Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 16.2021
2021.04.19 — 2021.04.25
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Three Ways to Explore the BRICS (Possible) Impact on the Future Global Order / Francesco Petrone (Три способа изучить (возможное) влияние БРИКС на будущий мировой порядок / Франческо Петроне) / Brazil, April, 2021
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

In a moment of great global uncertainty, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are increasing their standing worldwide. Despite several areas that still undermine their credibility on the world stage and which make them appear to seem irrelevant as a group in the view of some scholars, we try to analyze and evaluate if they are really accountable as a group and what impact they could have on global governance and, in general, on the global order. We depart from previous research accomplishments and, following certain classical theories of International Relations such as those of Critical and Dependence, we consider three aspects of the BRICS growth that could influence the current international framework: 1) the emergence of institutions outside the Bretton Woods system; 2) an interest in improving their "soft power" (for example, climate change may play a decisive role here); 3) the growth of their presence in different parts of the world which have so far experienced a subordinated or marginal role. The paper considers both the limitations of and the potential for BRICS countries in the reshaping of the international framework. Moreover, we provide some interpretations to the current situation, especially in light of the prospective impact that COVID-19 may have on these three fields.

This article aims to propose an analysis of what form the influence of the BRICS will have on global governance (GG) in the future and, in general, on the global order. Continuing on from previous research conducted on the BRICS influence on the GG system (Petrone, 2017 and 2019), we further analyze the achievements and the potential impacts these countries may have on the international framework. Over the last few years, at an international level, these countries have been increasing their importance, so there is a great interest in what impact their modus operandi will have. At the same time, we wonder what consequences the current COVID-19 pandemic will have on the BRICS ambitions in increasing their influence.

In some cases, the BRICS are seen as a bloc which will not have much influence and whose limitations will soon become obvious (Brutsch and Papa, 2013). However, many of these criticisms come from Western political analysts, and reflect their biased and "Western-centric" vision, driven mainly by the possible danger that these countries could represent (Stuenkel, 2016).

Moving beyond this controversy about Western or non-Western theories (Stuenkel, 2016; Acharya and Buzan, 2009), it is interesting to respond to some questions on the BRICS growth, especially in light of recent events. To do this, we use the support of the Critical Theory of International Relations, and also the Dependency Theory in our analysis. To understand what is happening, it is useful to interpret it in the light of the center-periphery cleavage, elaborated by Wallerstein (1974), and question whether this paradigm is actually changing and in what form. Furthermore, we stress the role of international institutions, of the hegemonic "bloc" and of the economic-geopolitical structures, which are key topics of classical IR theorists like Cox (1983).

On the basis of these clarifications, we interpret the term (global) "hegemony" as a social, economic and political structure at the same time expressed with universalist forms which support the dominant model of production, in line with what is claimed by Keohane (1984) as a sufficient power to establish international rule. In this sense, the capitalist system as the dominant model of production is based on liberal dictates that so far have been a driving force especially in Western countries (i.e. the United States and the Western European countries that won the Second World War). According to these premises, we wonder whether the Western hegemonic model is still dominant or is changing.

There are theories that explain how the world is experiencing a decline of Western (US-led) order (Acharya, 2014) even if is not yet clear whether Western decline is inexorable (while BRICS have been reaching a more significant world standing in recent years). Although there is no decline in terms of "hard power", i.e. from a military coercion point of view, there are several signs that indicate a weakening of Western countries in different areas. In our opinion these areas are mainly: (1) "institutional", linked to the Bretton Woods institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB), which are no longer able to reflect a world in which emerging countries like the BRICS have become increasingly important, (2) "soft power", in which, despite the Western countries (above all the Western-EU and the US) still having a strong influence, the BRICS are undergoing a "soft power war" that could also affect their weight from a cultural influence point of view. Furthermore, within the issue of soft power and the construction of an accountable image, the position taken with regard to climate change is of particular importance. This issue represents a benchmark for building an accountable image, and while some Western countries are assuming ambiguous positions, the BRICS countries, albeit with limitations and contradictions, seem more oriented toward finding decisive solutions, at least in words. At the same time, it seems that recent events, like the COVID-19 pandemic, could represent more fields in which the struggle to gain a more accountable image will take place (Morten and Gramer, 2020; Ninio, 2020).

Finally, we considered the (3) "geopolitical" sphere. Unless the US and its allies seek a consensus based on military force (which, although not impossible, could have unthinkable consequences, and therefore an option that we do not consider here), in the future we could see changes in paradigm based on a greater presence of the BRICS in areas of the world that have so far been dependent on the Western powers.

In this sense, although it is still too early to say, is it possible for us to hypothesize that the BRICS may one day replace the current hegemonic powers, overturning that center-peripheral paradigm theorized by Wallerstein? Will they look for a new form of hegemony or do they represent the cross-section of a reality in which multilateralism, or a "multiplex world" (Acharya, 2017), is already underway? Furthermore, if the BRICS are potential new hegemons of the global order, do they have any limitations?

We are aware that this paper will not be enough to provide an answer to these questions. However, we will try to explore these issues by analyzing those three areas in which we see a (prospective) weakening of Western countries.

For analytical purposes these three areas are more tangible in highlighting the progress made by the BRICS and to conjecture what the potential consequences on GG are. We could also have considered economic growth but, in our opinion, this gives importance to this aspect in the way that is projected from outside, and therefore in the areas we have considered. Furthermore, we could have also explored the role that civil society plays in the formulation of policy making, which is indeed an important aspect for the future of GG. However, it seems that its role does not have an effective value even in Western countries (Kroger , 2008) and we share the vision that Western civil society often reflects a neoliberal vision that uses transnational ties as a means of implementing a certain type of West-led governance (Friedrichs, 2005).

Institutional Aspect

First of all, regarding the "institutional" aspect, it is important to understand the role of the new financial mechanisms and institutions created by the BRICS, such as the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), but also by China, which can be considered as the BRICS' leader in terms of economic power, of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), for instance. The nature of these institutions is probably the consequence of a response to a system of international governance institutions (primarily IMF and WB) that did not meet the needs of reform required by the BRICS (BRIC, 2009). On this point, the critical theory supports us because international institutions have important functions with regards to the substratum that they represent for world hegemony (Cox, 1983). Probably the reason why these institutions arise cannot be read only as an expression of a new hegemonic order, but also as a search of other spaces in which to have a greater say (Liao, 2015). However, it seems that the emergence of these institutions is still an interesting aspect in understanding how the system of institutional governance under the aegis of the Washington Consensus has been deeply challenged, not only because of its malfunctions (Stiglitz, 2002) but also because of the decisive role of the BRICS in creating "parallel" institutions that can act independently and following different parameters from those of Bretton Woods.

The Critical Theory considers international institutions, and therefore the institutions of global governance, as the means by which a new form of hegemony can be established (Cox, 1983). However, the BRICS financial institutions can be considered more as an attempt to find new ways of escaping the restrictions and impediments that Bretton Woods institutions have imposed on them (Parízek and Stephen, 2017) than a desire to build a new form of hegemony. In fact, while the BRICS have not abandoned the Bretton Woods institutions, they have in all probability tried to seek new ways of projecting their growing economic power away from the Western-led international financial order represented by institutions such as the IMF, the WB, and the WTO (Weisbrot and Johnston, 2009 and 2016; Kaya, 2018).

The BRICS found themselves on the one hand dependent on the moods of the Western powers, with a feeling underrepresentation, and on the other hand, experienced economic growth that was in fact an expression of a changing world. Not surprisingly, one of the first statements they made during their summits was precisely to contribute to modeling the current system of financial governance to reflect changes taking place in the world (BRIC, 2009). In practice, it is an attempt to give voice to their now clear ability to influence.

However, how do we answer the question as to whether the BRICS countries are struggling to create a new institutional system? We believe that at the moment the bloc is certainly acting in the direction of the creation of new spaces, within the current global order, in which they can have greater decision-making power and a more specific possibility of gaining effective and practical access to loans and funds (Morse and Keohane, 2014) without depending on the Bretton Woods claims for debts payments. Thus, the emergence of new or "parallel" financial institutions seems to inaugurate a path on which the BRICS can pursue their economic interests freely, and at the same time maintain their membership of traditional institutions of GG. On this point, we can conclude that the BRICS are probably opening up new avenues in order to have a greater voice in several key areas, but at the same time they do not seem to be able to nor in the mood to change the course of workings of international institutions. Thus, at the moment the Critical Theory vision of the international institutions as a means of inaugurating a new international system (IS) does not seem to be applicable in this context. The BRICS do not appear to be in the mood to change the current institutional order completely by creating a bloc opposing the West. Indeed, there are some signs that they are trying to avoid isolation, as in the case of the Chinese AIIB that allowed other countries from the western world to become members, such as is the case of some European countries (Perlez, 2014). At the same time the group does not show particular interest in what happens in each individual country: a principle inspired by the concept of non-interference, where institutions like the AIIB and NDB only grant funds based on the validity of a project (Abdenur and Folly, 2015; Peng and Tok, 2016). This principle contrasts with the Bretton Woods institutions which require the compliance with liberal principles (respect of human rights, rule of law, etc.) in order to provide loans to member states in crisis.

These few examples can demonstrate how the BRICS' intentions, at the moment, seem more directed to finding solutions to problems such as underrepresentation and slow bureaucracy, rather than subverting the current order. Also, during the recent pandemic emergency, a speedy bureaucracy has worked to provide loans to member states of the NDB. Thanks to the establishments of an Emergency Assistance Facility, BRICS countries have adopted a quick tool to receive financial aid in the face of the COVID-19 crisis (New Development Bank, 2020; Financial Express, 2020). On the other side, the Bretton Woods institutions have been criticized for their slow and complicated economic mechanisms in reacting to this issue of global importance (Bretton Woods Project, 2020; Gross, 2020). Moreover, over the course of this pandemic, internal divisions between EU members states have emerged as a result of the debate on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). This debate has exacerbated European fragility and fragmentation, while at the same time it has represented a slow response to the crisis.

Perhaps these situations further explain how the BRICS are providing an insight into how they will pursue a more active role and have quicker outcomes. Within the established order, these countries have inaugurated different ways of responding to their own necessities. As such, however, it seems that they have not created new institutions which would act as a vehicle for the diffusion of a new hegemonic order.

Soft Power

The second point concerns the scope of the so-called "soft power". In this area, theorized by the political scientist Nye (2004), the BRICS in recent years have tried to fill those gaps that undermine their credibility (Bruk, 2013; Wu and Alden, 2014). In this sense, their commitment to global issues such as climate change or cooperation in key sectors such as sustainability development could actually contribute to improving their international image. However, some limitations exist: the BRICS remain far from bridging certain gaps. We refer to dependence on coal, oil, etc., but at the same time issues such as Bolsonaro's election in Brazil, who has repeatedly stated that he wants to exit COP21 (Agencia Brazil, 2018) and move closer to the US. Under this point there are countless contradictions, but it is also true that the BRICS approach seems, despite its limitations, more concrete on this global issue: if the BRICS succeed in developing greater cooperation, despite their problems, rather than acting as rivals (Deepak, 2016), they will probably have the opportunity of acquiring greater power to influence, and thus build a more accountable image of themselves.

Another point is that populist policies have become rampant in Europe/US, as in some BRICS countries such as Russia and Brazil itself. However, while in Europe populism is leading to progressive fragmentation, leading to clashes on issues such as migrants, populism among the BRICS (with the exception of Brazil) is not preventing countries from continuing to seek ever greater cooperation between each other (during their summits, the BRICS always reiterate the necessity to strengthening cooperation).

In any case, before starting a deeper analysis on these issues, we have to wonder what "soft power" means. The meaning of "soft power" has been greatly debated in recent decades. Broadly speaking, it can be explained as the ability to influence others to get the outcomes one wants without the use of coercion. This, applied to the IS, means not using conventional means, namely hard power which refers to "the ability to use carrots and sticks of economic and military strength to make others follow your will" (Stuenkel, 2016:102), but the power of inspiration, emulation and attraction where one country influences others. In Nye's view (2004), one of the top representative examples could be the US and their great culture attraction and influence throughout the IS. It is thus a country's ability to get what it wants by attracting and persuading others to adopt its goals: the meaning of "soft power" involves the ability of leading by example.

In recent years a more decisive need of developing soft power and have more power to influence has taken hold. That is what Nye said about the US: these have been able, according to him, to maintain their role as leaders especially because of their soft power (Nye, 2004). However, there are critics of Nye's theory, underlining how this view does not take into account that the soft power exerted by the US (and West in general) has often been combined with the army: the US and, in general, western countries were models that inspired, but at the same time they were able to impose their power of attraction mainly thanks to military support or economic constraints (Stuenkel, 2016).

