Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 51.2022
2022.12.26 — 2023.01.01
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
South Africa BRICS Presidency: Challenges and Future Perspectives (Председательство Южной Африки в БРИКС: вызовы и перспективы на будущее) / India, December, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, chairmanship

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Next year 2023 South Africa, as per stipulated approved guidelines and rules, will hold the rotating presidency of BRICS, the organization of five emerging developing countries made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This implies that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has a lot more at hand, especially with the current global geopolitical changes to drum home, to consolidate the growing support underway for few others to join BRICS.

Ramaphosa has already reminded that South Africa will hold the BRICS rotating-presidency in 2023. "That BRICS summit next year under the chairship of South Africa, the matter of expanding BRICS is going to be under serious consideration. A number of countries are consistently making approaches to BRICS members, and we have given them the same answer that it will be discussed by the BRICS partners and thereafter a collective decision will be made." the president said this December.

Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov told the gathering at the Primakov Readings forum held this early December that the quintet of BRICS economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) may turn into an organization of 15-17 countries, not just enthusiasm but if those wishing to join it are granted membership based on two principles: have the necessary conditions and the collective decision of the organization.

Lavrov, in his presentation, traced the historical establishment and development of the organization. "We all know that this format [RIC – Russia, India, China] paved the way for the BRICS Five, which currently enjoys great publicity and many countries line up seeking a full-fledged membership," Lavrov said.

"If we meet all bids then the 'five' will turn into about 15-17 countries as the BRICS summit in June, which was organized in a video conference format by our Chinese colleagues, showed us," the foreign minister noted, and further stressed that the RIC remains an operational format and not only foreign ministers, but ministers of economy, energy and economic development as well, are meeting within the framework of this format.

"The RIC keeps thriving today and not many know that this 'trio' continues holding meetings at the level of foreign ministers," Lavrov continued. "Just a couple of months ago we held such a meeting in the on-line format and it was the 20th meeting of this kind since [ex-Foreign Affairs Minister] Yevgeny (Primakov) proposed to keep developing this format."

"Besides the meetings of foreign ministers, there are meetings of energy, trade and economic development ministers as well as of numerous industrial members of the corresponding governments," the Russian foreign minister added.

"We have real partners – BRICS, the SCO, the EAEU, and the CSTO, regardless of what is written about it," Lavrov stated. The top diplomat stated that the RIC structure (Russia, India, China), a Primakov initiative, "spawned the BRICS five, which currently receives enormous attention." Several states are lined up for full membership, and the five could expand to roughly 15-17 countries, Lavrov added.

Russia's local Vedomosti reported that the number of BRICS members may triple during the Primakov Readings forum. According to the report, organizations, such as BRICS, are becoming an alternative against the backdrop of the weakness of the European Union. The emphasis on cooperation with non-Western states appears to be even more warranted in light of Europe's current problems. The United States and its closest allies' unjust policy toward key EU members. Berlin and Paris do not have complete autonomy in international politics, thus they deliberately cede some of their foreign policy functions to Washington, according to Alexander Kamkin, Senior Researcher at IMEMO. The expert admits that the European countries are capable of taking the initiative in a few circumstances, but on the whole, they follow Washington's lead.

According to Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, BRICS can provide countries with an alternate partnership path to the EU that does not require a high admission threshold. According to him, the group is now developing along two avenues: by admitting new members and by strengthening cooperation.

In the second case, additional countries will not be admitted to BRICS, but each organization's partner will be able to choose a convenient mode of cooperation within the BRICS+ structure. Kortunov noted that the EU is unwilling to seek strategic autonomy from the US not only due to the Ukrainian crisis, but China's ascent.

The possibility of expanding membership in the organization is still under discussions within the BRICS framework. Noteworthy to reiterate here that a decision was made at the five BRICS members summit on June 23-24 to launch a discussion for purposes of determining the principles, standards, criteria and procedures of this process.

