Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 36.2023
2023.09.04 — 2023.09.10
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
XV BRICS Summit and Affirmation of the BRICS Agenda by Country Agency (XV саммит БРИКС и утверждение страновой повестки дня БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2023
Keywords: summit

The bloc was dismissed by many in the beginning, with some arguing that it does not hold sufficient power to change anything, let alone contend with the global hegemons. But BRICS is not about challenging anyone. It is about fostering cooperation and collaboration to find solutions for global challenges and achieve a shared future in which development is enhanced and accessible to all who seek it, Mikatekiso Kubayi writes.

Some Background Reflections

The recently-concluded BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, was not only a success for the bloc but also historic in how it captured the times we live in today. Heavy global expectations sat on the shoulders of all those with a role in the dynamics. These main expectations leaned on two central narrative generators: 1) global financial architecture reform efforts (development, payment system, BRICS currency, 'de-dollarisation') and 2) BRICS expansion. Aided by country-level agency, the summit went quite far in meeting these expectations.

But what is this agency, and why is it relevant? It is best to revisit the formation of the bloc in 2009 and at least some of the associated dynamics of that time to provide a context for the evolution of the bloc, culminating in the outcomes communicated in the BRICS Johannesburg 2 Declaration. This is important because to assess its advances correctly, we need to recall why it was formed and what it must advance, therefore determining whether the declaration reflects an advance towards the goals and aims enumerated in 2009.

In 2006, the BRIC foreign ministers and finance ministers started meeting to discuss various issues of common interest, particularly their role in global governance. In 2008, the housing market bubble in the United States burst, triggering significant devastation to economies around the globe. Moreover, the developing economies had no role in provoking this, nor had they had a role in the governance of the global financial system or its design. At that time, Africa had one of the world's fastest-growing economies, along with China, India, and Brazil. Even Russia was experiencing notable growth. Recognising that there was something wrong with the system and the need to expand the representation of voices of developing economies in global financial and economic governance, the G20 was established.

But, of course, this had not been the first global economic crisis. There had been others leading up to this. Many scholars have traced the problem to the very nature of global capitalism, dis-investments in the productive (real) economy, financialization, deregulation, shareholder value (capitalism), and other advice from significant consulting companies since the 1950s. Indeed, the romance with financial markets and the seduction of speculation and quick profits, mainly to make books appear more attractive to shareholders, was real. In 2009, the BRIC bloc of the most significant and fastest-growing developing economies was formed. At its formation, the bloc stated its agenda for reforming global economic governance and its architecture, development, and reform of multilateralism with the United Nations at its centre. The bloc also stated then that it had no intention of replacing anything or anyone. Its agenda was not acrimonious.

In 2010, South Africa joined the bloc. This was a significant development because Africa suddenly had a voice among a group of fast-developing economies. It was also significant in that the BRICS footprint was now extended by population, land mass, and region, along with the influence that came with them. In 2013, several African countries were invited to the BRICS Summit in South Africa. The concepts of a BRICS+ and BRICS outreach were proposed by China and formalised by the bloc. Throughout this period, the effects of the global financial crisis continued to bite, even though the Chinese and Indian economies continued to lead global growth numbers.

On the Reforms of the Global Financial Architecture and Multilateralism

Firstly, the BRICS bloc has consistently reaffirmed the centrality of the United Nations in global governance, particularly in the future of the global governance system it envisages. The bloc has also consistently reaffirmed the role of the G21 (including the African Union, AU) in global financial and economic governance. Most BRICS members, including those of the BRICS +, are members of the G20. There may well be new additions to the bloc announced at next year's summit in Russia, too, that may also be members of the G21 if the AU is officially announced as a new G21 member in India shortly. Growing the voices and democratizing the governance system have been on the agenda of the bloc and represent a step in the direction of reforms.

The inclusion of oil-rich nations such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Iran introduces an expansion of the BRICS footprint in the Middle East as well as its influence for the reform of the financial architecture in addition to population, region, and land mass. The Inclusion of Argentina, Ethiopia, and Egypt (Egypt is already a member of the New Development Bank, NDB) further reaffirms the bloc's growing influence for the reform and development agenda it adopted in 2009. More than 20 countries have applied, and over 40 are interested in joining the bloc. This is a significant development because it demonstrates the strength of the BRICS argument for a fairer and more equitable global governance system that represents all, with rules that apply equally to all, especially in global financial and economic governance.

It should be recalled that the bloc was dismissed by many in the beginning, with some arguing that it does not hold sufficient power to change anything, let alone contend with the global hegemons. But BRICS is not about challenging anyone. It is about fostering cooperation and collaboration to find solutions for global challenges and achieve a shared future in which development is enhanced and accessible to all who seek it. Of course, a change in the global financial architecture is a significant undertaking, and it comes with many challenges, including possible resistance.