The Brics and Their Struggle to Boost Their Soft Power

Also, the BRICS, in recent years, have started to develop their soft power more decisively. The union of BRICS and its cooperation projects and actions are great tools of continuous increase of soft power, mainly because they are "emerging countries" in search of mutual development. In general, emerging powers, such as the BRICS, rely on soft power through cooperation – particularly among themselves – but are also interested in playing the role of regional power, especially since the BRICS is a geographically diverse group, adding this global reach to the group's power and interest (Buzan, 2004). But in the last years, there have been several initiatives to increase this "charm power" trying to enlarge their influence in a more global framework.

Here is a summary of some initiatives to boost their accountable image.

Despite having suffered a loss of image in recent months as a result of Bolsonaro's declarations (The BRICS Post, 2018), Brazil has always manifested an international position devoted to the respect and promotion of peace and security in dealing with international issues, and has also promoted multilateralism, the respect of international law, and the principles of non-intervention and sovereignty. At the same time, it has worked as a bridge between developed and developing countries (Chatin and Gallarotti, 2016).

In recent years, Russia has also suffered to a certain degree from its "bad image" due to multiple decisions taken at an international level (e.g. during the conflict in Donbass) but also nationally (for example, with regard to the so called gay "propaganda" ban). However, the country has tried to create several channels in order to fill this gap, with the aim of reversing the existing image of the country, and in which it is increasingly trying to spread its own ideas: such as through Russia Today (RT), an international television network funded by the Russian government. It has also launched "Sputnik", a government-funded network of news hubs in more than thirty countries, in order to challenge the US's power in this field. Moreover, Russia has inaugurated several initiatives to promote its cultural heritage, its language and its culture (Stuenkel, 2016; Chatin and Gallarotti, 2016).

China launched a project with a $6.58 billion budget called waixuan gongzuo, which can be translated as "overseas propaganda", while at the same time it has spent a significant amount on spreading its culture and language by means of the so-called 'Confucius Institutes' initiative (Beeson and Xu, 2016; Stuenkel, 2016), just to give some examples. At the same time, China often undertakes initiatives targeted at promoting its image as a global leader. In fact, with regard to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, after being the country most seriously affected, it has later been able to re-vindicate its global leadership in dealing with the virus. This could probably be interpreted as a means by which it can fight to reinforce its soft power and its accountability image (Morten & Gramer, 2020; Ninio, 2020).

India's bolstering of its image through the creation of Bollywood to challenge the US's power in the entertainment industry show its intent on expanding its charm power. At the same time, India has worked a lot on the expansion of digital media and internet.

Finally, South African commitment to human rights and solidarity, its multilateral foreign policy and nuclear disarmament, its fight against Apartheid and the hosting of major sporting events (i.e. 2010 FIFA World Cup), and its strength in supporting new regional institutions, such as the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), to promote Africa's weight in international forums, are significant examples of its interest in increasing its soft power.

Therefore, the BRICS are attempting to fill their gaps in soft power. However, although their interest is in increasing their soft power, there is still some way to go. BRICS have the potential to build a "large" soft power base, but in any event, as of yet, they are not playing a relevant role in this field at an international level, even if they are struggling to mold a more accountable image of themselves. In fact, the BRICS countries are not yet able to be a role model in soft power, as they still suffer from Western "superiority" in this field: Western countries still offer models which are more attractive than those of the BRICS, even if most of the time, especially considering the power influence of the US, this is directly tied to security guarantees (Stuenkel, 2016). On the other hand, the claim for more cooperation among BRICS countries (BRICS, 2018), their potential to make their cooperation more effective (Dixon, 2015), and at the same time the power influence that BRICS can have on the Global South, could have positive results in the future.

Given this, we consider that there is an important benchmark where BRICS could try to attain greater influence, establish a more accountable image of themselves and try to be leaders in dealing in this field, thereby improving their soft power. That field being climate change.

Brics and Climate Change

BRICS power to seduce from a cultural point of view, and consequently exert a more decisive influence from this side is still weak. In any case, soft power could undergo considerable developments if these countries actually become promoters of a GG that really wants to take into consideration global issues such as climate change. Climate change is a decisive benchmark to measure the real attitude and capacity of building a credible and accountable soft power leadership, and at the same time act as global models (Petrone, 2019).

Although the soft power concept is spreading in several cultural areas, in diplomacy, and in the way in which a country deals with global issues, climate change represents a significant threat and a most pressing issue to deal with. According to these considerations, we wonder if the BRICS can actually find a compact role in this area. Beyond their particular interests, if the BRICS were to become credible leaders in managing global issues such as climate change, could they also become leaders in soft power?

First of all, Western countries are experiencing a moment of discord from the point of view of leadership on issues of global interest such as climate change (Acharya, 2017). Despite publicly claiming the importance of taking action against global problems, in practice they pursue policies that deviate from a real will to reverse course. The most emblematic case is undoubtedly that of the US, and its attitude towards the COP21-Paris agreements, but also other Western countries are doing little to cope with this global threat. In fact, while European countries are all rated as "insufficient" in a report on their fulfillment of the Paris Agreement, the US, which abandoned the COP21 agreements in 2019, is classified as "critically insufficient" (Climate Action Tracker, 2020).

In this scenario, we wonder if favorable prospects are opening up for the BRICS to play a leading role given that Western countries are experiencing increasing fragmentation in this field.

There is no doubt that the BRICS industrial production processes still need energy sources, such as coal, which will remain so for a long time to come. However, despite their dependence on a fuel source related to the high rate of pollution, these countries have started to invest in sustainable resources. This is clearly a good sign. Among the investments of the NDB there are huge sums that are destined to the development of alternative energy sources of renewable energy (Esteves, Torres and Zoccal, 2016), and the AIIB has repeatedly been declared as "green" institution (Shengdun, 2018). We believe that in this context the BRICS can increase their credibility by trying to create a credible partnership in taking concrete action on climate change and within the field of renewable energy. This partnership could really play a decisive role in contributing to GG and increase their soft power (Petrone, 2019).

In any event, China, India and South Africa are still largely dependent on coal, which represents half of the total energy demand in all three countries, and both in Russia and Brazil oil and gas represent the main source for the primary energy demand: 73% in Russia and 62% in Brazil (Downie and Williams, 2018). At the same time, there are no encouraging answers when taking into consideration their shift towards alternative energies and the reduction of their emissions. In fact, four of the five members achievements are classified as "insufficient" (Brazil), "highly insufficient" (China and South Africa), and "critically insufficient" (Russia) on Climate Action Tracker (2020) web page. Only India is rated "2˚C compatible". After adopting its National Electricity Plan (NEP) in 2018, India's climate action is considered to be on track to achieving the Paris COP21 Agreement (Climate Action Tracker, 2020). This means that for the BRICS, there is still a long way to go in order to fulfill their COP21 commitments, and above all to reach common targets. However, important steps in the improvement of their common strength in order to reach more "sustainable" objectives could be achieved by intensifying their cooperation in certain strategic areas related to climate change, such as energy efficiency and agriculture (Downie and Williams, 2018). At the same time, more accountable policies dedicated to mitigation and adaptation in each country would underline their real effort in reaching adequate and common goals in this sense. In this sense, if efficient and decisive action to cooperate in those areas is developed, soft power will in all likelihood also benefit. In fact, even if their commitments seem insufficient, they could play an important role in climate change through looking for greater cooperation to improve their image and to obtain a better emulation capacity.

Ultimately, given their soft power potential, and their still low ability to compete with Western countries, a shared and more concrete effort towards climate change could give them a very different image and especially fill the gaps with regard to the West's supremacy in this field.

However, on the other hand, ironically, it seems that in this field Western countries are losing ground (as we have seen), thus favoring a perspective growth in the BRICS soft power. This does not mean that nothing is being done in Western countries, but that there is more interest in following the capitalistic path of development, often seen as the main cause of the current climate situation (Klein, 2015), instead of trying to convert it or at least give it a more "human shape". This means that their actions to cope with COP21 promises, and in general with climate change issues, is weak compared to their potential responsibility, and above all the historical leading role that they have claimed worldwide. Also, in this field, the EU and the US ambiguous attitude could open up a way for the BRICS countries to gain a more central role.

BRICS countries could profit from this situation by gaining a significant boost to their soft power. In order to reach this, they should move beyond their rhetorical discourse and try to take effective action as their potential demonstrates in the above-mentioned areas. This means that they could contribute to a creating different scenario on the climate governance agenda and indeed shape it.

However, apart from the above-mentioned limitations, is this a realistic scenario (i.e. BRICS as leaders in global issues as climate change)? Are there further limitations?

First of all, to answer to this question, we have to consider that there are still some important issues that undermine the BRICS stability. We can consider several examples in this sense: the rivalry between China and India (Basile and Cecchi, 2018); the growing power of China compared to the rest of the group, which could represent an imbalance within the BRICS (see, for example, the growing importance of the "Belt and Road Initiative"); the difference in interests in reforming the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where China and Russia are permanent members and do not seem to be all that interested in enlarging the UNSC to other members, included other BRICS countries (Abb and Jetschke, 2019); also the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who has seriously threatened the unity of the group by taking a position of criticism against China and by declaring a greater closeness to the US partnership (Agencia Brazil, 2018; Casarões, 2018). Thus, this could represent a problem for BRICS which could undergo a serious fragmentation in turn. However, the realization of Bolsonaro's objectives seems difficult to achieve. In fact, in addition to having already begun to reverse course, after being elected, on some of his previous statements (BRICS, 2018), Brazil remains strongly dependent on the relationship with China since China is the country's primary commercial partner (Casarões, 2018). Moreover, the BRICS group is the only forum in which Brazil has important privileges, such as that of being part of the NDB, where Brazil has decisively more say than in the Bretton Woods institutions (Petrone, 2019). Thus, in terms of strategic convenience there is sufficient reason to believe that Brazil's negative attitude towards the BRICS group may be counterproductive for Brazil itself.

To conclude, we argue that the BRICS could really build a more accountable image of themselves in the future. However, they will undoubtedly need to face the above-mentioned challenges, which will probably also have a decisive impact on their "soft power" capacity-building, hegemonic power and more generally on GG.

Geopolitical Aspect

Regarding the "geopolitical" aspect, we want to highlight some attempts by the BRICS to increase the presence in the rest of the world. In this context, those countries which play a more decisive role are undoubtedly China, India and Russia, but it seems that the discourse here involves a separate treatment, because what the BRICS represent at the geopolitical level is above all their image of acting as a spokesperson for the Global South. It seems that if the BRICS are able to acquire a more credible image, they will (probably) position themselves as serious and decisive spokesmen for those who have so far represented the "periphery". At this point the question would become more complex because we would end up with a West that is undergoing a (presumedly) progressive decline, and the "rest" that, under the hegemonic push of the BRICS, could represent a strong substratum and, hypothetically, subvert the current order.

From a geopolitical standpoint, the BRICS have started initiatives in order to increase their presence in the Global South and probably act as its spokesperson. However, their ability to have a greater influence on the "periphery" depends on how BRICS manage to stay cohesive.

Some examples of BRICS countries initiatives to open up new ways to increase their influence include: the "Belt and Road initiative", increased cooperation among themselves, the inauguration of new policies in several Global South areas, where the presence of BRICS countries such as China and India is growing a lot and which is also having the effect of obscuring Western "domination" (Evans-Pritchard, 2018). China, for example, has adopted a specific strategy to increase its importance in several Global South areas: for example, by promising non-repayable loans (Shukla, 2018) but also by fostering its presence by building infrastructure and improving services. Also, Russia has grown its presence in Africa by inaugurating strategic partnerships (Klomegah, 2018; Ross, 2018), it has re-established its presence in the Middle East and offers itself as a potential partner of countries that are affected by the influence by of the West.

Furthermore, the recent COVID-19 pandemic seems to open up new opportunities for the BRICS to expand their presence worldwide through the form of aids in facing this global issue, but also by claiming the importance of multilateral cooperation, especially after US declared that they would stay away from the initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in April 2020 to face the pandemic. Thus, "BRICS is interested in both taking advantage of the emerging opportunities and dealing with the challenges. […] Experts have argued that BRICS members meet to discuss various global issues, and plan its joint collaborative projects on the global landscape" (Klomegah, 2020).