China and Russia have been pushing for the expansion of BRICS, soliciting support for the multipolar system of global governance instead of the existing rules-based unipolar directed by the United States. Often explained that a bigger BRICS primarily offers huge opportunities among the group members and for developing countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club held October 27 reaffirmed Russia's unshakable support Saudi Arabia joining BRICS. "Yes, we support it, but this requires a consensus of all the BRICS countries," he said.

According to him, Saudi Arabia is a rapidly developing country, which is due not only to its leading position in the hydrocarbon market. "This is also due to the fact that the Crown Prince, the government of Saudi Arabia have very big plans for diversifying the economy, which is very important. They have entire national development plans designed for this goal," the Russian President said.

He expressed confidence that, given the enthusiasm and creativity of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, these plans will be implemented. "Therefore, of course, Saudi Arabia deserves to be a member of major international organizations, such as the BRICS, and such as the SCO. Most recently, we determined the status of Saudi Arabia in the SCO and will develop relations with this country both bilaterally and on multilateral platforms" Putin added.

With the current global unstable and volatile situation creating skyrocketing uncertainties in global economic recovery, China have unreservedly shown its contribution for strengthening BRICS. For 16 years since its inception, China offers the largest financial support for the BRICS National Development Bank, contributed tremendously to other directions including health, education and economic collaboration among the group.

That is why BRICS has gained extensive recognition. More and more countries are willing and interested to become members of the organization, make joint efforts to overcome difficulties and challenges, and realize common development and prosperity. BRICS activities have expanded during the past few years. Countries participated in the Outreach and BRICS plus segments of the organization. But now with the emerging new global order, BRICS seeks to expand its membership, consolidate its platform as an instrument for pushing against the existing rules-based order unipolar system.

BRICS activities have expanded during the past few years. Countries participated in the Outreach and BRICS plus segments of the organization. There are also a number of African countries including Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal have also shown interest. Egypt has already been involved for a fairly long time. Last December 2022, Egypt, the decision on its accession to the New Development Bank was made by BRICS.

Russia has consistently advocated for deepening organization's interaction with the African continent, the diplomat stressed. In particular, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin mentioned this at an expanded meeting of leaders of the five BRICS member-states in the BRICS plus format on June 24. It is, however, expected that this avenue of efforts will get an extra impetus during the presidency period of South Africa in 2023.

On May 19, China's State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired a video conference dialogue between foreign ministers of BRICS countries and their counterparts from emerging economies and developing countries. It was the first BRICS Plus dialogue at the level of foreign ministers. Participants in the dialogue came from BRICS countries as well as invited countries such as Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Thailand.

According to Wang Yi, the dialogue's importance was to further expand cooperation between the BRICS countries and other emerging economies and developing countries. In addition, Wang Wenbin during his weekly media briefing on October 20, explained that as the BRICS chair for this year, China has actively supported the BRICS in starting the membership expansion process and advanced the BRICS Plus cooperation.

During the 14th BRICS summit successfully held in June 2022, President Xi Jinping noted at the meeting that BRICS countries gather not in a closed club or an exclusive circle, but a big family of mutual support and a partnership for win-win cooperation. At the summit, BRICS leaders reached important common understandings about BRICS expansion and expressed support for discussion on the standards and procedures of the expansion.

"This has been well received in the international community and many countries have expressed interest in joining the BRICS. China supports and welcomes this. Going forward, China will work with fellow BRICS members to steadily proceed with the BRICS expansion process and enable more partners to join this promising endeavor," Wenbin said at the media briefing.

Despite its large population of 1.5 billion which many have considered as an impediment, China pursues an admirable collaborative strategic diplomacy with external countries and that has made it attain superpower status over Russia. A careful study and analysis monitored by this author vividly show that muscle-flexing Russia largely lacks public outreach diplomacy, Russia contributing towards its own 'cancel culture' policy, and this is seriously detrimental to the emerging new global order.

South Africa was a late minor addition to the group, to add a bridgehead to Africa, says Charles Robertson, Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital. All the BRICS countries are facing economic challenges that need addressing urgently. The BRICS is keenly aware of the importance of contributing to Africa's development agenda.

"Therefore, it could expand because the BRICS are under-represented in the global financial architecture. Europe and the United States dominate institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and to some extent many others," explained Robertson in an emailed query.

