Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 50.2020
2020.12.07 — 2020.12.13
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Public Diplomacy Today: Lessons from Russia (Публичная дипломатия сегодня: уроки России) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: research, expert_opinion, political_issues

It has been just over a decade since "Public Diplomacy 2.0" was proclaimed as the new reality of the increasingly connected global society. However, our ever so globalized world is changing rapidly. In today's mediatized and disintermediated society, individuals no longer need institutions to engage in the connective action of sharing personalized action frames via social networks, as it has now become a way of life. After a brief introduction of the post-modern context, key concepts and theoretical framework, this paper is going to highlight ideas-based public diplomacy as the most efficient public diplomacy component today by using the case study of the recent FIFA World Cup in Russia to illustrate our point. We shall then move on to the wider context of generating positive attitudes among the global publics and uncover other, more potent variables at play. At the end we are going to mention certain recent developments— the phenomenon of social media becoming agents in their own right—and make some recommendations in the light of the current context.


The term "public diplomacy" (PD) has been around for several decades now, but its modern conceptualization can be attributed to the models developed by Nicholas J. Cull and Joseph S. Nye Jr. in the late 2000s. (2008, 2008) Over a decade later these frameworks are still relevant today, but the world has been evolving rapidly and we must therefore recognize a number of new developments. Hence, this paper is going to touch upon the relationship between PD and power, as well as ways of measuring the efficiency of PD. We shall explore the case study of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia through the lens of PD in order to demonstrate the best type of PD today. We are then going to broaden our context by uncovering other, more significant variables affecting global admiration that have rendered PD somewhat incomplete and insufficient. Finally, we shall mention Twitter's recent transformation from a digital social medium into an agent in its own right by looking at its recent political involvement and make some final recommendations in regard to generating positive attitudes to one's state in today's world.

Public Diplomacy and Power

First of all, let us outline our conceptual framework by defining all the key concepts and models we are going to be working with. Seeing as public diplomacy is generally seen in the political science discourse as being connected to the concept of power, it may well be a good idea to begin by defining the latter.

We shall speak of "power" as the "ability to affect the behaviour of others to get what one wants." (Nye 2009: 160) According to Joseph Nye power implies a causal relationship between the power actor and power target, whereby the former seeks to affect the behaviour of the latter by selecting power resources (e.g., culture, military, technology, etc.) to be mobilised and power behaviour (soft or hard) by which the aforementioned resources must be converted into behavioural outcomes in the power target. (Ibid. 2013: 1-2, 2011: 95)


Speaking of power behaviours, they are essentially action modes that define the nature of power as either "soft" or "hard." (Ibid. 2013: 6) As per Nye's framework, attraction, persuasion and agenda-framing generate soft power (SP), while coercion, threats, payments and sanctions generate hard power (HP). Hence, it is the power behaviour that defines the nature of power (Ibid. 2011: 91-93, 2013: 6). Furthermore, power can only be judged ex-post (by the outcomes) rather than ex-ante (by the resources that may produce the outcomes). (Ibid. 2013: 2-3) Hence, power can only be claimed to exist when the desired outcomes are present once the power activity has taken place.


Gradually moving from pure theory to applied theory, the power conversion model that we are interested in for the purpose of our research is the indirect "public diplomacy" model. The reason for the name is the slightly more complex (as opposed to the direct "classic diplomacy") route whereby power resources combined with SP behaviour are mobilised via various PD agents to generate positive attitudes among the public of the power target state towards the power actor state, thereby creating an enabling environment for the target state's ruling elites to make a decision in favour of the power actor state— i.e. behavioural outcome. (Ibid. 2011: 95, 102-3)


Measuring Public Diplomacy

When it comes to measuring the efficiency of PD, however, one must recognize that states tend to employ a combination of SP and HP activities as part of their "smart power" strategy. For this reason, it is difficult to isolate the effects of one from the other. (Ibid. 2009: 160, 2011: 97) With the aforementioned problem of attribution rendering the prospective of proving the effects of various PD activities on the final behavioural outcome difficult, the best we can do to assess the efficiency of a PD activity is to analyze positive attitudes it had generated in the target state's public through the use of public opinion polls, surveys, etc.

A few years ago University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy and Portland Consultancy developed the "SoftPower30 Index" (SP30). Their methodology section specifies that SP30 "compares the relative strength of countries' soft power resources" and combines this "objective data" with the "subjective" opinion polls conducted in 25 different countries, covering more or less proportionally every continent on the globe. (SoftPower30 2020) As we have already established, power must be measured ex-post, not ex-ante, and it is the behaviour modes rather than the resources that define the "soft" or "hard" nature of power; hence, their "objective data" on "SP resources" probably measures the SP potential in their own understanding of it. Nevertheless, their public opinion poll data, which fortunately can be viewed separately from the overall ranking, is a very useful tool for our framework as it measures the positive attitudes, which is the best indicator of PD's efficiency today.

Ideas-Based Public Diplomacy

As far as PD taxonomy is concerned, Nicholas Cull's comprehensive framework helpfully breaks it down into: listening; advocacy; cultural diplomacy; exchange diplomacy; international broadcasting; and PD-by-deed (e.g., humanitarian relief work). (2008: 32-6) While the aforementioned types tend to be to a greater or lesser extent controlled by the ruling elites, whether explicitly or implicitly, there is also another type of PD, which was first identified by Cull over ten years ago. It is the ideas-based PD, whereby an idea is cut off from its source of origin and "becomes a meme (an idea, behaviour, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture)." (2008: 49) These memes essentially form the basis for decentralized connective action as personalized content shared across media networks by individuals. (Bennett & Segerberg 2012: 739) We argue that this ideas-based PD is the best type of PD strategy in today's context and here is why.

First of all, our society has become "submitted to… [and] dependent on the media and their logic' with the media becoming the primary medium of social interaction, as per Stig Hjarvard's mediatization theory. (2008: 113) Second, while media agenda setting may have become "concentrated in a few global transnational media conglomerates" (Castells 2009) and is still dominated by television (Media Landscapes 2020), people have nevertheless increasingly come to produce and consume content directly, outside of institutions, via social media, which is something that came to be known as disintermediation. (Schroeder 2018: 3) As a result, not only did individuals come to have the opportunity to become PD agents in their own right in the wake of PD 2.0, over the past decade the modality of this phenomenon has transformed from ability to obligation, whereby most of the people with internet-enabled devices automatically share any unique experience they may find themselves immersed in, often through their own personalized frames, enabled by social media features, as per modern rules of social interaction.