Thus, in recent years the presence of the BRICS countries in the rest of the world has grown exponentially. Where does this interest come from? Certainly, they have understood the importance of creating a partnership with other "peripheral" countries and the potential to configuring themselves as the real voice of the Global South. Their behavior, together with historical and colonialist motives, could favor a greater rapprochement towards these emerging powers.

However, the BRICS must pay attention to the model they want to develop in the Global South, and keep in mind the real and concrete will to cooperate, as they could actually fall into the trap of creating new forms of imperialism or "sub-imperialism" (Nayyar, 2016) inaugurating a new dependency within the Global South that could ironically surpass Western (historical) colonialism to a new level under the dominance of the emerging powers.

It is still too early to understand what will happen, and also, everything depends on the future relations that will be established in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The above-mentioned attempts by China to tackle this issue by acting as a global leader and helping other countries in facing the virus could probably have its benefits for the Global South. And this could be an important means for other BRICS countries to establish a more decisive presence in these areas.

However, we can surely state that in a chaotic world, in which there are multiple actors that fight for leadership, the balance of power is now under threat. As the theory of neorealism states, a world with multiple centers of powers is not stable (Waltz, 1979), and it could descend into direct confrontation thus leading to war. In any case, the reality is that future international relations will probably go through a series of crises (economic, migration, climate change, etc.) that will reshape the global order, in which emerging countries such as the BRICS will surely have more weight, and consequently the ability to shape GG architecture.

At the moment, the US's recent isolationist and protectionist policies do not lend themselves to promoting a multilateral world. In any event, the BRICS actions could contribute to putting into practice a world with many centers of power which now demands recognition. This situation seems more credible than a subverted central-peripheral paradigm, in which the BRICS become the center and the West the periphery. And at the same time, the BRICS seem more oriented towards a policy of appeasement, rather than one of war and confrontation.

On the basis of what we have described, many questions arise: will there be a change of hegemonic power at the international level? Would it be more realistic to say that the foundations are being created in the construction of a multilateral world order? With the emergence of new institutions, the need for the BRICS to improve their accountability through soft power, or their interest in spreading their influence to new areas of the world, must this necessarily be read as a threat to the global system? Is US unipolarity likely coming to an end?

The rise of emerging countries as with the BRICS is often seen as a threat, or even a chaotic event. However, we have the impression that this view reflects a Western-based vision which lacks objectivity and could generate more confusion. Commenting on this issue, Oliver Stuenkel stated:

Echoing a broad consensus in the West, The Economist in 2014 matter-of-factly stated, "Unfortunately, Pax Americana is giving way to a balance of power that is seething with rivalry and insecurity." While chaos and disorder are indeed possible scenarios, Western-centrism profoundly impoverishes our analysis of the dynamics that will shape global order in the coming decades (Stuenkel, 2016:7).

On the other hand, the way in which Western countries are acting in relation to global issues would indicate that they are far from reaching a solution, above all because of the fragmentation they are undergoing. This produces even more uncertainty about how to deal with these issues and what shape future GG will take. Regarding GG, it seems that this paradigm is not experiencing its best moment. In addition to the current fragmentation, the Western mold that has shaped GG up until now has experienced certain intolerance on the part of those countries which are trying to reshape it.

This is the case of the BRICS, which are attempting, at least in words, to be an agent of change in the global paradigm. Certainly, the BRICS will have to improve and deal with several issues in order to truly represent a bloc of nations which is credible and open to new areas of influence within the international framework. There are both internal issues and external problems connected to the uniformity of their intentions. However, as emerged from their last summit (BRICS, 2019), these countries are trying to strengthen their cooperation and efforts to converge on certain areas. If they succeed in creating a greater affinity among themselves, the international order could probably take on a different shape in the near future.

Considering the crises that are afflicting the West, which has lost its historic "central role", we wonder if the BRICS will be able to fill the looming power vacuum. From a "soft power" point of view their influence is still not very incisive, and in this context the West is still in the vanguard. But the attitude that the West is taking towards global issues such as climate change and COVID-19 shows that their leadership skills are also suffering in this area.

If the BRICS wish to stand out as leaders on these issues and inspire changes to get out of the gridlock, they can also gain more importance in terms of soft power, and thus gain more credibility in the global arena. It is a difficult challenge, but the "decline" of the West could open up these paths. The process is already under way, so it is difficult to predict what effect such a scenario could have on the rest of the globe.

A decisive reshaping of GG will depend, in our opinion, on how the BRICS will be able to strengthen their proximity and cooperation in the three areas considered (Institutional, Soft Power and Geopolitics), by overcoming the above-mentioned limitations. However, it is certain that the BRICS are a decisive group and already exert an important presence on the world stage. Above all, as Paulo Esteves argues: "the world today looks much more like a world built in the image of the BRICS – in other words, a world that has multiple poles of power, rather than the image of the West" (Andreoni and Casado, 2019). Thus, the BRICS have become the expression of this current (multipolar) world.

Francesco Petrone, Ph.D. Universidad de Barcelona, Visiting Research Fellow at Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies (New York) and BRICS Policy Center (Rio de Janeiro

A Specter is Haunting the West (?): The BRICS and the Future of Global Governance (Призрак преследует Запад (?): БРИКС и будущее глобального управления) / Russia, April, 2021
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

By Francesco Petrone

Western countries are living a period of fragmentation that is (probably) undermining their leadership in dealing with an accountable global governance. Regarding global governance, it has received some criticisms such as the one that identifies it with a theoretical and unclear definition of an illusory enlarged participation to global decision-making, but in practice an attempt to impose Western policies. Furthermore, emerging powers like the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) may undermine this dominance, and the very meaning of global governance itself, inaugurating initiatives that tend to promote their presence in Global South, the creation of parallel institutions, their soft power and the (apparent?) engagement in global issues, such as climate change. In this article, we first analyze the acquired weight of the BRICS, then we highlight the weaknesses of global governance and finally we try to understand what impacts BRICS may have on it.

A specter is haunting the West (?)—the specter of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), that represent one of the most important threat to a "consolidated" international system, deriving from globalization, under the predominance of Western countries both in an economic way and in global governance (GG). Currently, there are some important issues that are happening in the West world: it seems that Europe is struggling to find some unity, while US policies are creating more isolation and opening way to a more instable world, this is the case, for example, of the so-called "commercial war" and the decision to give up COP21 agreements on climate change previously taken in Paris in 2015.

In the meanwhile, the BRICS are devoting themselves to consolidating their presence (and their power) in much of the so-called Global South, to achieve greater cooperation to change current global governance, giving impetus to the reform of international financial institutions (BRIC, 2009), and give a new shape to their soft power by trying to gain more importance and accountability: it seems that despite the recent crisis that they have gone through, BRICS countries are claiming to improve cooperation in some important fields in order to cover a "gap" regarding their "charm power" backwardness.

Ironically, their strength to achieve more closed cooperation, seems to coincide with the vacuum left by Western countries, "distracted" by the above-mentioned issues, and in particular with the (prospective) "end" of Pax Americana. This could bring a number of consequences: 1) the end of US unipolarism and the transition to a multipolar world? 2) The end of Western hegemony and the switch to a Non-western world where the BRICS, led by China, could represent a new hegemony?

These are only few of the several questions that could raise from the current situation. In addition, this paper tries to answer above all these questions. Of course, it has not to be considered an exhaustive analysis, but an interpretation of the international framework on the light of recent events, and a speculation on a possible scenario for the future. First, it is without doubt that BRICS countries have shaken the international order, and their claim to have a more decisive role in shaping GG (BRIC, 2009), is having its effects. So, more key questions are: is the BRICS an accountable bloc or does it have limits? Are the Western countries really declining and which consequence this could have on the future of GG?

This is a key moment in history that could give a chance to these "emerging powers" to occupy a more central role in the international framework. Of course there are multiple limits, for example we can consider the current situation in Brazil where the recently elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, announced that Brazil will leave Paris Agreements and will try to find more closeness to US; the difference of interests manifested among BRICS; their still important dependence by fossil energies and coal that make they still "conservative" players in climate change; the absence of a consistent commonality of interests required to form a lasting coalition, and also the rhetoric beyond their discourses.

But there are several signals that indicate that BRICS countries could gain more effective closeness in key fields and that, even if they will not be able to cover leaderships gaps worldwide, they will surely give a different path to global order: in the coming years, world economic and political agenda-setting will also depend on the moods of these countries if they will be really able to give an effective weight to their recent growth. At the same time, if they are able to overpass their limits and the rhetoric beyond their discourse and their internal differences, they could probably be able to challenge the Western hegemony.

West vs BRICS?

In any case, the impression is that the "specter" of the BRICS is already hunting the West. In fact, there are several signals that the power of these emerging countries is provoking a certain degree of "scare" in Western countries: for example US tried to stem the growing influence of the BRICS, and China in particular, with specific economic treaties aimed at limiting its economic influence such as the TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), a treaty from which US then withdrew and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). They tried to hit Russia with economic sanctions and by other diplomatic means such as the attempt to create more isolation around it after the "Skripal case", in which also most of the EU countries aligned themselves with Britain and US against Russia. However, there could be more examples, such as the US endorsement to Bolsonaro's presidency, which could destabilize more the bloc, and so on. In conclusion, Western answer to BRICS raise seems to reflect the old roman lemma divide et impera (divide and conquer), i.e. create diplomatic and economic instability within the BRICS bloc in order to favourite a growing division among the member states, thus decreasing the impact that they could have on the future of global order.

However, behind this apparent homogeneity of intents by the West, there is instead a fragmentation among themselves. For example, there is a huge gap among European countries on the approach to be had with Russia (and with other BRICS countries such as China or India). In fact, after the "Skripal case", Austria did not expel Russian diplomats, unlike of almost all the rest of other EU countries, while Greece did not want to take a clear line against Russia probably because of their bilateral relations. Furthermore, some Eastern European countries are opening to the Chinese market, from where they will probably receive more advantages than the European one, as shown by the warm welcome to the "Belt and Road Initiative". Moreover, some European countries have decided to be members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a China-led bank with a huge presence of BRICS members such as India (8.7% of total capital) and Russia (6.8% of total capital). The decision of being part of this financial institution irritated the US. However, there is also an ambiguous situation in trade between EU and US, with the latter trying to approve protectionist policies, and EU divided on the approach to have in regard to US policies. Thus, it seems that in the West there are few and sometimes-ineffective strengths to find some unity: fragmented EU and US are trying to cope with the current global situation.

Just to summarize, it seems that emerging countries, such as the BRICS bloc, are gaining more decisive importance in the international arena, inaugurating policies aimed at covering those roles that the West seems to be in difficulty to deal with. We wonder what effect this situation will have on GG.

To answer to these questions, we first track the origins and the possible impact of BRICS, and then we analyse "what's wrong" in GG by mapping, on the basis of theoretical supports by other scholars, the limits and gaps that it has at the moment, and why the BRICS could give a different impetus on it. In a second moment we will analyse which influence BRICS are gaining in the world by taking as examples the importance of "parallel institutions", their presence in other "peripheral" countries (i.e. the Global South), and which advantages they could obtain by promoting policies aimed at dealing with global issues, like climate change, in terms of soft power.

The BRICS: Origin and Possible Impact

In the last decade, BRICS countries have had a very significant economic growth (even if recently they are passing through a recession, as in the case of Brazil). The term BRICS (originally BRIC, when South Africa was not yet part of the group) was coined in 2001 by Jim O'Neill in the report, by the Investment Bank Goldman Sachs, entitled "Building Better Global Economics BRICs", to describe the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). Subsequently, with the entry of South Africa (2011) the term officially became BRICS. Since then, their growth has caused great concern in the Western world because the BRICS have started to playing an increasingly important role in the international scenario, both from an economic point of view and from a decision-making one, and causing reactions (for example in terms of protectionism) that can be considered also as an attempt to defend Western countries, and US in primis, from this now threatening situation. However, this attempt is not only producing a commercial war (and, potentially, not only), but it is also creating a "vacuum of power", fostering greater possibilities for other parts of the world, such as BRICS, leaded by China, to occupy those roles that US, and the West in general, is probably leaving. In fact, despite the above-mentioned gaps, BRICS have fostered cooperation in some important areas that will give them a growing importance, if coordinated in a correct way.

Stocktake of multilateral and bilateral meetings between the BRICS since 2015 suggest that there are areas that could be ripe for cooperation. Three areas are identified: energy efficiency, agriculture and development finance. Further, bilateral relationships between BRICS members, such as between China and India, could help to shape global climate governance agendas going forward and over time provide a basis for coordinated BRICS action.

