Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 37.2021
2021.09.13 — 2021.09.19
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS Strategic Communication: the Present and the Future (Стратегические коммуникации БРИКС: настоящее и будущее) / Russia, September, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, research

The article examines the current state and development trends of BRICS strategic communication. Proceeding from the understanding of strategic communication as projection by a state or an interstate entity of long-term values, interests, and goals into the minds of audiences by synchronizing activities in all spheres of public life, the authors analyze the main content of BRICS strategic communication and assess its prospects amid the changing world order. The study, conducted from September 2020 to April 2021 on the basis of open sources, made it possible to define the conceptual basis of BRICS strategic communication; specify the factors underlying the formation of BRICS strategic communication engendered by the very nature of cooperation between its member-states; and identify the main problems and trends in the development of BRICS strategic communication. The authors conclude that one of the main messages BRICS is sending to the world through its strategic communication is economic alternativeness, which allows developing nations and countries under pressure from Western political, financial, and economic institutions to remain engaged in global economic processes.

Economic and political contradictions of the modern world and the worsening geopolitical confrontation force all states to find new ways out of the current crisis. At the same time, global problems and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals set for their resolution require joint international efforts, primarily by countries with substantial economic resources (natural resources and raw materials become the starting point and the basis upon which economies should develop human capital).

New international entities are being created in the 21st century in order to engage more state and non-state (private sector, civil society institutions, etc.) actors in solving global problems and to prevent the emergence of a monocentric world order. The BRICS grouping is one of them. To explain their goals and expand cooperation, such new actors need a clear and consistent strategic communication (SC) policy that would promise mutual benefit to all participants. "The BRICS countries develop relations among themselves on the basis of non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit. The group is unable to formulate a common view on all issues of mutual interest… However, in the face of growing international tensions and the threat of a new global economic crisis, even more destructive than the one in 2008, at the global level, BRICS demonstrates deeds, words, and images of peaceful cooperation between the five countries with different civilizational roots" (Pashentsev, 2015, 2016). This suggests that BRICS strategic communication will develop gradually but steadily.

The purpose of the article is to determine the main content and assess trends and prospects for BRICS SC development amid the changing world order.

The hypothesis of the study is that the current economic, political, and social situation in the world requires the BRICS member states to both close their ranks in the face of common threats and demonstrate their consolidation globally.

This forces the group to develop its own strategic communication policy despite the differences in the economic or foreign policies of its member countries.

BRICS strategic communication exists de facto but has not been institutionalized yet. At the same time, BRICS already has structures that, if properly developed, can become the basis for such institutionalization.

Research Objectives:

  1. Determine the conceptual basis of SC.
  2. Identify SC formative factors engendered by the very nature of cooperation among the BRICS member states.
  3. Define the main directions, problems, and trends of SC development in BRICS.
These tasks determined the structure of the article. The first paragraph provides an overview of SC studies, determines the theoretical foundations and conceptual framework of the research. Further, we identify the peculiarities of cooperation among the BRICS member states as the basis upon which the grouping is building its SC. Finally, we consider the current state, problems, and development trends of BRICS SC in a number of promising areas.


The study was conducted from September 2020 to April 2021 and used open sources. The various areas of BRICS' activities selected for analysis (economic cooperation, communication support for international security initiatives, political proposals, etc.) are considered parts of SC, the implementation of which depends on the very nature of the communicator (initiator of communication) and its organizational structure. This led us to raise the question "Who speaks?" formulated by Harold Lasswell (2007), and, when answering it, partly appeal to the theory of political networks (Stone, 2008) (in analyzing the ties of BRICS countries and institutions), as well as to the historical and genetic method. The bulk of primary sources consisted of official BRICS publications, opinion polls, statistics, and media materials. Secondary sources included mainly monographs, academic papers, and analytical reports on the topic of the research and related issues.


In the 21st century, a number of countries and intergovernmental organizations have adopted and used the SC concept in public governance and foreign policy. The term and concept of SC[1] originated in the United States, where it was elevated to the status of official policy during Barack Obama's presidency (White House, 2010). The SC concept has been adopted by NATO (Private Office of the NATO Secretary General, 2009) and greatly enhanced by the European Union (European Union, 2015; European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2017, 2016a, b, c).

In BRICS, the term 'strategic communication' is found in the political vocabulary of Chinese leaders (CPG, 2010; Mitra, 2018). The first Chinese monograph on SC entitled "Essentials of Strategic Communication" was published in 2011 (Bi and Wang, 2011). India's former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has stressed, "The Indian government needs a cadre of specialists in strategic communication, in policy articulation and projection who also cater to audiences well beyond the domestic audience, non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin" (Rao, 2016). The "government's strategic communication" is mentioned on the official website of the South African government (GCIS, 2021). In Brazil, the term 'strategic communication' can also be found in government documents (Arantes et al., 2011; Rodrigues, 2013). SC is a de facto element of Russia's public administration policy as well. Although the term itself is not found in Russian official documents, it is often used in business, politics, and academic literature (Bogdanov, 2017; Pashentsev, 2014; Vinogradova, 2015; Voronov and Glukhikh, 2007; etc.). It is difficult to imagine a successful state in the modern world that would not try one way or another to synchronize its multifaceted activities with professional communication support.

The first Russian academic research to contain a comprehensive analysis of SC as a management discipline was done by Evgeny Pashentsev. Based on his approach (Pashentsev, 2020), the authors define SC as follows: SC is the projection by a state or an interstate entity of certain long-term values, interests, and goals into the minds of domestic and foreign audiences through adequate synchronization of multifaceted activities in all spheres of public life (real results of long-term policy—deeds that all by themselves have a communication impact by improving or harming the reputation of a SC subject) with professional communication support (using "words" and "images"). Without strategic "deeds" there is nothing but a set of long-term communication goals related to key issues.

Unless backed up by real actions, such communication turns into vague propaganda, albeit strategic.

In addition, SC should not only be effectively synchronized (relevant words and images provided an effective cover even for international aggression and genocide of nations in Nazi Germany), but it also should have an ethical and social dimension so that public trust in and support for strategic communication and the state itself would be long-term and sustainable.

In the field of foreign policy, SC combines the synchronization of influence not only through friendly "deeds, words, and images" projected onto allied states and non-state actors, but also through a wide range of communications as part of psychological warfare (messages addressed to rivals and opponents). This is why when assessing SC in BRICS and the level of its development, it is important to study both positive assessments of the group's "deeds," published by the allies, and the reaction of geopolitical rivals. Both types of reaction are caused, above all, not by propaganda (words), but by real achievements of the SC actor.

In the modern world, where states that are economic, technological, and military leaders compete for political influence in the international system, up to the right to determine the nature of the world order, there is no ideological and political vacuum. If a state has no SC of its own, its place will always be taken by SC of other states or/and non-state transnational groups. National SC can emerge or reemerge for a long term thanks to the rise of progressive (acting in the interests of society) forces coming to power. Otherwise, a state can be split forever, like the Soviet Union, or seized by reactionary forces pursuing their own interests and SCs.

Based on the above, SC is understood, firstly, not as communication per se, but communication carried out primarily through state actions. Secondly, it is incorrect to consider SC mainly as a military instrument. It is a strategic tool of public governance (with a military dimension, of course). Thirdly, in order to correct the wrong SC, it is necessary to start by correcting public policy (especially if it is carried out in the interests of reactionary social groups). Fourthly, progressive forces cannot underestimate the role of effective SC as a tool of progressive change. If the state's actions get no response in the hearts and minds of millions of people, if they fail to engage them in conscious activity and do not enjoy successful communication support, they usually get stalled and stymied, actively and not unsuccessfully, by internal and external opponents of progressive national transformations.

SC is a function of the highest legislative and executive authorities. However, its effectiveness depends not only on the adoption and approval of relevant bills and decrees, but primarily on the effectiveness of the state and the moral health of the entire society. Perhaps a certain share of the state's success always depends on the effectiveness of proto-SC—SC of past times that was carried out without an appropriate theoretical base or a modern set of tools. In any case, it must be remembered that even in the most progressive society, SC means the synchronization of government deeds, words, and images with the expected perception and actions by the target audience.


Since BRICS' inception, researchers have made different assessments of its legal status, integration and depth (Yifan, 2019; Fadeeva, 2020; Gaidamak, 2017; Takhumova, 2021; Anufrieva, 2020; etc.). Different studies define BRICS as a regional organization (Yifan, 2019), an integration association (Gaidamak, 2017) or an integration grouping (Takhumova, 2021). There are also opinions that BRICS cannot be qualified as any type of organization. For example, Anufrieva (2019, p. 125) believes that the use of "various formulas" in relation to BRICS such as "grouping," "alliance," "partnership," "para-organization," etc. is seen primarily as evidence of its lacking… formal legal, organizational, and institutional characteristics in comparison with "traditional"… international organizations. Therefore, BRICS has not yet acquired the status of an international organization.

Nor does BRICS set integration objectives modeled on regional groupings (adjusted for the transregional nature of the group) such as the European Union. BRICS characterizes itself as "an informal group of states" (BRICS Information Portal, 2021a). And yet there are some features of integration processes within the group. So, unlike international organizations whose efforts are concentrated, as a rule, in one area (Butorina, 2021), BRICS member states, at the initiative of their governments, develop economic, political, scientific, and cultural cooperation among themselves. This gives researchers grounds to talk about the possibility of transforming BRICS into an integration association in the future (Arapova, 2016) (albeit initially on the basis of bilateral agreements and treaties).

Its current fuzzy legal status, of course, cannot but affect the nature of BRICS strategic communication and the pace of its development in terms of "words" and "images," which would certainly help in perceiving the group as a weighty actor in international policy.

However, this does not rule out the possibility of developing its SC through "deeds," where the group with its enormous resources, both natural and human (in the field of science, culture, etc.) has a real chance to strengthen the polycentric world order by attracting new supporters.

