Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 43.2020
2020.10.19 — 2020.10.25
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's message of greetings to participants in the 12th BRICS Academic Forum (Приветствие Министра иностранных дел Сергея Лаврова участникам XII Академического форума БРИКС) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech, think_tank_council

Colleagues, friends,

I am delighted to welcome the participants of the 12th BRICS Academic Forum.

This mechanism of regular consultations of our countries' academics was launched in December 2008, when the first meeting of the BRICS countries' experts was held in Moscow at Russia's initiative. The establishment of the BRICS Think Tanks Council in accordance with the Delhi Declaration in 2012 has formalised interaction among national coordinators on this track.

It is highly satisfying that over the past years the Academic Forum has become a respected platform for the exchange of opinions among the leading academic centres of the five BRICS countries. You have done a great deal: you have strengthened ties between your experts, business, academic and student communities, proposed solutions to numerous social, environmental, information and educational problems, and held a number of meaningful events.

This year the forum will focus on the current aspects linked with the future functioning of multilateral development institutions. Such discussions are more important now than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the cross-border nature of the majority of challenges in the current globalised world and has shown that they can only be dealt with jointly on the basis of universally recognised international law and the central guiding role of the UN.

Regrettably, not all countries share this commonplace truth. We can see that a number of US-led Western countries are unwilling to develop mutually respectful dialogue with the other members of international community. Quite to the contrary, they are doing their utmost to restrain the development of new global centres and to punish those who pursue independent foreign policies. As an alternative to international law, they are advocating a West-centric concept of a "rules-based world order." These rules, as we are well aware, are being coordinated behind the scenes by a small group of countries and then forced on the rest of the world.

We are alarmed by increasingly protectionist policies and growing trade differences, which sometimes take the form of full-scale trade wars. The wide use of illegal unilateral sanctions, which have long become an instrument of unfair competition, offers little room for optimism as well. Taken together, this is increasing the confrontation potential and is eroding mutual trust still further.

These destructive trends must be countered with a broad interstate dialogue and a constructive and universally acceptable global and regional agenda. Cooperation within the framework of BRICS, including at the level of the expert community, is a positive example showing that fruitful joint work by the international community is well within our reach.

In this year of the 75th anniversary of the UN, it is especially important for the five BRICS countries to speak up as one in support of the UN-centric architecture and for the development of a fairer and more democratic multipolar world order based on the principles of the UN Charter and the cultural and civilisational diversity of the world.

Russia assumed the rotating BRICS chairmanship on January 1, 2020. In his address at the Brasilia summit in November 2019, President Vladimir Putin outlined the key priority of Russia's Chairmanship, as well as of the strategic BRICS partnership: to help improve the living standards and the quality of life of our nations.

The academic community, including your representative forum, should contribute to achieving this and other ambitious goals. We expect your discussions to produce new assessments and proposals, which will be taken into account during the preparation of the BRICS summit scheduled for November.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you once again for your active contribution to the BRICS movement and to wish you every success and all the best.

BRICS municipalities discuss strategy for strengthening cooperation, improve quality of life and prosperity for city residents (Муниципалитеты БРИКС обсуждают стратегию укрепления сотрудничества, повышения качества жизни и благосостояния жителей города) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: ooperation, social_issues

On 19 and 20 October, Kazan hosted the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum.

Fifteen countries took part in the event, including India, China, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Indonesia, Germany, Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan and Morocco, with representatives from 56 cities such as Moscow, New Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Polokwane, Hangzhou, Wuhan and others. There were also representatives from 10 major organisations and associations of local governments and municipalities, including the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Brazil's National Confederation of Municipalities, Brazilian Association of Municipalities, South African Local Government Association, United Cities and Local Governments, World Health Organisation, and a number of Russian associations of cities and municipalities.

The forum opened on 19 October, and its first day included four sessions, during which experts discussed mechanisms for implementing the smart city concept, promoting sustainable urban development in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and making cities and communities inclusive, safe and sustainable, as well as promoting municipal-level cooperation within BRICS.

The forum culminated with the plenary session on 20 October. Russian speakers included First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Nigmatullin, Kazan Mayor and President of the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities Ilsur Metshin, Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexander Yakovenko, and Minister of the Government of Moscow and Head of the Moscow Department of Foreign Economic Activity and International Relations Sergei Cheryomin. Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov sent a video message of greetings to the forum.

During the plenary meeting, the participants also heard statements by BRICS city mayors and representatives of city associations. These included President of Brazil's National Confederation of Municipalities Glademir Aroldi, Executive Director of the Brazilian Association of Municipalities Eduardo Tadeu, Deputy Mayor of Sao Paulo Luiz Alvaro Salles Aguiar de Menezes, Mayor of Birigui, Brazil, Cristiano Salmeirao, Head of the International Relations Department at Rio de Janeiro City Hall Antonio Fernando Cruz de Mello, Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Section of the United Cities and Local Governments World Organisation Bernadia Irawati, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar (India), Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Kazan Wu Yingqin, Vice President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries Li Xikui, vice mayors of Xian, Wuhan and Hangzhou, President of the South African Local Government Association and Polokwane Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng and United Cities and Local Governments Secretary General Emilia Saiz.

Ilsur Metshin talked about the vast responsibilities of local government bodies considering their close ties to the people. «Local government institutions share the same mission regardless of their region or country, which is to streamline local governance, eliminate legal and financial hurdles and ensure equal opportunities and conditions for all residents,» he pointed out.

«We share the same goals of improving our cities, making them comfortable, safe and people-friendly. We want our cities to offer equal opportunities to all who live, study, work or engage in creative undertakings there. I am confident that this BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum in Kazan will serve as an effective platform for strengthening cooperation among municipalities, enabling them to play a more prominent role in addressing global issues, as well as to share best practices in order to create a better environment for our residents,» Mr Metshin went on to say.

At the end of the forum its participants adopted an outcome declaration emphasising the importance of carrying out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for improving the lives and wellbeing of urban populations in the BRICS countries.

The forum ended with a concert broadcast devoted to the 100th anniversary of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Will the BRICS meet the same fate as SAARC? (Постигнет ли БРИКС та же участь, что и СААРК?) / India, October, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

Once perceived as a promising group of emerging economies that could challenge the western dominance in the International System, the ability to cooperate of the BRICS may fade.

BRICS is scheduled to meet next month under the chairmanship of Russia. The theme for this year is 'BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth'. BRICS or formerly just BRIC as coined by Jim O'Neil is a group of emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later South Africa. These countries have witnessed tremendous economic growth in the last two decades, especially China. BRICS was deemed to bring about a substantial change in the relative power balance between the West and the emerging world. However, as described in one of the reports of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), the differences between the BRICS countries have remained large, may it be economic or security. "The absence of a broadly shared positive agenda is the main reason why it is highly unlikely for these countries to grow into a geo-economic, geopolitical alternative to the West within the next five to ten years." read the report in its conclusion back in 2012. We indeed have seen a lot more engagement after that but the recent events have again raised doubts about the future of cooperation amongst these countries.