Thus, the surprising growth of the BRICS has allowed themselves to have a more authoritarian voice in the global scenario. Furthermore, their economic weight and the achievement of important development have strengthened their partnerships and claimed a more common line to undertake in cooperation, as often declared during the various annual BRICS summits that have taken place.

Among their cooperative purposes, the BRICS have repeatedly claimed to give a contribution to shaping GG. Over the years, their voice has been growing more, so much to encourage reactions from Western, which found themselves fragmented also because of the economic crisis that has struck them, and in which the growth of these countries has certainly had certain influence. In this sense, the European Union, conceived as a civilian power and which represented a model to be imitated, in recent years has lost a great part of its charm (soft power) and highlighted some important failures such as the way in which to deal with issue like migrants, just to give an example. The same can be said, with due differences, about the US. In the last years some policies decisions, that have their emblematic representation in "America first" doctrine, have created even more accentuated issues.

In addition to the above-mentioned choices, US have taken initiatives that have undermined relations also in regard with their historical allies, the EU itself. It is, for example, the case of the position taken by the US towards the agreement of Vienna (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA ) of 2015 with Iran. This agreement, which had fostered a positive reaction and the Iranian adherence, was aimed at curbing the country's nuclear energy production that would have further destabilized Middle East area. The opening screams of victory for a reached consensus, however, were followed by the opposing decisions by President Trump, who eventually decided to leave the agreement, provoking again a diplomatic reaction and protest from the EU, concerned about the potential consequences that this decision may have in the area, as well about safeguarding its image and its global power, that has appeared weakened. Thus, it seems that not only within the EU and the US, there is a fragmentation, but it is also appearing between.

This situation, may encourage a greater realignment of BRICS countries that, by making pacts of greater closeness among them, could organize a sort of "resistance" to the Western modus operandi, by creating "parallel institutions", by representing the voice of the Global-South and/or the "rebel" world against the Western policies that have so far ruled, as in the case of Venezuela or in Africa, and finally by trying to cope with global issues, especially climate change, that could further improve their soft power.

We wonder how effective their actions could be, and how much their action will shake GG. But before considering their effective impact on it, it is important to understand the limits of GG.

Global Governance and Its Limits

The term "global governance" has become deeply used in political language in recent years. If, on the one hand, it is used as a means to describe a certain type of international order, on the other hand there are innumerable critics of the use of this concept: it does not clearly describes a specific framework, but it shows a deep lack, in terms of descriptions, of the international context. In fact, there are several definitions given, but actually almost all of them define a process, or a set of international processes, which do not have a precise order. Just to take some of the definitions, Lawrence Finkelstein highlighted, "Since the international system notoriously lacks hierarchy and government, the fuzzier word 'governance' is used instead". Of the term "governance" itself, Finkelstein highlights its lack of definition. He states that, "We say governance because we don't really know what to call what is going on". Thomas Weiss outlines a clearer picture of the term. He states that the word "governance" is employed "to connote a complex set of structures and processes, both public and private".

Thus, in theory the word denotes an undefined set of processes that lead to decisions, taken by both public and private sectors, related to the international dimension. But it is not clear at all at which level and in which way these decisions are taken, also because within the global governance process are involved different centres of power, and not only one. In this sense, the identification of a clear process of decision-making is unclear. What is clear, is that GG tries to cover decisions that affect the world as a whole, and deals with those "problems without passport" described by Kofi Annan. In the global context, these decisions ranging from terrorism to diseases, from climate change to the participation of civil society, from the decisions that affect trade treaties to the initiatives taken during economic crisis. In every area thus far mentioned, and others, the decision-making processes have been carried out with the aim of fostering a more global dimension and involving multiple actors (stakeholders).

Although GG involve, at least in its theoretical path, a form of enlarged participation, there have been several critics that have outlined a number of ambiguities in the decision-making processes. Starting from the whole definition of the term itself and continuing through the institutions and stakeholders involved, they have often tended to consider this set of structures and processes as a different way, from the Western countries, to impose worldwide decisions.

The term "governance" itself, for example, has gained critics related to its English origin (i.e. with a deep English-US influence). In fact, some scholars have outlined how its use, coming from an English vocabulary, leads to more undefined understanding of the term itself. Just as an example, we can mention Jörg Friedrichs.

It is hard to translate "governance" into languages other than English, where the Oxford English Dictionary traces the term back by the well into the 14th century. Thus, the French "gouvernance" is easily discernible as a loan translation. Whereas "governação" and "governança" have conquered a firm place in the Portuguese vocabulary, "gobernanza" still sounds odd to Spanish ears. The Italians have simply assimilated the English term into their domestic vocabularies, and the same is true for the Germanic and probably for the Slavic languages. Given its difficult translatability into languages other than English, it is reasonable to assume that the term "global governance" is culturally not neutral.

The author thus conclude: "it is relatively clear that the conceptual diffusion of global governance into other language areas would be unthinkable if America was not the centre".

At the same time, other critics of the GG process come from the current functioning of international system, and the related attempt to "give an order to the disorder" in international decision making process. However, despite this good purpose, GG has often been criticized as a means to legitimate Western liberal predominance on the rest of the world. Critical scholars state that world order emerged from Bretton Woods, with the created institutions -World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank (WB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF)- is shaped with the final purpose of applying "Western policies" to global problems. For example, the way globalization has been managed, in the words of Joseph Stiglitz, was determined by the interests of Western powers. Specifically, Stiglitz analyses the failure of the IMF policies where an unfair voting system favouring Western powers, as well as the austerity policies that have created more economic debt in the poorest countries in the world, have developed an imbalanced globalization with "winners and losers" that undermine the credibility of the current GG. In short, the overall architecture of GG in recent decades has seen Western powers as the main protagonists, which, using international institutions, have dictated the timing and agenda setting of global development.

BRICS Answer to Global Governance Limits

A "Counter Institutionalization"?

Things being like this, some (non-Western) countries have reacted by trying to cope with this situation. One of the consequence in a system shaped mainly by the West, has been the so-called "counter institutionalization". Given the intolerance regarding the operation of the traditional Bretton Woods institutions, this term precisely describes the reaction to an unbalanced, and western-centric, functioning of institutions such as the IMF and the WB. These institutions for decades have done "good and bad" on the international framework. Over the course of time they have put into practice mechanisms that have ended up attracting the dislike of many part of developing countries, such as the BRICS that are one of the most emblematic examples of this "counter institutionalization" process: the bloc has created some parallel institutions such as the New Development Bank (NDB), the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and the above mentioned Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). These financial institutions and framework, are trying to act in a different way from the IMF and the WB, starting from a different (and equal) vote sharing in the case of NDB, and the way to access to loans and by developing parallel and alternative programs to Bretton Woods ones like the case of the AIIB and CRA.

It is clear that this situation is leading to a new paradigm, and in this sense, also the meaning of GG is changing. Now it will have to include a new path, where new emerging powers are playing a more decisive role. What these emerging powers are questioning, is the unfair system created so far, their right to participate to more inclusive decision-making processes, and "to advance the reform of the international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the global economy" (BRIC , 2009).

In any case, some questions arise. Are the BRICS willing to create a different financial system? Are they really threatening the current international (Bretton Woods) order?

On these points, there are some different views that basically argue that (1) the BRICS are trying to create a "parallel" or "alternative" system and/or that (2) the BRICS are trying to create new areas, within the current international liberal order, in which they can have greater decision-making skills, more possibility of effective and practical access to loans and funds available, and also create new spaces where to develop a different path of economic cooperation from that developed by Western countries. These, in fact, in addition to promoting international institutions in which they practiced as rulers, were promoting a liberal model, under the lemma of "good governance" according to which loans were delivered to developing countries that followed the rules these institutions (i.e. its most influential representative members) decided.

Thus, to give an answer about the real intention of this "counter institutionalization", we have to point some key features about these institutions created by the BRICS.

Firstly, in the case of the Chinese AIIB, doors were opened up to other countries from the western world. In fact, some historical US allies became AIIB members, US not.

Another point, these institutions are inspired by a principle that provides for non-interference: unlike the Bretton Woods institutions, which by means of their actions wanted to promote the above mentioned good governance, AIIB and NDB are not "interested" in the practice of what happens in each country, but only grants funds based on the validity of a project.

At the same time, BRICS have not given up Bretton Woods institutions, but it rather seems that their intent is to seek new ways of projecting their economic power without the limitations that those institutions have.

Things being like this, BRICS financial institutions seems more to be an attempt to escape some form of the dominant ones, especially from a point of view of the restrictions and impediments that had towards them, more than a threat to the Western-centric financial governance.

Consequently, the birth of these institutions can not simply be described as a parallel order or opposed to the traditional one, but an attempt to find solutions to problems such as under representation, i.e. the unbalanced vote system, slow bureaucracy, i.e. the slowness and the restrictions tied to Western moods in achieving lends in addition to the respect of parameters related to Western good governance (austerity, human rights protection and so on), etc. In practice, it seems that for the moment, the purpose of the BRICS is not to create international organizations acting as a vehicle for the diffusion of a new hegemonic order. They are opening up glimpses, in which pursue a more active role, within the already existing (liberal) order.

Rather than subverting the current institutional order, and then replacing it with new organizations, the BRICS are trying to model it on the basis of their growth power. As for GG, therefore, it seems that their goal with these institutions is more to create a governance that reflects a multilateralism in place, instead of creating a new one that replaces the "old" Western-led one.

BRICS Presence in the Global South

In recent years, the presence of BRICS countries in the rest of the world has growth exponentially. In this sense, BRICS countries have started to open up new ways to increase their influence, regarding the "Silk and Road initiative", by improving cooperation among themselves, and above all inaugurating new policies in Africa, and also other areas, where the presence of BRICS countries such as China and India is obscuring the Western "domination". In fact, countries like China have adopted a specific strategy promising also non-repayable loans, and fostering its presence by building infrastructures and improving services. In addition, India and Brazil have increased their presence. Even Russia is projecting towards Africa and has re-established a certain presence in the Middle East and offers itself as a probable partner for those countries affected by the influence of the Western countries and the US in primis, as happened in Venezuela, where also China has deep interests.

Thus, in recent years the presence of BRICS in the rest of the world has growth exponentially. This attitude, which certainly hides its personal benefits, however, traces a major change compared to the policies adopted until now. In fact, historically the presence of Western powers in "peripheral" areas like Africa has had the effect of domination and submission, causing in many ways an economic and social backwardness which consequences are still under our eyes.

By establishing important partnerships in Global South, BRICS countries seem (apparently) interested in covering this gap, looking for compromises of growth with less conflicting relationships. By doing so, these emerging powers have potential to configuring themselves as the real voice of the Global South, also promoting South-South cooperation. Their behaviour, together with historical and colonialist motives, could favour a greater rapprochement towards these countries, to the detriment not only of the West, but also of the world balance.

However, other criticisms could come out. For example, the way BRICS are operating their presence in the Global South. According to some scholars, BRICS must pay attention to the model they want to develop. In fact, although they want to represent an alternative to Western countries, and potentially propose themselves as spokesmen, they could actually fall into the trap of creating new forms of imperialism or "sub-imperialism" inaugurating a new dependency which would not change anything for the "periphery" that would pass from one colonist to another.

It is early to understand what will happen, but the risk is there. In any case, it will depend on how the BRICS will be able to play these cards. If the BRICS will adopt the right path, we wonder if it could actually overturn the centre-periphery dichotomy theorized by Wallerstein (1974), where the West has practically occupied the centre and "the Rest" the periphery: a credible position as a leaders for Global South, could counterbalance the hegemony had from the West so far?

Now, we still not have enough elements to judge what will happen in the near future. However, it is without doubt that BRICS presence (economic, political, in cooperation etc.) is becoming stronger. Depending on the way they will act to effectively shape different ties with the Global South, BRICS will forge the future of global framework. In this case, GG will be shaped too.

BRICS and Soft Power: The "Opportunity" of Leading in Climate Change?

In the last years, the BRICS have started a massive action, both particularly and together, to improve their image perception and strengthen their soft power. This is an important aspect of their growing power, because they presumably feel they have a lack in their "charm power". Soft power, in his theorist words, namely Joseph Nye, can be explained as the ability to influence others to get the outcomes one wants without the use of coercion. In other words, soft power involves leading by example, without the recurs to economic constraints and/or use of army.

Currently, at an international level, Western countries still have leading positions in soft power, as they have the best education and research centres, cultural hegemony in key sectors as cinema, brands, etc. Although BRICS countries are trying to fill this gap, they "face their most serious shortcomings relative to the West when it comes to serving as role models". Therefore, there is still a lot of way to do, in order to compete with the West.