According to him, "Russia and others in the BRICS would like to see larger power centres emerge to offer an alternative to that Western dominated construct. That is reasonable enough – providing there are countries with the money to backstop the new institutions, such as China supporting the BRICS bank, and if the countries offer an alternative vision that provides benefits to new members."

South African Ramaphosa has repeatedly said that BRICS as a dynamic group would usher in a new global development era that promises a system of more inclusive, sustainable and fair principles. BRICS group, in an expanded form, can support a sustainable and equitable global economic recovery.

For South Africa, Ramaphosa further believes that the BRICS is simply a highly-valuable platform fixed to strengthen ties with partner countries in support of South Africa's economic growth and for discussing global economic problems and challenges, and above all for strengthening the role of developing countries.

After his official visit to Saudi Arabia mid-October, Ramaphosa, said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud had expressed the desire to join BRICS. "The Crown Prince did express Saudi Arabia's desire to be part of BRICS. They are not the only country seeking membership in BRICS," according to the local radio station ABC. That report said Argentina, Iran, Turkey and the UAE also voiced their intention to join the organization.

The BRICS embody a synergy of cultures and are a model of genuine multilateral diplomacy. Its structure is formed in compliance with the 21st century realities. Efforts within its framework are based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and justice.

Historically, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then later, Brazil joined and finally South Africa in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. The acronym BRICS is derived from the member-countries names in English. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world's geographical area and about 42% of the world's population

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council.

Eurasia Review

                Putin's New Year Messages Embrace Brazil, China and India (BRICS) (Новогодние послания Путина охватывают Бразилию, Китай и Индию) / Greece, January, 2023
                Keywords: vladimir_putin

                Brazil, China and India, prominently among foreign heads of state and government, that received New Year greetings from Vladimir Putin late December. The official post made available on the Kremlin administration website never mentioned South Africa. As well known, these four countries plus Russia constitute the organization popularly referred to as BRICS.

                Addressing the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Putin expressed satisfaction with the fact that, during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, Moscow and Brasilia extensively cooperated at international platforms, especially within BRICS, and successfully advanced the friendly bilateral relationship.

                In messages to President of the Republic of India Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, the President of Russia stressed that in 2022, Russia and India marked the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations and, relying on positive traditions of friendship and mutual respect, the countries continue to develop their specially privileged strategic partnership, carry out large-scale trade and economic projects.

                In addition, both Russia and India closely cooperate on energy, military technology and other areas, and further coordinate efforts in addressing important matters of regional and global agendas.

                "I am confident that India's recently started SCO and G20 presidencies will open new opportunities for building multi-dimensional Russia-India cooperation for the benefit of our peoples, in the interests of strengthening stability and security in Asia and the entire world," Putin stressed in his message.

                In sincere greetings for the New Year and the upcoming Spring Festival to President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping, Putin referred to strengthening the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China. The mutual patnership demonstrates rapid progress and resistance to external challenges, as both continue to maintain a meaningful political dialogue.

                Putin was upbeat on a number of points. Bilateral trade is breaking records. Major trans-border infrastructure projects have been completed, including the construction of a road and railway bridges across the Amur River. The years of physical fitness and sports exchanges contributed substantially to contacts between the people of our countries. "Through joint efforts, we will be able to take bilateral cooperation even higher for the benefit of the Russian and Chinese nations and in the interests of strengthening regional and global stability and security," he stressed.

                Putin expressed confidence that they will work together to further enhance multi-dimensional cooperation and continue their coordinated work on bilateral basis and within the framework of BRICS.

                In 2023, South Africa will hold the rotating presidency of BRICS. And that implies that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has a lot more at hand, especially with the current global geopolitical changes, has work towards consolidating the growing support underway for a few countries that have applied to join BRICS. It is also pushing for the emerging multipolar world.

                It is however speculated that the organization's membership might expand to about 15, but that largely depends on certain necessary conditions and the collective decision of the organization.

                Historically, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then later, Brazil joined and finally, South Africa in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. The acronym BRICS is derived from the members' names in English. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 42% of the world's population.