Much of the BRICS' potential was concentrated in the rapid economic growth of these countries post-2000. United by a single thread of being the emerging economies, BRICS came forward to aid each other on several occasions like in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to safeguard their interests of continued economic growth. However, they seem to go solo on most other occasions like for example, in the UNSC. In the recent past, there has been another similar organisation of which India is a central member i.e. the SAARC. It is aimed at encouraging cooperation between the South Asian countries, namely India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan. However, SAARC has been accused of mistrust amongst its members for a long time now. It hasn't met since the last four years after the 2016 summit was suspended indefinitely following the Uri attacks in Kashmir. The tensions between India and Pakistan have hindered or rather almost deadlocked the growth of the organisation.

The recent developments along the Indo-China border are alarming for the BRICS members as tensions escalate between two of its biggest economies. A standoff that has continued since June following skirmishes in the Galwan region has caught everyone's eye. There have been talks of de-escalation but there have been no signs of easing of tensions. The recent meeting hosted by Russia of the foreign ministers of China and India too has not been sufficiently able to deal with the border deadlock yet. The West and especially the US have identified India as a power that can help contain China's rise. Hence, we have seen increasing cooperation between the US and India for the past few years. Trump's open criticism and blaming of China for the catastrophic pandemic has sparked another war of words between China and the US that even was reflected during the UNGA address. The anti-China sentiment is taking roots in India as well. Recently the country witnessed nationwide protests calling for a boycott of Chinese goods. India is currently perceived as an alternative for western firms for manufacturing their products, essentially shifting their operations from China. Apple Inc. for example announced that a part of its iPhone production would be moved from China to India.

The pandemic however has had an enormous impact on India, not just economically but in terms of infections as well. It is today the 2nd most-affected country after the US. So a lot of economic experts and industry professionals have predicted a hard time for the Indian economy in the near future. Among the BRICS, only China seems to be in a better position in terms of the economy, however, the increasing mistrust of the West over China's assertive policies in its neighbourhood and recently in Hong Kong have earned a strong backlash. BRICS that was once perceived as a promising bloc to challenge the Western dominance over the international system with its rapid economic growth, might face a tough time over cooperation if tensions fail to de-escalate between India and China.

However, it may not be the same as SAARC. China and India both are heavily interdependent and one of the largest trading partners of each other. It's in none of their interest to engage in a conflict that may have an adverse effect on both of their economies, especially during a time of economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Sinologist Jayadeva Ranade has explained the Chinese aggression as more of a consequence of the domestic problems faced by the government. Facing difficulties in trade with the US, pandemic, the Chinese govt seems to divert its public attention to sovereignty issues along the Indian border. Apart from that, unlike SAARC, the presence of other political heavyweights like Russia makes a difference. Russia might play a vital role in easing tensions between China and India during the upcoming summit as it has a considerable amount of influence on both parties. The New Development Bank of the BRICS might play a crucial role in the post-pandemic economic revival of the member countries.

With Brazil and India battling the highest number of cases, and economic decline in almost every member country it is extremely crucial that the BRICS unites in this tough period for cooperation. BRICS was not just an integration project of the most powerful emerging economies but also a test initiative for global south-south cooperation. If the geopolitical tensions between India and China do not de-escalate it might jeopardize the future of the cooperation of the whole bloc like it happened in the case of SAARC.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's greetings to participants in the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum, Moscow, October 20, 2020 (Приветственное слово Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова участникам Форума породненных городов и муниципальных образований стран БРИКС, Москва, 20 октября 2020 года) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, mofa, cooperation, speech


Let me welcome the participants in the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum. The initiative to hold meetings in this format originated, in fact, simultaneously with the establishment of BRICS itself. The Forum has become established as a useful and much-needed venue for contacts between representatives of local governments of the five countries and for an exchange of views on the pressing issues related to the development of urban environment.

Symbolically, the present meeting is taking place in one of the oldest Russian cities whose history goes back one thousand years. Members of different ethnic and religious groups live here peacefully side by side. Kazan's rich centuries-old traditions combine organically with its image of a modern and dynamically developing city. The hospitality and cultural diversity of the capital of Tatarstan will help the Forum to become a success. There is no doubt about that.

Today's meeting will add to the treasure trove of BRICS events in 2020 and will promote contacts between people, which are reliable bonds of the strategic partnership between the five states. The Forum's central theme – Achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Modern Cities – is particularly relevant against the background of the current difficult situation in global politics and the world economy. It fully reflects the main objective of the Russian BRICS chairmanship, as set by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, which is to strengthen BRICS cooperation in order to ensure wellbeing and better quality of life for the citizens in our countries.

I wish all Forum participants every success, fruitful work, and good health!

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's welcoming remarks to participants in the 5th BRICS Young Diplomats Forum, October 22, 2020 (Приветственное слово Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова участникам 5-го Форума молодых дипломатов стран БРИКС, 22 октября 2020 года) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech


I extend wholehearted greetings to the 5th BRICS Young Diplomats Forum participants.

The initiative to hold such forums came from the Russian Foreign Ministry Council of Young Diplomats in 2015, during Russia's previous BRICS chairmanship cycle. Despite being a fairly new event, this format of interaction between young diplomats from our five countries has shown a good example of building horizontal ties among the foreign affairs agencies of the BRICS states.

It is symbolic that this year's venue is the capital of Tatarstan, Kazan, one of the oldest cities in Russia, where representatives of different ethnic and religious backgrounds live together in harmony. This is consonant with the BRICS concept about uniting various geographic regions and various cultural and civilizational landscapes. It is in diversity that the strength of our unity shows.

Deepening the strategic partnership in BRICS is one of Russia's foreign policy priorities. Over the past decade, the group has proved to be a relevant and well-respected format of cooperation. The BRICS countries maintain solidarity in strengthening collective principles in global affairs; they advocate respect for the sovereignty and sovereign equality of all states, and are deeply convinced that any conflicts should be resolved by peaceful means only. We defend the principles of a more just world order based on respect for the norms and principles of international law and the United Nations Charter.

I hope that your forum will contribute to the development of both the political and youth agendas of our association, and will help to further strengthen our strategic partnership, trust and friendship between our states and peoples.

I wish all the best and good luck to all forum participants. May you stay in good health and have fulfilling discussions on matters that are of relevance for young diplomats from the BRICS countries. Thank you.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's welcoming remarks to participants at the SCO Plus Forum, October 23, 2020 (Приветственное слово Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова участникам Форума «ШОС плюс», Москва, 23 октября 2020 года) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, mofa, speech, top_level_meeting

Mr Medvedev,

Esteemed participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It makes me very happy to be greeting the high-ranking representatives of the leading political parties from countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the BRICS association and the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as some other international organisations and interested states at the first SCO Plus inter-party forum.

Your forum is taking place amid the ongoing pandemic of the new coronavirus infection. This unprecedented challenge in modern history has aggravated global economic and political turbulence. The situation calls for adequate and well-coordinated steps. The protection of people's lives and health and efforts to overcome the pandemic's global consequences are coming to the fore. Collective efforts alone can make it possible to accomplish these tasks, on the basis of close cooperation and mutual trust.

This year, the international community is marking two interrelated anniversaries, the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the establishment of the United Nations Organisation. The Great Victory made it possible to create a stable system of international relations that has guaranteed humankind's peaceful development for decades. We are convinced that today, like never before, it is necessary to jointly maintain and strengthen the central coordinating role of the UN and its Security Council.