In this regard, an important factor in the development of BRICS SC is the creation and development of international structures, such as the New Development Bank (NDB) intended to "mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries" (New Development Bank, 2014), including through cooperation with other international financial institutions. The role of the NDB is increasing during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the development of the New International Payment System (NIPS), highlighted in 2018 by the BRICS Business Council, is among the top priorities (BRICS Pay, 2021), which also brings the group closer to the category of integration associations.

BRICS is developing cooperation in the field of science, technology and innovation. The grouping started creating a legal and political framework for this purpose in 2014 on the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation and the Declaration of the BRICS Presidential Summit on Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Work is currently underway to develop the Enabling Framework for the Innovation BRICS Network (Belli, 2020, p. 20, BRICS – Brazil, 2019). In the field of information and communications technology, the BRICS Digital Partnership has been promoted since 2016, and in 2019 a new structure was created—BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Architecture—in accordance with the BRICS STI Framework Program (BRICS STI FP, endorsed in 2016). In 2016-2020, BRICS countries supported 93 scientific projects under this program (BRICS STI Framework Program, 2021). The BRICS STI FP Call Secretariat is currently hosted by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, which undoubtedly creates the conditions for improving the effectiveness of Russia's SC as part of BRICS SC.

The very nature of the BRICS meetings, which constantly address an increasingly growing range of issues, lends development potential to the group by analogy with integration associations. In fact, in 2016 alone, BRICS countries held a Health Ministries meeting (May and December), a Women Parliamentarians Forum (August), a meeting of BRICS Ministries for Disaster Management (August), the 2nd meeting of BRICS Environment Ministers (September), a meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs, BRICS Agriculture Ministers' meeting, a meeting of BRICS Ministers of Labor and Employment, a meeting of BRICS Ministers of Education (September), a meeting of BRICS Trade Ministries (October), as well as the BRICS Leaders Informal Meeting as part of the G20 Summit (September) (BRICS Information Portal, 2021b. See more on BRICS' role in armed conflicts: Brosig, 2019). If necessary, such a mechanism can be transformed into a permanent institution like the Council of the European Union, which meets in different formats, depending on the agenda. The BRICS Leaders Informal Meeting, along with major summits, can be institutionalized as a body similar to the European Council. These processes may be intensified in the future amid new global and regional security challenges and threats, more dangerous than the coronavirus pandemic. In this case, more coherent strategic communication can be expected in terms of deeds, words, and images.

The need for a more consolidated response to both traditional and new threats is gradually becoming a catalyst for BRICS' strategic planning. The group has repeatedly voiced a consolidated political position on the issue of armed conflicts. For example, in their Ufa Declaration 2015, BRICS countries expressed "support for the steps of the Russian Federation targeted at promoting a political settlement in Syria" (BRICS, 2015). However, despite the common threat of terrorism, it was not until 2020 that delegations of the BRICS member states for the first time approved the draft BRICS anti-terrorism strategy along with the strategy of economic partnership up to 2025 (Russian BRICS Chairmanship, 2020a).

The Output Document of the 4th Meeting of the BRICS Heads of Prosecution Services, adopted in December 2020, indicates certain synchronization in understanding the positive and negative aspects of the use of advanced technologies in BRICS. While recognizing the relevance of the fight against traditional forms of crime, including terrorist activities, the BRICS Attorneys General also prioritized the combating of crimes committed using information and communications technologies (Russian BRICS Chairmanship, 2020b). Unfortunately, the scope of the article does not allow for a comprehensive analysis of BRICS' activities. In addition, the SC of the group, which has not yet reached the level of institutionalization of an integration association or international organization, depends, one way or another, on the SCs of its member states whose interest in group initiatives may differ. However, already now we can note a number of factors and signs indicating the emergence of BRICS SC, both economic and political.


The economic potential of the group and the pace of its development were the main reasons for its transformation into a global actor. This transformation has been described by a Goldman Sachs analyst (O'Neill, 2001). In fact, economic and financial factors are among the main aspects of BRICS SC. This is due not only to the objective reality of the present world order, but also to how the group is seen by the international community. Since BRICS' conception, one of its member states, China, has become the world's largest economy in many respects (for example, in August of 2021, China's GDP based on purchasing power parity ranked first to none in the world with 18.78% (International Monetary Fund, 2021). In 2019, the total share of BRICS countries in global GDP by purchasing power parity amounted to about 33.3% (24.2% in 2020 prices). In addition, BRICS is home to 3.2 billion people, or 42% of the world population, and accounts for 26% of the world's land territory (Grigoriev et al., 2020, p. 3).

Since BRICS' most important task is "to advance the reform of international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the global economy" (BRICS Information Portal, 2009), the New Development Bank, in our opinion, can be considered one of the most important tools of the group's SC. Great political significance is attached to the Bank as an alternative to the World Bank. An equal distribution of contributions to its capital among member states has a communication effect as well: in the World Bank, the shares and the proportional number of votes are distributed unevenly (the United States has the largest share) (Kirton, 2015, p. 21). So, equal participation of the BRICS countries is completely synchronized with the declared task of changing the world financial and economic system to make it fairer and less Western-oriented. Hence, at the level of "words" BRICS SC has introduced a new term—'BRICSonomics'—interpreted as "modern metasubject science that studies the transformational economies that determine the economic development of the modern world" (BRICS University, 2021).

Economic alternativeness is one of the main messages BRICS is sending to the world as part of its SC.

NDB-supported projects (in 2020, these were primarily measures to restore the economies of the member states after the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic) reveal the socially oriented nature of BRICS SC. In particular, on December 11, 2020, the Bank approved funding for the Indian government's project to overcome the social consequences of the coronavirus pandemic (New Development Bank, 2020).

It can already be stated that the NDB's activities improve BRICS' reputation, which, in turn, can increase its material assets. In 2020, the NDB was rated AA+ by both Standard & Poor and Fitch, and received an AAA rating by the Japan Credit Rating Agency and the Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA) (New Development Bank, 2021a). The average credit rating of BRICS countries is BBB-. So the NDB was awarded an international credit rating that significantly exceeds the level of confidence in its shareholders, "which enables it to lend to its member countries at very competitive rates" (Maasdorp, 2020). Finally, the Bank is expanding the circle of its shareholders outside the BRICS area. This gives it an opportunity to become a global financial institution in the future.

It should be noted that the potential of the NDB as BRICS' SC tool is far from exhausted for Russia. For example, even at the level of "words," we can see that the list of memorandums of understanding concluded by the NDB mentions only one Russian company (Russian Railways) (New Development Bank, 2021b). There were no memorandums with Russian banking or other financial institutions in this list as of May 16, 2021. This gap not only in "words" but also in "deeds" can negatively affect the perception of both BRICS as a cohesive group, and also of Russia in BRICS. At the same time, pure memorandums not supported by real "actions" will turn SC into a series of PR activities.

Science, innovation, and security are a set of interrelated factors needed for SC development. The group's readiness to jointly combat the coronavirus pandemic has not only a practical sense, but also a pronounced communication dimension. In 2020, BRICS reserved $10 billion for combating the pandemic and its consequences, as was announced at the 12th summit. The Russian Foreign Ministry explained that the funds would be distributed through the NDB. BRICS leaders "demonstrated complete unanimity in the global confrontation against COVID-19" (Schepin, 2020), specifically, their readiness to jointly develop and produce vaccines.

In addition to the common BRICS projects, bilateral cooperation remains important for the group. For example, during the pandemic, medical supplies weighing more than 90 tons were delivered from India to Russia by air. "Thousands of Russian citizens in India and Indian citizens in Russia returned home by special flights" (Portyakova, 2020). Unfortunately, while China is one of the main trading partners of the other BRICS countries, "trade turnover between the other four countries is small" (Grigoriev et al., 2020) (on a global scale so far). This not only creates the impression that this is an incomplete association, but also from time to time provokes statements in the media that portray bilateral or trilateral relationships between BRICS countries literally as a "counterweight" to other members of the group.

For example, Foreign Policy says: "Neither India—nor Russia, for that matter—wants to be a junior partner to China or the United States. And one way that they can try to avoid that outcome is to remind China and the United States, and the rest of the world, that they can turn back to and bolster each other" (Tamkin, 2020). Such statements, of course, are due to the continuing fast-paced psychological warfare designed to upset relationships between BRICS countries cooperating outside the framework of sanctions imposed by the West. As this warfare intensifies, it would be useful for the group to take steps to further institutionalize its SC. Moreover, in order to draw objective economic and political benefits from deepening cooperation, BRICS itself should be further institutionalized at some point (Kheifets, 2015).

Due to China's unprecedented growth and external pressure (including sanctions) from the United States and the EU on both China and Russia, the Russian-Chinese partnership is an object of close attention on the world stage. Amid a trade war unleashed by several Western countries against the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, its founder Ren Zhengfei announced in September 2020 that the company was moving its investments and operations to Russia. As far back as 2012, the two countries founded the Russia-China Investment Fund with an initial budget of $1 billion in order to invest in high-tech projects (RCIF, 2021). The governments of the two countries designated 2020 as the Year of Russian-Chinese scientific, technical and innovative cooperation (Simes, 2020). As part of this project, the two countries joined forces in studying vaccines against COVID-19 (in particular, the testing of the Russian vaccine in China and the Chinese vaccine in Russia).

This work not only improves the reputation of the two countries, but also evokes a negative reaction from the supporters of the U.S. policy. For example, America Online has described Russian-Chinese projects as "a byproduct of other collaborations that have raised eyebrows in Washington, including on President Trump's intelligence advisory board." It also cited Kevin Hulbert, a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, as saying: "To see two of your biggest adversaries all of a sudden cooperating, linking arms and working together, that's very concerning to us" (Ingber, 2021). Then the publication sharply changes its tack, moving from health issues to the second Russian-Chinese joint air patrol over the Pacific and joint military exercises. "That's something we've historically never seen happen before," says Hulbert. "The signal is be careful, we could create a real nightmare scenario for you" (Ingber, 2021).

