Plot­ting a path for BRICS era

SA in the driv­ing seat use­ful to ush­er­ing in the 4th In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, writes Anil Sooklal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

THE Re­pub­lic of South Africa first hosted a Sum­mit of the BRICS Fo­rum in 2013, in Dur­ban, two years af­ter we joined this em­i­nent plat­form of emerg­ing mar­kets and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Since its in­cep­tion, BRICS’s per­for­mance has gone from strength to strength and has sur­passed the ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tions of mem­bers and ob­servers alike.

The mark­ing of a decade of co-oper­a­tion at the level of heads of state and gov­ern­ment (which is to say, sum­mits) is thus an im­por­tant as­pect of South Africa chair­ing in 2018, and we in­tend to use the 10th BRICS Sum­mit to chart the path for the next chap­ter of mean­ing­ful and im­pact­ful BRICS co-oper­a­tion.

As a mem­ber, and in pur­suit of na­tional and re­gional ob­jec­tives, South Africa in­tends to max­imise its chair­ship of BRICS in 2018 to de­rive tan­gi­ble co-oper­a­tion re­sults for our part­ners, our con­ti­nent and the de­vel­op­ing com­mu­nity more broadly. In par­tic­u­lar, this co-oper­a­tion should al­low us all to bet­ter nav­i­gate the tran­si­tion into the 4th In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, and to ben­e­fit from shared pros­per­ity in this new real­ity, rather than to be over­whelmed by its ef­fects.

Our ob­jec­tives dur­ing our first ten­ure of pres­i­dency were mod­est but em­phatic in their in­ten­tion to con­trib­ute to the in­sti­tu­tional agenda of the BRICS Fo­rum. The plat­forms that we pro­posed in 2013, in­clud­ing the BRICS Think Tanks Coun­cil (BTTC) and the BRICS Busi­ness Coun­cil (BBC) have gained trac­tion and have been fully em­braced and strength­ened by the ef­forts of all mem­bers over the years. These have be­come pos­i­tive plat­forms of knowl­edge gen­er­a­tion and knowl­edge shar­ing, as well as for the for­mu­la­tion of re­spon­sive an­swers to the ques­tions posed to us by the un­fold­ing mod­ern re­al­i­ties.

Fur­ther­more, the New Developmen­t Bank (NDB) truly took form in 2013, in the dis­cus­sions un­der South Africa’s chair­ship. Along with the Con­tin­gent Re­serve Ar­range­ment (CRA), these are con­sid­ered the flag­ship in­sti­tu­tions of BRICS co-oper­a­tion.

Our theme in 2013, namely, “BRICS and Africa: Part­ner­ship for Developmen­t, In­te­gra­tion and In­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion”, ar­tic­u­lated an ob­jec­tive that we still hold as im­per­a­tive to­day; that be­ing, to use our par­tic­i­pa­tion in BRICS to en­join BRICS and Africa in developmen­t co-oper­a­tion and to ad­vo­cate for the sup­port of BRICS mem­bers for Africa and its en­doge­nous re­gional pol­icy ob­jec­tives.

Of course, we be­gan weav­ing the African Agenda into BRICS Dec­la­ra­tions as soon as we joined the fo­rum at the 2011 Sanya Sum­mit. How­ever, it was im­por­tant to en­sure that the sen­ti­men­tal sup­port was but­tressed by a prac­ti­cal and tan­gi­ble ar­tic­u­la­tion of this sup­port.

Thus, sub­se­quent to our ar­rang­ing an Out­reach Di­a­logue be­tween African and BRICS lead­ers in 2013, the BRICS lead­ers man­dated that the first re­gional cen­tre of the New Developmen­t Bank would be in Africa and would be es­tab­lished con­cur­rently to the NDB head­quar­ters, South Africa is de­lighted to have de­liv­ered on the man­date given to us by our African part­ners. The Africa Re­gional Cen­tre was launched in Au­gust 2017 and, al­though at a nascent stage, it has com­menced its work and has cred­i­ble plans in place to fa­cil­i­tate in­fra­struc­ture and in­dus­trial developmen­t projects on the con­ti­nent.

South Africa was the first to ini­ti­ate these Out­reach Dia­logues and our BRICS part­ners have all given mo­men­tum to this ini­tia­tive through the out­reach sum­mits they have hosted since 2013. We will bring this ini­tia­tive full cir­cle this year, when Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa again hosts the BRICS-Africa Out­reach, dur­ing the 10th BRICS sum­mit. Ad­di­tional to this, we have in­vited rep­re­sen­ta­tive lead­ers from the Global South for an in­ter­ac­tion in the BRICS Plus for­mat.

As much as the agenda of BRICS is driven by con­sen­sus, South Africa in its part is pleased to have made no­table and valu­able con­tri­bu­tions over the years. South Africa’s cur­rent pres­i­dency, as with those of our part­ners in the past, has been an­chored in two ap­proaches, namely en­sur­ing con­ti­nu­ity for the projects and pro­grammes that are in place, and car­ry­ing those suc­cess­fully for­ward; while keep­ing in­no­va­tion in mind and mak­ing space for new ar­eas and ways of co-oper­a­tion.