Many developing economies want to achieve higher levels of industrialization, and for this, they need significant sums of investment in infrastructure, research and development, manufacturing, and the development of localized value-added production. They also have sizeable dollar-denominated debt as well as a retained natural interest in trade with developed Western economies. The levels of integration of the BRICS economies with all developing economies, especially those interested in joining the bloc, are on the agenda for improvement in pursuit of reform and development. Ministers of finance, as well as heads of central banks, have been tasked by the BRICS Summit to explore payment systems and other facilities for improved and more cost-effective ways of trade, and to report by the next summit in Russia. Decisions may be taken in this regard at that summit.

The Secretary General of the United Nations joined the calls for reforms of the UN, especially the UN Security Council. The Bloc had earlier, in its declaration, announced its support for the inclusion of South Africa, India, and Brazil in the Security Council as permanent members. So, has the Johannesburg 2 declaration lived up to its great expectations? It has gone a long way in doing just that. It has undoubtedly sustained the momentum towards such, notwithstanding the complexities involved in reforming the global financial architecture. The increased use of local currencies in trade between states has already begun and is highly likely to increase. Even the G20 Summit 2022 affirmed the need to grow local currency capital markets.
                With expanded BRICS, Global South in the spotlight (Расширение БРИКС и глобальный Юг в центре внимания) / Russia, September, 2023
                Keywords: brics+, global_governance

                With expanded BRICS, Global South in the spotlight

                Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts

                Even a cursory glance at the latest headlines can show that the Global South is in the spotlight - largely due to the fact that BRICS has been gaining traction in that part of the world. The recent BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, for instance, saw the inclusion of six states (Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) in BRICS, a grouping that now has 11 members, comprising nations from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. Prince Michael of Liechtenstein, founder of GIS Reports and of the Geopolitical Intelligence Services AG, remarks on how the African position has been experiencing newfound strength - even though historically the continent had been often viewed more as "geopolitical subject" than an "active participant" - something is now changing, and is seen in the current BRICS membership list as well.

                Harsh Shringla, Chief Coordinator for India's G20 Presidency, in turn, said, on September 4, that "even as global disparities persist, our commitment to prioritizing development, particularly in the Global South, which bears a disproportionate burden of the contemporary challenges, has been our guiding principle. In this regard, we have achieved substantial success." India has discussed granting the African Union (AU) full membership in the G20. Shringla stated that, with 54 countries, and a $2.4 trillion combined GDP, "Africa holds tremendous potential for the future". Under the ancient Sanskrit formula of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" ("The World is one family"), New Delhi has been calling for global cooperation - with an emphasis on the South and on the complex task of building bridges between the political West and Russia.

                Much has been written on BRICS, ranging from eulogies to rather skeptical analyses. Be as it may, it should be taken seriously and it cannot be ignored. In a clear response to the grouping's enlargement, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced on August 22, the very day the BRICS Summit began, that US President Joe Biden would call for reforms at the G20 Summit to ensure that both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) better serve the needs of Global South nations. This has been met with some skepticism.

                According to Adnan Akfirat, chairman of Turkish-Chinese Business Development and Friendship Association, the Johannesburg summit could leave a mark on history similar to the one which was left by the Bandung Conference in 1955. BRICS 11 collective population now comprises 3.5 billion people, which is about 40 percent of world's population - in contrast to the 775 million people who live in the G7 nations. Even so, G7 still has an advantage in terms of GDP per capita.

                One of the most notable BRICS proposals has been put on the table by Brazil, namely, establishing a BRICS currency - something which is also prioritized by both Moscow and Beijing, in face of today's Western sanctions. Discussions are still ongoing and it remains unclear whether one should expect the emergence of a shared BRICS currency or rather a global reserve currency - for now, the latter seems slightly more likely in the short (or not so short) term. Either way, it would revolutionize the global system.

                Challenging the dollar hegemony within the international monetary system is not an easy task. The value of any given currency, Prince Michael of Liechtenstein reminds us, has to do with the matters of both trust and liquidity, and the dollar is largely viewed today as the most liquid currency. However, trust on the dollar should decrease, as Washington has increasingly employed it as a weapon - the so-called "dollar bomb", as I wrote before. The rising dollar, in fact, is bringing the world even closer to recession. John Kemp, senior market analyst and Reuters journalist, argues that the rapidly rising US interest rates have been among the main triggers of global financial instability for the last four decades, at least. Beyond the issue of the dollar, economic war-gaming in general is becoming a vulnerability for the US itself. De-dollarization will not come about overnight - but the process has been set in motion and, with the deteriorating US-Saudi relationship, the petrodollar itself might be at stake.