Economic cooperation, the exchange of innovations, and the joint efforts to overcome global threats are inevitably moving into the security domain. This is where BRICS has enormous development potential. Public opinion also appears to be quite agreeable on this point. In 2018, Russia's proposal to create BRICS' own Internet independent from the outside world was supported by 58% of Russians (29% opposed) (VTsIOM, 2018). In 2017, a platform called CyberBRICS was launched for the exchange of ideas and results of digital research. The platform has been used to promote projects in the field of political regulation of cyberspace and information security. In 2020 CyberBRICS started an international conference project designed "to map existing regulations; to identify best practices; and develop policy suggestions in the areas of cybersecurity governance, Internet access and digitalization of public services in the BRICS countries" (CyberBRICS, 2020).

However, the opponents of BRICS cooperation in the field of information security portray it in an expressly negative way. "Since 2015, China and Russia have drifted closer together when it comes to Internet cooperation … What this will end up looking like in the long run is accelerating us towards a system of two Internets: A free Internet anchored by U.S. social media platforms and prevalent in the West, and then a closed Internet, different closed Internet systems in China, in Russia, in Iran and elsewhere," says Emerson Brooking, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (Ingber, 2021). This rhetoric is quite consistent with the general spirit of the reports issued by numerous think tanks and media that constantly demonize countries that oppose the U.S. policy.

Naturally, BRICS cooperation and related SC have not escaped the effects of the global crisis. In May 2018, India and China launched their first joint projects in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. It includes an IT corridor in Dalian and an information technology cooperation platform in Guiyang. In order to establish contacts between Indian and Chinese companies, in 2019 the two countries launched a joint IT initiative for finding and selecting partners (matchmaking), called Sino Indian Digital Collaborative Opportunities Plaza (SIDCOP)—a bilingual AI-based platform (Krishnan, 2018). Prior to this, Indian IT companies had been present in China for more than a decade, but they had mostly serviced Western transnational corporations operating in the Chinese market. The pandemic crisis slowed down the projects (for example, as of May 16, 2021, the latest news on the SIDCOP website was dated March 2019), but they may as well serve as a basis for such initiatives for the whole of BRICS.

BRICS strategic communication at the level of "words" and "images" is provided by both the group's institutions and the national media.

TV BRICS is an international media network with a "potential audience of 3.5 billion people" and its mission is "to form a united information space of BRICS countries … while also showing the BRICS countries to the world by immersing the audience in their traditions, history, culture, sports, economics and modern traditions" (TV BRICS, 2021). The network was founded in 2017 at the initiative of the BRICS presidents and currently broadcasts in four languages (Russian, English, Chinese, and Portuguese). Since launching the project in 2017, the TV BRICS team has signed agreements with major information agencies of BRICS countries, including China Media Group (China Radio International, Xinhua, Renmin Ribao, etc.), the South African News Agency, and the Brazilian public television network TV Cultura. "In July 2018 a strategic agreement was signed on exchanging information materials between TV BRICS and the United Nations Department of Public Information" (TV BRICS, 2021).

BRICS' positions are also conveyed globally by the national media and news agencies, primarily TV BRICS' partners. For example, the Chinese news agency Xinhua (Internet versions available in 10 languages) and the Russian news agency Sputnik (29 languages) have global coverage. TV Cultura is the largest public television network in Brazil and Latin America. This situation forces geopolitical opponents to make discrediting statements about the information resources of the BRICS countries (primarily Russia and China). In particular, the European Union's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in March 2021 that the EU "had been under permanent pressure in the past year from countries distorting information and spreading disinformation to advance political interests." However, "while the EU has ramped up its work to debunk disinformation campaigns from Moscow, it has very little resources to study disinformation from China" (Cerulus, 2021). The statement that the European External Action Service (EEAS) lacks the "required" resources "to counter Chinese campaigns to influence European politics," can be regarded, of course, as an attempt to get additional funding from EU institutions. Nevertheless, if the BRICS countries had aired only propaganda unsupported by real actions, it would hardly have received so much attention from EU top officials.

A vivid example of accusations thrown at BRICS countries blamed for economic and even cultural expansion is the coverage of Chinese railway construction projects in Africa. In fact, Biodun Odunmbaku-Wilson, Ph.D. Professor of Transportation Engineering (U.S.), commenting on China's construction projects in Nigeria, said, "China is a Communist Nation by design to which every one of her citizens owes an allegiance, which by implication makes every Chinese citizen in any region of the world a spy for the Beijing Government" (Odunmbaku-Wilson, 2020).

In 2021, when describing the Lagos-Ibadan railway in Nigeria, which "is funded by a $1.3 billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of China and about $182 million from the Nigerian government," Quartz Africa hinted at China's language expansion: "On board the trains the informational video screens feature Chinese nationals; several on-board essential tools such as fire extinguishers, water dispensers, and pressure gauge are in Mandarin…" It then quoted one of the passengers as saying, "They are intentionally letting everyone know China owns it. It is too bold to be coincidental and it seems like there is nothing the Nigerian government can do about it" (Adepoju, 2021). The Lagos-Ibadan railway is one of the most important sections of infrastructure for the Nigerian economy, and China's participation in such projects is often assessed negatively by Western media.

Certain obstacles to the development of BRICS strategic communication—disputes and differences in the member states' foreign policy orientations—are reflected in expert assessments published in the media. For example, following the 12th BRICS summit in 2020, Leonardo Ramos of the Department of International Relations, the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) Minas in Brazil, noted, "Particularly, these are the relations between India and China, whose current tensions could impact on BRICS. In this process, Russia can be a key mediator, for the good sake of countries' cooperation; second, Brazil-China. The Brazilian president has repeated an anti-China position, closing relations with Trump since the beginning of his government. With Biden's victory in U.S. elections, Brazil will have to change something in its foreign policy strategies, and maybe it will do good to its relations with BRICS countries" (Penza News, 2020). The fact that the 12th summit was held amid an ongoing Sino-Indian border dispute was noted by Varaprasad Dolla, Professor in Chinese Studies, Center for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. In his expert assessment he addressed a critical issue—the impact of bilateral relations among member states on the future of the entire group. "The member countries must not be oblivious to the bilateral dimension while promoting multilateral forums… Any further bilateral escalation can sound death knell to BRICS' initiative. There can never be a bifurcation and separation of the multilateral from bilateral framework" (Penza News, 2020).

The aftereffects of the Sino-Indian border conflict that started in May 2020 over the disputed Aksai Chin region are still keenly felt. The territory is administered by China, but disputed by India, which includes this region in the union territory of Ladakh. On May 5, 2020, an armed clash occurred between the Indian and Chinese military in the Ladakh region, and on the night from August 29 to August 30, there was a new clash, after which the two countries accused each other of violating previous agreements (RIA, 2021). India and China are trying to settle the conflict diplomatically. In February 2021, they started pulling out more troops and equipment from the disputed region, but the conflict has affected the civilian sphere: soon afterwards, India banned 59 Chinese applications, including TikTok, and later another 47 (Pham, 2020). Negotiations on the supply of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to Brazil took a long time: the Brazilian regulator allowed its import and use only in early June 2021, having previously twice refused to approve the vaccine. The Sputnik V developers attributed this to political reasons and U.S. pressure (RBC, 2021). Because of such phenomena in the international arena BRICS SC is forming slower and so far is seen (at least by part of the expert community) as the sum of its member states' SCs. This is also borne out by forecasts for the future of BRICS, according to which integration in the group will proceed mainly on the basis of bilateral agreements (see, for example: Arapova, 2016).

The SC of the BRICS countries is under constant pressure from the United States, which seeks to surround Russia and China with a ring of hostile states, giving India a significant role in this process.

Against the background of externally good relations between the United States and India, external pressure on the latter is constantly growing as evidenced by a number of events in 2020-2021. For example, in December 2020, the United States for a second time added India on its currency manipulation watchlist (India was added to the list first in December 2018, and later removed in 2019) (Kondepudi, 2021). In early March 2021, the Indian government blasted the report of the American think tank Freedom House (sponsored by the U.S. government), which downgraded India from a "free" country to "partially free."[2] The Indian authorities said that the assessments made by the center were "misleading, incorrect and misplaced." In an eloquent report entitled "Democracy under Siege," Freedom House said that India seemed to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader under nationalist Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (Reuters, 2021). On April 9, 2020, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced that it had "conveyed its concerns regarding this passage through our EEZ to the government of the USA through diplomatic channels" (Unnithan, 2021). On April 23, 2021, India's central bank restricted the American Express and Diners Club payment systems from adding new customers starting May, citing violation of local data-storage rules. "The rules require payments firms to store all Indian transaction data within servers in the country" (Singh, 2021). In April 2021, the Indian government told Twitter to remove posts critical of its fight against coronavirus, which "misled" the audience or caused panic. "We cannot allow fake news that harms the country," BJP national spokesperson Gopal Agarwal told the BBC (BBC News, 2021). The United States belatedly responded to the pandemic situation in India, which apparently required assistance to the country (Rajghatta, 2021; Chaudhary and Czuczka, 2021). The imposition of sanctions against India under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in connection with the planned purchase by India of the Russian Triumph S-400 surface-to-air missile systems can damage relations between the U.S. and India, former U.S. ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster said (2021). All these actions can be seen as interference in India's internal affairs and attempts to force it to deviate from an independent course, which is unlikely to get a positive response in Indian society.

Despite the challenges, in general, new strategic planning documents, expert assessments, and the nature of BRICS-supported decisions show that the member states are rapidly drifting closer together in response to growing global challenges and threats. Given this, the authors of the article would like to be optimistic and assume that the crisis will reveal new points of convergence and areas for the development of the group's SC.