Case study: FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia and Ideas-based PD

Having established our conceptual and theoretical frameworks, let us now turn to our real-world case study. According to SP30 polling data, the Russian Federation received its highest score ever in 2018, the same year they were hosting the 21st FIFA World Cup. The other major Russia-related news headlines that year were predominantly negative (e.g., Skripal poisoning, AN-148 plane crash, Zimnyaya Vishnya tragedy, pension reform protests, school shooting in Crimea, and Kerch Strait incident, etc.). The few positive news items (e.g., European Figure Skating Championship, Junior Hockey World Cup, World Rapid Chess Championship, etc.) were not as widely publicized and therefore unlikely to have caused any major positive shifts in global public opinion on Russia. Moreover, there have not been any major leaps in any of Moscow's traditional PD strategies, with the listening component still by and large absent, advocacy strategies unchanged, cultural diplomacy stuck on "balalaikas," exchange diplomacy at a low level, RT and Sputnik remaining marginal players in the realm of international broadcasting and most of Russia's "PD-by-deed" activities unknown to the global audience. (Primakov 2019, Reid 2020a & 2020b, Velikaya & Simons 2020) Hence, one can state with a certain degree of confidence that it was indeed the World Cup that generated the highest ever number of positive attitudes toward Russia that year, through ideas-based PD.

To illustrate our point, a study by Mikhailov & Partners (2018) has revealed that from the beginning of 2018 until the end of the World Cup in mid-July a total of 250,000 non-Russian social media users made 388,988 posts about Russia & Russians, which generated 24 million likes, shares and comments, with 50% of them having been made during the World Cup (14th June – 15th July 2018). Most of these came from social media users from the U.S., UK, India, Canada, Germany, France, Australia and Brazil. According to another study, most of these countries had rather negative views on Russia. (Ipsos 2018) Nevertheless, in spite of the strong anti-Russian media campaign unraveling in the West following the Skripal incident, there was an organic increase of positive reviews of Russia on social media during the course of the World Cup, with the top positive themes revolving around the "hospitality of the Russians," "good organization" and "dispelling myths" about Russia. Moreover, any negative comments were generally focused around the criticism of domestic use of the event "as a means of propaganda and distraction for the society." Yet even those negative remarks were still by and large complimentary in regard to the friendliness of the people and featured heavily the words "love," "rocks," "amazing," "admire," "excited," and "delight." (Mikhailov & Partners 2018)

What this means is that, besides the "good organization," which the state can be credited with, the chief PD agents were the individuals - the Russian people, who were "delivering" their hospitality and friendliness to the visitors via attraction and framing, and the visitors themselves, who, apart from being the consumers, went on to be the producers of ideas by adopting, framing and "delivering" their experiences to the audiences in their home countries via social media, enabled by the state's organization (e.g. fan ID, free travel, free WiFi, etc.).

The case study demonstrates how ideas-based PD may well be the most efficient PD strategy in today's world, where the public is often highly suspicious of authorities and credibility often rests with everyday individuals. The best result is achieved when state agencies act as mere facilitators of the conditions for ideas-based PD—first and foremost, easily-personalized action frames—while individuals are given the freedom to engage in connective action, subsequently generating positive attitudes towards the power actor state among their home audiences.

Of course, it is understandable that Russia cannot host events of such magnitude every year, not only due to their high cost but also due to competition from other states. Nevertheless, provided that Moscow has carried out some listening PD activities (e.g., surveys to generate detailed data sets on which experiences had generated the most positive frames among which types of individuals, along with the criteria of nationality, age, sex, etc.), they should be able to instrumentalize this information in their PD activities, both online and offline (post-COVID).

The Wider Context

We have now demonstrated how the ideas-based PD during the aforementioned World Cup has manifested as the Russian Federation's greatest PD success in recent years. However, if we are being honest, we must acknowledge that the success was rather relative in the grand scheme of things, as Russia remained at the bottom of SP30 (SoftPower30 2020). It may therefore be a good idea to consider which countries scored higher than Russia in 2018.

The same year Russia hosted one of the world's biggest sporting events, it was, in fact, Italy that the majority of the public polled across the world had the most positive attitudes towards. However, Italy did not host any major sporting events that year and their 2018 was hardly any merrier that of Russia's, as the biggest news to come out of Bel Paese that year were those of inter-ethnic conflicts between locals and migrants, election victory of the center-right coalition, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's initiatives to close ports to migrant boats and deport illegal Romani people, and 43 people in Genoa being killed by a collapsed Morandi Bridge. Nevertheless, the following year Italy remained the public's favorite, despite the contentious initiative to open Benito Mussolini's crypt as a tourist attraction. France moved up to the third spot, even though the clashes between the police and the "yellow vests" intensified and became marred with brutality and violence. Moreover, having arrested the world's most known freedom of speech activist and journalist, Julian Assange, Britain remained in the top 10, earning almost double the public appreciation points as Russia. (SoftPower30 2020)

Furthermore, if we are to look at the top 15 states for every year when SP30 data was collected, we may notice the same countries shuffling ever so slightly, all of which are, from a liberal perspective, liberal democracies, or, from a realist perspective, the United States, the global hegemon and home to most of the world's largest media conglomerates, and its allies or client states.

2020 and Beyond

Looking ahead, we must briefly mention one other recent development. With the primary mass agenda-setting medium, television, having long seized to provide diverse coverage of key political issues, its biggest competitor, digital social media, has been the bastion for alternative information sharing and ideas-based PD. However, Twitter's recent campaign of subjective labeling of "government-affiliated" accounts (e.g., placing the mark on RT but not VoA, etc.) and the US presidential election interference (e.g., hiding tweets of one of the main candidates, among other things) have revealed a new reality, whereby social media are no longer mere communication channels, but rather they are becoming agents in their own right. This is the new reality that has to be recognized and taken on board when devising new PD strategies.


It can be concluded that in today's mediatized and increasingly disintermediated world ideas-based PD, channeled via connective action, is, indeed, the most efficient kind of PD, and, provided that the state agrees to play a passive facilitator role leaving the individuals to share their personalized frames via social media, it will add value and generate more positive attitudes among the foreign publics. However, it remains insignificant in the grand scheme of things and for a state to top the list of the most attractive countries, it must also either become one of the global hegemon's liberal democratic allies/client states or try to rival the hegemon by coming to own a number of major global media conglomerates. Finally, due to the recent development of increasingly influential social media taking on the features of traditional media, such as partiality and subjectivity, and thus transforming from an independent fair play platform into an agent in its own right, any state seeking the admiration of the global public needs to own not only major traditional media conglomerates but also the biggest digital social media companies - "the post, telephone and telegraph" of today.


Bennett, W. Lance, Segerberg, Alexandra. 2012. "The Logic of Connective Action," Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, pp. 739-768.

Castells, Manuel. 2009. Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cull, Nicholas J. 2008. Public Diplomacy: Taxonomies and Histories, ANNALS/AAPSS, 616, pp. 31-54.

Ipsos. 2018. "Global attitudes towards the World Cup 2018 in Russia."

Media Landscapes. 2020.

Mikhaylov & Partners, 2018. "Mneniya rossiyan i inostrannyh bolyel'schikov."

Nye, Joseph. 2008. Public Diplomacy & Soft Power. ANNALS/AAPSS, 616, pp. 94-109.

Nye, Joseph. 2009. "Get Smart: Combining Hard and Soft Power." Foreign Affairs, Vol. 88, No. 4 (July/August 2009): pp 160–163.