Such formats as the SCO, BRICS and the CIS, doubtless, facilitate wide-ranging international dialogue. They have asserted themselves as effective platforms for cooperation based on equality, respect and consideration for one another's interests and mutual benefits. SCO activities, along with the work of other influential associations in Eurasia, including the Eurasian Economic Union and ASEAN, help lay the foundation for the implementation of Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative to establish a Greater Eurasian Partnership, a broad integration framework aiming to create a region of peace and prosperity that would be open for all countries of our common continent.


The initiative of convening the representative SCO Plus Forum devoted to the topical theme Economy for the People is a timely and appropriate move. It will make it possible to analyse the diverse experience of practical cooperation, including the creation of a substantial contractual-legal framework in the interests of expanding broad and mutually beneficial cooperation between all our countries.

I wish you all every success with your work.

Kazan Deputy Mayor Yevgenia Lodvigova: "Promoting cooperation between BRICS friendship cities and municipalities is very important" (Заместитель Мэра Казани Евгения Лодвигова: «Развитие сотрудничества между городами дружбы БРИКС и муниципалитетами очень важно») / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: quotation, partnership, expert_opinion

  • Esteemed Yevgenia, the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum opened in Kazan on October 19. The first question is obvious due to the current situation in this country and the rest of the world – what issues did you have to address while preparing for this event?
The BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum was scheduled for late May this year. We have been preparimg for it on a large scale: conducted numerous business meetings and compiled an extensive cultural and sightseeing programme. It was particularly important for us to introduce the guests of our city to our rich history and culture, all the more so since this event was included in the federal plan for the preparations and holding of the centenary of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. We also wanted to share our experience in using sports facilities after major international competitions. This is a problem for many world cities that built stadiums, swimming pools and other sports facilities requiring maintenance and use for economic gain. The practical part of the Forum was supposed to be most interesting and intensive. However, it became clear in early April that the Forum participants would not be able to come. The Forum's dates were suspended several times because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And even now that it was decided to convert the Forum into an e-format, we are watching with concern the threatening figures of the infection rate and hope all participants will be safe and able to take part in the discussion.

  • The world has been living in conditions of the pandemic for almost a year. How has this affected the cooperation and development of the BRICS municipalities?
You know, strange as it may seem, the pandemic has united us. As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Friendly ties are particularly strong during a crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners from Guangzhou and Hangzhou offered us help with supplies of medical masks and thermometers. We organized several large international events and it turns out that virtual meetings are a great success. Our colleagues are pleased to take part in discussions and exchange experience. We have made many new friends.

  • What issues are being discussed on the sidelines of the Forum?
This year, the theme of the Forum is "Achieving Sustainable Development Goals".

The need to study and circulate the best practices on implementing sustainable development goals is growing all the time. We are more and more faced with the requirement to draft mechanisms for effective planning and management of urban systems, and cooperation between central, regional and local authorities. It is necessary to ensure the openness, safety, viability and ecological sustainability of cities and other residential areas and create mechanisms for protecting and preserving their cultural and natural legacy.

The participants will discuss topics in line with Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, during the pandemic, the introduction of the smart city concept, efforts to ensure the viability of our cities, and the further expansion of municipal cooperation between the BRICS participants.

  • What are the priorities for the Heads of cities and municipalities today?
The local authorities and their administrations are at the forefront of countering the sudden crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The lives of people, their safety and welfare depend on our ability to make timely and well-balanced decisions.

These difficult times will pass whereas our resilience and experience will stay with us. These complicated times have shown more clearly than ever the importance of distributing the world's best practices in countering threats.

  • You are always in touch with your BRICS colleagues. What can you tell us about the expectations and forecasts in these countries and cities in regard to the development of joint projects?
Promotion of cooperation between BRICS friendship cities and municipalities is fundamentally important for enhancing interregional cooperation and exchange of practices on countering the challenges related to rapid urbanization. All of us recognize the need to strengthen inter-municipal cooperation between the BRICS countries and implement specific initiatives. I hope that the Forum will help us bring twin cities closer and find new partners and friends.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
NDB to increase Brazil infrastructure loans (НБР увеличит кредитование инфраструктуры Бразилии) / Brazil, October, 2020
Keywords: ndb, investments

The New Development Bank (NDB) is planning to provide more infrastructure loans.

"Currently, the volume of financing approved for projects in Brazil is US$2.6bn, and we can reach US$4bn by the end of this year, although it is highly probable that amount will be even higher, as there are certain relevant operations in advanced stages of evaluation by us," Claudia Prates, NDB's head of Brazilian operations told BNamericas.

NDB was founded by the so-called BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and became fully operational in 2016.

Although the bank approved this year US$1bn financing to support the government's coronavoucher program that helps informal employees during the pandemic, the long-term focus is on infrastructure, Prates said.

"Brazil is a country with needs in various infrastructure segments, so it is not possible to determine a segment that will be our focus. But, at this point I can say that we likely expand our actions in the sanitation and urban mobility segments, as we still don't have much participation in these areas," added Prates.

Of all founding members, Brazil has received just 12% of NDB loans, compared to India receiving 31.1%, China 24.6%, South Africa 17.4% and Russia 14.9%.

"The share of Brazil is still the lowest of the bank's operation because our office in Brazil was opened last year. So, in the coming months we likely see an increase in the participation of loans for projects here," Prates said.

According to the executive, the bank seeks to be more active in project finance and is aiming to also loan directly to infrastructure-focused companies and investment funds.

"When we are talking about infrastructure we are not only talking about the construction stage. We want to support the financing of those projects that carry a strong element of innovation, in terms of technology and process applied," Marcos Thadeu Abicalil, an NDB senior executive told BNamericas.

The bank also seeks to strengthen relations with other Latin American countries.

"One of the ideas of the bank is to attract new country members as shareholders of the bank, and before the pandemic NDB was in talks with countries in Latin America and in Asia regarding that, but the process was delayed due to the pandemic," said Prates.

The executive said the bank is in talks with two Latin American countries, but refused to say which ones.


Financial Bubbles in the Coronavirus Era (Финансовые пузыри в эпоху коронавируса) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, covid-19, economic_challenges

There is reason to believe that the coronavirus will not be going anywhere soon. What is more, IMF experts warn that problems that existed before the pandemic will only worsen in the coming decades. One of these problems is the state of the global financial market, which is more susceptible to all kinds of financial bubbles than ever before.

When we talk about financial bubbles, we usually mean a sharp increase in the value of assets in an economic climate that has either stagnated or started to deteriorate. A similar situation is currently unfolding on the American stock market, which is experiencing an extraordinary rise in the value of hi-tech companies against the background of a record drop in GDP (by over 30 per cent in the second quarter of 2020) and a projected budget deficit (−15.5 per cent). This rise has been caused by three factors: 1) a soft monetary policy as a result of the need to service the rapidly growing public and corporate debt; 2) the huge liquid resources at the disposal of legal entities and individuals that are frantically looking for ways to make a profitable investment in anticipation of the increased risks and systemic uncertainties brought about by COVID-19; and 3) the speculative excitement caused by the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution. In order for us to judge how likely the optimistic sentiments of the global financial markets are to change, let us consider the impact of these factors separately.