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Based on the analysis of the conceptual and institutional frameworks and the current state of SC in BRICS, it can be concluded that it needs to be developed further amid mounting international tensions. Existing studies of BRICS' structure, legal status and economic activity show that the group has not only a constantly improving base for the development of SC, but also the potential to become a transregional integration association. Based, in part, on the results obtained by experts in the fields of political science, law and economics, this study establishes the existence of de facto SC in BRICS. This article can be a starting point for studying the group's SC more thoroughly, and for developing practical recommendations for entities that carry it out.

To assess the synchronization of words, deeds, and images transmitted by BRICS, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its SC, J. Kirton's approach (2015) can be used. Kirton put forward a number of criteria for measuring the success of BRICS summits (domestic political management, deliberation, direction setting, decision-making, delivery). To assess the effectiveness of SC, these criteria can be supplemented with some more indicators such as the level of public trust in BRICS (both in the member states and other countries), real cooperation with BRICS institutions in the world and readiness for such cooperation, the number and intensity of public actions aimed at supporting BRICS' initiatives, and the activity of BRICS' supporters and opponents in the media and social networks.

A comparative analysis of strategic planning, its implementation and coverage in the member states offers great opportunities for exploring possibilities for building and developing BRICS SC. Comprehensive research studies addressing this issue can be used in practice when creating a BRICS SC center. At the same time, in doing so it would also be advisable to use the resources of the existing BRICS Think Tank Council (BTTC) or the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects.

It is believed that as the BRICS labor market develops and countries swap employees, including highly skilled personnel, diasporas will play an increasingly growing role as informal agents of the BRICS member states' SCs. In this regard, it would be very important to examine the possible role of diasporic diplomacy in molding the SC of the entire group. Another important issue to study is contradictions between BRICS countries in shaping up the group's SC.

The study suggests that BRICS' main message to the world community and the basis of its SC is economic alternativeness which allows developing nations and countries under pressure from Western political, financial, and economic institutions to remain engaged in global economic processes. Naturally, BRICS (even with China led by the Communist Party as its member) operates within the framework of the existing capitalist world order and does not offer an alternative socioeconomic model (and does not have such a goal). The political component of the group's SC is also extremely important: the message BRICS sends through its economic, technological, cultural, educational, and other initiatives clearly indicates support for a polycentric world. This message (against the background of economic rivalry between the United States and China) becomes an object for counter-narratives being developed by Western media and political circles, which require a skillful and timely response.

At the same time, it must be admitted that BRICS SC is in a formative stage and is often seen in the international arena as the sum of its member states' SCs. In this situation, the SC of the group directly depends on the SCs of its member countries that lead the way in the economy, innovations, and social sphere. At the same time, the following factors influence the development of SC in BRICS as an international association:

  1. Commonality of problems. It would be worth mentioning sanctions imposed by the collective West on Russia and China, external pressure on India in an attempt to push it towards confrontation with BRICS members, and, possibly, elements of pressure on Brazil (some signs of its can be found in: Elmaazi, 2021), which forced the country to ban the import of the Russian vaccine against COVID-19. Naturally, in the face of common problems, the geographical closeness of Russia, India, and China (which they do not share with Brazil and South Africa) contributes to their mutual rapprochement (although there are also contradictions that hinder it and complicate the development of common SC). However, global political processes and the challenges of economic cooperation will most likely encourage the BRICS countries to get closer together as a transregional association. This is also necessitated by current military dangers and threats, and such global problems as international terrorism, environmental crises, etc.
  2. Economic ties and political cooperation. China's growing economic influence in Africa and Latin America, demand for Russian vaccines and Indian medical products, and military-technical cooperation between the BRICS countries clearly indicate that short-term disagreements on certain issues cannot stop mutually beneficial partnerships in various sectors.
  3. BRICS' communication potential (media coverage, the number of broadcasting languages, etc.) makes it possible to effectively convey the member states' agenda to audiences around the world, which has been recognized by the group's opponents.
  4. Institutions, the process and initial results of strategic planning capable, if properly developed and if such a need arises, of starting to transform the group into a transregional integration association.
At the same time, BRICS is facing factors that hamper both the rapprochement of countries and the development of the entire group's SC. One of them is an objective factor of geographical distance between certain BRICS states, as a result of which their governments have to pay more attention to external pressure from BRICS' opponents. The disconnecting impact of the pandemic complicates both diplomatic and scientific cooperation among the BRICS states. Psychological campaigns aimed at disrupting the group's cooperation and discrediting some of its members in the eyes of the others remain a major challenge for SC. It would therefore be advisable for BRICS to take coordinated measures to ensure psychological security.

Will the BRICS Ever Grow Up? (Сможет ли БРИКС вырасти когда-нибудь?) / China, September, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion

In the two decades since Brazil, Russia, India, and China were recognized for their unique growth potential, they, along with South Africa, have so far proven incapable of uniting as a meaningful global force. This comes at the expense not only of the bloc, but of better global governance as well.

LONDON – Having created the BRIC acronym to capture the collective potential of Brazil, Russia, India, and China to influence the world economy, I now must ask a rather awkward question: When is that influence going to show up? Given today's global challenges and the enormous issues facing the BRICS (which subsequently became a real-world entity and was expanded in 2010 to include South Africa), the bloc's ongoing failure to develop substantive policies through its annual summitry has become increasingly glaring.
This November will be the 20th anniversary of the BRIC acronym, which I first used in a 2001 Goldman Sachs paper entitled "Building Better Global Economic BRICs." At the time, I offered four scenarios for how each country could develop over the next decade, and made the case for why global governance needed to become more representative and include these four rising powers.

That paper was followed by a series of others, starting in 2003, which showed how China's economy could become as large as the US economy (in nominal dollar terms) by 2040; how India could surpass Japan to become the third-largest economy soon thereafter; and how the BRIC economies together could grow larger than the G6 (the G7 minus Canada).

But the bloc's economic trajectory since 2001 has been a mixed bag. While the first decade was a roaring success for all four countries, with each surpassing all four scenarios that I originally outlined, the second decade was less kind to Brazil and Russia, whose respective shares of global GDP have now fallen back to where they were 20 years ago.

If it weren't for China – and India, to some degree – there wouldn't be much of a BRIC story to tell. Yet, notwithstanding the difficulties the BRICs have faced, China's growth alone is on track to lift the technical aggregate of all four economies to match the size of the G6.

In terms of global governance, the only notable shift over the past two decades has been the rise of the G20 since it took center stage in the response to the 2008 global financial crisis. Representing the world's 20 largest economies, the organization seemed immensely powerful at the time, and it managed to implement policies of potentially lasting importance. But since then, it has generally been a disappointment, saying much but achieving very little.

For their part, the BRICs held their first annual meeting as a political club in 2009, in Russia (the first to include South Africa took place in China in 2011). And this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted the BRICS leaders (virtually) for their 13th summit. Every leader made bold statements about what they had supposedly achieved together, and all discussed avenues for future cooperation. Yet they have accomplished very little; lofty statements are usually accompanied by only scant policy moves.

Nothing in the bloc's latest joint declaration suggests that anything has changed. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the attention this year has been on security and terrorism. After all, recent developments in Afghanistan will have serious, direct implications for Russia, India, and China. But this singular focus is disappointing nonetheless, because it highlights the group's limited joint ambitions.

Modi would seem to agree, saying, "We need to ensure that the BRICS are more productive in the next 15 years." Beyond creating the BRICS Bank, now known as the New Development Bank, it is difficult to see what the group has done other than meet annually.

Following the bloc's rather dismal second decade, there are many things that BRICS leaders could do collectively to help revive the kind of economic gains made in the first decade, all of which would be good for the rest of the world, too. In doing so, they could create a much stronger impression of their usefulness alongside the G20, strengthening the case for more substantive reforms to global governance.

For starters, the BRICS need to strengthen trade between themselves. China and India could both gain enormously from a more open and ambitious trading relationship, which would redound to the benefit of the rest of the region, the other BRICS, and the world. In fact, more India-China trade alone would visibly boost global trade.

Moreover, while the BRICS have little in common other than large populations, they also share a significant exposure to infectious diseases. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance that I led in 2014-16 showed that all of the BRICS were worryingly vulnerable to drug-resistant tuberculosis. And as COVID-19 has shown, most have health systems that are poorly equipped to deal with pandemics. Unless they treat global infectious diseases more seriously, they will never be able to reach their economic potential.

Since the fall of 2020, I have had the privilege of serving on the World Health Organization's independent Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, which is chaired by former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. One crucial proposal from our initial Call to Action this past spring, now outlined in detail in our final report, is to establish a Global Health and Finance Board under the auspices of the G20. The reasoning is simple: unless we place global health challenges at the heart of regular economic and financial dialogue, we will remain ill prepared for them. And as the pandemic has shown, global health challenges are also economic and political challenges.

This proposal already has the support of several key governments, notably those of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, and the European Union. Yet for reasons I fail to understand, the BRICS, especially China, seem to be opposed to it. Such resistance makes no sense and will have dire consequences for the rest of the world. It gives me and other longtime champions even more reason to doubt the group's collective potential.

CGTN: China leads global vaccine cooperation as BRICS enters the 15th year (CGTN: Китай возглавляет глобальное сотрудничество в области вакцин в год, когда БРИКС исполняется 15 лет) / China, September, 2021
Keywords: social_issues, global_governance, covid-19

BEIJING, Sept. 13. /PRNewswire/ Entering its 15th year, the emerging-market bloc BRICS that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa once again demonstrated that the member states can always come together to build up new consensus for more dynamic cooperation.

Under the theme of "Intra-BRICS cooperation for continuity, consolidation and consensus," the 13th summit via video link on Thursday comes at a time when the world is facing a pandemic, an increasingly uneven global economic recovery, as well as a torrent of rising non-conventional global security challenges.

China, which has continued to inject impetus into BRICS cooperation and will take over the BRICS chairmanship in 2022, set a good example for international vaccine cooperation at Thursday's summit by announcing to donate 100 million more COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries.