Nye, Joseph. 2011. Future of Power. New York: Public Affairs.

Nye, Joseph. 2013. "Russia and Central Asia." In The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, edited by Andrew F. Cooper, Jorge Heine, and Ramesh Thakur, 1–17. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O'Reilly, Lara. 2016. Top 30 biggest companies in the world. Business Insider.

Primakov, Yevgeniy. 2019. "Hvatit nam balalayek v gumanitarnoy politike." Novye Izvestiya.

Reid, Ernest A. 2020a. "Moscow's public diplomacy and Rusophilia in Serbia 2012–2019." FPN Godišnjak, vol. 23 (June 2020): pp 119-140.

Reid, Ernest A. 2020b. "Third Rome or Potemkin village: Analyzing the extent of Russia's power in Serbia, 2012–2019." Nationalities Papers, pp. 1-10, doi:10.1017/nps.2020.62

Schroeder, Ralph. 2018. Social Theory after the Internet. London: UCL Press

SoftPower30. 2020.

Velikaya, Anna & Simons, Greg. 2020. Russia's Public Diplomacy: Evolution and Practice. London: Palgrave Macmillan

BRICS Sherpas and Sous-sherpas review the outcomes of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship 2020 (Шерпы и су-шерпы БРИКС подводят итоги председательства России в БРИКС в 2020 году) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, chairmanship

On 8 and 9 December, Sergei Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Russian BRICS Sherpa, chaired this year's final Meeting of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas via videoconference.

The participants held an in-depth discussion on the outcomes of the pentalateral cooperation on all three pillars: policy and security, economy and finance, and cultural and humanitarian contacts.

Representatives of the Russian Line Agancies and organizations briefed BRICS Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas on specific aspects and the outcomes of cooperation within BRICS on the relevant tracks.

Mr Ryabkov presented Russian Chairmanship's Handover Report summing up the initiatives carried out over the past year and outlining priority areas of cooperation.

As the next country to assume BRICS Chairship, India presented its priorities for 2021.

The meeting also included a presentation of a collection of five books "BRICS: A view from Russia", prepared for the BRICS Summit on 17 November 2020, on the history and achievements of the BRICS countries in culture, research, sports and other areas.

BRICS states continue dialogue in field of green economy, says deputy minister (Страны БРИКС продолжают диалог в области зеленой экономики, - заявил замминистра) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: quotation, economic_challenges, ecology

MOSCOW, December 8. /TASS/. BRICS member-states (Russia, Brazil, India, China, South Africa) continue cooperating on the issues of the green economy development at the level of relevant ministries and departments, Deputy Foreign Minister, Russia's BRICS Sherpa Sergey Ryabkov told reporters on Tuesday.

"As for production ecology I think there is something to address," he said, adding that "BRICS cannot keep out of that global trend, and [Russia] will continue respective efforts through relevant departments."

A new format of meetings was test-driven during Russia's BRICS chairmanship in 2020 that envisions participation of representatives of municipalities, urban formations and specialists involved in organization of people's life environment, the high-ranked diplomat noted.

Minister calls for stronger BRICS ties (Министр призывает к укреплению связей БРИКС) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, cooperation

Member nations urged to bolster communication, policy coordination

Better communication and policy coordination among BRICS countries have been called to deepen partnerships in new industries and the technology sector.

Xiao Yaqing, minister of industry and information technology, said strengthening mutual learning and policy exchanges can help BRICS countries-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-better leverage their complementary advantages to achieve synergies, and enhance their international competitiveness.

Xiao made the remarks during a video address to the opening session of the BRICS Forum on Partnership on New Industrial Revolution, which was held in Xiamen, Fujian province, on Tuesday.

"Apart from the focus on new industries, new technologies and new business formats, efforts are needed to provide more training opportunities for people in BRICS countries and jointly cultivate talents that can adapt to the development of the new industrial revolution," he said.

According to the minister, BRICS countries can also work together to build a batch of model and flagship projects, which will continuously facilitate the flow of technology, talent, capital, and material among these countries, and help promote their industrial transformation and upgrade.

Xiao's comments came as China is rapidly leveraging information and communications technology to resume economic activities while fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. During the first three quarters of this year, China's industrial output rose by 1.2 percent on a yearly basis, reversing the decline of 1.3 percent seen in the first six months.

Stringier new industrial revolution partnerships can help BRICS countries better deal with the fallouts of the pandemic and revive economic activities, said experts.

Partnership on New Industrial Revolution is an initiative formed in 2018 to deepen cooperation among the BRICS countries in digitalization, industrialization and innovation. Its aim is to address the challenges and maximize the opportunities arising from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Lu Yimin, a councilor at the China Council for the BRICS Business Council, said: "Building a partnership on new industrial revolution is a historical opportunity for the BRICS, and it is a new bright spot and new direction for deepening cooperation."

According to Lu, the new round of industrial revolution will help reconstruct international relations. Currently, multiple working groups under the BRICS Business Council have begun to actively promote digital transformation and technical cooperation in various fields.

Li Yong, director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, said in his video address that the forum is being held as the international community seeks mutual understanding, cooperation and solidarity.

"The global manufacturing scene is rapidly transforming with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is currently driving the convergence of the digital and traditional manufacturing sectors," Li said.

According to Li, technologies associated with this industrial paradigm have been pivotal in the development of innovative solutions to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. From this point, the outbreak has become an unexpected accelerator of the digital transformation.

Li said the UNIDO strongly supports the BRICS countries in its proactive approach to implement the partnerships on new industrial revolution.

BRICS and global governance: Rebuilding a new and inclusive multilateralism (БРИКС и глобальное управление: восстановление новой инклюзивной многосторонности) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

The pandemic exposed the international political tensions arising from China's economic ascension and the dispute over more efficient governance models adapted to contemporary demands and challenges. One declaration given by an international authority figure brought this debate in the midst of one of the greatest pandemics in the history of humanity: the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking about the measures taken by the Chinese government to contain the epidemic of COVID-19, stating that the Chinese president had shown the type of "political leadership" that is expected from countries facing a public health crisis of such magnitude. And, while highlighting China's commitment to multilateralism and peace, also said: "In fact, they (the Chinese) are protecting the rest of the world." Trump's reaction was soon to come and, in its wake, that of the new Brazilian extreme right-wing movement.

Since the USSR's dismantling, there was a belief that the liberal democratic model would inevitably expand across the world under the patronage and hegemony of the United States. This scenario was challenging due to three factors: the unexpected crisis of democracies in the 21st century; the emergence of communism renewed by China and adapted for competition in the global market; and, finally, the return of neo-Nazi movements in several western democracies.

Democracy, communism, and Nazism represent systems of thought and modes of societal political and economic organization. These three ideologies are moving towards meeting at a crossroads that does not resemble that of the past.