                              BRICS at the G20 and the Centrality of the United Nations Development Agenda (БРИКС в «Группе двадцати» и центральное место в повестке дня ООН в области развития) / Russia, December, 2022
                              Keywords: expert_opinion, sustainable_development, political_issues

                              BRICS has an important role in the G20, precisely guided by its own resolutions on the pursuit of development, to drive the agenda and keep pushing until it is done, writes Mikatekiso Kubayi, Researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA (South Africa).

                              The BRICS and the G20 emerged as a response to a global governance architecture that was less than adequate for the times. This inadequacy is, in major part, responsible for the challenges of access to the necessary instruments for faster growth and development among the most sizable population groups in the world. Developing economies want to industrialise faster and in a more varied way to ensure safeguards against shocks to global value chains, such as seen with the pandemic and other global crises.

                              This is important for pandemic preparedness as well as any other black swan possibility. The extent to which these constructs can, could or will help achieve the said development will be crucial to how they are seen by the billions that inhabit this Earth. This article argues that despite the repeated failures to achieve requisite development, this can still be turned around if commitments are made through the centrality of the United Nations, and common effort to implement what is agreed upon in resolutions are lived up to.

                              The United Nations, with its centrality in the multilateral system to which both these constructs subscribe, champions development for the benefit of all humanity. It seeks to achieve higher Human Development Index numbers for all people throughout the world, with no one left behind. All members of the BRICS bloc are members of the G20 and all members of the G20 are members of the United Nations, that subscribe to multilateralism with the UN at its centre according the leaders' declaration of the G20 2022 Summit in Indonesia.

                              The BRICS 2022 Summit also commits to the same position, according to the summit declaration. But this is not the only point that these two constructs have in common. Both summit declarations contain several points that commit their members to action in promotion of development, particularly that of developing countries. Before I discuss some of these points, here is the definition of development used by the premier multilateral organisation, the UN.

                              On 20 June 1997, at its 103rd plenary meeting, the UN adopted a definition of development in its resolution, a definition to which both the BRICS 2022 and G20 2022 summit declarations by implication commit themselves to. This definition is in two distinct parts: Development, and a motivation for growth in pursuit of development in its first two paragraphs under the heading Agenda for Development. The definition reads thus:

                              Development is one of the main priorities of the United Nations. Development is a multidimensional undertaking to achieve a higher quality of life for all people. Economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development.

                              Sustained economic growth is essential to the economic and social development of all countries, in particular developing countries. Through such growth, which should be broadly based to benefit all people, countries will be able to improve the standards of living of their people through the eradication of poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy, the provision of adequate shelter and secure employment for all and the preservation of the integrity of the environment.

                              Some Development Challenges in Africa and the Developing World

                              These ideals contained in these two paragraphs seem insurmountable. Developing economies, particularly in the global south, face well-documented, ventilated and extensively analysed challenges by researchers, states, and other actors over decades. The challenges have been resolved in a plethora of forums, with much less than adequate developmental outcomes. Challenges of infrastructure finance rank high among these. Africa has a well-documented infrastructure financing gap. The African Development Bank advances a financing gap figure of up to $108 billion a year and an annual infrastructure need of up to $170 billion.

                              Africa and other developing regions also face the challenge of 'illicit financial flows'. While many continue on a debate binge on definitions and types of these flows, Africa continues to bleed resources that it could use to invest in its own development. Many studies have been conducted by researchers at the World Bank (WB), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) among others. The UNCTAD is encouraging in that while it recognises advancements in multilateralism and in collective effort, such as the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it firmly stresses African agency.

                              Another major challenge facing Africa and in fact, the developing world, is a shortage of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). UNCTAD points to $83 billion in 2021, a figure similar to the WB pledge at the IDA for Africa Summit in Dakar, Senegal in July 2022. By comparison, the most developed economies received trillions in FDI. Common sense suggests that this is no surprise; after all, these are the areas that are most technologically advanced, with production capabilities of sufficient strength to not only sustain their position at the helm of not only the higher levels of the global value chains, but domination of the entire global value chain. Africa as well as the developing world, want and need to industrialise, particularly with a focus on developing localised production and mineral processing.