BRICS to fight against the pandemic

In the face of the pandemic, BRICS countries have actively maintained information exchange and cooperation and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who attended and delivered a speech at the BRICS summit for the ninth consecutive year, restressed the significance of vaccine cooperation.

Noting that China has promised to provide 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world throughout this year and offer $100 million to COVAX, Xi called on the BRICS members to contribute to promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.

Since Xi announced making China's COVID-19 vaccines a public good at the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly last May, the country has delivered about 800 million vaccine doses to more than 100 nations as of August. They are mostly developing countries, according to data from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

He also highlighted the practical cooperation in joint vaccine research and development, joint production and mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as launching the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Center online as soon as possible.

In May, China announced the establishment of a national center as part of the center. Boosting the vaccine R&D among BRICS nations, the center reinforces cooperation on R&D and the trial of the vaccines, factory construction, and cooperation on vaccine production, authorization and recognition among the five countries.

BRICS to promote common development in economy

Economic and trade cooperation is one of the major topics for BRICS countries. According to China's Ministry of Commerce, BRICS countries account for 42 percent of the world's population, 24 percent of the global economy, 18 percent of global trade in goods, 13 percent of global trade in services and 25 percent of global foreign investment.

In this regard, China proposed to host a high-level BRICS meeting on climate change and a BRICS forum on big data for sustainable development.

Xi also stressed the significance of the New Development Bank and the BRICS Partnership on the New Industrial Revolution innovation center.

The center was launched in Xiamen in December last year. At the center's inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, 28 projects with a total investment of over 13.4 billion yuan (about 2.07 billion U.S. dollars) were inked by BRICS enterprises.

BRICS to uphold true multilateralism, justice and fairness

Regional peace and stability, biosecurity and counter-terrorism and cyber security have also been the keywords in BRICS cooperation during recent years.

"We need to make good use of BRICS mechanisms such as the meeting of foreign ministers and the meeting of high representatives for security, better coordinate our position on major international and regional issues, and send out an even bigger, collective voice of BRICS countries," Xi said at the summit.

At the BRICS Meeting of National Security Advisors held last month, the member countries reached the counter-terrorism action plan, and in July, they agreed to contribute more to the international fight against terrorism at the 6th virtual meeting of the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group.

A declaration was adopted at the meeting, reiterating the BRICS commitment to enhancing cooperation under political and security, economic and financial, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

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Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS @15: From an economic to a strategic plurilateral forum (БРИКС @ 15: от экономического форума к многостороннему стратегическому форуму) / India, September, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, cooperation

Critique of BRICS is logical and natural but can be unfair without careful examination of its evolution and contribution

The BRICS Leaders' Summit, hosted by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 9 September, 2021, marked the 15th year since the BRIC first met in St. Petersburg, Russia along the sidelines of the G8 Outreach Summit in July 2006 (South Africa became a full member in 2010). This year, India has hosted nearly 150 meetings under its presidency, over 20 of which were at the ministerial level, and 50 more are expected to be held by the end of the year. The outcomes are published in 40 reports and communiques accompanying the final New Delhi Declaration.

The summit invokes reflection amongst scholars and experts, on whether BRICS still matters as a plurilateral forum in world affairs.

Each year, the summit invokes reflection amongst scholars and experts, on whether BRICS still matters as a plurilateral forum in world affairs. Those questioning its relevance usually cite three reasons for the failure of the grouping. One, that it was an artificially, unnatural grouping to begin with due to the difference in national political and economic systems, and that the forum was a highly successful marketing initiative by Goldman Sachs which wanted to lure investors, not shape geopolitical or geoeconomics. Second, that China is a misfit, an outlier, because of its economic size and aggressive geopolitical ambitions. BRICS no longer reflects the multipolarity it was born with but instead is overshadowed by China's rise and their dream of a G2 world. For Indians, the intrusion by the Chinese troops into the northern border only underlined this reality. Third, that the forum has no outcome to show for itself for all the hundreds of meetings it has held over the years. In particular, the reform of the Bretton Woods system— the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, or even the World Trade Organisation (WTO)—which the BRICS promised to deliver are still pending. The tireless reminders from officials that it is the only plurilateral grouping in the world to have a bank of its own, has not been able to change that perception.

Critique of BRICS is logical and natural but can be unfair without careful examination of its evolution and contribution. For instance, the 'Joint statement on strengthening and reforming the multilateral system' published by the five foreign ministers on June 1, 2021 is a seminal communique documenting the views and 'guiding principles' on how the multilateral system should be reformed. The ministers unabashedly called the system to 'adapt to the realities of today's world', in effect challenging the mandate and focus of the multilateral institutions to focus on issues of today instead of being guided by the geopolitical and geoeconomics challenges that shaped the institutions after Second World War. This builds on Prime Minister Modi's remarks at the Raisina Dialogue earlier this year, when he suggested that the post-War institutions were designed only with the objective of 'preventing a Third World War', which may have reduced the chances of large-scale wars, but the institutions have fallen short in solving underlying problems faced by humanity such as climate change, pandemics, and proxy wars.

A BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group was launched and BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted last year under the Russian Presidency which includes, amongst other things, collaborating on intelligence, pursuing the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (a priority for India), mitigating terrorist financing and more.

By now, it should be clear that BRICS wants to reform, not reject, the existing multilateral institutions. The centrality of the UN was reaffirmed, again, by the ministers in the statement. They called for better representation and accountability for developing countries through all the organs of the UN system, including the United Nations Security Council (a priority and popular issue for India) but also the UN General Assembly and Economic and Social Council – all of which seem to be in stasis and unable to deliver on global issues. Developments in Afghanistan have best highlighted the impotency of the UN system. South Africa's President Ramaphosa specifically called for a seat for Africa at the UNSC during his address at the BRICS Summit this year.

Admittedly, BRICS would have benefitted from such a common view on multilateralism in the early days of its formation. Back then, the five nations could not agree to even nominate a joint candidate for the IMF in 2011. Pressurising the West for initiating IMF Quota reforms and launching the Financial Stability Board, which originally had only one seat for non-G7 country, was all it could get the West to accept.

But last week's expansion of the New Development Bank (NDB) membership to include UAE, Bangladesh, and Uruguay should be welcomed if not that NDB has nearly 80 projects worth US $30 billion underway on sustainable development projects. A consensus is also gradually building on the text-based negotiations taking place on the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) waiver proposal that India and South Africa are seeking with 60 other nations at the WTO to enable mass production of vaccines. This shows that BRICS is still trying to stitch an 'alternate global financial architecture' we had all once hoped.

What has gone unnoticed is the transformation of BRICS from an economic forum to a strategic plurilateral. At the Summit, Russian President Putin explicitly called on BRICS to focus on Afghanistan. The formal dialogue on international security began with the meeting of BRICS National Security Advisers (NSA) in 2016 (under India's presidency then), and has gradually developed into an important track. Over the years, a BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group was launched and BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted last year under the Russian Presidency which includes, amongst other things, collaborating on intelligence, pursuing the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (a priority for India), mitigating terrorist financing and more. The security agenda has become critical even for Brazil and South Africa. Brazil has introduced an anti-terrorism law in 2016 and an anti-terror financing law in 2019.

There are initiatives on cross-listing derivatives on exchanges, developing a credit-rating agency, developing a framework for e-commerce and trade in services, research on blockchains, developing a network of science parks, and even inter-linking libraries and museums—on which there have been deep, meaningful dialogues but have fallen short of actionable agreements.

Of course, central to any such conversation will have to be India's bilateral relations with China. This year, the BRICS High Representatives responsible for National Security met in August 2021 to approve the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Action Plan. The meeting was led by Ajit Doval, India's NSA and saw participation of Yang Jeichi, China's highest ranking party member responsible for foreign affairs, who led the talks with the US in Alaska, and General Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council, who was recently in Delhi to discuss developments in Afghanistan. Details of the Action Plan are yet to be released but it is clear that BRICS is gradually developing as a forum for discussing geopolitical affairs.

Understandably, mere statements and action plans are insufficient for those looking for measurable outcomes. Perhaps, some of the ideas proposed in the early days were too ambitious, definitely complex, even impractical. There are nearly 100 initiatives that BRICS has launched since its inception, including memorandums, roadmaps, action plans, and forums. There are initiatives on cross-listing derivatives on exchanges, developing a credit-rating agency, developing a framework for e-commerce and trade in services, research on blockchains, developing a network of science parks, and even inter-linking libraries and museums—on which there have been deep, meaningful dialogues but have fallen short of actionable agreements. Other deliverables this year include agreements on agriculture research, innovation, energy cooperation, remote sensing, and customs—many of which are genuine attempts to find common ground on non-controversial issues. Clearly, there is a need to consolidate and streamline the agenda if BRICS wants to be more effective as a forum. It will be worth observing what change the new Terms of Reference adopted by the BRICS Sherpas this year for future intra-BRICS cooperation will bring.

A BRICS Platform on Digital Public Goods, being discussed as a repository for open-source technologies created by BRICS members that can help developing nations with achieving SDGs, is a novel idea.

During dialogues at the BRICS Academic Forum, the official Track II of the BRICS forum, experts converged on a few ideas that are worth exploring. For instance, the BRICS nations seem to be collectively doing better than their G20 and OECD counterparts on many green indicators, a feat not acknowledged in the global climate narrative. Similarly, there were suggestions to focus on 'sustainable consumption' which is usually ignored as an SDG critical to address climate change, on which BRICS nations fare better due to our moderate lifestyles. Another suggestion was to explore how BRICS nations are likely to be affected by the changes in global supply chains, particularly the shifts induced by western multinationals on which all the nations are individually dependent, even more so than on each other.

