during the lockdown.

The use of digital technologies in the field of healthcare is another critical aspect of digital efforts to resist the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes analyzing computed tomography images by a machine vision process, predicting pandemic development scenarios with the help of AI, online self-checking using AI, and using 3D printers for manufacturing PPE plus many other examples of digitalization. All this was accessible and helped respond effectively to the COVID-19 challenge.

I would like to note the role of the leading Russian digital economic companies that managed to provide the population with the above-mentioned services and to provide together with the Government a consolidated response to the COVID-19 pandemic consequences.

  • Is it necessary to digitalize all economic segments, if some of them have not yet been digitalized?
Digital transformation as a national goal is formulated in the Russian President's Executive Order on National Development Goals 2030. This is a high-priority long-term aspect of the Russian national strategy; on the whole, this is motivated by the global development of digital technologies.

The quality of people lives is the main aspect. Digital technologies make it possible to effectively meet popular requirements. Of course, this should be duly balanced with such aspects as ethics and security.

Additionally, the digital transformation of economic sectors, new business models, the conversion to the platform economy and data-based management of business processes are now seen as stable global economic trends. They are crucial for the development of the Russian corporate sector.

All this is reflected in the fact that the attainment of digital maturity of key economic sectors and the social sphere, including the field of healthcare, education and public administration, is a key parameter of the Digital Transformation national goal.

  • What sectors of the Russian economy are most active in the digitalization sphere?
Mikhail Petrosyan: I believe that professional community has reached consensus on the fact that the economy's financial, media, retail and transport sectors are marked by high digitalization levels. Industry, including oil and gas sector, healthcare, education, agriculture and others, are also demonstrating a digital transformation trend. They have different digital maturity levels, but the efforts of the business community and the state to ensure their digitalization should produce the relevant effect.

  • Speaking of BRICS and digital economy, it is obvious that digitalization is proceeding at a different pace in the BRICS countries. How can we facilitate the development synergy of national economies in this case?
Yes, although digitalization is proceeding at a different pace, the BRICS countries are showing high digital ambitions. It is important to enhance cooperation and exchange experience at all levels on such digital economic aspects as legal regulation and standardization, human resources and education, information security, expanded export and import volumes regarding digital services, etc. There is a great potential for joint cooperation in the Open Source sphere, an important component of the modern digital landscape.

  • What are your impressions of theyour session at the BRICS Civil Forum?
The discussion on digital economy is extremely necessary for the above-mentioned dialogue on topical matters of the expanding digital sector in the BRICS countries. As I have already said, this intensification is of high importance at all levels, including interstate, expert, scientific, corporate and, of course, the civil level. By synchronizing our actions in the multivector format, we will be able to achieve a mutually beneficial result for the entire BRICS grouping.

BRICS Young Scientist Forum concluded at South Ural University (В Южно-Уральском университете завершился Форум молодых ученых БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, think_tank_council

The 5th BRICS Young Scientist Forum (YSF) under the theme "BRICS Partnership of Young Scientists and Innovators for Science Progress and Innovative Growth" concluded on 25 September.

The Forum, held from 21 to 25 September via videoconference, was attended by 105 participants from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa who presented their science projects on a specially created interactive platform. Young scientists discussed the development of joint innovation and scientific activities, as well as opportunities for collaboration between universities of the five countries.

The Forum included discussions on three major topics: ecology, materials science and artificial intelligence. It also featured an intellectual game "Quiz", an interactive workshop on creating enterprises and introducing technologies, as well as scientific experiments. Roman Morozov, SUSU chemist, demonstrated live one of the effective water purification methods.

On the final day of the Forum, South Ural State University, Polyot Chelyabinsk Radio Plant, Vega Concern, Rostec State Corporation, Intersvyaz and the Chelyabinsk City Investment Development Agency presented their innovative solutions at the "Smart City" project workshop.

Also on the last day, the organizers announced the results of Science Stand Up Battle, a contest among young scientists from the BRICS countries – this format was introduced for the first time at the YSF. The participants were asked to present their researches in a format that would be clear and fascinating for a wide audience. One of the participants spoke about a breakdown of temperature sensors and how such breakdowns are similar to human diseases.

Science Stand Up Battle winners:

1st place: Sandeep Somvanshi, India (DST-INSPIRE),

2nd place: Anupma Thakur, India (DST-INSPIRE),

3rd place: Maria Gordeyeva, Russia (Kazan State Power Engineering University).

The jury members and voting participants also noted the performance of Arthur Henrique Azevedo Gonçalves from Brazil, who won the Audience Choice Award.

All the BRICS Young Scientist Forum participants noted how fulfilling the programme was and praised the high level organization of the event, which brought together five countries from different parts of the world on a single online platform. Representatives from India, which will host the Forum in 2021, emphasized that they would be delighted to benefit from Russia's successful experience.

BRICS countries coordinate joint use of research vessels (Страны БРИКС координируют совместное использование исследовательских судов) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, sustainable_development

On 23 September, the BRICS Ocean and Polar Science and Technology Working Group held its third meeting via videoconference.

The event was attended by delegates from the relevant BRICSministries and research institutions involved in ocean and polar studies. The Russian delegation included the representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology and the Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The participants discussed the latest achievements of the BRICS countries in the field of ocean and polar research, national strategies and promising joint projects. The focus was on plastic and microplastic pollution of the seas and oceans, as well as changes in the world's oceans and global climate.