A key element of the "new abnormality" that has characterized both the development of the global economy as a whole and the U.S. economy, in particular, is the debt model of economic growth. Investment and business activity has stagnated as interest rates around the world are hovering around zero, while the U.S. dollar (a key reserve currency) stubbornly refuses to depreciate and has even strengthened its value on the forex markets on a number of occasions, despite the fact that the situation at home is worsening. For example, U.S. national debt increased by $4 trillion in the first nine months of 2020, from $22.7 to $26.7 trillion. This is the largest increase in U.S. national debt ever. A considerable amount of this debt is financed through the extraordinary growth of the U.S. stock market, which currently accounts for over half of the combined capitalization of the world's stock markets. A correction on the stock market (caused by an increase in interest rates, for example) could trigger numerous defaults on debt obligations. According to Fitch Ratings, more defaults were announced in the first five months of 2020 than in the whole of 2019 and may reach record numbers by the end of the year (the current record holder is 2009). And more than half of all corporate defaults around the world have occurred in North America.

Let us recall that the value of financial assets dropped by $50 trillion during the 2008–2009 crisis. However, central banks and the fiscal authorities compensated for these losses by injecting roughly the same amount of liquidity into the market. But the newly created financial resources did not jolt consumer demand, as had been hoped. Rather, they were largely swallowed up by various segments of the global financial market. International portfolio investments alone more than doubled in 2008–2019 – by $35 trillion.

The history of capitalism is not short on examples where the state tried to solve debt problems at the expense of the market, leading to the creation of financial pyramids. In 1720, for example, two giant financial bubbles burst at almost the same time in Europe. In an effort to clear themselves of the massive debts they had accumulated during the War of the Spanish Succession, the governments of France and England encouraged the growth of cash in circulation. This money was pumped into equity securities of Mississippi Company in France and the South Sea Company in England, which were joint-stock companies created with backing from their respective governments. The companies promised their investors huge profits that would come from overseas territories. The proceeds from the sale of shares were used to buy back government debt instruments. The stock market bubbles that appeared in France and Great Britain were the result of the governments trying to rid themselves of their excessive debt burdens and to stimulate their respective economies through inflation and debt-equity swaps. In a way, the current excitement on the U.S. stock market is reminiscent of the situation three hundred years ago.

As of late September 2020, the four largest companies in the world by market capitalization were American digital brands: the computer giants Apple and Microsoft and the internet companies Amazon and Alphabet (Google). The total market capitalization of these companies has more than doubled this year to over $6 trillion. "Pessimists" believe that the U.S. over-the-counter (OTC) market is currently experiencing another boom similar to the dot-com bubble that burst in 2000. Meanwhile, "optimists" point to the huge success of FAANG stocks, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, as justification for the current market explosion. Shares in these companies outperformed the market throughout the 2010s, and prices have soared against the background of the pandemic. They currently make up 23 per cent of the total capitalization of the U.S. S&P 500 Index.

The growth in the market value of these companies is directly related to the activities of private and institutional investors around the world, who invest their savings in banks and various investment funds with their highly developed infrastructure in order to receive guaranteed profits. A number of retail investors have given an additional impulse to the dynamics of the OTC market by purchasing shares in newly created companies in the digital economy that have connected to free trading platforms such as Robinhood.

At the same time, the "optimists" believe that the comparisons with the dot-com bubble of 2000 are not entirely appropriate. A number of arguments support this claim: 1) the ratio between the market value of shares and the total annual profit is lower – 26.9 in September 2020 versus 45.8 in March 2000; 2) companies in the digital economy turn in real profits, as opposed to expected future returns; and 3) Nasdaq OTC hi-tech growth rates are more moderate – 23 per cent per year on average, compared to 43 per cent per year in the seven years before the tech bubble burst in 2000.

The dynamics of the market on the eve of the financial crisis in 2008–2009 were also characterized by an "irrational euphoria" similar to what we are seeing today. Back then, in the depths of the crisis, the G20 introduced a supranational financial monitoring system that was designed to prevent destabilizing spikes and falls in asset prices. However, experience has taught us that regulation cannot keep up with market innovation and is perennially unprepared for new challenges, primarily the digitalization of the global economy.

Historically, financial bubbles have tended to form whenever new revolutionary technologies have appeared, be it the invention of railways, electricity, automobiles, etc. Many new technologies have appeared during the Fourth Industrial Revolution (from smartphones and 3D printers to blockchain technologies and artificial intelligence) that have led to the mass automation of business processes and, consequently, the loss of jobs for a large part of the workforce, thus reducing production and operating costs significantly.

At the same time, we have not seen galloping inflation as a natural market reaction during this global crisis (all other things being equal) to the cheap money policy that has dominated the past decade. On the one hand, prices have been kept in check by the pandemic, which has pushed households and companies to hold onto their savings and made consumption more difficult due to the partial blocking of the economy. On the other hand, in the present context, a sizeable portion of the newly created liquidity is immediately swallowed up by the stock market, the U.S. stock market in particular, which continues to grow thanks to the advance funding of new technologies that are being developed at a fantastic pace. Exactly how long such a model can survive depends on at least three factors: 1) whether or not the soft monetary policy of near-zero or negative interest rates pursued by central banks will continue; 2) the ability of the market to adapt to new technological transformations; and 3) the smooth running of the international monetary system based on the U.S. dollar.

As for the latter, its functioning largely depends on the political system in the United States, and on the results of the November presidential elections in particular. One of three things will likely happen after that: 1) the current configuration of the global financial system will remain in place, with a few minor alterations here and there; 2) the existing system will undergo a major upheaval; and 3) the global financial system as we know it will collapse and a new model will take its place.

If the first scenario plays out, then the world economy will most likely continue to function in the same institutional format that we know today. If the second scenario prevails, then the radical reform of the existing system of global institutions could give the RIC countries (Russia, India and China) the bargaining power to insist on more favourable conditions for their integration into the world economy (for example, by moving away from reliance on the U.S. dollar in international transactions, promoting the use of their national currencies more actively, re-evaluating their positions within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank alongside their partners in BRICS in order to effectively obtain a collective veto power, etc.). The third scenario would make it possible to create regional monetary and financial systems (as full-fledged independent financial structures of the emerging multipolar world) on the basis of various regional financial institutions that already exist, increasing the role of national currencies in mutual settlements and international financial instruments (or through the creation of new international liquidity in the form of national collective settlement monetary units).

The Russian economy demonstrated greater resilience during the first wave of the coronavirus crisis than the economies of both developed countries and the economies of its partners in BRICS. Despite the sharp decline in world prices for carbon fuel (Russia's main export), in terms of key macroeconomic indicators, Russia has managed to maintain more stable positions than the G7 countries. As a result, the IMF predicts that Russia will have the lowest budget deficit among the world's major economies by the end of 2020 (−4.8 per cent), with relatively low unemployment (4.9 per cent).

The Russian Federation is, in a sense, protected from financial bubbles as (unlike the United States) as it is more focused on developing the real sector of the economy rather than the financial sector. At the same time, the main problem of Russia's integration into the global economy is the lack of stabilizing mechanisms to counter the volatile and hard-to-predict elements of the global financial market. We are talking here about the lack of a reserve currency, something that many countries use to protect themselves against external shocks, especially during periods of global crisis, when the demand for reserve assets rises sharply. Let us consider the following example. Russia has been a net creditor in the global financial system for years. As of year-end 2019, Russia's external financial assets exceeded its external financial liabilities by $358 billion. Meanwhile, its investment income balance amounted to −$50 billion. This lop-sidedness is down to the fact that Russia places its international reserves in low-yield foreign assets and serves its foreign financial liabilities at higher interest rates. What this means is that the Russian Federation has been subsidizing those countries that issue reserve currencies for years while not always receiving adequate compensation and now living in economic isolation in the form of economic sanctions. In this context, Russia urgently needs to create its own reserve currency similar to the transferable rouble that the Soviet Union used in its trade with the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance in 1964–1990 and which existed long before other collective currencies (such as the special drawing rights, the European Currency Unit and the euro) were developed. This mechanism removed a number of inconsistencies at the regional level (the problem of imbalances in particular) that we are now seeing in connection with the use of the U.S. dollar as a means of carrying out international settlements, loans and investments around the world.