Meanwhile, this year, by making cooperation in technology and digitalisation for achieving the SDGs a priority, India seems to have found its calling. It should even become a priority for India's agenda in 2023 when it chairs the G20. The Indian government is keen on sharing its experience with digital public goods such as CoWin (a COVID-19 vaccine registration app) and Aadhaar (unique identity) with the developing and developed world as a model worth emulating, despite the teething issues which were considered avoidable irritants. A BRICS Platform on Digital Public Goods, being discussed as a repository for open-source technologies created by BRICS members that can help developing nations with achieving SDGs, is a novel idea.

BRICS @15 is markedly different from its early years. It is more mature with its processes, less exuberant about impractical collaborations, and cautiously optimistic of itself as a platform for shaping global governance. This makes it a relevant player in world affairs when most of the other multilateral forums are increasingly becoming dysfunctional.
Financing Regenerative Agricultural Practices: A Recommendation for BRICS (Финансирование восстановительных методов ведения сельского хозяйства: рекомендация для стран БРИКС) / India, September, 2021
Keywords: research, economic_challenges

The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have all declared their commitment to climate action and the implementation of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This brief makes a case for BRICS, as a forum, to build a strategy for financing regenerative agriculture; key should be the creation of a joint fund. If implemented correctly, the brief argues, such a strategy of giving back to the land, instead of merely taking from it, will significantly contribute to reversing the climate crisis.

Attribution: Thulisile N. Mphambukeli, "Financing Regenerative Agricultural Practices: A Recommendation for BRICS," ORF Issue Brief No. 491, September 2021, Observer Research Foundation.


Climate change could be humanity's biggest challenge yet, and the resultant, cascading crises are only beginning to manifest themselves.[1] For instance, 2019 was reported to be the second warmest year on record;[2] thereafter, 2020 became the first hottest year, overtaking 2016.[3] The global community continues to experience one climate crisis after another. Meanwhile, many states are lagging behind in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose Goal 13 exhorts the United Nations (UN) member countries: "Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts."[4],[5]

In the past one-and-a-half years, the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the world's uncertainty. Amidst the massive economic and humanitarian crises brought about by the pandemic, however, 2020 saw a decrease of about 3 billion tonnes in global carbon dioxide emissions.[6] As economic activity came to a standstill with the nationwide lockdowns that were implemented as a response to the outbreak of COVID-19, carbon emissions declined. However, most experts agree that emissions will rise once again, as soon as the global economy restarts and countries attempt to revive their economies.[7]

In a global gridlock on issues such as climate change, the BRICS grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) can play an important role in stimulating change, at a time when Western economies are slowing down. For one, the BRICS's leading commitment to global issues such as climate change could provide a necessary solution to the perceived weakening of its soft power.[8] Indeed, the implementation of the SDGs, including the targets on global warming, has become more critical than ever. Still, the framework provided by the 17 SDGs and the 169 targets and indicators have not been effective in enabling wide societal change to overcome the implementation deficit since 2015.[9] Scientists agree that the world needs to see drastic changes in the way humans relate to the environment, if objectives of reversing global warming are to be achieved.[10]

This brief explains the BRICS's commitment to finding innovative ways to fund transformative projects that will help mitigate climate change and fulfil the SDGs. In particular, the brief focuses on how agricultural practices can be improved to abate their contribution to the worsening of climate change. After all, agricultural methods and practices have been found to be related to the various challenges resulting from global warming—from water scarcity to crop loss.[11] The brief argues that BRICS efforts at climate action would work if a joint fund is created to finance so-called 'low-hanging fruits' such as regenerative agricultural practices. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle and build soil health, crop resilience, and nutrient density.[12] If implemented correctly, these methods can contribute significantly to mitigating carbon emissions and improving soil quality.

The Case for Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture has its roots in the late 1970s. It is a concept that describes maintaining and improving resources through continuous organic renewal of the complex living system.[13] "Regenerative" means the morphogenic replacement of lost or damaged parts or structures in organisms or ecosystems.[14] Therefore, regenerative agriculture "seeks to improve the health of the soil that has been depleted of nutrients over many years of exploitative farming, and could benefit from a reboot of its microbiological make-up … [It] is a general term for practices that improve soil conditions on cropland … Although not exhaustive, some examples of regenerative practices include reduced use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, less frequent tilling, and cover cropping."[15]

Healthy soil acts as a carbon sink, storing vast amounts of carbon that plants withdraw from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. In essence, in the words of Ray Archuleta, veteran conservation agronomist, regenerative agriculture is a renewal of the human heart and mind, a framework of thinking and consciousness that emulates nature's intelligent design, patterns, and biological systems. It is a notion that draws lessons from ancestral wisdom, which does not focus on tools or processes, but rather emphasises understanding about how to farm/ranch within one's ecological context. "This type of relationship-based agriculture is a journey of healing for all human and biological communities, a new food production system that facilitates beauty and life."[16]

Figure 1: Regenerative vs Conventional Agriculture[17]

Regenerative, instead of conventional agriculture, can provide some of the most relevant answers to water scarcity, food security and climate change (see Figure 1). Regenerative practices seek to facilitate the production of nutritious, sustainably grown food, fibre and clean water cycles.[18] They not only boost soil biota diversity and health but also increases biodiversity above and below the soil surface, while expanding water-holding capacity and sequestering carbon at greater depths. Thus, it can bring down climate-damaging levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and improve soil structure to reverse civilisation-threatening, human-caused soil loss.[19]

BRICS, Climate Change, and SDGs

It has been some years since an institutional framework for individual and collective action was put in place, jointly defined through SDGs and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The question for BRICS is whether it will find its role in supporting these multilateral climate and environmental initiatives.[20] To be sure, since 2009, BRICS has emphasised its commitment to fighting climate change. In their 2009 Declaration, the BRICS countries stated that they were ready for constructive dialogue on how to deal with climate change based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities,[a] given the need to combine measures to protect the climate with the imperative to fulfil their socioeconomic development tasks.

The group adopted the BRICS Leaders' Xiamen Declaration in September 2017, reaffirming their commitment to fully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They committed to enhance BRICS cooperation on climate change, and in particular, expand green financing. They agreed to take concrete actions to advance result-oriented cooperation in such areas as prevention of air and water pollution, waste management, and biodiversity conservation.

In agriculture, the BRICS states agreed to deepen cooperation in five priority areas:

  • Food security and nutrition
  • Adaptation of agriculture to climate change
  • Agricultural technology cooperation and innovation
  • Agricultural trade and investment
  • The application of communication technology in agriculture to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs
The BRICS countries recognise that they constitute a significant proportion of the world's population, land area and natural resources, and that the choices they make carry significant ramifications to the rest of the world.[21] To this end, BRICS implemented several projects that aim to promote cooperation on climate change and sustainable development. For instance, the Youth Energy Agency encourages young scientists and researchers from the BRICS countries to conduct research, promote public awareness, and scale-up the UN 2030 agenda.[22] This agency also launched a platform, the BRICS Sustainable Ideas Bank, that seeks to systematise the collection of public input data regarding SDG-related ideas relevant for the BRICS countries, monitor the dynamics of SDG-driven proposals, and amplify SDG-friendly suggestions and participation throughout the BRICS states.


This brief offers three specific strategic proposals for BRICS in order for the grouping to formulate the right strategy for financing regenerative agriculture. If implemented properly, these measures have the potential to facilitate the implementation of several SDGs: Goal 1 ('No poverty'), 2 ('No hunger'), 3 ('Good health'), 6 ('Clean water and sanitation'), 13 ('Climate action'), 15 ('Life on land'), and 17 ('Partnerships for the goals) (see Figure 2).[23] These proposals can help BRICS implement specific climate change projects to meet the SDGs and highlight innovative ways in which the grouping can utilise its capacity to play a significant role in the fight against climate change.

Figure 1: Sustainable Development Goals[24]

Proposal 1: Create a Regenerative Agriculture Working Group

The BRICS countries, on their own, still maintain some of the practices and methods of regenerative agriculture; they are not, however, systematically organised. In Brazil, for example, Rizoma Agro is on a mission to revert the climate crisis by scaling up the practice of regenerative, organic agriculture. It has sought innovative ways to improve citrus production in agroforestry in an efficient way, and has also found a way to profit from organic eggs, fruit production, grain production, and dairy.[25]

In Russia, following several years of a near-collapse of the food and agricultural system, President Vladimir Putin announced that the country should become a leader in organic food in 2015. Subsequently, in 2016, Russia banned the breeding and cultivation of genetically modified organisms. In a speech in January 2018, Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev announced that Russia would capture 10 to 25 percent of the global market for organic food.[26]

In India, meanwhile, there is high interest in regenerative agriculture and the country understands that its future lies in organic farming, as well as empowering local farmers to employ techniques that give back to the land rather than merely taking away from it. Furthermore, practices that are focused on building high-quality soil, retaining rainwater, improving the water cycle, increasing biodiversity, and promoting both human and animal welfare are highly valued in India.[27]

Small organic farmers in China's Yunnan Province are employing natural ways of farming that avoid the use of pesticides and fertilisers that are detrimental to the health of the soil. They have chosen closed systems and agro-ecological methods to farming. These farmers understand that agricultural ecosystems work at the personal, societal and institutional levels, and are pursuing a self-sustaining economic business model.[28] South Africa, for its part, has set up a Regenerative Agricultural Association—a non-profit, education and advocacy organisation that is working to stop the catastrophic consequences of industrial agriculture by facilitating farmers and consumers in transitioning to regenerative agriculture.[29]

Evidently, there are various activities across the BRICS countries that are scaling up regenerative agriculture and finding new ways to protect the soil. They are also working on drawing down carbon from the atmosphere like soil cultivation.[30] BRICS, as a forum, must establish a regenerative agricultural working group to focus only on these projects, specifically those that facilitate locking carbon in the soil.

Proposal 2: Biosequestration of CO2 in Soil

Within the context of climate change, scientists have agreed that it is possible to implement carbon drawdown practices from the atmosphere and lock it in the soil, and thereby build resiliency into the ecosystem.[31] Thus, enhanced sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in the soil, ultimately as stable humus, may prove a more lasting solution than temporarily sequestering CO2 in the standing biomass through reforestation and afforestation. Such actions will also help reverse processes of land degradation, thus contributing to sustained food productivity and security for the people in the regions concerned.[32] BRICS should fund activities on biosequestration of CO2 in the soil.