                As I wrote, in June 2022, the rise in commodity prices was largely perceived in the Global South as a product of the West's sanctions policy. This scenario forced emerging nations, increasingly alienated by the US-led West demands for alignment, to look for (extra) alternatives and for parallel, not necessarily rival, mechanisms. In this spirit, a new "non-aligned" tendency could be seen amongst African leaders, for instance. In the same manner, the BRICS grouping has had a window of opportunity to project itself as a kind of "alternative" to the Western bloc in an emerging multipolar world. And more and more nations are onboard.

                The rise of Global South's influence and its critique of Western power is driven, writes Sarang Shidore (Director of the Global South Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft), by realism - not "moralism". BRICS is not necessarily a "rival" for G7 in terms of a Cold War mentality. The different nations that are joining the grouping have quite different interests and different views on the emerging polycentric world order - close as they may seem to be at times. Be as it may, the Global South is indeed "in the spotlight" - and this time not just as the stage for Great Power competition. Its great collective challenge is to navigate the new global framework, which is under construction, through non-alignment and multialignment. The declining US however, given its deep-rooted exceptionalism, does not seem to be ready to face this new reality. Overburdened and overextended as it is, it does not have much choice, though.

                              African Union becomes a G20 permanent member: implications for BRICS+ (Африканский союз стал постоянным членом G20: последствия для БРИКС+) / Russia, September, 2023
                              Keywords: brics+

                              The decision of the G20 economies to admit the African Union as a permanent member at the Group's 2023 meeting in India comes at a time when many observers started to question the relevance and effectiveness of this global forum. The admission of the AU is a step in the right direction and needs to be followed by further openness of the G20 to other regional integration blocks and regional organizations, including regional development institutions. A greater outreach to the rest of the global community will allow for a reinvigoration of the G20 platform, particularly if the economic potential of regionalism is used to strengthen the capabilities of global economic institutions.

                              The accession of the AU into G20 comes after a rising number of academics and policy-makers in 2022-2023 called for addressing the lack of inclusivity on the part of the G20 with respect to the developing world and Africa in particular. Back in 2018 I suggested that "there is no reason why the EU should end up being the only regional block represented in the G-20 framework" – my proposal was for other regional blocs (including those from Africa) to become part of the G20 platform[1]. Henceforth, in 2019-2022 I repeatedly called for the African Union to become a member of the regional platform of the G20 as well as its permanent member alongside the EU[2].

                              Apart from the greater representation of Africa and the Global South in the G20 forum, another significance of AU's admission to the Group of 20 is that it creates greater scope for synergies and closer cooperation between globalism (global institutions and platforms such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, G20) and regionalism (regional integration blocs, regional development banks and regional financing arrangements). If other regional blocs do become part of the G20 platform, there will then be scope for these blocs to work more closely with the WTO, while regional development institutions could coordinate their operations with the IMF and the World bank[3].

                              After India the next G20 chairmanship is passed on to Brazil and then to South Africa – all BRICS members. This will be the opportunity for BRICS to increase their coordination within G20 and to further expand the possibilities for greater representation of the Global South in this global platform. The latter may be attained via creating a platform for regional integration arrangements in which G20 economies are members. Both Brazil and South Africa perform crucial regional roles in the respective regional blocs – MERCOSUR and the AU respectively. This may create scope for these BRICS members to advance the creation of a forum for regional integration arrangements within the G20 – a regional 20 (R20) that would bring together the main regional blocks of the global economy.

                              The inclusion of the AU into the G20 will have an important bearing on the future evolution of BRICS+. The choice this year for the expansion of the bloc was via adding new countries to the core, with the theme of regional integration blocs becoming parts of the BRICS+ platform being essentially ignored. With rising signs of the West starting to actively sway national economies and regional blocs of the Global South into the G20, competing connectivity projects and the G7 outreach formats, the pressure will be on the BRICS bloc to widen the scope of BRICS+ to allow for more developing economies and regional arrangements to be included into the platform. Further one-by-one additions of individual countries to the BRICS core will most likely be insufficient to keep up with increased "Global South diplomacy" activism on the part of advanced economies. The BRICS will need to employ the "integration of integrations" tool more actively in order to attain greater scale, speed and scope in the outreach to the Global South.