                              The Role of BRICS in the G20

                              While BRICS is distinct to the G20, it occupies a seat of influence in this body. According to the BRICS summit 2022 declaration, the G20 is of high importance and value to the BRICS bloc. The G20 is an important platform where the leading developing economies can engage with developed economies and advance the development agenda. There are many simple but pertinent questions asked of these constructs in developing countries. What is the potential of BRICS and the G20 to assist? To what extent do they and can they assist a strong drive for change to achieve better outcomes? These are questions many in a population that is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050 ask on a regular basis.

                              All BRICS members are members of the G20, four potential new members of BRICS are also members of the G20, and the current (India – 2023) and the next two hosts and chairs of the G20 (Brazil – 2024, and South Africa – 2025) are members of BRICS. There is ample opportunity to place developmental imperatives firmly on the global agenda over the next three years. Critical among these developmental issues are Infrastructure Financing and Investments, Climate Mitigation, Health, and greater access to global value chains.

                              The inadequacy of the global financial and economic governance architecture, having led to the establishment of both the G20 and BRICS, remains the major challenge. It is the major issue that BRICS aims to address at the G20. But such an effort is not and cannot be an overnight project. And correctly, some are very sceptical and others cautiously optimistic about prospects. There are some interesting points in the G20 2022 declaration worth pursuing, such as paragraph 4 , that confirms the centrality of the United Nations in the multilateral system.

                              But there are several other potentially significant consequences. Paragraph 5, with its five action points, makes bold promises, particularly on multilateral development banks, and encourages public and private investment. This is optimistic, but it does not say much about conditions for access to finance, which has been the bane of development efforts. Paragraph 11 says:

                              …We stress the importance of ensuring that global energy demand is matched by affordable energy supplies. We reiterate our commitment to achieve global net zero greenhouse gas emissions/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century, while taking into account the latest scientific developments and different national circumstances. We call for continued support for developing countries, especially in the most vulnerable countries, in terms of providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy, capacity building, affordable latest technology within the public domain, mutually beneficial technology cooperation and financing mitigation actions in the energy sector (G20 2022 summit declaration).

                              This is an important debate, considering the levels of development or underdevelopment in developing economies. These economies need to grow, establish industry and production capabilities, in the same way that developed economies did at the same stage of their development. But developed economies fuelled their growth and development with fossil fuels and industrialised with them. Developing economies now face both the bad news of having to cease the use of industrialising fossil fuels, as well as the necessity of finding financing for alternative fuels and the clean-up needed. However, they do appreciate the importance of a Just Transition. But financing for this undertaking must come from somewhere, as well as industrialisation possibilities that will come from it.

                              Paragraph 32 of the G20 resolution says that "We reaffirm our commitment to strengthening the long-term financial resilience of the international financial architecture, including by promoting sustainable capital flows, and developing local currency capital markets" (G20 2022 summit declaration). The New Development Bank (NDB) has already begun development of this option with the potential to expand. But the NDB is very young and even though a lot of progress is registered, it will be some time before it can garner sufficient resources for the impact it wants. Access to cheaper finance and investments is key to propelling the generation of growth and development required.

                              What is to be done?

                              There is no denying that despite development gaining lip service, decades of summits have not achieved the requisite development needed to address the UN Agenda for Development and Agenda 2030. Africa in particular has a young population that is educated and tech savvy, with a growing middle class. This young population is fuelling the projected 2.5 billion expected population numbers by 2050. Apart from population size, similar demographic trends are seen in Latin America, albeit with a projected decline in 34 years. Asian youth are not excluded from this concern. With proper support, today's youth and tomorrow's youth can assist in development that is required, according to the United Nations Development Agenda. BRICS has an important role in the G20, precisely guided by its own resolutions on the pursuit of development, to drive the agenda and keep pushing until it is done.
                                            Political Events
                                            Political events in the public life of BRICS
                                            Main Foreign Policy Results of 2022 (Основные внешнеполитические итоги 2022 года) / Russia, December, 2022
                                            Keywords: mofa

                                            The year 2022 saw history-making events, such as the emergence of a new international reality, and became a turning point for Russia's foreign policy.