Proposal 3: Agricultural Projects that Reduce Use of Cancer-Causing Pesticides

While pesticides kill microbes in the soil, thus aiding farming activities, they bring harm to human health, too. The use of pesticides, in particular for monoculture, kills the soil rather than nurturing it. Conversely, all regenerative agricultural practices that heal the soil—i.e., the Earth's skin—will also heal the climate.[33]

The use of pesticides is rampant across the BRICS countries and researchers are increasingly worried about their long-term health implications. They warn about an epidemic of chronic diseases, particularly prostate and breast cancer, and also other cancers like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.[34] For instance, Brazil is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world and the second-largest country exporting these products; the country's trade in these products plays an important role in the local economy.[35] However, in 2015 alone, some 899 million litres of pesticides were sprayed on crops across the country. Mato Grosso, Paraná and Rio Grande Sul—Brazil's agricultural production corridors where production strongly relies on the use of chemicals—used the largest quantities.[36]

Numerous studies have linked pesticides such as clopyralid, cypermethrin, diazinon, and permethrin to different forms of cancer; this means these chemicals are poisonous, and have brought decades' worth of damage to human, animal and environmental health.[37] BRICS should fund agricultural projects that reduce the use of cancer-causing pesticides across its member countries.


This brief has put forward three proposals that relate to specific elements of promoting regenerative agricultural financing in BRICS. It demonstrated that agriculture does not always have to be the cause of environmental damage and climate change; that there are ways to significantly improve the quality and access of drinking water and nutrition, and promote food security—if a more holistic approach to agriculture is nurtured and funded.

In particular, BRICS climate change financing and innovation could work if a joint fund is created by a Regenerative Agriculture working group. This fund can facilitate the implementation of these correct practices and significantly contribute to the mitigation of carbon emissions and bring back the health of the soil.

(This paper is an expanded and updated version of an earlier essay on the subject published in ORF's monograph, 'The Future of BRICS', August 2021.)

About the Author

Thulisile N. Mphambukeli is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of the Free State, South Africa.


[a] Over the past years, BRICS have called for the faithful, balanced and comprehensive implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change principles, in particular, equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC). This means that countries will act on climate change based on their respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances, as well as the progressive and nationally determined nature of contributions to the Paris Agreement (South Africa, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, 2021. Joint Statement Issued at the Conclusion of the 30th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change hosted by India on 8th April 2021).

[1] Matt R Raven, "Regenerative Agriculture and Implications for Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Education," Journal of Agricultural Education 61, no. 1, 1-12, 2020.

[2] United Nations, "Sustainable Development Goal 13".

[3] Katherine Brown (ed), "Tied for Warmest Year on Record, NASA Analysis Shows," NASA Release 21-005, 2021.

[4] United Nations, "Sustainable Development Goals,"

[5] Roderick J. Lawrence, "Overcoming Barriers to Implementing Sustainable Development Goals: Human Ecology Matters", Human Ecology Review, 26, no. 1 (2020).

[6] Andrew Venter, "Covid-19 has Provided a New Environmental Sustainability Model, Now We Need to Build It", IOL News, 2020.

[7] Venter A, "Covid-19 has Provided a New Environmental Sustainability Model, Now We Need to Build It".

[8] Francesco Petrone, "BRICS, soft power and climate change: new challenges in global governance?," Ethics & Global Politics, 12, no. 2 19-30, (2019).

[9] Lawrence, "Overcoming Barriers to Implementing Sustainable Development Goals",

[10] Victor Ogbonnaya Okorie, V.O. "On Green Economy: Exploring Green Economy-Oriented Agronomic Practices among Youth Farmers in Osun State, Nigeria", In Smallholder Farmers and Farming Practices: Challenges and Prospects, ed. Oluwatoyin Dare Kolawole (New York, Nova Press, 2018).

[11] Danone, "Regenerative Agriculture".

[12] Morning AgClips, "Climate Change. Carbon Sequestration. Regenerative Agriculture," (8 April 2021)

[13] Piero Morseletto, "Restorative and Regenerative: Exploring the Concepts in the Circular Economy", Journal of Industrial Ecology, 24, no. 4 (2020), 763–773.

[14] Morseletto, "Restorative and Regenerative".

[15] Kate Arsac, "Regenerative Farming: An Interview with Soil Consultant Glyn Mitchell", 5 Dec 2020, Earth●Org.

[16] Archuleta R. 2021. Soil Health Academy.

[17] Osk Reddy, "Regenerative Agriculture: The Future of Indian Agriculture and Boon to Indian Farmer", LinkedIn, 9 November 2019.

[18] Arsac "Regenerative farming".

[19] Victor Martino, "Keeping it real amid the rise of regenerative agriculture", Just-Food (23 April 2019).

[20] Elizabeth Basile and Claudio Cecchi C, "Will the BRICS Succeed in Leading the Way to Sustainable Development?" Rivista Di Studi Politici Internazionali, 85, no. 2 (2018), 223-234.

[21] Kirton, J. 2020. "BRICS Climate Governance in 2020" (Paper presented at BRICS at Ten: Challenges, Achievements and Prospects, Gaidar Forum, Moscow, January 15, 2020).

[22] BRICS Youth Energy Agency (2015-2020), Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Platform.

[23] PAGE (Partnership for Action on Green Economy), "PAGE and the Sustainable Development Goals".

[24] PAGE (Partnership for Action on Green Economy).

[25] Koen van Seijen, "Fabio Sakamoto, Growing Large Scale Brazilian Regenerative Organic Agriculture", 30 June 2020.

[26] Gunnar Rundgren, "Among Foodies and Organic Farmers in Russia", Resilience, 31 October 2018.

[27] Reddy, "Regenerative Agriculture".

[28] Joanne Walby, Regeneration Agriculture, Gently: Wu-wei in China's Yunnan Province, Permaculture, Earth Care, People Care, Future Care, 1 March 2019.

[29] Regenerative Agriculture Association of South Africa (RegenAG SA). "Soil, Human, Planet Health".

[30] Christopher J Rhodes, "The Imperative for Regenerative Agriculture", Science Progress, 100 (2017), 80-129.

[31] Rhodes, "The Imperative for Regenerative Agriculture".

[32] NH Batjes, "Mitigation of Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations by Increased Carbon Sequestration in the Soil", Biology and Fertility of Soils, 27 (1998), 230–235.

[33] Rhodes, "The Imperative for Regenerative Agriculture".

[34] Public Eye (2021) Health Impacts of Pesticides in Brazil.

[35] Wanderlei Antonio Pignati et al., "Spatial Distribution of Pesticide Use in Brazil: A Strategy for Health Surveillance", Ciênc. Saúde Coletiva, 22, no. 10 (2017), 3281-3293.

[36] Pignati et al., "Spatial Distribution of Pesticide Use in Brazil".

[37] Sasha Karapetrova, "Western Pesticides Rush the New East's Stage as the Iron Curtain Still Falls", Free Radicals (2016).
NDB Successfully Issues 2 Bln Rmb Bond in China Interbank Bond Market (НБР успешно выпустил облигации на сумму 2 млрд юаней на рынке межбанковских облигаций Китая) / China, September, 2021
Keywords: ndb, economic_challenges

On September 16, 2021, the New Development Bank (NDB) successfully issued CNY 2 billion RMB-denominated Bond in the China Interbank Bond Market, bringing the total outstanding amount of RMB bonds issued by the Bank to CNY 17 billion. The Bond was placed in one tranche with maturity of 5 years with the final coupon rate of 3.02%.

The net proceeds from the sale of the Bond will be used for general corporate resources of the NDB and will be used to finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the member countries of the Bank, in line with the NDB mandate.

The transaction saw strong interest from both onshore and offshore RMB investors and the issue was subscribed 1.38 times. The geographical distribution of investors was as follows: Mainland China – 56%, Singapore – 23%, Europe – 15%, HK SAR – 6%. Investor distribution by type: Bank treasury – 84%, Security – 16%.

"This bond marks another formidable milestone for the New Development Bank. We successfully raised RMB 2 billion at a very attractive price, and we are grateful for the enthusiastic response from investors in the China Interbank Bond Market," said Mr. Leslie Maasdorp, NDB Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. "Diversification of funding by instrument, currency, tenor and type of interest rate are at the heart of the Bank's funding strategy. NDB intends to become a regular issuer in both international and local markets of its member countries with a view to establishing a strong credit history and ensuring better liquidity and diversification opportunities for investors."

Bank of China (BOC) acted as the lead underwriter of the Bond, while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, HSBC Bank (China) Company Limited, DBS Bank (China) Limited and China International Capital Corporation Ltd. (CICC) acted as joint-lead underwriters.

Bond Summary Terms

Issuer: New Development Bank (NDB)
Issuer rating AA+ (S&P) / AA+ (Fitch) / AAA (JCR) / AAA (ACRA)
Amount: RMB 2,000,000,000
Settlement date: September 17, 2021
Maturity date: September 17, 2023
Coupon: 3.02%
Denominations: RMB
Listing: China Interbank Bond Market
Lead Underwriter: Bank of China (BOC) Joint-lead underwriters: Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, HSBC Bank (China) Company Limited, DBS Bank (China) Limited, China International Capital Corporation Ltd. (CICC)

Background information

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 market economies and developing countries, complementing the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. In 2021, NDB initiated membership expansion and admitted the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Bangladesh as its first new member countries.

In October 2020, the NDB has successfully registered its second RMB Bond Programme in the China Interbank Bond Market. The NDB was granted approval to raise up to RMB 20 billion in the China Interbank Bond Market within 2 years of the Programme registration date. The proceeds of the Programme will be used to finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the Bank's member countries.