                              Indeed, if the G20 moves in the direction of incorporating more regional integration blocs, there will then need to be action from BRICS+ to create a platform for regional arrangements in order to improve policy coordination of the Global South in the G20. The creation of a regional platform within BRICS+ would also allow the bloc to be more competitive in extending its outreach to such important regional groupings as ASEAN – thus far Indonesia that is a key member of ASEAN and its only representative in the G20 has opted to stay outside of the BRICS core. In terms of the future evolution of the BRICS+ format a lot will depend on Russia's BRICS chairmanship next year – the hope is that opportunities to extend the BRICS outreach to the developing world will not be wasted as they were back in 2019-2021 when no BRICS+ meetings were undertaken.




                                            India Should Quit the BRICS (Индия должна выйти из БРИКС) / USA, September, 2023
                                            Keywords: political_issues

                                            Following the BRICS' recent announcement that it will add Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates, India faces a big strategic choice. Why should it belong to a China-centric club that will no longer share or serve its own interests?

                                            WASHINGTON, DC – The world's most powerful leaders will soon meet in New Delhi, heralding the culmination of India's G20 presidency. While the G20 has delivered very little since its early successes following the 2008 global financial crisis, there are two reasons why the group's coming summit still matters for India.

                                            First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned the G20 presidency into a major domestic issue by involving all of India in the preparations. G20 posters featuring Modi are plastered across the country, signaling his intention to present India as a key player on the global stage. The more that Indians are persuaded their country is a vishwaguru (teacher to the world), the greater the ruling party's chances in upcoming state elections and next year's national elections.

                                            Second, India now faces a big strategic choice, following the BRICS' (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) decision to add Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates. Until recently, the BRICS was anomalous in design and ineffective (and thus harmless) in operation.

                                            But BRICS+ is more political in focus, more China-centric in leadership, and more anti-West in motivation. Its composition is shaping its character. The question for India, then, is whether it still makes sense to belong to such a grouping.

                                            That answer is "probably not," for three reasons. First, consider the economics. The attraction of the original BRICS (South Africa joined in 2010) lay in its members' economic dynamism. Back in 2004, Brazil, Russia, India, and China were booming. But today, the BRICS risks becoming a collective of fading stars. To be sure, many of the BRICS still have high levels of wealth. In particular, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE still have the resources needed to partner with and donate to poorer countries. But wealth alone is no guarantee of global economic influence. Just look at Japan. Developing and emerging economies aren't particularly interested in a potential partner's glorious past; they want to align with countries that are on the rise.

                                            There is no doubt that the BRICS of 2023 is much less dynamic than it was two decades ago. Gone are the days when China could effortlessly achieve 10% annual growth. The economic model that produced those spectacular results has broken down, such that most analysts now expect secular growth of 3% or less. Meanwhile, Russia has been in terminal decline for years – and now its war of aggression will enfeeble it further. Though Brazil is currently enjoying a boom on the back of higher commodity prices, it remains to be seen if its fortunes can be sustained.

                                            As for the others, Argentina is teetering, yet again, on the edge of financial collapse, and South Africa remains saddled with astronomically high unemployment and profound governance and fiscal challenges. Egypt needs support from the International Monetary Fund to ensure any semblance of macroeconomic stability, and even Saudi Arabia and the UAE are living on borrowed time: a concerted global push on climate change will leave them stranded with devalued hydrocarbon assets.

                                            In short, BRICS+ comprises a bunch of economic has-beens. The big exception is India, which is still growing rapidly, with long-term prospects that have improved markedly in recent years. Since it no longer has much in common with the other BRICS members, it should consider leaving – both for symbolic and practical reasons.

                                            That brings us to the second big issue: politics. The new BRICS+ shows every sign of becoming more political, and in ways that pose serious problems for India. For starters, its increasingly China-centric, anti-Western orientation runs counter to India's longstanding principle of non-alignment. Maintaining equidistance from rival power blocs has always been a central tenet of Indian foreign policy, which it has upheld even in the face of Russia's war on Ukraine.

                                            To Modi's enormous credit, India has managed to move closer to the United States and Japan while also maintaining its relations with Russia; it has also deepened its ties with Israel and forged better relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and especially the UAE. Is India prepared to jeopardize this success just to remain a member in good standing within the enlarged BRICS+?

                                            Moreover, apart from Argentina and Ethiopia, the new members are all autocracies, and this fact matters now that the group is becoming more political. Does India really want to belong to an authoritarian club? Notwithstanding its own political backsliding under Modi, it still counts democracy as its international calling card.

                                            The third reason to quit the BRICS concerns global governance. There is no longer any doubt that the US- and G7-led international order is unfit for purpose. After all, multilateral financial institutions do not give nearly enough voice to rising powers; multilateral trade institutions have been undermined through unilateral protectionist measures; and interdependence itself has been weaponized in the name of US national security.