An oft-cited report by Goldman Sachs predicts that Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries) will all be among the world's top five economies by 2050 and, tellingly, the stock market is not the main source of financial resources for any of them. A common problem for the BRIC countries is the need to develop the enormous potential of their domestic markets by implementing large-scale infrastructure projects. A kind of dual system of monetary circulation whereby foreign trade is carried out using monetary units of account could help make this happen. Such a model would make it possible to separate the intrinsic value of money (its purchasing power) from its extrinsic value (its exchange rate). This is necessary to prevent newly created value (through the financial market) flowing from regions with low productivity to regions with high productivity. This is precisely what is happening in the Eurozone, and it is deepening the structural imbalances in the single European market. In addition, such a system would help resolve the issue of creating international liquidity without the need to move the national currency out of circulation to form unproductive national reserves or carry out speculative transactions.


The global economy has fallen into the trap of "new abnormality," where incessantly creating money does not solve pressing socioeconomic problems. Other countries are following in the footsteps of the United States, repeating its domestic policy. This has resulted in the further deepening of social inequalities and imbalances at the national and global levels. Bearing in mind the fact that the United States' share of global gross domestic product has been falling over the past 20 years, it is entirely possible that the U.S. dollar may be used less frequently in international transactions, even though the exchange rate proves favourable from time to time. To make matters worse, the unusual reaction of the markets to the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve System, along with the growing political tension in the United States, increases the risk of the destabilization of the current financial system. It should be stressed here that global economic leadership has always been tied to the leading countries consolidating their positions in both the economic and financial spheres. Clearly, we have reached the point where the only thing that will help stabilize the world economy in the long term is the more active involvement of the BRICS countries in the functioning of the global financial system.

World of Work
Energy Research Platform Takes Central Stage under Russia's BRICS Chairmanship (Платформа энергетических исследований выходит на центральное место под председательством России в БРИКС) / Equador, October, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, cooperation

After the Ufa declaration in 2015, BRICS, an association of five major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has made energy cooperation one of its priorities besides attaining an admirable significant influence on regional affairs and very active on the global stage.

That 7th summit held in July in the Russian provincial city of Ufa in Bashkortostan, under Russia's initiative the BRICS adopted the key guideline for expanding among many other spheres, development of energy cooperation, bridging the scientific and technological gap, as well as finding solutions to the challenges in the energy sector among the members.

The Ufa Declaration (point 69) states "Recognizing the importance of monitoring global trends in the energy sector, including making forecasts regarding energy consumption, providing recommendations for the development of energy markets in order to ensure energy security and economic development, we call on our relevant agencies to consider the possibilities of energy cooperation within BRICS."

"Taking into consideration the role of the energy sector in ensuring the sustainable economic development of the BRICS countries, we welcome balancing the interests of consumers, producers and transit countries of energy resources, creating the conditions for sustainable and predictable development of the energy markets,"it further stated.

Worth to remind here that it was Russia's proposal to hold the first meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Energy during the fourth quarter of 2015. While reaffirming the importance and necessity of advancing international cooperation in the field of energy saving, energy efficiency and developing energy efficient technologies, the BRICS look forward to developing intra-BRICS cooperation in this area, as well as the establishment of the relevant platform.

In 2020, Russia holds the rotating chair of BRICS. BRICS has neither a secretariat nor a charter. The country that chairs BRICS organizes the group's summit and coordinates its current activities. Russia has been holding series of conferences focusing on different directions. In mid-October, the BRICS Energy Ministers held their meeting and approved a roadmap for cooperation in energy sphere that runs until 2025. Due to coronavirus pandemic, it was video conference chaired by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

The influence of BRICS nations on the international arena is increasing due to the increasing economic power of the participating states, and it is imperative for them to coordinate their positions in energy cooperation, Minister Novak said during the meeting.

"Today, the BRICS nations represent nearly one fourth of global GDP and over a third of global consumption and production of energy. In this regard, it is very important to coordinate the positions of our nations where we have common interests and speak from a unified position in global platforms which concern themselves with matters of international energy cooperation," he said.

"We have already begun to implement this idea in practice. Our nations have launched informal consultations on the sidelines of the G20 and on the sidelines of the World Energy Council. Beginning our work this year, we have collectively determined three key vectors of the energy dialogue. These are the support for the development of the national energy systems of BRICS nations, technological cooperation and facilitation of improved terms for investment in energy, contributing to the stability of energy markets and increasing the role of BRICS in the global energy dialogue," Novak emphasized.

The roadmap adopted at the end of the meeting is the first comprehensive document that sets out agreed plans for the development of the energy dialogue between the five countries. The meeting also issued a communique confirming the intention to strengthen their strategic partnership in the energy sector and the area of energy security, and noting the important role of all types of energy, including fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The ministers affirmed that energy transition should correspond to national conditions and each country should determine the optimal policy without being compelled to adopt models that do not fit BRICS countries, according to the Russian ministry statement.

On October 15, Moscow hosted the first Annual Meeting of the BRICS Energy Research Platform, where analytical reports by the BRICS countries presented. That was followed by the largest youth energy event in BRICS. This year, delegations from all five countries comprised of representatives of Line Agencies responsible for the implementation of energy and youth policies as well as over 150 young scientists and experts from 40 leading universities and industrial organizations took part in the summit.

According to surveys conducted by the VTsIOM, Russian public opinion research centre, the number of families that have been taught to save energy has doubled over the past five years. That the BRICS countries are taking part in the #TogetherBrighter International Energy Saving Festival, as part of the BRICS Energy Week (October 16 – 20) was a landmark event of Russia's BRICS Chairmanship.

Notably, the Energy Research Platform designed to encourage the research community's involvement in the practical activities on drawing up energy resource plans. Two major events took place as part of the Energy Research Platform. The results submitted for consideration by the heads of state for effective industrial interaction and practical cooperation in developing and implementing new joint energy.

Based on national statistics and forecasts, leading BRICS experts have prepared the "BRICS Energy Report" – a review of the energy sectors in the five countries, and the "BRICS Energy Technology Report" – focuses on the priorities of technological development of the fuel and energy sectors in BRICS. The reports came from leading experts, representatives of major research institutes and energy companies from the BRICS countries as well as international energy organizations, such as OPEC, GECF, the World Energy Forum, the Clean Energy Ministerial and the World Energy Council.

In September, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held an online meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council in Moscow. That was second of such meetings this year under Russia's chairmanship. The first one was dedicated exclusively to mobilizing efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Within an updated Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership to 2025, Russia has drawn proposals on developing a new mechanism for the five member's interaction in securing sustainable economic development in the post-pandemic age.