                                            By the beginning of the year, the NATO-provoked militarisation of territories on Russia's western border grew to an unacceptable degree. After the collective West refused to seriously consider Russia's proposals for security guarantees, it became perfectly clear that our political and diplomatic efforts to ensure the security of Russia and the safety of Russian people would be arrogantly rejected, just like the US-led Western countries had rejected practical collaboration to implement the Minsk Package of Measures and turned a blind eye to the Kiev regime's terror unleashed against the peaceful civilians in Donbass, who refused to recognise the bloody Maidan coup.

                                            In order to neutralise the security threats, which had reached an unacceptable degree, the Russian authorities have taken difficult, but necessary steps. The recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, the start of the Special Military Operation (SMO) in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, the referendums held in the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics and the liberated territories of the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions and their subsequent integration into the Russian Federation – these events, just like the return of Crimea to the "home port" in 2014, will forever go down in the history of Russia. At the same time, they put an end to 30 years of Russia's honest attempts to develop equitable relations with the collective West.

                                            Russia's resolute actions have exposed the Western countries' real intentions and policies towards our country. Stooping to openly Russophobic rhetoric and publicly admitting that the Minsk Package of Measures was only a way for the Kiev regime to bide its time and to pour NATO weapons into it, Western leaders vied to declare their intention to contribute to Russia's "strategic defeat" and to remove it from the global stage as a geopolitical entity.

                                            In response to vociferous anti-Russia provocations, our country has withdrawn from the Council of Europe and terminated its membership of the UN Human Rights Council, where it now holds the status of observer. Despite pressure, Russia has not abandoned its fundamental foreign policy principles and continues to advocate a constructive international agenda. Russian diplomats continued to staunchly uphold national interests based on the goals and principles of the UN Charter and international law.

                                            Subsequent events have shown that the majority of the international community takes a positive view on Russia's approaches, including when it comes to joining forces against the Western neo-colonialist practices.

                                            Acting within the framework of the New York-based Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, Russia and other like-minded countries adopted a political declaration in support of the inviolability of the UN Charter (November 5, Tehran). An overwhelming majority of states members of the UN General Assembly approved the annual Russia-initiated resolution on combating the glorification of Nazism, which was co-authored by over 30 states. At the same time, Germany, Italy and Japan voted against it for the first time, clearly preferring to forget the crimes committed by German Nazis, Italian fascists and Japanese militarists during the Second World War. A number of other themed resolutions of the UNGA, as well as political declarations and joint statements have been adopted at Russia's initiative at the steering committees and plenary meetings of the General Assembly.

                                            We have not deviated from our obligations to strengthen international security and strategic stability. At Russia's initiative, the Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races was adopted in January 2022.

                                            We focused on opaque US activities in the sphere of biological research, which has assumed a global scale. We saw to it that the September 2022 joint statement on the results of a consultative meeting of states parties to the Biological Weapons Convention include a provision highlighting our concern over US military-biological activities in the context of operating biological labs on Ukrainian territory.

                                            International cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS made rapid headway aimed at asserting a positive agenda of multilateral interaction.

                                            Over 150 events were held within the framework of BRICS, including the group's 14th summit on June 23-24. A launch ceremony for the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre for was held online, and we started implementing an agreement on cooperation in remote sensing satellites data sharing. We also established a BRICS Technical and Vocational Education and Training Cooperation Alliance. We finalised the text of a cooperation agreement regarding mutual administrative assistance on customs issues and a memorandum for regulating medical products. The heads of anti-corruption agencies held their first meeting and approved an initiative on eliminating safe havens for corrupt officials and criminal assets.