This process was undoubtedly accelerated by the "America First" doctrine of Donald Trump, president of the United States. In the explicit defense of its national interests, the United States risks sacrificing multilateralism and deepening the crisis of legitimacy and efficacy of international organizations. Such an example would be the World Trade Organization (WTO); since 2018 Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the WTO because his country has allegedly been unsuccessful in almost any trade dispute with China under the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism. Despite his complaints, statistics compiled by the Peterson Institute for International Economics show that the United States won more cases against China than the other way around. Following the disapproval policy on international organizations, the United States, in 2019, officially withdrew from UNESCO, claiming that the organization had taken an anti-Israel bias. More recently, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump announced the suspension of WHO funding and the withdrawal of the U.S.A. from the organization, arguing that it had failed to report the seriousness of the situation in the city of Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported. But there is another argument that justifies the American president's dissatisfaction: Trump accused the WHO of being "too focused on China."

The diplomatic crisis between the two major powers became evident when Trump, in the midst of the trade war against China, leveled the accusation of data espionage at the Chinese company Huawei through the infrastructure it sells to telecommunications companies. This crisis was compounded when Trump politicized the pandemic by calling COVID-19 a "Chinese virus," reviving Sinophobia in his country. Research published by Pew Research Center in March 2020 shows that about two-thirds of Americans now have an unfavorable view of China. That would be the highest negative rating since 2005.

What do these facts reveal? They reveal that the country that, in the 20th century, had once led an international order based on multilateralism, became the one mainly responsible for its disruption and instability. On the other hand, Europe's lack of more explicit assertiveness in its commitment to a multilateral and multipolar world is also another worrying factor. This is the moment for the BRICS to speak louder and for all nations in defense of multilateralism that can be translated as the defense of the democratization of the international system, and the defense for a greater participation of nations in the decision-making processes that concern the future of all humanity and not just a country.

The debate on governance models and the future of the international order is still ongoing. If the statement made by WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus mentioned at the beginning of the article, may sound overly complacent with China, the fact cannot be ignored that the Chinese government has been sending medical supplies to over one hundred countries, in contrast with the Trump administration, which has been accused of diverting medical equipment intended for Germany, France, and Brazil as well.

In this context of international organizations' crisis and the rise of ideological disputes that remind us of a new Cold War, BRICS must find solutions for these problems and try to continue to be relevant. When BRICS emerged more than 10 years ago, the five countries had a clear reformist agenda for international organizations. The challenge was mainly external to the BRICS group. Currently, the challenge is within the BRICS as a platform. The Brazilian government is not really engaged in multilateralism and brought to its foreign policy the ideological clash originating in the domestic arena. The alignment with the U.S., the insistence on joining the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and ganging up against China put Brazil on a collision course not only with China but with the original idea of BRICS.

Of course, diplomats will deny these facts because this is part of their job. But the denial of the facts is another symptom of our time. It also seems clear that the political, diplomatic, and even academic discourse that pretends that none of these events are happening is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

However, over its more than 10 years of existence, BRICS has done something that could be its lifeline. I refer to the several forums and seminars that involve the most diverse sectors of society in the five countries. BRICS has sought to involve civil society in discussing this platform's direction and in defining its agenda. BRICS Business Forum, BRICS Youth Forum, BRICS Women's Forum, BRICS Legal Forum, and BRICS Seminar on Governance among others, have given BRICS vitality and sustained its legitimacy. In the current context of so much adversity, it is necessary to pay more attention to these forums. Besides, it is important to continue the Outreach Dialogues and BRICS Plus.

Considering the current context, I believe that the time has come for BRICS to support and sponsor a global agenda in defense of the international system's democratization, multilateralism, and the strengthening of international organizations combined with greater promotion of dialogue between peoples.

In conclusion, we need to escape these political pitfalls that drive the world into conflict, given that some governments in some countries are committed to an agenda for the destruction of multilateralism and the division of the world. To resume its original agenda, BRICS must reinforce its agenda supporting the multilateralism between states and peoples' unity.

Evandro Menezes de Carvalho is the executive editor-in-chief of the Brazilian edition of China Today.

Global issues discussed at BRICS events (Глобальные вопросы обсуждались на мероприятиях БРИКС) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: global_governance, covid-19, cooperation

BRICS countries should join hands to innovate in governance and tackle common challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and alleviating poverty, experts said at a BRICS seminar.

Richard Levin, special master for labor tenants at the Land Claims Court in Randburg, South Africa, said at the BRICS Seminar on Governance and Cultural Exchange Forum 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the world, and all countries need to make adjustments and work together to address global problems, such as poverty.

He added that China, South Africa and other African countries have always been committed to multilateralism and could play important roles in pushing forward the innovation of governance, and that he hopes BRICS countries-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-will gain larger voices in global governance.

Du Zhanyuan, president of China International Publishing Group, said that BRICS successfully evolved from a concept into an organization and it continues to develop, because BRICS countries represent emerging powers in the world. The countries have consistently put forward new ideas and solutions on major global issues from a new perspective to promote the development of global governance, Du said.

The BRICS mechanism is a product of innovation, he said, and should continue to be a source of innovation and play a more active role in leading the world out of difficulties.

Pavel Negoitsa, general director of the editorial office of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people across the world will fall into poverty. China has made tremendous achievements in poverty alleviation in the past few decades and its experiences are worth learning from. He also suggested that BRICS countries hold a forum especially to share experiences of lifting people from poverty.

Cultural exchanges

People-to-people and cultural exchanges are also critical to BRICS countries. Chinese film director Lu Chuan previously organized the filming of Kids and Glory, the first documentary jointly produced and broadcast by BRICS countries. He said the film has been a cultural product and popular art form with people of all countries, and it could serve as an ambassador in international cultural exchanges.

Lu expected to make more jointly produced documentaries among BRICS countries in the future on a wide range of topics, including music, history, and literature.

More than 150 participants from BRICS countries participated in the seminar and forum on Thursday and Friday. The events were co-organized by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, China International Publishing Group, Guangming Daily, Rossiyskaya Gazeta and the Russia-China Friendship Association.

Joint action to face global woes urged at BRICS event (На мероприятии БРИКС призвали к совместным действиям в борьбе с глобальными проблемами) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion, quotation

BRICS countries should join hands to spur innovation in governance and tackle common challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and global poverty, experts said at a major seminar.

Richard Levin, special master for labor tenants at the Land Claims Court in Randburg, South Africa, said at the BRICS Seminar on Governance and Cultural Exchange Forum 2020 that the pandemic has severely affected the world, and all countries need to make adjustments and work together to address global problems such as poverty.

He added that China, South Africa and other African countries have always been committed to multilateralism and could play important roles in pushing forward innovation in governance, and that he hopes BRICS countries-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-will gain a larger voice in global governance.

Du Zhanyuan, president of China International Publishing Group, said that BRICS successfully evolved from a concept into an organization and it continues to develop, because the countries represent emerging economies. BRICS countries have consistently put forward fresh ideas and solutions on global issues from new perspectives to promote the development of global governance, Du said.

The BRICS mechanism is a product of innovation, he said, and should continue to play a more active role in leading the world out of its difficulties.