However, it is our opinion that there is a particular field that could be a benchmark for BRICS countries, to improve their image thus giving a positive and accountable impulse to their soft power. This field is climate change. Climate change is the most pressing problem facing humanity. Several summits have been hold to try to cope with it: Conferences Of the Parties (COPs) – especially COP 21 in 2015 in Paris – are organized every year by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); climate change issues have been included in the Sustainable Development Goals (UN Sustainable Development Goals, 2015); several formal and informal meetings try to pay a special attention to it.

Like other "problems without passports", climate change seems to play a central role in BRICS policy choices, as they decided to strengthen their cooperation to cope with it and committing with Sustainable Development Goals. These efforts seems to coincide with a parallel decline in credibility, especially regarding political choices, by Western countries. In fact, just to give some examples, the US have even abandoned the agreements taken in Paris, while other European countries, despite the proclamations regarding the urgency of taking action, have often an ambivalent attitude, such as the case of France, where the Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition resigned after accusing the system of following "policies that favour environmental disorder" (Le Figaro Journal, 2018). Emblematic is also the case of Italy, where a 2016 referendum on the abolition of drills has not reached the quorum, and the state instead of encouraging the population to vote, has encouraged voters not to take part in this referendum, thus voluntarily or involuntarily favouring the interests of large oil multinationals. However, the examples could be more, ranging from the critics to EU and US funds to climate to the declining role that they are having in leading with climate issues.

Thus if on the one hand Western countries seem they are moving away from that leading role that they should have covered in climate change, also because of their historical responsibility in this regard, on the other the BRICS claim their accountability in dealing with this issue, at least apparently. For example, they invested a huge amount of funds in renewable energy through the NDB, in 2016, in the form of loans: Brazil US$ 300 million for wind and solar power; India US$ 325 million dollars to increase renewable energy, China US$ 81 million to produce solar panels; South Africa to build new power lines and for generating renewable energy; and Russia US$ 100 million for construction of hydropower plants.

However, is this sufficient to state that BRICS are doing more in climate change? This aspect may hide a more far-reaching goal that of overcoming the (soft) power vacuum of the Western countries in this field. More than giving a real impetus in dealing with this issue, BRICS may claim for more engagement in climate change only in order to build a credible image of themselves. In fact, there are limits in their engagement on climate, and the way in which BRICS will deal with them, will determine their effective capability in gaining more accountability. So, are BRICS really interested in dealing with climate change, or they just want to "use" climate change to build a stronger soft power?

As Downie and Williams (2018) state:

In China, India and South Africa coal is the largest source of energy demand. Indeed, in China and South Africa, coal represents around two thirds of total primary energy demand, and in India, coal represents just under half of total energy demand. However, in Russia and Brazil oil and gas far outweigh coal. For example, in Russia, oil and gas together represent 73 per cent of total primary energy demand, and in Brazil, oil and gas represent 62 per cent. As a result, significant variations remain in the profile of fossil fuel demand among the BRICS, with coal a major source of demand in China, India and South Africa, compared to oil and gas in Russia and Brazil. Further, these differences are exacerbated by the fact that as large energy consumers, China and India in particular, have an interest in reducing their dependence on imported fossil fuels, whereas Russia and Brazil, as large producers of oil and gas, have a very different interest, namely in increasing exports and higher prices.

If we take a look on Climate Action Tracker (2019) web page, we can see how low are results obtained by BRICS countries to reduce their emissions and have a decisive swift towards alternative energies in order to fill with COP21 purposes, with the extreme case of Russia that has not yet ratified the Paris Agreement, and its contribution to reduce emissions is considered "critically insufficient".

This means that there is still a lot to do, to fulfil with COP21 commitment. However, there are significant signals that BRICS countries could have ways to get more cooperation among them and try to switch leadership in dealing with climate change governance. BRICS could strengthen cooperation in some areas related to climate change: energy efficiency, agriculture and development finance.

It is in this context that BRICS can increase their credibility. In fact, the BRICS in the field of renewable energy should try to play in unison to create a kind of credible partnership. This partnership can really make a decisive contribution to GG and increase their soft power, but only if their commitment and their effective effort will be more concrete in the near future.

The influence of the BRICS is therefore decisive in several areas ranging from the creation of new institutions to their intent to cover gaps in soft power and by inaugurating a more expansive policy through their presence in Global South. Coinciding with a parallel crisis in Western countries, this situation gives rise to some remarks.

First, what consequences will bring to GG? As we have seen, GG, with all its various nuances and criticisms, seems more to be a guided and forged governor of Western countries, which so far could count with a clear supremacy over the rest of the world, than a real claim for more enlarged participation in global policy making. The emergence of the BRICS countries, however, is questioning this paradigm, and is transforming the meaning of governance itself, which will inevitably change. Their growing presence in Global South, the creation of parallel institutions and the claim for a more accountable soft power, with a particular focus on the developing of climate change policies, are key fields in which BRICS could play an important role.

However, in all this fields there are important limits. First of all, regarding their interest in being spokesman for Global South, their cooperation and development policies developed could fall in the mistake of creating a new form of imperialism or "sub-imperialism". Although that would not be the initial purpose, BRICS should pay attention on their future policies towards "peripheral" countries. Secondly, the creation of other financial institutions has actually the aim to create new paths within the international liberal order, and not to subvert it. In addition, in this case, the way in which they will direct future loans, will have significant repercussion on GG. Finally, their willingness to achieve a more accountable soft power. Despite they have still lot of way to do to cover their gap, they could probably reach an important result by really involving in global issues such as climate change, beyond their rhetoric discourses. In climate change policies, they should really be accountable leaders to try to cope with this deal. In any case, there are several commonalities that could push on this sense, but it will depend on BRICS strength to effectively achieve their goal and acting in unison.

However, there are also other important limits to their compactness, such as the continues struggles and rivalry between India and China, their divergence in interests, and some populist drifts that could create fragmentation among the BRICS themselves, like the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil. Regarding this point, we want to outline how Bolsonaro declarations to give up Paris agreements, avoid that China gains more power in Brazil economy management, and move closer to the US seem far to be realistic. In fact, Bolsonaro has already begun to retract, after being elected, some of his previous statements. Furthermore, Brazil is strongly dependent on the relationship with China since it is the country's first commercial partner. Moreover the BRICS group is the only forum in which Brazil has two partners residing as permanent members in the UN, without counting the privilege, from a point of view of voting system and economic capacity, to be part of the NDB, where practically Brazil has more say than in Bretton Woods institutions.

As a result, despite the populist drift, and despite the potential and further fragmentation of the BRICS, there is sufficient reason to believe that Brazil's decision to move away from the BRICS may be counterproductive for Brazil itself. In any case, we reserve to await the developments and the next moves by the Brazilian government.

Therefore, in the light of these last considerations, we have to wonder which effective influence will the BRICS have in GG. Despite their limits, their manifested intention is to give a shape to GG, to reflect the current world (BRIC, 2009). Now, although they have still gaps to cover, they are on their way to give a major influence on it.

Will Western countries agree to accept a multilateralism underway? There are countless voices that rise to warn against potential wars (not just commercial ones) that could take place. However, we hope that the answers are of a different kind, tending to recognize the decisive weight that the BRICS are having at a global level, looking for diplomatic, rational solutions, and aimed at reaching a global human governance. Otherwise, the world will start a phase of a new bipolarity, which will reach potential risks. On the one hand the Western countries, stubborn to a type of policy that is proving increasingly inadequate, on the other the BRICS that can exploit this situation to fill this role of leadership, trying to reverse, or at least change, that center-periphery paradigm, described by Wallerstein, and to occupy those central positions in the world, building a new global architecture, modelling GG in a different way, and leading to consequences that give space to multiple interpretations, but that without no doubt could trace an unstable future.

Even if is not (still) a real and concrete treat, the specter of BRICS is haunting the West.

Francesco Petrone, Ph.D. Universidad de Barcelona, Visiting Research Fellow at Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies (New York) and BRICS Policy Center (Rio de Janeiro).

The Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis (CESRAN)

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of InfoBRICS.

BRICS, soft power and climate change: new challenges in global governance? / Francesco Petrone (БРИКС, мягкая сила и изменение климата: новые вызовы в глобальном управлении? / Франческо Петроне) / Russia, April, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, ecology, global_governance

This paper aims at describing if, in a context of global gridlock and emerging issues such as climate change, a decisive role could be played by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Despite these countries experiencing internal and structural problems, they could represent an innovative answer to the functioning of the current global framework. In fact, even though they are not considered to be as accountable as western countries in many areas, their leading commitment to global issues such as climate change could provide an important solution to strengthening their weak 'soft power'. By working together to instigate global change, and taking advantage of Western 'decline', can the BRICS play a decisive role in shaping global governance?

In this article, we consider if the BRICS, as a leading group among the 'emerging powers', will represent a real challenge to the global order so far dominated by the centrality of the West. At the moment, it seems that the Western world is undergoing a crisis due to several issues that are undermining its central position. At the same time, the BRICS are experiencing a growth in their importance in the international arena. Is their growing importance threatening the current international system? In our opinion, this challenge should not be considered as a threat, but rather as a moment of transition in the construction of a multipolar system that can offer better answers to the current chaotic world order and contribute to shaping global governance (GG). The BRICS, if opportunely and rationally inserted into a multipolar context, could contribute to improving international relations, as well as taking on a more central role if they establish themselves as a subject capable of leading change, beginning with those issues described as 'problems without passports' (Annan 2009) as is the case with climate change.

To explain how this process could happen, we have to take into account many different issues, in the first place, the limits of GG itself. Despite its theoretical 'good intentions', in practice, GG has not found a real application as a means of enlarging participation in a changing world. Despite positive claims on how governance should lead to more open participation, it in fact has been criticized as a means of sustaining Western-centric moods at an international level (Hermet 2008). Secondly, we have to consider the importance of 'soft power'. At the moment, soft power is led by Western countries that still represent the 'centre' under a 'charm power' point of view (Stuenkel 2016). We believe that soft power and the ability to lead in solving global issues such as climate change are closely connected. We also state that climate change will provide a bench test for the BRICS and their intentions both in terms of the material and physical future of the world and their ability to act as real and credible models for other countries: if the BRICS were able to give a real impetus on climate change governance reform by acting in unison and arriving at real outcomes, beyond the all too common rhetorical discourse, they would probably achieve a more accountable soft power and a more definite power in shaping GG itself. This point of view arises from the evidence that Western countries are undergoing a period of decline, at least in terms of cohesion, and whom previously had the opportunity to take a lead in global processes. At the same time the growth of the BRICS, their presence in the Global South and the ability to build institutions that could potentially work differently, and as alternatives to those which arose from Bretton Woods, are other key factors. As such, all of these areas are closely connected. Therefore, this paper will also consider the importance of BRICS financial institutions and their presence in Global South.

We will also consider some of the BRICS current 'limitations': the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil, the BRICS continuing 'strong' dependence on coal, their rivalry (Basile and Cecchi 2018) and their attitude of acting only for individual interests (Lo 2016). Finally, we will try to provide an answer to some questions such as: if they can cope with their internal limitations, will they be able to shape the future world order thereby replacing the West? Or will they eventually just give rise to a world order that is actually emerging: a multipolar one?

Looking to the future, and taking into consideration their continuing and significant dependence on energy sources such as coal, it would seem that these premises are rather utopian. However, it is our idea that if the BRICS are able to stand out as real and credible models of soft power, they will be able to fill an important gap and also become the true bearers of a new global order and a different model of GG.

The influence of the BRICS in the international framework: a global shift?

The current international order is going through a moment of deep uncertainty which threatens its stability. Starting from what can be considered to be the watershed moment that is the 11 September 2001 (more so than the previous implosion of the Soviet Union), the world is going through some disturbing changes.

It is difficult, of course, to explore the specifics of all those problems affecting our times, but what remains clear is how they are all interconnected. To give some examples, economic decisions do not only concern one state but have repercussions on other states. Climate change is a global problem, as well as other issues such as energy resources, migration, nuclear weapons and so on. All of these have both a general reach and are of great interest to our common well-being. At the same time, although these are problems of a significant scale, we are very far from finding answers to them. We are stuck in what some authors have called gridlock (Hale, Held, and Young 2013), a state in which means we are a long way from improving international relations and sometimes seeming to complicate them even further.