                                            But even if India would prefer a new world order, its vision would not coincide with that of China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia. Among other things, the other BRICS members aspire to dethrone the US dollar as the world's dominant currency, and to provide alternative development resources and emergency funding to poorer countries. But these objectives imply that a better world would be based on renminbi dominance, Belt and Road Initiative-type lending, and a greater reluctance among official creditors to write-off debts when poor countries face crises.

                                            These solutions are not obviously better than the status quo, and from India's perspective, they are almost certainly worse. How would India benefit from replacing US dominance with Chinese dominance? By lending its weight to BRICS+, it would become complicit in supporting China's geopolitical aspirations.

                                            Since India already eschewed membership in the China-centered Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, it would be rather odd for it to align with China in a quasi-political grouping. The feeling appears to be mutual: Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly intends to skip the G20 summit.

                                            That should make India's choice easier. The G7 is outdated, and BRICS+ is no alternative. Tedious and performative though it has become, the multilateralism of the G20 remains a sliver of hope in navigating a new world of fragmented disorder.

                                            As an assertion of its emerging strength, India should leave the BRICS. And, as a signal of its commitment to constructive alternatives, it should strive to make the G20 a success.

                                                          Impulse of Multipolarity: Outcomes of South Africa's BRICS Summit (Импульс многополярности: итоги южноафриканского саммита БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2023
                                                          Keywords: innovations, summit

                                                          On August 24, 2023, the BRICS summit in Johannesburg came to an end, but its overall significance is yet to come to grips with, as too many variables are at stake. Still, it is already possible to put the first emotions aside and assess the unconditional consequences.

                                                          The first and foremost thing that only a lazy person failed to talk about was the fait accompli of BRICS admitting new members. The topic was indeed vigorously harped on, and the demand for membership kept exponentially growing, creating a certain hype on the run-up to the summit. Moreover, the stir arose due to a spike in official aspirants for membership. According to various estimates, alongside the official 23 applicants, informal interest was expressed by about just as many states that represent the Global Majority. One should also bear in mind the reaction of the "golden billion", which was this time not limited to expert discussions in the media promoting the message that BRICS is worthlessness, but it rose to a whole new level: from attempts to get an invitation to the summit, made by Macron of France, to the pressure put on candidate nations such as Argentina. Passions and emotions were running high in the expert as well as pseudo-expert environment, which had not previously honored BRICS summits with such close attention. Diametrically opposite assessments of certain decisions were made, while external non-BRICS-related events were literally dragged in. Notably, the Group of Seven, which had a monopoly on existence as a privileged club for more than a quarter of a century, had never received such a level of attention with a diversity of attitudes. So why has BRICS become the hero of the day, while the G7 remained in the background?

                                                          What is the Group of Seven? An elite club that had initially been looked upon as something like the Bilderberg Club, only with incumbent leaders of the developed nations from the West involved. Its closed nature provoked public discontent primarily within the participating countries. It would suffice to recall the mass anti-globalization protests timed to the G7 meetings, and at least once, in Genoa 2001, these did not do without human casualties. Interaction with other countries outside the elite club was looked down on, and the outreach they promoted was nothing else than the standard colonial discourse of providing aid in exchange for the conditions favorable to the G7. By the way, we should not forget that Russia went through a similar "outreach," first obediently reporting on progress in the development of democracy and economic reforms to Western mentors, and then, as it later turned out, was granted a conventional and limited access to the bosom of the elite family as a toady. However, hope is always the last to die in Russia, so starting at least in 2002 (after Russia was queued for presidency in the final document of the summit in Kananaskis, Canada, and eventually presided the club in 2006) and until the "suspension" of its membership in 2014, it seemed to many, including to the author of these lines, that Russia can really engage with all G7 members on an equal footing, pushing for the global good, these circumstances being objective and mutual. Time has shown that my hopes were futile. At least since the Okinawa summit in 2000, the G7 has been making approaches to China in an attempt to offer a similar alternative to the Asian giant, but Beijing would not fall for this bait, refusing to change its status of a developing nation in exchange for a restricted membership in the club. In other words, the public saw the G7 in a negative light, as a club for the "rich", where interaction with the guests followed the standard neo-colonial pattern, and this also detracted from the Group's image. As for the agenda of recent summits, it altogether slipped into a wolf-warrior style, which further alienates even loyal countries of the global majority.