Pavel Negoitsa, general director of the editorial office of Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, said that because of COVID-19, more people across the world will fall into poverty. China has made tremendous achievements in poverty alleviation in the past few decades and its experiences are worth learning worldwide. He also suggested that BRICS countries hold a forum to share experiences in lifting people out of poverty.

People-to-people and cultural exchanges are also critical to BRICS countries. Chinese film director Lu Chuan previously organized the filming of Kids and Glory, the first documentary of its kind jointly produced and broadcast by BRICS countries. He said the film has been a cultural product and popular art form with people of all countries, and it could serve as an "ambassador" in international cultural exchanges.

Lu said he expected to make more jointly produced documentaries among BRICS countries on a wide range of topics, including music, history and literature.

More than 150 participants from BRICS countries attended the seminar and forum on Thursday and Friday. The event was co-organized by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, China International Publishing Group, Guangming Daily, Rossiyskaya Gazeta and the Russia-China Friendship Association.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Africa's BRICs held back by lack of electricity (Страны БРИК сдерживаются нехваткой электроэнергии) / South Africa, December, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion
South Africa

Lack of access to electricity is holding back the prospects of potentially high-growth African economies.

The Africa List Business Barometer, published this month, is based on a survey of 394 executives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Only 54% of respondents reported a stable electricity supply. Business leaders across the board called for an improvement, the barometer found. The DRC, Ethiopia, and Zambia fared the worst, with an average of 51% of respondents having reliable access to electricity.

The aim of the survey was to focus on "Africa's BRICs" with the highest growth potential, says Taeya Abdel Majeed, manager at the survey's publisher The Africa List. The acronym BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs in 2001 to highlight the potential economic growth of four major emerging markets: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Those countries started to cooperate, and the first summit of BRIC countries was held in 2009. The following year, the group voted to invite South Africa to join, so BRIC became BRICS.

Failure to increase energy production and consumption over the long term is the factor that distinguishes South Africa from the BRICs.

Total primary energy consumption in South Africa in 2019 was 5.6% lower than in 2010, according to the BRICS Energy Research Platform.

Off-grid financing

The barometer found resilience in business confidence despite COVID-19, with 76% of those surveyed saying that business conditions in their countries are satisfactory or good. Still, says Majeed, there's no way sustained economic growth can be achieved without better electricity supply.

Improved local currency credit access for off-grid energy projects has a part to play.

A report from the African Development Bank (AfDB) in November finds that most African countries rely on hard currency debt for the financing of energy infrastructure. That means exchange-rate risks which are expensive to hedge and drive up energy costs. So there's a need to develop the capacity of local financial intermediaries to offer local currency credit, says the AfDB.

  • Companies such as M-KOPA, BBOXX and Zola EDF are operating at a scale where they need access to local currency finance to support growth of their organisations, rather than just raising more equity, the AfDB says.
  • Such companies need to leverage the value of their consumer receivable assets, or loans that they have made to their customers to buy their products. But the collateral requirements of local banks are a major obstacle.
The AfDB in 2018 launched the Distributed Energy Service Companies (DESCO) financing programme in sub-Saharan Africa. The bank works with commercial lenders and debt funds to structure receivables-backed transactions to supply off-grid power companies with local-currency capital to scale up.

  • If the company defaults, the lender takes over the receivables that have been pledged.
  • Further security for lenders, the AfDB says, can be achieved by splitting the power company into operating and asset units with separate legal entities.
  • The operating company sells and maintains solar home systems, while the asset company obtains debt from lenders on the basis of the receivables.
  • The AfDB notes that bank margins on local currency finance have remained persistently high, meaning expensive loans for the borrowers.
  • It's possible, the AfDB says, that guarantees are best targeted at capital market issues or intermediaries raising capital who then provide local currency debt, rather than banks.
Bottom line

Africa's BRICs won't scratch the surface of their potential until off-grid power providers have better access to finance.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks at the general meeting of the Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow, December 8, 2020 (Выступление Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова на Общем собрании Российского совета по международным делам, Москва, 8 декабря 2020 года) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech

Esteemed Mr Ivanov,

Esteemed colleagues,

We continue working despite the coronavirus restrictions.

The international agenda has been packed with crises and conflicts. As if this was not enough, COVID-19 appeared and has done tangible damage to the global economy. State borders are still closed or subject to different restrictions. Human contact has been disrupted in all spheres without exceptions. It is only possible to counter this virus through a concerted effort if we really want to put an end to it. We and the majority of other countries are willing to do this. But our Western partners have, egoistically, tried to exploit the predicament to maximise their own profits, as they have done for many years. In effect, they are trying to maintain the model of a unipolar world order.

Judging by everything we see, the European Union (EU) has given up its claims to its role as a pole in the multipolar system that is taking shape for objective reasons, and is following in the wake of the US. Germany's recent policy on many issues convinces us that this is exactly what Berlin wants to do, preserving its claims to full leadership in the EU. France has a somewhat different position. The trend towards the EU's renunciation of its ambitions to be a pole in a multipolar system appears to prevail. If France wants to claim this role, we will have to wait and see what happens.

Intellectually, the West justifies its policies by the notorious concept of a "rules-based order." These rules are invented on the go, at various get-togethers. The EU has just earned praise from US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo that approved a "generic" mechanism for introducing sanctions for human rights abuse following the adoption of the mechanisms of sanctions for alleged chemical and cyber-hacking violations. The EU is creating these in a narrow circle without bothering to address universal bodies under the UN. The UN is going through hard times now and the West is doing everything it can to discredit them or cow them into submission by privatising their secretariats, as we see in the OPCW's case. When this fails, they take these issues outside UN structures and universal conventions and impose on others convenient decisions as the ultimate truth, the only correct version of a multilateral approach.

This is the gist of the concept of a "rules-based order' and the fake multilateralism invented by the Germans and the French. They are promoting these concepts by presenting the EU's positions and initiatives to the entire world as the only correct ones, as a model for others to follow. We do not agree with this approach. We are convinced that no matter how difficult it may be to work within universal organisations where the entire spectrum of opinions, sometimes opposite opinions, is being presented, the only sustainable agreements are those that have been agreed upon by all states without exception, including irreconcilable opponents. After all, the parties agreed on Iran's nuclear programme although their positions were "volatile."

Now the West thinks this is no longer necessary. Obviously, it is trying to restore the unipolar model of world order. "Poles" like Russia and China are unlikely to be subordinate to it. However, India is currently an object of the Western countries' persistent, aggressive and devious policy as they are trying to engage it in anti-China games by promoting Indo-Pacific strategies, the so-called "Quad" while at the same time the West is attempting to undermine our close partnership and privileged relations with India. This is the goal of the US' very tough pressure on New Delhi in the MTC area.

Rejecting the objective trends towards the formation of a multipolar world, the US-led West has launched a "game." It has postponed Russia and China for later and is trying to draw all others into a unipolar world by any means possible. For our part, we will promote a unifying agenda. The G20 is the only mechanism outside the UN Security Council where it is still possible to come to terms based on a balance of interests. It represents the so-called G7, the BRICS countries and the states that sooner share the philosophy of BRICS than that of the G7 (Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia and Egypt). The G20 is a venue where there is still hope for promoting more balanced approaches that can then be used in formal international legal structures. Our official contacts with the West have been frozen by the West (I will not explain why since this is common knowledge). This is the line towards the prevalence of the unipolar approach. They believe that "arrogant Russia" has been "isolated" and "punished."