The delegations discussed the joint use of research vessels for studies and expeditions and amendments to their agreements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, they discussed plans to send an expedition to the Amazon River plume in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean to study the influence of the world's largest drainage basin on the balance of biogenic emissions and pollutants in the ocean and its physical and chemical systems. The participants reaffirmed their intention to organise special subject courses and summer schools for young scientists from the BRICS countries.

They also discussed the possibility of cooperation within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) aimed at mobilizing scientific community, responsible politicians, businesses and civil society to implement a programme of joint studies and technical innovations.

In conclusion of the 3rd Meeting of BRICS Ocean and Polar Science and Technology Working Group, the participants adopted a protocol to be posted in due course on the group's official website.

BRICS Civil Forum 2020. Prof André Heller-Lopes: «The BRICS cultural ties have proved their effectiveness» (Гражданский форум БРИКС 2020. Проф. Андре Хеллер-Лопес: «Культурные связи БРИКС доказали свою эффективность») / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: social_issues

The panel session "People-to-People Exchanges to Strengthen the Unity of BRICS" of the BRICS Civil Forum 2020 drew the attention of many experts.

Following the event, we have interviewed Prof André Heller-Lopes, Stage Director for Opera; Professor, Music School at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; Member of the Board of Directors of the Brazilian Forum for Opera Dance and Concert, Brazil.

  • Prof André Heller-Lopes, economic issues came to the fore due to the pandemic, leaving everything else in the background. Do you think that the BRICS humanitarian ties have passed this test?
This is a difficult question to answer for we are still passing the test. Aren't we? We must take a deep breath and be calm: The test is not over — neither is the pandemics. I am optimistic about the vaccines and there are things to look up. However, more severe economic issues are probably still going to present themselves. If our humanitarian ties have showed positive sides it must be seen as the tip of the iceberg; the first challenges that we managed to overcome. There is a lot of work to be done.

  • What issues were the most important and fundamental for discussion at today's event?
Perhaps the most important issue was the realization that we all understood culture pretty much in the same way. Also, how we seem to value the differences we have and how those are part of building cooperations.

  • The world is entering a new post-pandemic era. Many people say that it is the cultural ties between States that are now coming to the fore. Do you agree with this statement?
Culture is what can save us in the new normal. Because culture and art is a constant reminder of the human in us. Those cultural ties between the BRICS states must be further developed because we will need partners, we will need to cooperate.

  • Everyone notes that today new remote means of communication are coming to the fore in the new era. How can this affect, or has it already affected, humanitarian projects?
I always stress out how the new remote means (like them or not) have been essential to help us pull through this crazy times. Most of us are (or feel) trapped in our homes or fears, those little "squares screens" that we are using to communicate via zoom google meet or any other platform have taught us a lot, have us made cherish communication and the power that simple technologies have to help us be in touch with each other. However, it is important never to forget that it is the imagination, the expression of the human mind that has enabled us to escape out of those little screens and allowed our souls to fly freely. Hopefully it will be the 'human' that will affect the technology not the other way around!

  • Your vision for the development of humanitarian ties between the BRICS countries in the near future. What else can be done to strengthen and develop these ties?
This is the most important next step! We must try to get together and study what (new) legislations need to be in place (or reinforced) to facilitate cultural exchanges. For example, in my field (opera and performing arts in general) how can productions circulate more easily among the BRICS States? Can some kind of tax exemption be studied so that the costs of co-producing and travelling be lower? Can we for example devise a production using a Russian orchestra, an Indian Designer, a Chinese choreographer, South African singer and a Brazilian director? Is there a way that we can facilitate our artists to come and visit the countries, and promote cultural exchanges? I do believe so. We need to build BRICS of culture, like bridges, and the sooner the better.
Fifth BRICS Film Festival to be held as part of Moscow International Film Festival (Пятый кинофестиваль БРИКС пройдет в рамках ММКФ) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: movie

The 5th BRICS Film Festival will be held within the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF) on 1-7 October 2020.

The Festival will showcase 10 films, two from each BRICS country. Russia will be represented by Alexander Proshkin's Back to the Sarmatian Steppe and Andrei Bogatyrev's Red Ghost. The events of the festival will take place both in cinemas and online.

The Festival will be launched at the MIFF opening ceremony in the Moscow Musical Theatre at 7 pm on 1 October.

The Oktyabr cinema theatre will be the main festival venue. Films will be also shown in the Moskino cinema theatres.

Members of the jury selected by the embassies of each country will judge the films. The jury will be headed by Russian filmmaker and cameraman Sergei Mokritsky, who made the film Battle for Sevastopol, a participant in the first BRICS film festival in India and the second one in China.

The five winners will receive the awards in the following nominations: Best Film, Special Jury Award, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.

The forum "BRICS Films as an Alternative to Hollywood" will take place during the festival. The participants will discuss cinema production, distribution and education in the field of cinematography via videoconference.

The history of the BRICS Film Festival dates back to July 2015 when Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi made a proposal to hold it at the BRICS Summitin Ufa. Since then, the festival has rotated among the BRICS countries, being held in Delhi (India) in 2016, Chengdu (China) in 2017, Durban (South Africa) in 2018 and Niteroi (Brazil) in 2019.
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