                                                          In contrast to the elitists, BRICS built its interaction—both within the Group and with the outside world—on the principles of equality, mutual respect and inclusivity from the very beginning. While a full-fledged civil society process (rather than limited consultations with individual representatives of mainly transnational NGOs) was launched in the G7 only three decades after the Group's emergence (incidentally, this happened in 2006, during the only time when Russia presided in G8), BRICS started interaction with civil society already within its "second" cycle, during the Russian presidency in 2015. The academic track in BRICS was a precursor to launching the summit format, while the institutionalization of consultations with the business and expert communities occurred in the first cycle already, the year of the Group's first expansion and simultaneous chairmanship of its new member, South Africa.

                                                          You may wonder why we compare these two clubs. The point is to understand the difference in how these two groups are perceived by various communities; to understand the sources of extra opportunities through a constructive involvement of both national communities and those of other states in their work; instead of the dictate, pressure and voluntary-coercive reporting inherent with Russia's Western (no-longer) partners. As well as to assess the prospects that have emerged for BRICS as a result of the expansion that has just taken place.

                                                          But let us return to the recent summit and its visible results. The devil is always in the details. Indeed, the expansion exceeded all expectations, even cautious ones, and raised certain questions both about the approved composition and more than doubling the number of members. There is no doubt that each new member can bring added value to the work of this grouping, but the specifics of each will at the same time add more than one sleepless night to those responsible for the renewed group's joint operations.

                                                          On the one hand, there has been a lot of commentary on the fact that Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, being U.S. allies, have joined BRICS, but in the meantime numerous observers have failed to notice the active steps taken by those wealthy Arab states towards an independent foreign policy. Again, they did not do to irritate the U.S. or the collective West as that was just a pragmatic foreign policy: minding their own national interests. Others have emphasized that Iran and Saudi Arabia, while having recently established bilateral relations, still have a number of unresolved differences. Similar conclusions can be drawn regarding the admission of Argentina as a new member. Yet, this challenge can instead be interpreted as an additional opportunity. The BRICS experience has shown that even in the presence of bilateral conflicts, the need to meet on a regular basis in a common format provides additional incentives and opportunities for dialogue and for any controversies to be overcome. Continuing our discussion of Argentina, it can be noted that, on the one hand, along with Brazil, it is indeed one of the contenders for leadership in the region of South America; on the other hand, serious economic and domestic political concerns of the country makes the upcoming elections in October 2023 a kind of "black swan" for BRICS, since there is still a possibility of a radical change of course should the most popular right-wing candidate come to power. While Egypt, which has joined BRICS, is the third economy in Africa (next to Nigeria and South Africa), the situation with Ethiopia, where the headquarters of the African Union is located, is very uncertain, because per capita income in this country is about a thousand dollars, which places it in the group of countries with a low per capita income. Yet, the upside of such a candidate might be the opportunity to directly address the issues important to the poorest developing countries and accelerate their socio-economic development via collaboration within BRICS. There are some "buts" here as well, though – the result is to be visible, whereas the speed of its verified achievement should be within the medium term.

                                                          So new members and expansion of the membership indeed means increased authority and higher profile for this association, a broader base for interaction, significant hydrocarbon reserves in possession, along with precious and semi-precious as well as rare earth metals and other mineral resources, more than 45% of the Earth's population and more than a third of the planet's territory, new significant financial centers, and up to half of the global production of certain cereals. In the meantime, all these bonuses combined do not automatically translate into unconditional leadership, since they do not add up so easy. BRICS global leadership can only be the fruit of painstaking effort by each member bent on achieving consensus and tangible results in addressing even dire challenges, through the new members' understanding and acceptance of the principles and spirit of the association, and their consent to dig deeper instead of focusing on further expansion.

                                                          Besides, as we remember, the queue of those wishing to join BRICS was much longer, which also determines the importance of further consensus and partnership via close engagement and dialogue, given the new composition of this club.

                                                          Another trendy topic at the summit was a common BRICS currency. However, this was the perspective from which this issue was reviewed by external observers, while the conversation and narrative within the association was somewhat different. Some try to present the absence of result they themselves thought up as a failure of the current summit, but the situation is quite different. As we remember, back in Fortaleza 2014, the leaders signed framework agreements on the use of national currencies, as well as on the pool of foreign exchange reserves. Today, given the aggravation of the international situation and the unreliability of payment systems offered by the West, weaponizing the SWIFT and the U.S. dollar has necessitated the need to agree on the principles of preserving stability and independence of mutual trade and investment, which, in turn, requires alternative payment instruments. That was the exact commission given to the financial authorities of the BRICS members for the next year. Moreover, the stability of such an instrument can be guaranteed by tangible commodities, including precious metals or other mineral reserves available to the BRICS nations, especially in their new composition.