Under the circumstances, the role of contacts between the political scientists and expert communities is becoming much more important. We value the efforts of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), in part, its support for our foreign policy and diplomatic work. The stable trend towards a regular dialogue with our Chinese and Indian colleagues is growing stronger. In addition, we have established fairly serious contacts with our African partners.

There are two interesting reports: "Alternative Futures of EU-Russia Relations in 2030" and "US-Russia Relations at a Crossroads" prepared jointly by the RIAC and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The RIAC's continuous line towards the development of partnerships between foreign and Russian colleagues deserves encouragement and support. I would also like to mention the report "Electronic Internationalisation: English Internet Resources of Russian Universities (2020)." This concept is interesting and it is generally insightful.

I hope the RIAC will continue its vigorous work next year regardless of what happens with the coronavirus.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's opening remarks at the 28th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, December 10, 2020 (Вступительное слово Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова на XXVIII Ассамблее Совета по внешней и оборонной политике (СВОП), Москва, 10 декабря 2020 года) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech, global_governance

Colleagues, friends,

Fyodor Lukyanov spoke about the role of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. Who would have thought at the time when the Council was created, and I was invited to join in as a co-founder, that the Council would live to this day. The experience gained over the decades of its functioning is instrumental in our work and makes it possible to bounce ideas off the expert community, which is deeply versed in international matters and is keenly interested in them. This is important.

This year was truly challenging and pivotal. Humanity was unprepared for the differences and mixed trends that had been piling up on the agenda over years and exacerbated confusion in international affairs. The habitual way of life of hundreds of millions of people and states, as well as ordinary citizens, has been upended, many sectors of the economy found themselves on the verge of collapse, business activity has significantly decreased, global cooperation chains were disrupted and the unemployment rates went up. Closed borders abruptly reduced the chances for maintaining multifaceted contacts between the countries and the people.

The scale and inertia of the events that we are witnessing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic make it impossible to say when life will get back to normal. I hope Mr Lukyanov was right when he confidently stated, albeit with reservations, that we will be able to meet in person in the spring. So far, humanity and its best representatives in the person of healthcare professionals are just trying to understand where we are and when this might end. Many people are saying that this will never end, and we will have to live with it just like the annual flu, but with much more severe consequences. One of the key lessons of the pandemic is that no one can secure themselves against these cross-border threats.

The pandemic affected literally everyone. Clearly, this kind of global cataclysm can only be overcome by uniting and rising above fleeting differences. President Putin has repeatedly stated this firm position adopted by Russia. Unfortunately, a number of countries, primarily the United States and its allies, are trying to take advantage of this situation in their geopolitical interests and ignore the needs that are common to humanity.

The term "common to humanity" does not at all mean an average, consensus-based or accommodating understanding of how the inter-civilisational diversity should be respected. This manifests itself in way too many areas of modern international life, including the interpretation of multilateralism energetically promoted and propagated by our Western colleagues. This is also happening in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, despite the fact that people in America and Europe are suffering from COVID-19 as badly as people in other countries.

The need for conducting a mutually respectful dialogue and rejecting artificially created confrontational schemes is nowhere to be seen. Just think of the indiscriminate accusations against China regarding the spread of the disease. There was an attempt to blame the PRC for everything that happened. This undermined the efforts to achieve unity, including of the research capacities, in order to come up with effective responses. In addition to healthcare aspects, we must take a closer look at the international bodies in charge of the health and well-being of the people. The WHO-related developments are quite telling in his regard. Ideas are being put forward to create some non-governmental institutions mandated to determine the international community's policy. This is a clear attempt to sideline the World Health Organisation. These developments are reminiscent of neo-colonial approaches and habits and show the attempts to restrain the formation of new global centres and to punish those who pursue an independent foreign policy. This can also be seen in the "vaccine race." We are well aware of attempts to oppose the new concept of the so-called rules-based international order to everything that has been created after establishing the UN and forming a large block of universal international legal instruments.

Russia believes it is imperative to look for ways to unite countries and governments, to look for a constructive agenda relying on the principles of collegiality and equality, which should contribute to de-escalating international tensions and ensuring the predictability of global processes. Later, we will discuss the initiatives that Russia has been promoting to this end. A CSTO summit and a Collective Security Council meeting took place on December 2. Among other decisions, the participants adopted a statement by the heads of state on forming a just and sustainable international order. Among other initiatives, this document proposes setting up a meeting of authorised representatives of the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, the OSCE, NATO and the EU and seeing if these organisations can sit down and form a common agenda, jointly identify problems and, ideally, outline ways to overcome them. This is not something radically revolutionary. In 1999, the Platform for Co-operative Security was adopted at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul. It proclaimed the unification of the efforts of the OSCE and other sub-regional organisations in the Euro-Atlantic space. Some time ago, before the pandemic, we told our Western partners that it would be nice to take advantage of that consensus and try to build bridges between these organisations, instead of watching them build up confrontational potential, but our Western colleagues chose to step aside. Cooperative security and engagement of the bodies created in the post-Soviet space were important in the 1990s (in this case, in 1999), when the West still hoped that we would follow the path charted by the winners of the Cold War. Now, we have officially submitted a proposal on behalf of the CSTO heads of state. Let's see how the West will respond to it.

Our goal is clear. We seek stability, fair opportunities for all states, including, of course, Russia. Gunboat diplomacy or democratic or any other sort of messianism is hardly an option if we want to accomplish this. I mentioned the rules which the West wants to base the international order on. There's an "effective multilateralism" initiative which is openly opposed to multilateralism within the UN. There's a tendency to interpret it as the need to return to Euro-Atlantic solidarity without exemptions. We are seeing this. I believe that more positive and sustainable results can be achieved through joining efforts based on the observance of the norms and principles of the UN Charter. We are upholding this consistently. President Putin's initiative to hold a summit of the UN Security Council's permanent members is part of our policy. It is imperative that they realise their responsibility under the UN Charter and act upon this responsibility. We must do our best to defuse this tension acting together. Heads of all UN Security Council permanent member states gave their consent. The coronavirus pandemic thwarted our efforts to agree on specific dates. However, we are working on it and agreeing on the concept and the potential outcomes of this summit.

We realise that the UN is not a static structure. It needs reform, including the reform of the UN Security Council. Our position is absolutely clear and consistent. It is necessary to increase the representation of the developing countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa if we want to make this body more representative. Only this approach will add value to reforming the UN Security Council. Everything else is up for discussion, but it is unlikely that an increase in Western representation on the Security Council will add diversity of opinions to this central body, which is in charge of peace and security on the planet. In any case, it is necessary to strive for the broadest possible agreement between the member states, so everything will depend on compromises. We are ready to discuss these compromises based on a balance of interests. In principle, this is the key to what needs to be accomplished if we want to ensure stability and harmony in the world inasmuch as this harmony is possible.