In this context, therefore, emerging powers are gaining an increasingly decisive weight on the global stage. Specifically, when we talk about 'emerging powers', we often refer to those countries whose economic development is not only leading to internal divergences but also leading to how different countries deal with one another, as is the case of the BRICS.

In general, the presence of the BRICS on the international stage has consequences that we could summarize as institutional and geopolitical. With regard to the so-called 'institutional' sphere, we must first remember to what degree their efforts to build parallel organizations have also been motivated by their intolerance towards the dominance, at the level of international institutions, by Western countries (Weisbrot and Johnston 2009, 2016), the US and Western EU in primis. In this sense, given the intolerance with respect to the operation of the traditional Bretton Woods institutions, Michael Zürn (2018) speaks of 'counter institutionalization', to precisely describe the reaction to an unbalanced, and western-centric functioning of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB). These institutions have for decades done both 'good and bad' by putting into practice mechanisms of economic rehabilitation that have ended up drawing the scorn of many developing countries. Behind their decisions, the weight of the West has been very influential, due to the unbalanced voting system (Kaya 2018) and to the so-called 'Washington Consensus': i.e. the way in which loans were given by these institutions to countries in crisis, where the weight of influence of the US in decision-making has been disproportionate (Babb 2013).

In this situation, countries with poor economic potential, and who were forced to resort to the aid of these organizations, could not cope. In many cases, they had to give in to pressure and ask for loans that these organizations granted in exchange for high interest rates. This created an ever closer and more suffocating dependence on these institutions (Stiglitz 2002).

However, the BRICS have started fighting back against this state of affairs. These countries, thanks to their economic growth, have been able to reduce interference by these institutions. This has given rise to a sort of 'protest' against the modus operandi of the West, creating parallel institutions and generating the phenomenon of counter-institutionalization mentioned above. Their declared task was specifically to act as a counterweight to the current GG through the reform of financial institutions ('to advance the reform of the international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the global economy').1 At the same time, they have become spokespersons for the needs of countries that do not have a voice in the Bretton Woods Institutions, namely the Global South ('the emerging and developing economies must have greater voice and representation in international financial institutions, whose heads and executives should be transparent, and merit-based selection process').2 Thus, when the CRA (Contingent Reserve Arrangement), the NDB (New Development Bank) and the China-led AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) were founded within a short space of time, it immediately became clear that the basic functioning of these new institutions would be different from that of the IMF and the WB (Liao 2015). Just to take the example of the NDB, here the five founding members (the BRICS countries) participate with equal economic capital which allows them to have an equal and not 'asymmetric' voting capacity as is the case with the IMF.

While it is true that these countries have not renounced their participation in 'traditional' international institutions, but rather giving life to these new institutions, the question remains, will they be able to challenge the Washington Consensus (Bagchi 2012)? There are also other important differences to consider, such as the principle of non-interference: unlike the IMF and the WB, the AIIB and the NDB are not 'interested' in how projects are put into practice in each country, but only grant funds based on the validity of a project (Abdenur and Folly 2015; Peng and Tok 2016).

All the same, it seems that the BRICS financial institutions are more of an attempt to escape some form of domination by Western institutions, especially from the point of view of the restrictions and impediments that are created for them (Parízek and Matthew 2017), rather than to act as a threat to Western-centric financial governance. In any case, the creation of parallel institutions inaugurates a new path in GG. The Bretton Woods Institutions seem to have become obsolete at this stage, and the BRICS counter-institutionalization has come to represent a different way of doing business to the traditional modus operandi of the West.

At the same time, the importance of the BRICS has also been growing in the Global South. In this regard, the question is if they are really willing to represent the Global South, or are they trying to develop new forms of colonization or sub-imperialism (Deepak 2016). There is no doubt that their presence has been growing in this area, such as in Africa, and in other countries such as Venezuela. However, are they willing to be spokespersons for the 'periphery' (Wallerstein 1974)?

Their ability to reshape GG will greatly depend on these issues too: their accountability towards the Global South and the way they manage these institutions. In this sense, both aspects are closely connected with the ability to build a more accountable image of themselves. The BRICS still lack a truly accountable soft power, but there are also signs that indicate their commitment in improving this.

BRICS and soft power

In recent years, the BRICS have started a massive campaign, both individually and as a group, to improve their image and strengthen their soft power (Chatin and Gallarotti 2016; Stuenkel 2016). This is an important aspect of their growing power because they presumably feel there is a gap to be filled in terms of their 'charm power'. Soft power, according to Joseph Nye (2004), can be explained as the ability to influence others to get the outcomes one wants without the use of coercion. In other words, soft power involves leading by example, without recurring to economic constraints and/or use of an army.

The BRICS countries, mainly due to the crises that have hit them in recent years, are struggling to find a credible role in this area. From this point of view, Western countries still offer models that are more attractive than that of the BRICS. In the soft power field, the BRICS 'face their most serious shortcomings relative to the West when it comes to serving as role models' (Chatin and Gallarotti 2016). However, there are multiple examples of how they are trying to start campaigns to promote their cultural influence on the rest of the world:

In 2009, China launched a project with a $6.58 billion budget called waixuan gongzuo, which can be translated as 'overseas propaganda.' Hillary Clinton, citing the growing presence of state-backed outlets such as Russia Today (RT) and CCTV, argued during a Congressional committee meeting that 'We are engaged in an information war, and we are losing that war.' In addition to RT, Russia reorganized the RIA Novosti news agency and laid off a significant part of its staff, including its relatively independent management. The agency's new leader then announced the launch of Sputnik, a government-funded network of news hubs in more than thirty countries with 1,000 staff members producing radio, social media, and news-wire content in local languages . (Stuenkel 2016)

The examples go on: such as Brazil's interest in becoming leaders in peace and security, South African commitment to human rights, and India's bolstering of its image in the media, just to name a few (Chatin and Gallarotti 2016). Therefore, although there is a long way to go, the BRICS are trying to fill this gap in soft power.

What effects will this process have? Will these countries be able to shape the global imaginary with their growth and power in the field of soft power? Will they be able to create credible innovations? In our opinion, there is an important area in which they could aspire to become stronger models of soft power: the promotion of a GG that really wants to deal with issues such as climate change.

West vs BRICS: what is the commitment to climate change?

Western countries are experiencing a moment of discord in terms of climate leadership. Despite publicly claiming the importance of taking action to solve global problems, in practice, they seem to be pursuing policies that deviate from a real will to implement positive changes. The most emblematic case is undoubtedly that of the US, and their attitude towards the Paris agreement, but of course other Western countries are doing little to deal with climate change. Another example is Italy. In 2016, a referendum on the abolition of drills did not reach quorum, and the state decided that instead of encouraging the population to vote, it has encouraged voters not to take part in this referendum, thus voluntarily or involuntarily favouring the interests of large oil multinationals (Balmer 2016). The examples could go on, ranging from the critics of EU and US (limited) funds for climate change policies (Carrington 2017; Appelt and Dejgaard, 2018; Meade 2018) to the declining role that they are having in being leaders in climate-related issues (Bäckstrand and Elgström 2013).

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, defined climate change as the most important challenge facing humanity (Sengupta 2018). Other problems of great importance which require an immediate response are being overshadowed at this moment in history by the threat that climate change poses to the Earth. In the light of these considerations, we wonder: beyond individual interests, if the BRICS were to become credible leaders in managing problems without passports such as climate change, could they also become leaders in soft power? Under this scenario where Western countries are experiencing increasing fragmentation, favourable prospects could open up for the BRICS.

On the other hand, another important factor to take into account is the dependence on coal for industrial production in the BRICS countries (Basso, and Viola 2016). However, despite their dependence on energy sources that lead to a high rate of pollution, these countries have started to invest heavily in sustainable resources (Baker 2019). This is a good sign, indeed among the first loans provided by the NDB in 2016, there were huge sums destined to the development of alternative energy sources (Mattos and Rosa 2016). In our opinion, it is in this context that the BRICS can increase their credibility by reconfiguring themselves as accountable leaders. In fact, in the field of renewable energy, they need to work in unison to create a more credible partnership (Debidatta 2015). This partnership can really make a decisive contribution to GG, encouraging the process by which countries reverse the course that they have taken in terms of climate change policies and therefore, increasing soft power of the BRICS. However, there are limits.

If we take a look at the Climate Action Tracker (2019) web page, we can see how poor the results have been for the BRICS countries both in terms reducing their emissions and also in making a decisive switch towards alternative energies in order to accomplish their COP21 objectives. In the case of Russia, it still has not ratified the Paris Agreement, and its contribution to reducing emissions is considered 'critically insufficient'. This means that there is still a lot to do, but there are important signs that the BRICS countries could find ways of increasing cooperation amongst each other and will try to switch leadership to their institutions in dealing with climate change governance. Furthermore, the BRICS could strengthen cooperation in some areas related to climate change: energy efficiency, agriculture and development finance (Downie, and Williams 2018).

Another limitation is the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil. In fact, Bolsonaro not only declared his intention to withdraw from the COP 21 (Agencia Brazil 2018) but also stated his interest in building a closer relationship with the US (Spetalnick 2018) and prevent China from gaining more power in Brazil's economic management (Casarões 2018) thus favouring a division among the BRICS. In any case, these declarations seem far from being realistic. In fact, Bolsonaro has already begun to retract, after being elected, some of his previous statements (The BRICS post, 2018). Furthermore, Brazil is strongly dependent on its relationship with China since it is the country's primary commercial partner (Casarões 2018). Moreover, the BRICS group is the only forum to which Brazil belongs where two partners also reside as permanent members on the UN security council. Additionally, Brazil has the privilege of participating in the NDB whose voting system is equal for all unlike that of the Bretton Woods institutions. As a result, despite the populist drift and the potential fragmentation of the group, there are sufficient reasons to believe that Brazil's decision to move away from the BRICS may be counterproductive for Brazil itself.

Western fragmentation: an opportunity for the BRICS?

Certain events have caused many Western countries to fall short of their historical leading role, giving the chance to the BRICS to open up a different path in the international framework. In the case of the US, in addition to their exit from climate agreements, they have also taken a path that is becoming more and more isolated not only with respect to these emerging countries (for example, the attempt to create a free trade area with certain Asian countries, close to China, namely the Trans-Pacific Partnership) but also with respect to its 'historical' allies, namely the EU countries. In fact, with regard to the latter, the US has undertaken initiatives that have provoked manifold reactions and malcontents. An example of this is the position taken by the US towards the agreement of Vienna (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA)3 in 2015 with Iran. This agreement, which had fostered a positive reaction and Iranian adherence, was aimed at curbing the country's nuclear energy production. The initial joy of victory as a result of the agreement, however, was followed by the decision by the US to leave the agreement. This provoked a diplomatic reaction and protest from the EU concerned about the potential consequences that this decision might have in the region, as well as about safeguarding its image and its global power which appeared to be weakened (Grunstein 2018). Therefore, there are signs that Western countries are undergoing a moment of fragmentation not only with respect to these emerging countries but also amongst themselves (Carrel and Nienaber 2018; Batabyal 2018; Mansfield 2018).

In fact, beginning with the adhesion of several EU countries to the AIIB, which was criticized by the US (Perlez 2015), as well as climate change policies, ever wider divisions are opening up between the EU and the US. And this fragmentation will also probably have important consequences on their 'charm power' capabilities. In short, on a global level, the impression is that the West is leaving a 'power vacuum' in terms of leadership, with the US trying to act in a unipolar way which may lead to more instability.

The theory of neorealism in international relations asserts (Waltz 1979) that in situations of balance of power, the following situation may arise: when one of the states circumvents this equilibrium acting in a solitary manner, in view of an increase in war power, the other states ally against it and, after having resized it, try to re-establish balance. Taking an historical example, this is what happened with Napoleon, when the other European powers allied against him and defeated him at Waterloo, blocking his expansionist aims. In the current world, from the point of view of war, this situation seems unlikely given the asymmetry of military power in favour of the US. Today, a far-reaching military confrontation would have indescribable consequences. However, from a diplomatic, economic and environmental point of view, the balance of power could probably be re-established by pursuing the goal of creating a global opposition to unipolarity.

This situation can be taken advantage by the BRICS countries to try to fill the gap left by the West and try to become the spokesperson of a multipolar order that leads to more suitable and binding negotiations to face these global challenges. In this situation, the vacuum left could also represent a possible opportunity for the BRICS to fill their soft power gap and play a central role in the future of GG (Xinhua 2017). And in this sense, climate change plays a key role.

BRICS and climate change: a real interest or a rhetorical discourse?