                                                          Other results, albeit less noticeable against the backdrop of the two flagship issues, deserve a separate analysis, too.

                                                          Apparently, the discourse on the ongoing reform of global governance, the UN Security Council in particular, has long since become tiresome, whereas the document of the past summit merely reaffirmed the commitment of the two permanent members of the Security Council to strengthen the voice of the other three. Yet, if you read the declaration carefully, you'll notice that BRICS did not simply agree with the need to make the UN, including the Security Council, "more democratic, representative, effective and efficient," but emphasized the importance of increasing the representation of developing countries in all membership categories—surely, with a special emphasis on Brazil, India and South Africa. By the way, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized this point in his press conference, because this approach significantly corrects the previous approaches and situational partnerships of applicants, including those who were among the favorites in the accession race.

                                                          In this context, it was also interesting to listen to the speeches at the BRICS enlarged meeting. In particular, the speech of the UN Secretary General, who in the first half of his speech failed to maintain neutrality, mandatory for an official of a universal organization, and promoted certain bullet points in the spirit of Western discourse, while the rest of his speech was actually about persuading the summit participants to preserve the uniqueness of the organization. A number of observers could not even refrain from sarcasm and regarded this speech as a request of Mr. Guterres "not to fire" him.

                                                          Equally important was the assertion of the BRICS position on "unilateral illegal measures such as sanctions" through the lens of global trade and especially "trade in agricultural produce," which can be seen as an indirect support for Russia's position on the grain deal.

                                                          The part of the document dealing with the assessment of regional conflicts is also interesting by its vague and wooly wording in describing complex situations where the interests of BRICS members could be at stake, or within the framework of the anti-colonial agenda, but way harsher language in expressing "deep concern about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories as a result of violent escalation under the ongoing Israeli occupation and illegal settlements." In fact, the declaration expressed specific positions that were often at variance with the standard Western discourse. Therefore, the BRICS position on strengthening the BTWC regime and the P5 position on preserving the JCPOA with respect to Iran, as well as the slightly adapted but traditional passage on preventing the placement of weapons in space, should not be underestimated in the context of growing criticism, above all from Russia and China, of the illegal activities of American bio-laboratories.

                                                          Similarly, the energy part of the declaration is worth noting. In fact, BRICS is making a bid for its own philosophy of energy transition, different from the Western discourse. In the BRICS vision, "energy security, access to energy and energy transitions are important and should be balanced," which is why the document includes not only standard renewable energy sources, but, also, nuclear power and hydrogen, hydropower, and fossil fuels, all based on national opportunities for "a just transition to more flexible, sustainable and stable energy systems."

                                                          These are just a few examples, but they allow us to see the growing self-awareness of BRICS as the core of the new world order. On the one hand, no one in BRICS even thinks of opposing their group to the G7, the West as a whole, or anything else. The BRICS agenda remains constructive. On the other hand, BRICS is making more and more confident bids for its own opinions which are sometimes in stark opposition to those generally accepted and formulated according to Western molds.

                                                          Increasing the number of members, bringing in an even greater diversity of positions and opinions will certainly make the BRICS' operation even more complex, interesting and extremely intense. However, preserving the effectiveness of the association and the possibility of deepening the partnership do not automatically go hand in hand with expansion and euphoria over this event. Negotiations and consensus building within the Group will certainly prove more labor-intensive. But in the meantime, political will, awareness of its new global status and interest in more serious negotiating positions with both partners and foes outside the BRICS framework should help to solve this extremely non-trivial and daunting problem.

                                                                        World of Work
                                                                        SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                                                        South Africa to host BRICS Future Skills Challenge in September 2023 (ЮАР примет конкурс BRICS Future Skills Challenge в сентябре 2023 года) / South Africa, September, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: social_issues
                                                                        South Africa

                                                                        Johannesburg – 6 September 2023: In a bid to enable businesses to meet and respond to new and emerging skills challenges, the Skills Development Working Group of the BRICS Council in South Africa will be hosting a skills challenge where hundreds of participants aged between 18 and 35 from BRICS countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will pit their skills against one another to develop solutions for a range of challenges in various fields.

                                                                        This annual event, which is dubbed the BRICS Future Skills Challenge, will be hosted in line with the outcomes of this year's South Africa's chairmanship for BRICS.

                                                                        Under the theme: Solving today's problems using tomorrow's technologies, participants in the BRICS Future Skills Challenge will test their skills and expertise in 12 skills areas, namely aircraft maintenance, Agri IoT, Building Information Modelling, Cyber Security, Data Science, Digital Twin, Drone Technologies, Internet Marketing, Manufacturing Robotics, Mobile App Development, Renewable Energy and Robotic Process Automation.