We believe that respect for the cultural and civilisational specifics of the modern world and refusal to impose one development model and values on everyone is an absolutely necessary step if we want to calm down the current situation. We see that this approach is shared by the overwhelming majority of participants in international communication. We disagree with the Western attempts to portray Russia as a country in isolation or a geopolitical loner. The viewpoint of our Western colleagues whereby everyone who disagrees with them is a lonely state probably has the right to exist.

However, we can see how the positions that we share are promoted within BRICS, the SCO, the CSTO and the CIS. The EAEU is actively working to align its plans with China's Belt and Road Initiative. There is the G20. It has been in existence for quite a while, but was brought to the highest level and its meetings were made regular after the 2008 crisis. At first they met twice a year, then once a year. The G20 is the recognition of the fact that the G7 (and even the G8 in its old format) is not capable of resolving all international problems. The G20 includes the G7, the BRICS countries and a number of other like-minded states. The recognition that the G20 is necessary in order to develop generally acceptable approaches based on the balance of interests is a highly symptomatic trend.

Reviewing peace problems should not be driven by ideology, but rather be approached on the basis of equality. President Putin's initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership is going in the same vein. The partnership is supposed to unite continental efforts with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN and be open to all countries of our vast continent, including the EU states in the long run. This is a long process, but it is crucial to set this goal.

Russia's proposals regarding strategic stability, arms control and European security are indicative of our constant readiness to achieve mutual understanding. You are aware of our position on renewing the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (START), a moratorium on deploying ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles and de-escalating tensions along the Russia-NATO contact line. We came up with a proposal to agree on an arrangement that the exercises on both sides are conducted at a distance from the contact line, and also agree on the minimum distances that may not be violated by military aircraft and warships of Russia or NATO.

Conceptually, we came up with a proposal a long time ago (and failed to see any reciprocity on the part of the United States) to confirm, in the statement made by our countries, and perhaps in the Russia-NATO format, the unacceptability of nuclear war. Many of you have probably seen the recent remarks by US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, where he almost ridiculed our proposal and called on any future US Administration to never agree with the statement on the unacceptability of nuclear war.

We believe that implementing these initiatives or, at least, a professional straight-to-the-point and substantive discussion of the subject, possibly along with other steps, would help improve the overall atmosphere in Russia-West relations. Dialogue itself on these matters would improve it. But so far these ideas have been hanging in the air.

Leaving behind almost everything that has been achieved so far, including our proposals, Mr Billingslea puts forward confrontational ideas, including sanctions against all buyers of military products from Russia and China. This is a fairly telling philosophy, which, unfortunately, has not met any serious opposition in Washington so far.

If we take a close look at what we have heard from the North Atlantic camp so far, we can come to a conclusion that it has consciously opted for not just a policy of containment, but confrontation. Perhaps this approach underlies its unwillingness to admit that the world must change. We are now witnessing two opposite trends in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron is strongly promoting the EU's strategic autonomy. The trend embodied by Germany is based on the assumption that defending Europe without the United States is impossible. We have already asked about whom they want to defend it from, but haven't received a clear answer yet. Given this, multipolarity, which Yevgeny Primakov foresaw many years ago, has shown its objective nature. In an effort to stop it, they are doing whatever it takes in order to minimise the number of potential poles that have the strength and courage to uphold national interests.

One of Washington's primary goals is to make the EU lose its strategic independence and return to the fold of Euro-Atlantic unity, where everyone is aware of who pays the piper and calls the tune.

Despite the above, we are open to an equal dialogue. Most importantly, our counterparts must be willing to engage. We will keep the communication channels open until they are. Our proposals and initiatives remain on the negotiating table. They have been reiterated many times. It is enough for our partners to know that they remain valid. However, in order to move ahead, we need our Western colleagues to respond to them.

Keeping open the channels for a dialogue on all matters, we will continue to work on the newly available opportunities in the economy, culture, science and people-to-people contacts. We do not fence ourselves off from this. Those who want to impose their agenda on us and ignore our status of a subject in international affairs must understand that we are not going to either make excuses or seek approval for our actions. Threats, sanctions or attempts to come up with other punishments are absolutely pointless and counterproductive. It is strange that the West has not realised this so far.

We do not need interaction with the West any more than the West needs Russia and what it has to offer. If our Western colleagues prefer to stick to certain rules and concepts that they themselves invented when they talk with each other, this is up to them. They can build a dialogue with other participants in international life, including Russia, solely on the basis of a generally accepted code of conduct. You can call it the rules enshrined in the UN Charter, namely, respect for the sovereign equality of states, the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We are pursuing our own foreign policy, which has taken shape over the past two decades. It is aimed at ensuring the country's security and creating the most favourable external environment for achieving our internal development goals. We are aware that the goal of the West is to prevent us from creating this particular external environment that is beneficial for our internal development. Everything that is being done to contain Russia is clearly done to this end. Attempts to destroy external opportunities that can be used to promote Russia's growth continue unabated, but, in any case, there's more to the world than the West. In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we wanted to become part of something, but we now realise that there isn't much we can become part of. At least, the West is not building anything of its own. Indeed, President Macron has come up with a proposal to conduct an analytical and philosophical dialogue about whether modern capitalism can meet the needs of the people and resolve related problems.

If we take Western development models, we have no place to fit in. The coronavirus, as if everything else wasn't enough, showed it very convincingly. We need to build something ourselves. This is a fairly ambitious and complex goal, but it calls for immediate action.

World of Work
BRICS and the establishment of a global socio-cultural architecture (БРИКС и становление глобальной социокультурной архитектуры) / Greece, December, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, expert_opinion

Several reports have already appeared on aspects of cultural dimensions of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Admittedly, BRICS has broadened its scope of operations and activities, indicating its strength and the level of its development. As already known, Russia has passed on the BRICS Chairmanship to India, which officially starts January 2021. That however, Kester Kenn Klomegah from Modern Diplomacy contacted to know a few more detailed developments in the cultural directions of BRICS.

Elena Marinina, Co-Chair of the International Cultural Exchange Group of the BRICS Civil Forum, Deputy CEO of the Roscongress Foundation and Director of the Innosocium Foundation, discusses the question of cultural diversities among BRICS members, the various initiatives that were adopted during the last interactive working session, and combined efforts to pave the way forward with the Association of NGOs as part of BRICS. Here are the interview excerpts:

Q: How do you assess the importance and the results of the online roundtable discussions on "International Cultural Cooperation for Strengthening BRICS Unity" moderated from Moscow?

Marinina: A lot of serious preparatory work went into the roundtable at the BRICS Civil Forum. The International Cultural Exchange Working Group collected recommendations and initiatives from representatives of various public organizations and institutions, foundations, and socially oriented businesses of the five BRICS countries. All of these recommendations and initiatives were presented during the roundtable, given a serious and balanced assessment.