During the most recent BRICS summits in Xiamen (2017) and in Johannesburg (2018), the BRICS leaders have reaffirmed, through the Xiamen Declaration and the Johannesburg Declaration, their commitment to take decisive action in dealing with climate change. Under the lemma 'BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future', in Xiamen the leaders committed to enhance BRICS cooperation on climate change and expand green financing, to take actions to advance result-oriented cooperation in areas such as prevention of air and water pollution, waste management and biodiversity conservation. These are only a few of the themes of a broader approach to future sustainable development, cooperation and shaping of GG.

In particular:

On climate, the BRICS leaders called for full implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and urge developed countries to provide financial, technological and capacity-building support to developing countries to enhance their mitigation and adaptation capabilities. (Kosolapova 2017)

Also, during the 10th BRICS summit, there were statements underlining their strong interest on climate change. Here the lemma was: 'BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution'. There were different declarations on climate change issues, but their most interesting statement for this discussion is the following:

We call upon all countries to fully implement the Paris Agreement adopted under the principles of the UNFCCC including the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and urge developed countries to provide financial, technological and capacity-building support to developing countries to enhance their capability in mitigation and adaptation. (BRICS 2018)

This part of the Johannesburg Declaration state two important points: their commitment to the Paris Agreement and their interest in favouring sustainable development for developing countries, thus underpinning their role with regard to the Global South. Although their declarations look enthusiastic, we wonder if their commitment to achieving their goals will be real or is it just a rhetorical discourse. In previous meetings, such as Copenhagen and Kyoto (Qi, 2011; Hurrell and Sengupta 2012; Petrone 2017), their role was ambiguous, but as we have seen there are multiple signs of their willingness to address these problems, despite the aforementioned limits. Moreover, they could strengthen their cooperation with the aim of getting a real and definite commitment. All these situations should be directed towards improving their soft power. If the BRICS want to be global players and accountable leaders, they need to become an effective and accountable bloc.

In light of this general analysis of the current global situation, we have seen how the world is characterized by great uncertainties. The reasons we cannot find adequate solutions to global problems are many, and it would be impossible to explain them all here. The attitude that Western countries are showing towards global issues means that they are far from finding solutions, this mainly being due to the fragmentation they are undergoing.

Although climate change will play a decisive role, we have seen how many countries are giving it little priority. This is a fundamental problem, which highlights the issues linked to GG, which is not going through the best of times: the Western mould that has characterized it up until now has been somewhat rejected by those countries which would like to reshape it.

This is the case of the BRICS, who are trying to bring about a change in the global paradigm. Indeed, the BRICS themselves are going through many difficulties, both in terms of internal political issues (Brazil or Russia as examples), and the homogeneity of their intentions. However, for some time now it seems that these countries have been (apparently) trying to strengthen their cooperation, as has emerged from their most recent summits. Above all these countries are trying to occupy a position as leaders in global issues, as stated by the Chinese president (Huang 2017). This being the case, it remains to be seen how they will manage obtaining those results.

In our view, considering the crises that the West is going through, specifically losing its central role (some scholars talk about Post-Western World), we wonder if the BRICS will be able to fill the vacuum of power that is looming. From a 'soft power' point of view, their influence is still not very incisive. In this context, the West is still in the vanguard, even if the attitude that it is taking towards problems without passport, and specifically climate change, shows that their leadership skills are also suffering in this area. In this framework, will the BRICS replace Western countries as leading powers devoted to general problems? Even if their ability to play a leading role is threatened by their dependence on obsolete production models that generate pollution, there are signs of change.

If the BRICS stand out as leaders on these issues, and inspire changes that allow the world to get out of the gridlock, they will also gain more importance in terms of soft power and more credibility internationally. It is a difficult challenge, but the 'decline' of the West could open these paths up to them. This process is under way, either because the BRICS are already starting to expand their economic power, or because they have the need to act as models.

Even if they have already attained a certain level of economic and institutional influence, they lack the political base. And if they choose to act in unison, posing as credible alternatives, then they could also attain high levels of soft power and be able to give a new imprint to future GG.

How will all of this be perceived by the West? It is hoped that the situation does not degenerate into armed conflict, but that Western countries will take note of the multipolarism already in place. In the future, there needs to be a greater awareness regarding the creation of a more livable, safer world and above all a GG that really cares about the needs of the biosphere and of individuals (Falk 1995).

Francesco Petrone, Ph.D. Universidad de Barcelona, Visiting Research Fellow at Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies (New York) and BRICS Policy Center (Rio de Janeiro

Camilla Gironi's blog: Securely knotting Indo-Russian ties (Блог Камиллы Жирони: Надежные узлы индийско-российских связей) / Russia, April, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

The 2021 Indo-Russian Annual Summit could be a memorable occasion for cementing this partnership

The year 1971 marked a cornerstone in the relations between India and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrey A. Gromyko, and his Indian counterpart, Sardar Swaran Singh, had just signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. This treaty reflected the geopolitical landscape of that historical moment. On the one side, the agreement revealed, once again, how deep the rift between the USSR and China was. On the other one, India was looking for a hegemonic ally in the midst of the Bangladesh Liberation War.

The Indian Express Archive

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it took two years for Boris Yeltsin to make a step forward. Only in 1993 was he able to cement this relationship by visiting India and signing another 20-year bilateral treaty, showing how pragmatic his foreign policy was—a path which has also been pursued by his successor, Vladimir Putin.

More recently, in 2014, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, even suggested that Russia represented "India's closest friend and the preferred strategic partner" during a meeting with President Putin. Throughout the years, this old friendship has produced cooperation in different sectors. The 2019 Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok, for instance, unveiled the joint Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor. This corridor, coming in response to China's Maritime Silk Route, has in fact ushered in a new era of bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Cementing a partnership through weapons

Defense represents one of the key sectors of cooperation. On April 6, 2021, Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, paid a visit to his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in order to take the Indo-Russian relationship to a new level. Defense was among the topics discussed.

Cooperation in the field of defense is nothing new for the relations between Russia and India. Already in 1955, before the Sino-Indian border conflict, the Soviet Union transferred two Il-14 aircrafts to India.[1] This kind of understanding was further enriched in 1960s and 1970s. However, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, an impeding financial crisis sparked off in Russia, engulfing its defense industrial complex as well. At the time, Moscow was thus not able to meet the Indian demands, but the beginning of the new millennium marked a shift in this sense.

As of late, the two countries have already been cooperatively producing MiG fighters, Su-30 jets, T-90 tanks and BrahMos cruise missiles. During his latest trip, Lavrov strongly emphasized Russia's role in providing cutting-edge technology to India and its willingness to establish a new joint production unit. The intended joint production of weapons and military equipment must be perceived within the framework of the "Make in India" project, a major initiative with the aim of boosting innovation, investment and manufacturing within the country.

Since 2018, India has been committed to acquiring S-400 missile systems from Russia, much to the United States' displeasure. Last month, Lloyd Austin, the US Defense Secretary, visited India to discuss the $5.5 billion deal for the acquisition of missile systems from Russia.

The 2017 Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is, in fact, still there, waiting for someone to walk in its trap. In December, Lavrov clearly stated how India was part of a massive and aggressive campaign by the West. New Delhi would not, in fact, prove the first to be sanctioned by the United States because of arms purchases from Russia. Turkey knows this unhappy ending too well.

This renewed commitment by Moscow and New Delhi in the military-technical field comes at a troubled time in the relations between the United States and the Russian Federation. Just a few days ago, Washington imposed new sanctions on the Kremlin and expelled ten Russian diplomats, purportedly because of the SolarWinds cyberattacks.

Beyond defense cooperation

In February 2021, the visit paid by Harsh Shringla, the Indian Foreign Secretary, to Moscow represented the first trip during the COVID-19 pandemic. This event inevitably underlines the privileged relationship between the two countries. Yet, appearances are deceptive sometimes.

First of all, Lavrov's trip to New Delhi was combined with that to Islamabad. According to some analysts, this was perceived as a belittling sign from Moscow's part. This may be the reason why the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has decided not to meet Sergey Lavrov during his stay.

India remains extremely doubtful about Russia's closeness with Pakistan. However, Roman Babushkin, the Deputy Chief of the Russian mission to India, has made it clear that cooperation with Islamabad is much more limited than that with New Delhi and that it is mainly based on the common threat of terrorism. He also expressed Russia's willingness to stay away from the bilateral issues concerning India and Pakistan.

Second, Russia remains the top arms supplier for India; however, New Delhi has turned an eye to the United States and Israel in the last decade. Recently, India reportedly leased four Heron UAVs from Israel. Moreover, at the end of March, the Indian special forces carried out a military drill together with the U.S. special forces at Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh.

This turn to the United States has been questioned by Russia in different contexts. Moscow does not share the view about New Delhi's Indo-Pacific strategy. Suffice it to say that India is one of the four partners of the QUAD initiative, also known as the "Eastern NATO". Jaishankar, however, explained that a kind of "Asian NATO" has never been part of India's plans. Probably, within QUAD, India is the country least inclined to forging a real military alliance rather conceiving the initiative as part of a diplomatic dialogue.

Russia strictly condemns this informal strategic dialogue, by defining the QUAD format as part of "anti-China games". The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is, in fact, seen by the Kremlin as a sort of a revival of the Cold War era thinking.

This idea is strictly linked to the assertiveness of the People's Republic of China. India has openly declared that the acquisition of S-400 missile systems is mainly linked to the scope of countering the threat from China. This comes at a time in which relations between Russia and China "have reached the best level ever throughout the whole of history", as Lavrov has stated. However, his words were to reassure his Indian counterpart, by emphasizing that Russia has no intention of entering a military alliance with China.

Last year in June, as tensions mounted at the Sino-Indian border, Russia was able to provide a channel of communication between the two parts. At the time, Moscow was chairing two crucial formats: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS. The Kremlin thus launched a trilateral RIC videoconference, bearing in mind the notion that good relations between New Delhi and Beijing are essential to the whole Eurasian stability.

Afghanistan represents another sore spot for both countries. During the press conference that followed the meeting with Jaishankar, Lavrov plainly stated that "all political, ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan" should necessarily be involved within the Afghan peace process. The Taliban included.

India has lately changed its strategy towards the issue. While in the past, the country firmly opposed any kind of dialogue with the Taliban, recently Jaishankar showed his interest in stepping up the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Nikolay Kudashev, the Russian envoy to India, has thus defined New Delhi as "a welcomed partner" within the Afghan peace process.

Despite some frictions, Russia is increasingly interested in the Indian subcontinent and in South-East Asia. This is also emphasized within the 2016 Foreign Policy Concept. For instance, during his trip to India, Lavrov paid particular attention to the events in Myanmar. On the other side, India would like to involve Russia in its Indo-Pacific strategy in order to tear it away from Beijing.

Lavrov's trip to India not only marked a cornerstone in the defense cooperation between the two countries, but also paved the way for Putin's expected visit to India in the near future. As Lavrov stated, Russia appreciates both regional and global cooperation with India, starting from the work within the UN, SCO, G20, and BRICS, but also a strong commitment to the ASEAN centrality. The 2021 Indo-Russian Annual Summit could thus be a memorable occasion for cementing this partnership.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
NDB issues USD 1.5 billion benchmark bond (НБР выпустил эталонную облигацию на сумму 1,5 млрд долларов США) / China, April, 2021
Keywords: ndb, investments

On April 20, 2021, the New Development Bank (NDB) priced its 5-year USD 1.5 billion benchmark bond. This transaction is the third USD benchmark bond offering of the Bank in the international markets.

The net proceeds of the Bond will be used for financing sustainable development activities as well as COVID-19 Emergency Program Loans to the Bank's member countries. The NDB established the Emergency Assistance Facility in April 2020, to provide up to USD 10 billion in crisis-related assistance to its member countries, including USD 5 billion for financing healthcare and social safety-related expenditures, as well as USD 5 billion for supporting economic recovery efforts.

This transaction was met with significant support from global investor community, the high-quality order book highlights the recognition of NDB's mandate and its growing stature in the USD market. The distribution of investors of the final book was as follows, by geography: Asia – 36%, EMEA – 60%, Americas – 4% and by investor type: Central Banks/Official Institutions – 78%, Banks – 16%, Asset Managers – 4%, Private Banks – 1%, Others – 1%. The book was oversubscribed with the order book in excess of USD 1.975 billion.

The bond was priced with no new issue premium at MS +25bps. The final price was a tightening of 2bps from initial pricing thoughts and coupon was set at 1.125%.