New Development Bank and Agricultural Development Bank of China Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Establish Framework for Cooperation (Новый банк развития и банк сельскохозяйственного развития Китая подписали меморандум о взаимопонимании для создания рамок сотрудничества) / China, September, 2021
Keywords: ndb, concluded_agreement

On September 14, 2021, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Agricultural Development Bank of China (ADBC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a framework for strategic, technical and operational cooperation. The Memorandum was signed in Beijing, China by Mr. Marcos Troyjo, President of NDB and Mr. Qian Wenhui, Chairman of ADBC.

According to the Memorandum, NDB and ADBC intend to cooperate in line with their respective mandates, policies and strategies, in such areas as (i) early identification, preparation, on-lending, co-financing for infrastructure and sustainable development projects; (ii) strengthening exchanges in areas of mutual interest, including, but not limited to agricultural infrastructure, water resource management and sanitation, clean energy, transportation infrastructure, information and communications technology, healthcare and education, environmental protection and pollution control; (iii) exploring and pursuing opportunities in treasury management cooperation; (iv) analysis or research on macroeconomics, agricultural and rural infrastructure, green and sustainable development; (v) exchange of information and knowledge-sharing; and (vi) mutual training and staff development.

"We are delighted to establish a partnership between the New Development Bank and the Agricultural Development Bank of China. With the signing of this Memorandum, NDB and ADBC create a framework for cooperation to advance our shared development agenda, including in areas such as agricultural infrastructure, water and sanitation, clean energy, transport and social infrastructure," said Mr. Marcos Troyjo, NDB President.

"Cooperating with NDB, a crucial emerging international institution, will help ADBC raise funds to support agriculture, as well as to learn advanced international project management standards and practice." said Mr. Qian Wenhui, Chairman of ADBC. "In addition, such cooperation will also enrich the development theory and practice of NDB, and promote knowledge sharing and cooperation between China and other BRICS countries as well as other members of the development community."

Background information

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 market economies and developing countries, complementing the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. In 2021, NDB initiated membership expansion and admitted the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Bangladesh as its first new member countries.

ADBC is an agricultural policy bank in the People's Republic of China under the direct leadership of the State Council, with a mission to raise funds through market based on national credit, and act as a strategic pillar of the country in supporting the development of agriculture, rural areas and farmers.

World of Work
Valedictory Address by Shri Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (CPV&OIA) & BRICS Sherpa at the 6th BRICS Young Scientist Forum (Поздравительное слово Шри Санджая Бхаттачарьи, секретаря (CPV & OIA) и шерпа БРИКС на 6-м Форуме молодых ученых БРИКС) / India, September, 2021
Keywords: speech, social_issues, think_tank_council

Namaskar from Delhi!

1. I am delighted to join you for the valedictory session at sixth BRICS Young Scientist Forum, hosted by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), in collaboration with the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru (NIAS). I was happy to see the participation of leading scientific institutions from all BRICS partners at the event.

2. During India's Chairship in 2021, we have strengthened intra-BRICS cooperation under the overall theme of BRICS@15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus with 4 priorities - reform of the multilateral system, counter terrorism cooperation, technological and digital solutions to SDGs and people-to-people cooperation. This forum represents two of the most important priorities, as we are in the age of technology and innovation and the fast changing scenario of the future will be determined by you, the youth. You will shape the world.

3. I recall PM Modi had mooted the idea of youth engagement during the 6th BRICS Summit (Fortaleza, July 2014) and desired that we develop an innovative mechanism to engage, network and connect BRICS youth. In line with this idea, BRICS Young Scientist Forum was created. Since its inception, the forum has played a crucial role in stimulating new ideas and enriching the overall repertoire of BRICS partnership. It created a network to harness knowledge to solve challenges through collaboration, research and innovation. The ideas and thoughts emerging from this forum have been relevant for R&D and meaningful for society.

4. It is impressive that we received more than 1100 proposals involving 3400 researchers; and 91 projects were funded to the tune of US$ 30 million, in ten thematic areas, thus far. Further, more than 50 BRICS Thematic Workshops were organized, networking more than 400 top research institutions. We are proud of your endeavours and collaborations.

5. We live in challenging times. Peace and security are challenged by terrorism, radicalism and conflict. Future livelihood is challenged by economic crisis and social distress. Our planet's fortunes are challenged by climate change and depletion of biodiversity. But I am optimistic that our human values of harmony and endeavour, our scientific temperament of enquiry and aspiration and our instinct for preservation and advancement will provide the hope for future.

6. In that context, I am happy the Forum aims to foster dialogue and has chosen important and relevant themes such as Health care, Energy, Cyber and Innovations, that reflect contemporary realities.

Health Care

7. The COVID-19 pandemic caused enormous hardship to citizens, not only in BRICS but across the globe. Both lives and livelihoods have been lost and inequities have widened. In the post-pandemic era, the imperative is to recover fast. BRICS must take the lead in agenda setting to Build back capacity, have Resilence, promote Innovation, have Credibility and establish Sustainability as the highest priority. Research and technological cooperation for ensuring supply of vaccines, raw material, etc. to facilitate inclusive recovery needs greater momentum.

8. As you are aware, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BRICS Scientific Ministries joined hands to support collaborative research in multiple areas. Funding agencies from BRICS countries, including Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology from India, are co-investing about US 10 million to support collaborative projects.

9. I understand 84 projects proposals were received under the BRICS COVID call, in which India is a partner in 6 projects out of 12 recommended for support. These projects aim to develop drugs, vaccines, diagnostic kits, genome sequencing, epidemiological studies and application of artificial intelligence for treatment and prevention of COVID-19 virus. Specifically, we have agreed to operationalise the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Center as a virtual network. The Inaugural BRICS Digital Health Summit was also held, a few days ago, which reflected the growing need for innovative solutions to traditional challenges, which were exacerbated during the pandemic.

10. Our overall objective should be directed to find new ways to maintain health of the people, prevent diseases, develop reliable diagnostics, effective therapies and innovative health technologies.


11. This is concern that current technologies generally demand energy for development but most energy options lead to emissions that contribute to global warming. Thankfully, clean alternatives are available and need to be encouraged. India is leaving no stone unturned to lead from the front as a responsible member of the global community. We are on the track to meet the target of 2 degrees compatibility. We have recently crossed the 100GW of renewable energy milestone and have enhanced our ambition to meet the target of 450 GW by 2030.

12. On energy security, with focus shifting from hydrocarbon sources, technology is at a critical juncture, with economies and sustainability becoming practical for alternative and sustainable energy. Development of technical cooperation should be a strategic priority for BRICS countries especially in clean and renewable energy, storage technologies, distribution, energy efficiency and applications. Collaborations in R&D, supply chains and setting up sustainable networks are the need of the hour.


13. The digital revolution has had an impact in all spheres of economic and social life. Data has become the new gold. Cyber applications have transformed the world, over the last few decades, and the pandemic has shown how relevant it is in our day-today lives.

14. Digital technology has emerged as a great enabler. It has paved the way for efficient service delivery and governance. In several areas, it provides a level playing field to the less privileged sections of society. On a macro-scale, it has contributed to the emergence of a flat world, where developing nations like ours can leapfrog the development path, grow faster and deliver better livelihoods to our citizens; and even close the gap with the developed world. This is an exciting prospect. 15. Through our Digital India Programme, we have fostered innovation and enterprise and transformed the lives of our citizens in unprecedented ways. Our Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, enabled by our national identity programme, Aadhaar, has provided social security to millions. We have achieved significant success with our vaccination programme, crossing the 750 million mark recently, with the help of apps like Aarogya Setu and CoWin.

16. We took a number of initiatives under BRICS partnership viz. iBRICS Network, BRICS Global Research Advanced Infrastructure Network (BRICS GRAIN), BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Architecture to foster scientific collaboration on research, development and innovation facilities.

17. Recently, we inaugurated BRICS Agricultural Research Platform. This is the first such multi-disciplinary and multilateral Platform established in Indian agriculture, which has five big countries participating through virtual network, for agricultural development and growth. We also hope to come up with a BRICS portal for Digital Public Goods. In the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutambhakam, we have decided to make these available as open source applications. Infact, I am sure each of our countries has useful applications like these, which we can share with the rest of the world for common good. The economic and social potential of such systems platforms is greater than what has been realized. There is need to address the technology gaps.


18. In this technological age, we find the rate of transformation is rapid and its scale is enormous. This is an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to the masses and to empower them. The flow of information, use of data-based delivery platforms and harnessing of cyber potential have made enterprise and innovation the closest partners of technology.

19. Innovation not only makes technology marketable, but also provides it with a territory and medium to operate upon. Collaboration between institutes of technology and management, incubation centres across boundaries and the financing by VCs or angels are the new reality. Whenever an IPO moves towards unicorn-hood, it also spawns a new set of potential ideas for others to take forward. Our economic system needs such solutions to remain energised.

20. I was particularly pleased to find the emphasis on innovation at the forum. I extend congratulations to the winners of the Innovation Prize and also convey best wishes to all the participants. You have not only demonstrated scientific excellence but also strengthened the R&D ecosystem of BRICS community.

21. This forum has been a platform to discuss key issues and to highlight evidence emerging from academic research and innovative ideas. The importance of this process is only expected to grow, as we realise that many of the emerging challenges are global and that an effective response would benefit from cooperation.

22. As we move towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts are needed to bring about truly transformative changes around the world. Your generation of researchers will need to re-energise science to tackle global challenges with an evidence based approach. The pursuit of science must also proceed on the basis of ethics and a service oriented philosophy.

23. In conclusion, I wish to share that BRICS in a unique grouping of emerging economies that is fortunate to have tremendously talented human resources. Our objective is to build partnerships and friendships. What we do, helps not only our citizens but contributes to humanity. So, your role is crucial.

24. I once again thank you for your active participation in the forum and for your support and cooperation towards BRICS priorities during India's Chairship. Thank you.
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