Cultural exchanges, protecting the cultural heritage of our countries, getting young people involved in the culture of BRICS countries, and developing tourism are the priority focuses that formed the basis of our draft communiqué that was presented to the heads of state at the BRICS Summit under the presidency of the Russian Federation. All the members of the working group, which included more than 30 representatives of the alliance's member states, agreed that we should join efforts to develop sustainable cultural cooperation between BRICS countries.

It is crucial that all the recommendations are very clear, whether it is the establishment of the BRICS Advanced Thinking and Research Centre or an internship programme for the different activities of young professionals, holding the annual BRICS Literature Fair, or the creation of a general register of cultural, architectural, and landscape monuments of BRICS member states with their subsequent inclusion in the World Heritage List. In other words, we not only outlined paths for further cultural cooperation between our countries, but also identified specific projects that will establish this cooperation.

Of course, we must also keep in mind that many of the projects that have been announced overlap with the competencies of other working groups, which once again demonstrates the diversity and breadth of the coverage of such a phenomenon as culture. Along with the economy, culture is the foundation on which countries build relations.

Q: In your opinion as a member of the BRICS Working Group on Culture, do you agree that there are some diversities in culture among the group? Russia, India and China are geographically close, Brazil and South Africa a bit distant – but do this present any challenges in realizing fully the expected tourism and cultural dimension of BRICS?

Marinina: The vision of man and the world is truly distinct for different nations, and sometimes even the exact opposite in some ways. If we are talking about culture, uniformity is unacceptable even within a single country. The main thing that unites the representatives of BRICS countries, though, is the desire to speak from a unified position on the global development of civil society and the establishment of a global socio-cultural architecture, and in this regard, the diversity of the cultural codes of BRICS is more of a unique advantage than a disadvantage. We understand this very well in Russia. As a multinational, multicultural, and multilingual country, Russia is always open to dialogue with other peoples. We see the same approach from our foreign partners.

We are already actively collaborating with representatives of BRICS member countries as part of the events of the Roscongress Foundation's social platform – the Innosocium Foundation. For example, we recently launched the BRICS Women's Business Alliance, whose agenda not only covers economic issues, but also cross-cultural exchange and the implementation of joint projects in creative industries and education. The upcoming Eurasian Women's Forum, which will be held in September 2021 in St. Petersburg, will feature a discussion platform on women's involvement in the creative economy. As the organizers of Russian Creativity Week, we are also looking forward to seeing creative representatives from BRICS countries at our event in Moscow in summer 2021.

As for tourism, the deterrent today is not so much the geographical position of countries as it is the closure of borders due to the pandemic. However, this is a temporary factor. The final recommendations of the International Cultural Exchange Working Group are designed for a longer horizon and contain a wide range of measures that aim to develop the tourism potential of BRICS countries. This primarily includes the BRICS Cultural Tourism project, which seeks to consider the possibility of direct communication between BRICS nations, simplify the visa procedure for citizens of BRICS countries, open guide schools, and develop tourism routes in the group's countries. We are also planning to hold the annual five-nation 'BRICS – Our Common Home' Cultural Festival, the 'Great BRICS Cities' project, various championships, and several other interesting initiatives.

One thing I am definitely certain of is that with all the differences in lifestyle, mentality, and traditions, as we travel or communicate and learn about the culture of another country, we are building a policy of intercultural relations and erecting a big BRICS house brick by brick, where common moral values will shape its foundation.

Q: Could you discuss some of the initiatives that were presented during the meeting? What initiatives presented by Russia, the Chair of BRICS 2020? What were the reactions of your colleagues from Brazil, India, China and South Africa?

Marinina:First of all, I would like to remind you that the BRICS Civil Forum itself was launched in 2015 based on an initiative put forward during the Russian presidency in order to convey the priorities of society and present civil initiatives to the leaders of the five countries. Over the past years, this format has proven to be useful and effective for cooperation between the public organizations of the association's countries.

The 2020 BRICS Civil Forum came up with public initiatives for healthcare during the pandemic as well as social equality and addressed issues concerning the environment and climate change, the development of green energy, civil rights and freedoms, in addition to the role of education and science in human development. As I already mentioned, we devoted great attention to getting young people involved in the culture of BRICS countries, developing cultural exchanges through literature and art, and protecting cultural heritage as the basis for international cooperation and tourism.

In addition, as part of the cultural focus of the BRICS Civil Forum, Russia presented a number of projects dedicated to the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II. These projects include an initiative to establish the 'World Day of War Veterans' under a UN resolution, the international project 'Libraries as Witnesses of the Great Victory' based on the materials of the national libraries and archives of BRICS countries, and the five-nation literary and historical project 'BRICS Peoples: Dedicated to War Heroes'.

All these initiatives were included in the final recommendations and not only garnered broad support from our colleagues in BRICS, but also from participants who were invited from other countries in Europe and Asia. We had a comprehensive exchange of views and engaged in fruitful and interesting work.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, we also invited the working group members to the second Russian Creativity Week Festival and Forum in Moscow in summer 2021, which the Innosocium Foundation is organizing jointly with the Russian Cultural Centre. The event was held for the first time in September 2020 and immediately received international recognition, as evidenced both by the scale of foreign participants as well as their active involvement in the event's programme.

Q: Now judging from the discussion, what could be the best way to systematize and to combine efforts in implementing all these new initiatives and recommendations arrived at the Civil BRICS 2020? In your view, how do you also see the way forward for the Association of NGOs as part of BRICS?

Marinina: The institutionalization of cultural ties is a key part of our draft communiqué. During the meetings, many Russian and international members of the working group from the five nations advocated for the creation of a 'Union (Association) of BRICS Non-Governmental Organizations' and the formation of a single network of BRICS NPOs. I am certain that this will enable us to engage in clear and properly coordinated manner, hold a constructive dialogue with the leaders of states and governments, and jointly implement the proposals and initiatives that received support at the BRICS Civil Forum. (Modern Diplomacy).

BRICS countries launch partnership innovation center in Xiamen (Страны БРИКС открыли партнерский инновационный центр в Сямэне) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: partnership, innovations

BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution innovation center was launched in the Chinese city of Xiamen on Tuesday, as proposed during the 12th BRICS Summit in mid-November.

"The innovation center will provide a foothold for BRICS countries to make use of technological innovation and digital transformation brought by the new industrial revolution," said Guo Yezhou, president of the China Council for BRICS Think-tank Cooperation.

The far-reaching repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic have become an unexpected accelerator of the digital transformation, said Li Yong, director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, via video link, at a BRICS forum in Xiamen to mark the center's inauguration.

Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Anil Kishora, vice-president and chief risk officer of the New Development Bank, said the center will help BRICS countries pool ideas on how to best use technologies, including AI, big data and blockchain.

"The initiative to set up the center in Xiamen marks the beginning of a remarkable journey that will nurture the team spirit among BRICS economies, and develop common approaches in the face of universal challenges," said Kishora.

The BRICS countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, are home to over 40 percent of the world population and about one-fourth of the world economy.

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