                                            Systemic efforts to advance political, security, economic, cultural and humanitarian interaction within the SCO helped strengthen this association's role in international affairs. On September 15, the participants in the SCO summit in Samarkand adopted a decision to streamline SCO activities with regard to modern geopolitical realities. This decision has special significance and will facilitate the Organisation's sustainable development as an effective factor of forging a new multipolar international order. During the Samarkand summit, the participants signed a memorandum on the obligations of Iran for it to obtain the status of an SCO member state. This became an important milestone in the Organisation's development.

                                            On December 9, Bishkek hosted a meeting of the heads of state of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. The participants noted that EAEU countries had retained macroeconomic stability, and that mutual trade had increased by 12 percent in January-September 2022, on the same period of 2021. Investment increased by 6.6 percent, and agricultural and industrial output grew by 5.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. The heads of state approved new guidelines for the EAEU's international activities in 2023 that stipulate more active interaction with the Union's traditional trade and economic partners, including in promising new spheres. They also discussed proposals to hold a joint EAEU, SCO and BRICS summit in the near future and to create the Union's own cryptocurrency.

                                            The EAEU's trade and economic ties with foreign partners received a major impetus. Eight international agreements, including some with third countries, were signed this year on the Union's operation and development, as well as for addressing its goals. The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) has signed memoranda on mutual understanding/cooperation with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Secretariat of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Talks on signing full-scale free trade agreements with Egypt and Iran have reached the final stage. The heads of EAEU states have decided to start official trade liberalisation talks with Indonesia and the UAE.

                                            Allied relations with the Republic of Belarus continued to grow stronger. Minsk has shown understanding for the reasons, goals and tasks of the special military operation and provided a venue for holding three rounds of Russia-Ukraine talks in February and March. In light of the threats coming from the territory of Ukraine and the NATO forces in adjacent countries, Belarus has deployed additional units within the joint Regional Group of Forces (Troops) to tighten the security of the western border of the Union State. It provided diplomatic support for the implementation of about 60 percent of the 28 Union State programmes by the concerned agencies scheduled for 2023, including the signing of important bilateral agreements. The parties have also coordinated the Union State's Information Security Concept.

                                            Several major initiatives have been implemented within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) aimed at strengthening integration ties in all spheres of the organisation's activities. The CIS Heads of State Council has decided to start up the operation of the CIS Human Rights Commission as a regional human rights mechanism. The 15th Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS Member States was held successfully in December.

                                            The mechanisms of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which marked 30 years since being established this year, operated efficiently. Five CSTO summit meetings were held this year, including three extraordinary meetings of the Collective Security Council held to discuss emergency security issues, including the situation in the Republic of Kazakhstan (January 10). Considering the growing biological security challenges, the CSTO has launched a new sphere of cooperation and has established a relevant ad hoc body, the CSTO Coordinating Council on Biological Safety. The statements adopted by CSTO foreign ministers on June 10 and November 23 reaffirmed the member states' views on upholding and strictly complying with the fundamental principle of equal and indivisible security.

                                            Initiatives for strengthening and adding essential practical elements to cooperation between the CSTO, the CIS and the SCO were energetically promoted. A list of practical measures and areas for the development of relations between these three organisations was approved at the CSTO summit held in Yerevan on November 23.

                                            The Five Central Asian Countries plus Russia format has begun operating efficiently. During the first Russia-Central Asia summit held in Astana on October 14 at the initiative of President Vladimir Putin, the participants praised Russia's 30 year-long cooperation with the regional states and unanimously approved a decision to enhance the efficiency of interaction within the framework of allied relations and strategic partnership. A major result of that decision was the launch of the Russia-Central Asia Interparliamentary Forum and the Dialogue of Women of Central Asia and Russia.

                                            During the 6th Caspian Summit (June 29, Ashgabat), which President Putin attended, the parties launched a format of regular meetings of the Caspian states' foreign ministers.

                                            Within the framework of ASEAN, the East Asia Summit and APEC, we raised issues of strengthening the multi-polar world order, building practical cooperation between the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region and countering growing threats to the region's stable development. In the Middle East, we continued to develop a strategic dialogue between Russia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and between Russia and the League of Arab States.