The theme of the Meeting of the Leaders of BRICS countries is "BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth" which is planned for November 17 via videoconference, to be coordinated and moderated in Moscow. This year the five countries have continued close strategic partnership on all the three major pillars: peace and security, economy and finance, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

"Despite the current global situation due to the spread of the coronavirus infection, the activities under the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 are carried out in a consistent manner. Since January 2020, more than 60 events have been organized, including via videoconferencing. The BRICS Summit will provide impetus for further strengthening cooperation together with our partners and ensure well-being of BRICS countries," – noted Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, Executive Secretary of the Organizing Committee to Prepare and Support Russia's SCO Presidency in 2019 – 2020 and BRICS Chairmanship in 2020.

Since 2009, the BRICS nations have met annually at formal summits, with Brazil having hosted the most recent 11th BRICS Summit in November 2019. Russia is pushing forward significant issues of five-sided cooperation in the bloc's three areas of strategic partnership: policy and security, economy and finance, and cultural and educational cooperation. The five BRICS countries together represent over 3.1 billion people, or about 41 percent of the world population.

Kester Kenn Klomegah, who previously worked for the Inter Press Service (IPS), is an observer of socio-economic and political development issues in former Soviet republics, particularly in the Russian Federation and Eurasia.

What do people in BRICS countries think about a COVID-19 vaccine? (Что люди в странах БРИКС думают о вакцине от COVID-19?) / Philippines, October, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, social_issues, expert_opinion, research

MANILA — Vaccine hesitancy will prove a steep challenge for global efforts to find a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine and ensure its equitable distribution, new evidence suggests.

About 28% of 13,400 individuals from 19 countries would hesitate to get, or completely refuse, a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a study published Tuesday on the opening day of the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health. The study surveyed respondents from some of the countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including those that make up the BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Respondents from China had the most favorable response when asked if they will take a COVID-19 vaccine that is proved safe and effective when available, with 58% of the 712 people surveyed saying they completely agree and 30.6% saying they somewhat agree. This was followed by the 717 respondents in Brazil, with 67.1% completely agreeing and 18.3% somewhat agreeing.

In South Africa, 81.6% of 619 people responded positively to the question. In India, 74.5% of 742 respondents expressed acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine. Rates of vaccine acceptance also range from 60%-80% for other countries in the survey, except for France, Poland, and Russia, where just over half of respondents agreed to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Russia's 680 respondents had the lowest vaccine acceptance rate, with only 26.6% completely agreeing and 28.2% somewhat agreeing to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. They also had the second-highest rate of vaccine skepticism after Poland: 27.3% of respondents in Poland completely or somewhat disagreed with receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, while this figure was 26.3% in Russia.

The rates of vaccine acceptance and skepticism, however, varied when respondents were asked if they would follow their employer's recommendation to get vaccinated once their government has approved a vaccine and deemed it safe and effective. In this case, vaccine acceptance dropped to 36% in Brazil and 27% in Russia. Only 45.6% of respondents in South Africa said they would completely or somewhat agree to the recommendation.

The survey found vaccine acceptance was higher among older people compared with those under 22 years old, although this changes when asked whether they would take a vaccine if recommended by their employer. Vaccine acceptance was also higher among respondents who earn more than $32 a day, as opposed to those earning below $2 a day. People who had COVID-19 or who had relatives fall sick with the disease were not necessarily more accepting of a COVID-19 vaccine than other respondents.

Those who said they trusted their governments were more likely to accept a vaccine, leading authors to underscore the importance of clear and consistent communication by government officials to build public confidence in a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccine programs. This includes explaining how vaccines work and are developed, the process of ensuring vaccine safety, and vaccine effectiveness.

Study authors noted that a number of factors affect vaccine decisions and that these can change over time. Multiple events concerning COVID-19 vaccine development have taken place since the survey was conducted in June, which could lead to higher levels of vaccine hesitancy. These include pauses in COVID-19 vaccine trials and reports of political pressure for a COVID-19 vaccine approval.

Since the survey was conducted, the Russian government has also approved its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine — the first country to do so — despite not yet completing late-stage clinical trials.

In the U.S., 11.3% of respondents were hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the survey. But a poll published last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed 54% of 1,199 respondents would not want to receive a vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and made available to the public before the presidential election in November.

Last week, another poll conducted by the foundation, together with ESPN's The Undefeated content platform, showed 49% of African Americans said they will not take a COVID-19 vaccine.

BRICS countries continue developing BRICS Virtual Institute of Photonics (Страны БРИКС продолжают развивать Виртуальный институт фотоники БРИКС) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: innovations, cooperation

On 13-15 October, the BRICS Working Group on Photonics held its second meeting via videoconference. It is coordinated by Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), with support from the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Working group members discussed the status and prospects of photonics in Russia, Brazil, China, India and South Africa, research projects in integrated optics, radio photonics, high speed optical communication systems, nanophotonics and metamaterials, as well as photonics applications in biomedical technologies, agriculture and food production.

Developing the BRICS Virtual Institute of Photonics was among the main items on the Meeting's agenda. Created at Russia's initiative following the Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Science, Technology and Innovation in South Africa in 2018, this virtual institute is based at the Skoltech Centre of Photonics and Quantum Materials, bringing together academics and BRICS development and industrial institutions. It is designed to coordinate activities related to photonics, including fundamental and applied research, as well as creating educational programmes on this subject.

In his opening remarks, Alexei Ponomaryov, Skoltech Vice President for Industrial Cooperation, said that the BRICS countries have been gradually expanding their cooperation since they decided to designate photonics as a priority sphere of research and technology cooperation. "We have a very important task for the future, and I hope that we will promote cooperation in fundamental research, as well as on actual industrial projects," he pointed out.

Andrei Romanov, Deputy Director, Department for State Scientific and Scientific-Technical Policy of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education, noted that this new step in promoting cooperation within BRICS on photonics offers an opportunity to discuss the progress that has been achieved so far, as well as outline development trends. "I am looking forward to a fruitful discussion," he said.

The discussion of the research and technology projects carried out with support from the BRICS STI Framework Programme included presentations by international research teams who talked about developing new multifunctional sensors, optical communication, using nano heterostructures for developing lasers, quantum data processing, optical integral schemes and space-based optical quantum communication systems.

The Working Group Members discussed priorities for further work in 2021̶ 2022, the possibilities of involving industrial partners in BRICS research projects and, in particular, the prospects for holding the 2nd BRICS Conference on Photonics similar to the first conference that took place in 2016 at Skoltech before the establishment of the Working Group.

Anton Inyutsyn: The first joint report of the BRICS Energy Platform presents our vision of the group's role on the global energy stage (Антон Инюцын: Первый совместный отчет Энергетической платформы БРИКС представляет наше видение роли группы на мировой энергетической арене) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: quotation, top_level_meeting

On 15 October, Anton Inyutsyn, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, chaired a presentation of the first analytical reports prepared within the framework of the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform.

"The agenda of the 5th Meeting of BRICS Energy Ministers included the presentation of the "BRICS Energy Report" and the "BRICS Energy Technology Report". The reports have been approved by the Heads of the delegation and will now be available to the general public. The reports are the result of our five countries' cooperative efforts," Anton Inyutsyn noted.

Following the presentation, the participants discussed the outcomes presented in the reports, global trends that affect the energy systems of the five countries, the role of the BRICS countries in the global energy sector and the BRICS countries' potential impact on the long-term development of energy markets, as well as the outlook for their technological cooperation.