                                                                        A panel of experts from across the BRICS countries have been assigned to different skills areas to develop and mentor the participants.

                                                                        Mapule Ncanywa, Chairperson of the BRICS Business Council Skills Group, explains that the rationale behind the BRICS Skills Challenge is to tackle skills development challenges facing BRICS partner countries through benchmarking of emerging and future skills and developing standards that are tested in a public skills challenge.

                                                                        The BRICS Skills Challenge serves as a platform to collate and provide insights into how the BRICS partners continue to enable businesses by helping them respond to new and emerging skills. It will also enable the participants to help to solve critical challenges using their technical skills, in the thematic areas of Water, Energy and Health.

                                                                        "This challenge comes hot off the heels of the 2023 BRICS Summit which South Africa hosted in August, and we are hoping this will continue to showcase and educate on the value of the BRICS platform. It is an exciting opportunity for young South Africans to benchmark their skills against their counterparts from other BRICS countries. It is also a great platform for participants to present their solutions to potential investors, and/or gain job experience within the BRICS markets," says Ncanywa.

                                                                        Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, says the BRICS Future Skills Challenge complements the work his department is doing to develop critical future skills required in the digital economy.

                                                                        "We are excited to be part of this initiative which is fully aligned with the interventions the department is undertaking to generate scarce, critical skills lists to guide programme offerings in PSET institutions. As the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, we have a responsibility to generate the desired skills required to drive the growth of new industries and to fuel the digitisation of our economy. We look forward to sharing best practise with our BRICS counterparts and to be part of this journey to remodel and align the educational outcomes in our institutions with the demands required by the economy. We are confident that this initiative will serve as a conduit of innovative entrepreneurs and highly skilled workforce for industries, not only in South Africa and the continent but across BRICS countries and beyond," says Dr Nzimande.

                                                                        The BRICS Future Skills Challenge will take place over four days between 12 and 15 September at Nasrec Expo Centre in the south of Johannesburg. Interested parties can find out more about this event and how to participate by visiting the website:

                                                                        "To all young techs and interested parties out there, this is your chance to network, to learn and gain experience with industry leaders. The future is best for those who prepare for it," Ncanywa concludes.
                                                                                      China and South Africa sign agreements on International Lunar Research Station program, jointly conducting space exploration activities (Китай и ЮАР подписывают соглашения по программе Международной лунной исследовательской станции и совместно проводят исследования космоса.) / China, September, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: concluded_agreements, research, space

                                                                                      Space agencies of China and South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation at the International Lunar Research Station on September 1, marking South Africa's formal participation in the program. The two sides will conduct extensive collaboration in the demonstration, engineering implementation, operation and application, education, and training of the station.

                                                                                      The memorandum of understanding was signed on September 1 by the ChineseAmbassadorto South Africa Chen Xiaodong on behalf of the China National Space Administration and Humbulani Mudau, Director General of the South African National Space Agency.

                                                                                      Two agreements on official cooperation were signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to South Africa which started on August 22, the first tie-up of its kind between the nations, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The agreements will bring South Africa onto the team for China and Russia's planned International Lunar Research Station.

                                                                                      China has partnered with Russia on a number of upcoming projects, including the International Lunar Research Station, a planned lunar base consisting of a space station in lunar orbit, a complex on the lunar surface, and a fleet of robots. The two nations said the project is open to all others who would like to join, and have signed on a handful of partners.

                                                                                      In addition, under the framework of the BRICS cooperation on remote sensing satellite constellation, space agencies of China and South Africa have carried out cooperation on remote sensing data exchange and application, as well as communications on satellite ground stations.

                                                                                      In the memorandum, the two countries specifically pointed out that on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and South Africa, South Africa's participation in the International Lunar Research Station program indicates the extension of China-South Africa cooperation from near-Earth space to the moon and deep space exploration.

                                                                                      The cooperation between the two sides is of great significance to promoting the progress of space science and technology between China and South Africa and helping to build a high-level China-South Africa community of shared future.

                                                                                      The African space economy in 2021 was valued at $19.49 billion and is forecast to grow by some 16 percent in the next four years, according to media reports. However, as of 2022 only 13 African countries have 48 satellites, six of them built by China and one by the US, with experts saying satellite communication is essential to bridging the connectivity gap on the continent.

                                                                                      In fact, space is an important part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, said Hu Changchun,the head of China's mission to the AU, adding that space cooperation has become a highlight of China-Africa cooperation in terms of enjoying fruitful results of satellite launches, space infrastructure, as well as sharing of satellite resources.

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