                                            Russian diplomats have significantly stepped up efforts to achieve the peaceful settlement of international conflicts. Russia extensively supported stabilising the situation in Afghanistan. Russia has promoted a complex approach to the Syrian dossier, including within the Astana format. We have promoted comprehensive normalisation of the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, unblocking their transport connections, delimitating borders, coordinating a peace treaty and dealing with humanitarian issues. Russian peacekeepers, who remain the guarantors of security in the region, deserve much credit.

                                            To prevent an escalation with grave consequences for regional and international security, we steered participants in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear programme to acknowledging that there is no other option but to return to the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

                                            Our consistent development of business cooperation with a wide circle of foreign partners proved the futility of unfriendly countries' attempts to isolate Russia economically. Supported by the Russian Foreign Ministry, several large international events took place, including the St Petersburg International Economic Forum and Russian Energy Week, attended by President Vladimir Putin, and the Caspian Economic Forum where Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin addressed attendees.

                                            We continued our constructive cooperation with oil exporting countries within OPEC+. At the 33rd Ministerial Meeting on October 5, we agreed to extend the Declaration of Cooperation between the OPEC and non-OPEC countries through December 31, 2023. A decision was made to reduce oil production by 2 million barrels per day starting in November.

                                            We have successfully developed ties with our many international partners who are interested in maintaining a constructive dialogue with Russia. This year, President Vladimir Putin held over 70 meetings with the heads of other states and international organisations, took part in approximately 300 foreign policy events and had over 220 telephone conversations with foreign leaders.

                                            Russia-China relations developed dynamically. The unprecedented level, resilience and stability of our relations, based on deep-rooted historical traditions, mutual respect and support, were reflected in the ambitious Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China on International Relations Entering a New Era and Global Sustainable Development, which was adopted following the two leaders' talks in Beijing (February 4).

                                            On February 22, during the official visit by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Moscow, the parties signed the Declaration on Allied Interaction between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan, which propelled bilateral relations to a fundamentally new level. On April 19, during the first official visit by Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan to Russia, which was timed for the 30th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, the two leaders adopted a Joint Russia-Armenia Statement, which covered the entire range of bilateral issues and formalised the privileged nature and strategic focus of our bilateral alliance. A broad range of documents on cooperation in various spheres was signed with the leaders of both countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

                                            We maintained productive contacts on a broad range of issues with India, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Türkiye and many other friendly states. We steered the line towards all-round cooperation with developing countries and reginal associations in Africa, mainly, the African Union. We promoted interaction with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). On February 16, Moscow hosted the first ever talks between the foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Brazil in the 2+2 format. The agreement on cooperation in exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes between Russia and Venezuela came into force, and we signed an agreement on foundations for relations with Antigua and Barbuda, an agreement on cooperation in education with Cuba, and an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters with Nicaragua.

                                            We efficiently implemented foreign policy initiatives in the humanitarian sphere. On September 5, the President of Russia signed Executive Order 611 On Endorsing the Concept for the Russian Federation's Humanitarian Policy Abroad, which was drafted by the Foreign Ministry jointly with other federal bodies of executive authority. Another major event this year was the launch of the Concept for State Support and Promotion of the Russian Language Abroad.

                                            In December, Russia organised an International Forum on the 50th anniversary of the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Held in St Petersburg and Kazan, the forum became the largest event of the celebrations in terms of the number and status of international delegates.

                                            Over 40 country conferences and four regional conferences have been held under the umbrella of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad. The resolutions and statements they adopted condemned manifestations of Russophobia and attempts to "cancel" Russian culture and divide the Russian world. We organised regional youth conferences and hosted a regional forum of female compatriots living in the CIS countries, the Middle East and Asia. The World Federation of Russian-speaking Women has been established at the Eurasian Women's Forum.

                                            Efforts to protect historical memory, above all memory of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, have been a major consolidating factor in the Russian diaspora. Events dedicated to the May 9 Victory Day were held in over 120 countries. The final event of the year was the World Thematic Conference of Russian Foreign Compatriots "Economic Cooperation: Compatriots and Regions of Russia. Responding to Challenges of the Time," held in Moscow (November 1‑2). It was attended by 140 delegates from 80 countries.

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