This means that, dur­ing our chair­ship, we will pre­side over an an­nual cal­en­dar of events that com­prises more than one hun­dred sec­toral meet­ings. In this re­gard, the meet­ings of the BRICS Sher­pas and Sous-Sher­pas are par­tic­u­larly valu­able, as they pro­vide the first point of con­sul­ta­tion among our coun­tries and are in­stru­men­tal in build­ing con­sen­sus around ideas that sub­se­quently be­come BRICS projects and pro­grammes.

We have hosted three meet­ings of the BRICS Sher­pas and SousSher­pas in the Western Cape, Lim­popo and Gaut­eng, re­spec­tively. These meet­ings not only gave our part­ners three unique and mul­ti­di­men­sional of­fer­ings of our coun­try but, more im­por­tantly, we cau­cused our key chair­ship de­liv­er­ables and pro­pos­als, which re­ceived re­sound­ing sup­port. These in­clude: the es­tab­lish­ment of a BRICS Vac­cine Re­search Cen­tre; the es­tab­lish­ment of a BRICS Peace­keep­ing Work­ing Group; the es­tab­lish­ment of a BRICS Women’s Fo­rum; BRICS Tourism Co-oper­a­tion; and Lever­ag­ing the Strat­egy for BRICS Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship to­wards the pur­suit of In­clu­sive Growth and Ad­vanc­ing the 4th In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion. All of these rep­re­sent an ef­fort to pro­vide re­sponses to po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cia chal­lenges and re­al­i­ties.

In ad­di­tion to the Sher­pas’ meet­ings, we have hosted var­i­ous high-level en­gage­ments and Min­is­te­rial Meet­ings. These in­clude, but are not lim­ited to, an Anti-Cor­rup­tion Work­ing Group Meet­ing (Fe­bru­ary 2018); the 17th Meet­ing of the Con­tact Group on Eco­nomic and Trade Is­sues (Fe­bru­ary 2018); the 9th Tech­ni­cal Na­tional Statis­tics Of­fices (March 2018); Counter-Ter­ror­ism Work­ing Group (April 2018); Se­cu­rity in the Use of ICTs (May 2018); Meet­ing of BRICS En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ters (May 2018); and the Meet­ing of the En­ergy Work­ing Group (May 2018).

Fur­ther­more, the BRICS Min­is­ters of For­eign Af­fairs/ In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions met on June 4, 2018. The min­is­ters’ dis­cus­sions re­in­forced the core val­ues that brought BRICS coun­tries to­gether – in­clud­ing the safe-guard­ing of the UN and its Char­ter and up­hold­ing mul­ti­lat­eral co-oper­a­tion. In the face of the cur­rent global re­al­i­ties, in­clud­ing the turn by some in­ter­na­tional play­ers to­wards uni­lat­er­al­ism and pro­tec­tion­ism, these val­ues have be­come even more im­por­tant and BRICS must lead the way in their pro­tec­tion and fur­ther en­trench­ment.

A global world or­der that is based on eq­uity and fair­ness de­pends on this. The min­is­ters’ meet­ing was equally demon­stra­tive of the man­ner in which the BRICS are, and must con­tinue to be, re­spon­sive to global de­vel­op­ments and re­al­i­ties as they un­fold.

The BRICS En­voys (deputy min­is­ters) on the Mid­dle East and North Africa (MENA) will meet soon (June 20-21) and will sim­i­larly be grap­pling with bur­geon­ing in­ter­na­tional crises in this com­plex re­gion, and forg­ing BRICS con­sen­sus in re­spond­ing to these.

These meet­ings, and those to come, are lay­ing the path to the

10th BRICS Sum­mit and con­sti­tute the sec­toral back­bone of the up­com­ing meet­ings of the BRICS Lead­ers. Fur­ther meet­ings will be held through­out the year, un­til the con­clu­sion of the South African chair­ship in De­cem­ber.

Cur­rently, in ad­di­tion to be­ing seized with their sec­toral work, South African na­tional de­part­ments and stake­hold­ers are in the process of con­sol­i­dat­ing the Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit Dec­la­ra­tion, which will be a com­pre­hen­sive and re­flec­tive out­comes doc­u­ment.

The Dec­la­ra­tion will speak to the key is­sues that we are driv­ing this year, par­tic­u­larly the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, and of the ar­eas of shared im­por­tance for BRICS coun­tries. As al­ways, BRICS will con­sider the in­ter­na­tional re­al­i­ties and en­deav­our to col­lec­tively re­spond to those.

South Africa is hon­oured and takes se­ri­ously its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as chair of BRICS.

We look for­ward to wel­com­ing the lead­ers and del­e­gates of BRICS, Africa and other emerg­ing mar­kets and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to South Africa in July; and to con­tin­u­ing the legacy and spirit of Nel­son Man­dela in our ef­forts.

Pro­fes­sor Sooklal is the Dirco DDG for Asia Mid­dle East. He is also the South African BRICS Sherpa

PIC­TURE: JACQUES NAUDE/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov, In­dian for­eign min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj, Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-oper­a­tion Lindiwe Sisulu, China’s for­eign min­is­ter Wang Yi and Brazil’s deputy min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs Mar­cos Gal­vao at a...

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