The discussion saw the participation of the representatives of research institutions and major energy companies from the BRICS countries, including V.S. Nandkumar, Director General of the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI, India); Zhen Wang, Deputy Director General of Policy Research Office, CNPC (China); Oleg Zhdaneyev, Head of the Competence Centre of Technology Development of the Fuel and Energy Complex of the Russian Ministry of Energy; Vyacheslav Kulagin, Department Head of the Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Tatyana Mitrova, Director of the SKOLKOVO Energy Centre (Russia) and other representatives of the BRICS countries.

The reports drew the interest of international organizations, which were represented at the discussion by Secretary General of the International Energy Forum (IEF) Joseph McMonigle, Head of the Energy Studies Department at OPEC Abderrezak Benyoucef and Senior Energy Analyst at the GECF Hussein Moghaddam.

Anton Inyutsyn pointed out that the BRICS Energy Report was the first comprehensive document on the current state of the five countries' energy systems and their strategic development vision. An important feature of the report is that it is based entirely on the group's own statistical data and internal forecast estimates.

According to the report, the BRICS countries' role on the global energy market will continue to grow. By 2040, they will account for 41 percent of global energy consumption and production. Fossil fuels will dominate the BRICS countries' energy balance in the next 20 years and will supply over 70 percent of energy consumed in the five countries. The group plans to increase its focus on low emission energy systems based on natural gas, nuclear energy and renewable energy resources (RES). The share of natural gas in their energy balance will increase by 6 percent, nuclear energy by 4 percent and RES by 8 percent.

Over 60 companies and organisations from the five countries contributed to the BRICS Energy Technology Report. According to its conclusions, digital and clean energy technologies hold the greatest commercial promise. In all, the report covers over 90 technologies which the BRICS countries regard as the most promising when it comes to joint projects.

"We hope that the results of these studies will be applied in practice, benefitting not only BRICS but also other countries, international organisations and the world's largest energy companies," the Russian Deputy Energy Minister concluded.

"The BRICS countries and their cities are growing, and Kazan is an example" («Страны БРИКС и их города растут, и Казань тому пример») / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, concluded_agreements

The forum of sister cities and municipalities of the BRICS countries has finished in Kazan. At the plenary session, the participants adopted the final declaration. It is no coincidence that the capital of Tatarstan was chosen as the host for more than a hundred foreign mayors and public figures: Kazan has 56 sister cities and its own rich experience of interethnic interaction. However, this time the main focus of the topics discussed shifted towards the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about what concerns municipal authorities in different countries of the world in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

95% of Covid-19 cases live in cities

For two days, the forum of sister cities of the BRICS countries was held in Kazan in an online format. The representatives of municipalities, businesses, social activists, and scientists discussed topical issues of development of their cities in different sections. During the final plenary session, representatives of BRICS municipalities were greeted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov via videoconference. According to him, the forum has established itself as a useful platform for communication on municipal issues, and the rich centuries-old traditions of Kazan are combined with its modern dynamic development. This meeting will add to the collection of BRICS events in 2020 and help develop the five countries' contacts, which in turn will create "reliable ties among the states".

The address of the president of Tatarstan was read to the audience. Rustam Minnikhanov noted that the republic seeks to strengthen good-neighbourly relations with other states, actively promotes the expansion of economic, cultural, youth policy and sports ties with the BRICS countries, for the benefit of regions and cities.

"Thousands of cities have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 95% of the total number of cases has been recorded in cities," said Rustam Nigmatullin. Photo: "Cities are currently facing challenges in setting new goals to achieve a better quality of life. The main task is to provide a high quality of life, this can be achieved through economic development, creating smart cities. But thousands of cities have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 95% of the total number of cases has been recorded in cities," said Rustam Nigmatullin, the first vice prime minister of Tatarstan.

"It is very symbolic that the forum is being held almost on the eve of the November BRICS summit. I am sure that the results will be summed up and new guidelines will be outlined, including in the area of interaction between the sister cities. The BRICS countries and their cities are growing, and Kazan is an example. I read in the news that Kazan is called the most comfortable city in Russia — people will not write so easily in the networks, a lot is made of what is not yet available in other cities of Russia," added rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Yakovenko.

The speaker stressed that in the near future, "smart" cities should develop in accordance with nature and green economy.

"I've read in the news that Kazan is called the most comfortable city in Russia — people will not write so easily in the networks," Alexander Yakovenko believes. Photo: Cities struggle with social inequality

Sergey Cheremin, the minister of the Moscow government and head of the Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations, spoke about the experience of Moscow. He said that 90% of major foreign investors are ready to expand their presence in Moscow.

The president of the National Association of Cities of Brazil, Glademir Aroldi, said in a video message: we need to make sure that cities can use public services more effectively, and we need to build policies in such a way that social inequality between people does not grow.

The mayor of Mumbai, Kishori Pednekar, shared how the city organised the work with the homeless, migrants, provision of clean water. He also stated that the problem of education in India is acute. Access to social and economic growth is essential.

Our South African colleagues spoke about the need to create jobs and raise incomes. The representatives of Chinese cities spoke about centralised solutions in their country during the pandemic, about the fact that enterprises were launched in stages already in January, and about strict compliance with prevention measures.

The meeting participants adopted the final declaration of the forum of sister cities and municipalities of the BRICS countries. Photo: At the end of the meeting, the participants adopted the final declaration of the forum of sister cities and municipalities of the BRICS countries. The document will be published on the official website of the Russian BRICS presidency.
BRICS countries coordinate initiative on cooperation between BRICS Technology Transfer Centres (Страны БРИКС координируют инициативу по сотрудничеству Центров трансфера технологий БРИКС) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: innovations, cooperation

On 15 – 16 October, the 4th Meeting of the BRICS Working Group on Science, Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship was held via videoconference.

The event held at the National University of Science and Technology MISIS (NUST MISIS) and Peoples' Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) was attended by over 40 heads and other representatives of the relevant ministries and innovative organizations of the BRICS countries.

The main objective of this initiative is to stimulate the transfer of technologies within BRICS, to exchange best practices in the field of innovations based on the protection of intellectual property, to bridge the gap between research, innovation and business, as well as to hold joint training courses.

The Working Group is an important international platform focused on the creation and development of the network system of interaction between research and technology parks, incubators, accelerators, technology transfer centres, universities and other participants in the innovation processes in the BRICS countries.

The opening remarks at the event were delivered by Deputy Director of the Department of Innovation and Advance Research at the Russian Ministry of Education and Science Viktor Kalinin, First Vice-Rector of NUST MISIS Sergei Salikhov, RUDN President and Chair of the State Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles at the Ministry of Education and Science Vladimir Filippov, and Secretary of the Council for Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation between BRICS Countries Irina Kuklina.

"One of the main objectives of the Meeting is to coordinate practical moves for creating effective cooperation mechanisms within the BRICS countries' innovation ecosystem designed to promote the modernization of the national economies and their joint contribution to the implementation of the global innovation agenda," Viktor Kalinin pointed out.

The main issues on the meeting agenda were to discuss the development status of the iBRICS Network (Innovation BRICS Network) adopted by BRICS Ministers of Education in 2019, and to coordinate an initiative on cooperation among the BRICS Technology Transfer Centres.

The BRICS countries have unanimously supported the enhancing of cooperation in innovation aimed at attaining the goals of the BRICS Action Plan for Innovation Cooperation 2017 ̶ 2020.