"We are delighted with the overwhelmingly positive investors support and top quality order book for our first USD benchmark bond of 2021. NDB solidified its position as a regular SSA issuer in the international capital markets attracting a diversified and high quality investor base including more than 20 new investors with this transaction," said Mr. Leslie Maasdorp, NDB Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. "The strong market reception for the transaction represents the investors recognition of NDB's strong credit profile. I would like to thank the consistent and deep support provided by the global investors and our lead managers which helped underpin this very successful issuance."

Citigroup Global Markets Limited, HSBC London PLC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) Limited, J.P. Morgan P, Standard Chartered Bank UK, TD Securities (Canada) Inc. acted as lead managers for the transaction.

Bond Summary Terms

Issuer New Development Bank (NDB) Issuer rating AA+ (S&P) / AA+ (Fitch) / AAA (JCR) / AAA (ACRA) Format Reg S, Category 2 Size USD 1,500,000,000 Settlement date 27 April, 2021 Maturity date 27 April, 2026 Yield 1.154% annual / 1.151% semi-annual Coupon 1.125% per annum Denominations USD 200k+1k Listing Regulated Market of the Irish Stock Exchange, trading as Euronext Dublin Lead managers Citi, HSBC, ICBC, J.P. Morgan, Standard Chartered, TD Securities
In 2021, NDB plans to raise approximately USD 7 billion equivalent across international and domestic capital markets across different currencies and tenors with strong emphasis on ESG.

Background information

In December 2019, NDB registered its inaugural USD 50 billion Euro Medium Term Note Programme in the international capital markets. The Programme has been rated "AA+" by Fitch and has been assigned "AA+" long-term and "A-1+" short-term issue ratings by S&P.

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

World of Work
Vaccine Race: The Implication for the World Economy (Гонка за вакцинами: последствия для мировой экономики) / China, April, 2021
Keywords: social_issues, covid-19

Countries around the world are placing high hopes on the new COVID-19 vaccines in their joint efforts to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, while continuing to face "deficits" in vaccine production capacity and global distribution issues. As a developing country, China has offered to provide its vaccines as public goods to the rest of the world, particularly to people from less developed countries, emphasising the concept of building a global health community for mankind, write Wang Yiwei & Chen Chao.

More than production capacity, it is about industrial system

There are several urgent issues that need to be addressed, the first of which is the deficit in production capacity. At present, four vaccines have been approved for marketing, with conditions, in China. China has the world's second-largest economy, with a complete industrial system and a large domestic market. With the support of an orderly and sufficient production chain and supply chain, China could meet the needs of large-scale vaccine production at present and in the future; more than 60 million Chinese have been vaccinated.

China is building a modern industrial system during its 14th five-year plan period, and has entered a new era of industrial civilisation. Vaccine production chains and supply chains benefit from China's strong industrial system. Its production involves multiple procedures, including the supply of equipment for the production line, raw materials, packaging materials, cold chain equipment for vaccine circulation and transportation, and equipment needed for vaccination. Thus, taking full advantage of its national industrial system, China has established the upstream and downstream in the industrial supply chain. The value of the whole industry chain model of China's manufacturing industry has once again been verified. Improving fundamental industrial capabilities and removing technological bottlenecks are crucial to achieve high-quality growth under the dual circulation development strategy.

More than fair distribution, it is about technology R&D

The second issue highlighted is the distribution deficit. Although vaccines are independently selected and decided upon by each country, the problem of vaccine distribution persists, especially in low-income countries: even one dose is difficult to obtain.

The vaccine gap between rich and poor, besides being problematic in and of itself, is also expected to widen the development gap.

A study by the RAND Corporation estimated that the unequal distribution of vaccines could cost the global economy as much as $1.2 trillion per year. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that if vaccines are not distributed equitably, "the world faces a moral and economic disaster".

Vaccine research and development is a symbol of a country's scientific and technological potential and progress. In other words, the vaccine race might be regarded as a competition among different R&D methods. Some conservative voices support "vaccine nationalism", which insists on the localisation of vaccine R&D. Others argue that there is a race between China, the US and Russia over the technology routes and that only one winner will emerge. Others argue that any vaccine that has been shown to be effective and safe should be accepted without discrimination. In other words, the vaccine race itself is a major achievement of human technological progress.

More than vaccine cooperation, it is about public goods for all

The pandemic continues to spread globally, and the fight with the virus is far from over. So far, the protection rate of Chinese vaccines is over 79.34%; these offer a combination of safety, effectiveness, accessibility and affordability, meeting the standards of the World Health Organisation and the State Food and Drug Administration of China. At the first session of the 15th G20 Leaders' Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that "China actively supports and participates in international cooperation on the COVID-19 vaccine... and is ready to strengthen cooperation with other countries in vaccine research, development, production and distribution. We will honour our commitment to provide assistance and support to other developing countries in an effort to make vaccines a useful and affordable public good for all people." It shows that China has adhered to the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. By doing so, China is not only responsible for the lives and health of its own people; it is also undertaking a responsibility for global public health, to pursue international cooperation.

First, China provides vaccine aid to developing countries that are less developed. China has provided vaccine aid to 69 developing countries that are in urgent need. At the same time, the country is donating vaccines to United Nations peacekeepers and has already committed to providing 10 million doses for COVAX, make them a global public good as it promised. Given that the developing countries, particularly African countries, have weaker public health systems. China has taken efforts to improve their accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

Second, China encourages and supports enterprises to export vaccines to countries that are willing to buy vaccines from China. The Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines have been exported to 43 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil and Chile. China supports relevant enterprises in exporting vaccines to countries which are either in urgent need or have authorised the use of Chinese vaccines. Many countries have already approved Chinese vaccines for local use.

Third, China could support domestic vaccine manufacturers in carrying out joint research and development, as well as the commissioned and joint production of vaccines with overseas partners. In order to further promote China's vaccine becoming a global public good, the medium-term consideration is to establish an overseas production centre, increase the supply by boosting domestic production, and strengthen production chains to help other countries manufacture vaccines. China could provide raw materials, technology and other assistance to boost local production capacity, making the Chinese vaccine a fully public good.

Fourth, China could cooperate with developed Western countries. On one hand, it might be possible to promote Chinese vaccines into the US market. China and the United States are highly complementary in this regard. The accessibility and affordability of Chinese vaccines makes them suitable for poor people in the US who cannot afford expensive vaccines. In addition, the Biden administration has put a strong emphasis on vaccine equity and improving vulnerable groups' access to the vaccine. He may be able to cooperate in this area. On the other hand, China and the West could strengthen cooperation in vaccine research and development, vaccine testing and treatment through third-party cooperation, especially in Africa. In the context of regular epidemic prevention and control, most of the developing countries are dualistic, with relatively weak economic growth but Western medical and legal systems. If Chinese vaccines are to enter developing countries, their producers can and must cooperate with developed Western countries.

Fifth, China could enhance regional and international cooperation to meet transnational challenges facing COVID-19 vaccines. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is a cooperation mechanism for emerging markets and developing countries with global influence in the fight against the pandemic. This has largely shattered the myth of a stable Western hegemony. Its member countries are truly equal. Cooperation in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic is a reflection of the spirit of BRICS cooperation. The BRICS New Development Bank has shown the way forward in allocating financial resources to combat the epidemic. Among them, China and Russia are helping each other, which reflects the special nature of their relations in the new era.

Fu Ying, a former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, made her speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club in 2016, "In the history of international relations, trust has been a rare commodity. Although mankind has progressed a lot, lack of trust remains an impediment to genuine partnership in today's world." All in all, it is a race to immunise people and save lives. If vaccines are not used as public goods, the epidemic will remain uncontrolled, globalisation will not be able to return to normal, and the global supply chain will be in chaos. Whether a vaccine is Chinese or not, it is good as long as it is safe and effective. Chinese vaccines or "people's vaccines", like the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, are non-competitive and non-exclusive, contributing to the building of a community with a shared future for all.

BRICS Is Bringing the Power of Choice to Africa (БРИКС предоставляет Африке возможность выбора) / India, April, 2021
Keywords: political_issues

International relations experts and diplomats have gathered online at the 4th Vision for Future Forum to discuss the cooperation opportunities of BRICS and Africa, celebrating the 15th anniversary of BRICS.

One of the important initiatives was proposed by Minister of State Jal Shakti Shri Ratanlal Kataria (India), who elaborated on solutions for the drinking water supply problem relevant for many citizens of both - BRICS and African - countries.

Referring to the current global relationships, Dr. Ghnaka Lagoke, lecturer from Linkoln University (PA) mentions that the system was shaped by the USA after WWII, when institutions were created in the name of peace and stability (UN, WTO, etc.). These institutions have set the framework for trade, economy, and politics, making African countries sell their resources at extremely low prices and bringing the money back in controlled aid through IMF and various foundations, thus making the continent lose around 100 billion US dollars annually.

Yet, the world has been changing rapidly lately, shifting to a more polycentric model. This implies stepping away from neocolonial patterns ensuring the dominance of the EU, UK and USA in Africa. The Commonwealth, as another colonial institution, created to promote the interests of the UK in the ex-colonies and further, is losing some of its primacy now that countries are becoming more and more sovereign and independent.

"BRICS countries won't impose paternalistic models on Africa," says Professor Akuhmbom Macanthony from Landmark University Cameroon, while Dr. Lagoke emphasizes that BRICS brings better negotiation positions to Africa, giving it the power of choice, which they didn't have during the "postcolonial" period.

"Another beautiful thing about BRICS is that Russia and China have been 'on the right side of history,' supporting the struggles for independence from imperialism and against apartheid in Africa," he says.

Professor Macanthony specifies that at the moment Russia and China play an important role in ensuring security on the continent, creating a balance of power in the most troubled areas, like CAR.

Aside from traditional cooperation areas, such as security, weapons, and mineral resources, Russia is now taking its technologies to the continent: digital, agricultural, medical and educational solutions. African leaders have expressed enthusiasm about it at the Russia-Africa summit that took place in 2019, says Dr Eric Edi from Thomas Jefferson University (USA).

"In terms of relations with Russia, China and India, and comparing to the EU, it has been more about technology transfer than resources extraction," says Dr Eric Edi.

Possible cooperation areas, as experts say, are yet to be explored, but it's already clear that multilayer joint activities would be beneficial not only for their own sake, but also as a factor giving additional negotiation power in Africa-EU relations.

BRICS Business Council Launches 'BRICS Solutions for SDGs Awards 2021' (Деловой совет БРИКС объявляет конкурс «Решения БРИКС для достижения ЦУР 2021») / India, April, 2021
Keywords: business_council, rating

BRICS Business Council India Chapter launched the BRICS Solutions for SDGs Awards 2021. India holds the chairship of BRICS in 2021 and these awards are a new initiative to foster greater exchange and collaboration amongst the BRICS countries.

One of the focus areas for BRICS cooperation during India's chairship includes 'Technological and Digital Solutions for Sustainable Development Goals'. The BRICS Solutions for SDGs Awards 2021 are in alignment with the broader agenda of BRICS and is supported by all the five national chapters of the BRICS Business Council.

The BRICS Solutions for SDGs Awards 2021 are aimed at recognising the work being done across BRICS countries in achieving these SDGs, especially through innovative solutions. In meeting the world's development challenges, businesses in all five BRICS countries have produced innovative solutions. They are also undertaking an active part in ensuring access to affordable, quality products and services around health, education, water and sanitation, energy, and finance, to low-income and under-served communities.

The BRICS Solutions for SDGs Awards 2021 will help in exchange of knowledge, best practices, and innovative solutions in SDGs. It will also foster greater collaboration amongst BRICS economies towards meeting the sustainable development agenda.

The Awards will be given to innovative and impactful solutions across seven SDG categories outlined by the United Nations. These include Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Good Health and Well Being (SDG 3), Quality Education (SDG 4), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7), and Innovation in Industry and Infrastructure Development (SDG 9).

The awards are open to citizens and organizations of the BRICS countries, who have been doing impactful work or have implemented innovative projects or solutions in any of the aforementioned SDGs. All applications will be judged through a transparent evaluation criterion by an expert international jury across award categories from all five BRICS countries. The winners across all seven categories will be felicitated at a special ceremony.

This is an excellent opportunity for businesses, not-for-profit organisations, social enterprises, etc., to seek international recognition of the valuable work that they have been undertaking in sustainable development. It also gives them an opportunity to scale up their work and expand their outreach in the BRICS countries.

FICCI, which serves as the Technical Secretariat to the BRICS Business Council India Chapter, will be the co-organizer of these awards.

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