The participants were also updated on the international events in the field of innovation to be held in the BRICS countries in 2020 and 2021. The next Meeting of the Working Group will be held in India in 2021.
BRICS young diplomats to discuss development of horizontal linkages (Молодые дипломаты БРИКС обсудят развитие горизонтальных связей) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: partnership, social_issues, sustainable_development

On 16 October, TASS hosted a news conference on the upcoming 5th BRICS Young Diplomats Forum scheduled for 21-24 October in Kazan.

The participants of the event included Konstantin Kolpakov, Chairman of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Young Diplomats' Council, Mikhail Kalugin, Head of the BRICS Office, Russian Foreign Ministry, Steven Seagal, Special Representative for Russia-US Humanitarian Links, Tatyana Seliverstova, Head of the International Division of Youth Projects and Programmes Department of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, Rinat Sadykov, Deputy Minister for Youth Affairs of the Republic of Tatarstan, and Vladimir Morozov, Vice Rector for HR Policy at the MGIMO University.

The participants discussed the Forum's format as well as programme and highlighted the role of youth diplomacy in developing international cooperation.

Konstantin Kolpakov commented that this type of Forum provides opportunity for young diplomats to meet each other and discuss topical international issues, which strengthens trust and friendship between countries.

Steven Seagal emphasized the role of young diplomats in international cooperation. After all, young people bring new thoughts and ideas which create huge potential for innovation and new approaches.

Mikhail Kalugin noted that the 5th BRICS Young Diplomats Forum will be a special event during the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020: "Due to the pandemic-related restrictions, the young diplomats from the BRICS capitals could not travel here. But we found a solution. Young diplomats working at the diplomatic missions of the BRICS countries in Russia were invited to the Forum. We are convinced that their work during the Forum will contribute to strengthening the horizontal linkages between the young representatives of the BRICS foreign ministries."

The programme of the Forum includes working sessions and meetings with the expert community and representatives of regional authorities, as well as visits to the IT industry facilities in the Republic of Tatarstan.

As in the past, the event will follow the concept of "horizontal diplomacy" proposed by the Russian Foreign Ministry's Young Diplomats' Council. The concept provides for creating a unique network of platforms for long-term cooperation between representatives of foreign ministries from all over the world.

Forum participants will discuss developing five-sided humanitarian cooperation, prospects for cooperating with regional organizations as part of the outreach and BRICS+ formats, digitalization of diplomatic activities and other topical issues.

The event is organized by the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Ministry's Young Diplomats' Council, the Ministry for Youth Affairs of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Academy of Youth Diplomacy public organization.

Media Managers of BRICS Countries Call for Quality Journalism in Times of Global Pandemic (Медиа-менеджеры стран БРИКС призывают к качественной журналистике во время глобальной пандемии) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: media, cooperation, covid-19

Global demand for credible and trustworthy sources of information has skyrocketed with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions about journalism ethics and responsibilities to international audiences. The Sputnik news agency has organized an expert roundtable of media managers from the BRICS group of countries' leading news outlets to find answers to these questions and excel at quality journalism.

During the event, Russia was represented by Spuntik's Acting Head of English News Desk Daria Gerasina. The virtual roundtable was joined by Breno Altman, the CEO of the Brazilian Opera Mundi news portal; James Lu, the director of the US news center with China's Phoenix TV; Fienie Grobler, the executive editor of South Africa's The Sunday Times; and Praver Sharma, the editor-in-chief of the Indian Bharat Khabar news portal. The panel was moderated by Sputnik's head of international projects, Vasily Pushkov.

The panelists discussed the behavior of media in emergency situations, the experience gained over the past eight months, audience trust and the resistance to the "fake news" phenomenon.

"As [the World Health Organization] WHO has said, for fighting the pandemic you need to 'test, test, test,' for us, journalists, it is 'check, check, check.' No matter what we publish, no matter what information we have, it's our responsibility to check it numerous times," Gerasina said.

According to Brazil's Altman, media is a special business that may go bankrupt if there is no credibility.

"We know, of course, the examples in which some media tend to publish more tragic stories, sometimes fake in order to gain a larger audience. We have to have balance between stories, between good and bad news and to educate people socially, for instance, on how to wear masks, how to ensure social distance," the CEO of Opera Mundi noted.

The representative of the South African media highlighted journalists' social responsibility.

"What I find quite challenging in my own environment is fake news that people talk about, not necessarily something that has been published by our reporters but [in] social gatherings. If a person believes in the story, it's very hard to change their minds. That is the role of the journalists while they are not working is that you still need to stop that story in its tracks even though it's an uncomfortable conversation," Grobler said.

Sharma, in turn, in comments concerning the experiences of his news portal in India during the pandemic, said that their number one task was to inform the audience about the epidemiological situation and its development, as well as measures to slow the spread of the disease.

"Since there was a lack of information on COVID-19 or its treatment, the only way to avoid getting infected was to follow the standard protocols suggested by the [Indian] Health Ministry. As a responsible media, we were expected to disseminate these guidelines regularly to our readers and keep them updated about the situation as it developed," Sharma noted.

The concluding remarks made by China's Lu were about the lessons learned from the pandemic itself.

"If we look back and think really hard about what we can really learn from this pandemic I think it would be 'be humble and respect science'," Lu said.

The session was the second in a series of online roundtables during which media managers from the BRICS countries discuss contemporary challenges and trends in the media world. The third and final session is planned for the end of 2020.

International BRICS Youth Business-incubator has commenced (Открылся международный молодежный бизнес-инкубатор БРИКС) / Russia, October, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, cooperation, business_council

On 20 October, International BRICS Youth Business-incubator has opened in Moscow.

The opening ceremony saw the presence of Grigory Gurov, Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, Mikhail Malkov, Counsellor, BRICS Office, Foreign Policy Planning Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Tesun Jia, Deputy Director of the Chinese Youth Exchange Center, Emilli Rayanne Coelho Silva, National Secretary for Youth Affairs of the Federal Republic of Brazil, Phetole Seodi, Manager of Public Relations and international relations of the National Youth development Agency of South Africa, George Thomas, Second Secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of India in the Russian Federation, as well as Alexsei Ezhov, Chairman of the Youth Council of the Russian part of The Russian-Chinese Friendship, Peace and Development Committee, and Valeria Gorbacheva, Director of State and Public Relations of the National Committee for BRICS Research.

"The BRICS Youth Business-incubator is a platform for gaining new knowledge in the field of doing business in the BRICS States, as well as exchanging experience and establishing direct business contacts between young entrepreneurs, who want to build sustainable cooperative ties," said Grigory Gurov, Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs.

Emilli Rayanna Coelho Silva, National Secretary for Youth Affairs of the Federal Republic of Brazil, expressed confidence that cooperation in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation is one of the key factors for the development of multilateral relations. "It is incredibly important to continue to develop multilateral international cooperation in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation, and we are proud that the BRICS countries are moving together this international scenario," said Emilie Rayanna Coelho Silva.

The first day of BRICS International Youth Business-incubator included the opening ceremony and workshop during which representatives of Russian delegation presented their projects in the field of youth entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Business-incubator will be held till 2 November. The program of Business-incubator will include lectures and seminars on the basics of business in BRICS Member-States, as well as workshops aimed at establishing business contacts between young entrepreneurs of BRICS countries.

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