BRICS shatters mentality of Hostility and distrust among nations

Brazil, Russia, India and China formally established the BRIC partnership in 2009. In 2010, South Africa was invited to be part of the group. The 15th BRICS Summit was held in South Africa from August 22-24, 2023 in the presence of many heads of state and government. The Summit was conducted under the theme “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism”. Its Declaration has affirmed that it will support the African Union Agenda 2063 and the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. From the theme and the details of the Declaration, it is clear that the Summit has given considerable attention to African countries and the continental organization at large.

In the preamble of the Declaration, it is stated that one of the three main pillars of BRICS is to strengthen “political and security” cooperation. It also opposes unilateral actions and promotes multilateralism. The Declaration stated about the reform of the United Nations and to make the Security Council representatives and mentioned Brazil, India, and South Africa “to play a greater role in international affairs, in particular in the United Nations, including its Security Council”. The Declaration has also underlined the significance of the peaceful resolution of international disputes and conflicts through diplomatic means including “dialogue, negotiations, consultations, mediation and good offices”.

This 15th Summit is historical in its decisions. Article 91 of the Declaration stated that BRICS members have “decided to invite the Argentine Republic, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to become full members of BRICS from January 1, 2024”. President Ramaphosa of South Africa, the current chair of BRICS, announced the joining of the six countries. Even if about 42 countries have shown interest in being part of the BRICS, only six of them could join the partnership.

There are various comments about the new BRICS+. Some Western media called the BRICS+ group as an anti-dollar group in the de-dollarization process. Others say the member states of the group have more disagreements and historical rivalries than harmony and cooperation. In explaining this matter many mentioned the disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Iran for their regional hegemony and religious sect competition; Ethiopia and Egypt on the Nile River; China and India on border issues; Brazil and Argentina on the geopolitical competition, UAE and Iran on the territorial dispute over three islands- Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb; the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a threat to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This has ignited discussions about the political ramifications among member states of BRICS+6.

Of course, there are some improvements in the above-mentioned problems. For instance, after China brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two governments are trying to overcome past hostility and boost cooperation. Now they agreed to “end a diplomatic rift and re-establish relations following years of hostility that had endangered regional stability in the Gulf, as well as in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon”. They have also reopened their embassies in one another’s countries to improve diplomatic relations. Egypt and Ethiopia are also negotiating on the use of the River Nile or Abay. Other member countries are also coming to terms.

In my opinion, the presence and invitation of “unfriendly governments” in BRICS is a paradigm shift from the mentality of animosity and suspicion to ray of hope. It also shows that governments have a lot of common issues than the specific issues of disputes. For instance, Ethiopia and Egypt have different positions on the use of the Nile River/ Abay. But they can have trade, investment, cultural, and political relations that can benefit both governments. The disagreement on one issue should not be determinant to contain other cooperation and partnerships between the two countries.

Thus both the negotiations on their differences and cooperation on common agendas can go together. It is the same for Iran-Saudi Arabia, and other “unfriendly” governments. They can get a chance to discuss not in big conferences such as the United Nations and the African Union, but in small circles comprising only eleven governments. BRICS+ is complementing the main objective of the United Nations to maintain peace and security in the world.

BRICS has proven the practical application of “unity in diversity”. In addition to conflicts of some interests, there are big common interests i.e. common interests are larger than conflicts of interests. The Global North cannot use the conflicting interests of member states to the benefit of their own i.e. no “divide and rule” against the Global South. BRICS+ will challenge the old world order and put new alternatives. It seems that BRICS+ relies more on soft power than hard power to challenge the present world order which is based on more of hard power than soft power. Soft power includes a larger population, larger market, the use of other alternative currency, stronger multilateralism than unilateralism, natural resources and the like.

BRICS+ has also proven that developing countries have a lot of common agendas to work on. It is also showing that the IMF and World Bank are not the sole sources of funds. BRICS Development Bank can be a source of finance for big projects in the Global South. There is no arm-twisting like that of the IMF and World Bank that requests structural adjustments and other attached strings so as to provide finance.

BRICS+ will strengthen a multipolar world that can counterbalance the unnecessary pressure from hegemonic powers. A multipolar world is more advantageous to developing countries than developed countries that have the leverage to use unilateral decisions on other weak countries. BRICS+ is not to challenge the global north but to complement the gaps and interests of developing countries. It can work with the Global North on common issues including global peace and security, climate change, human rights, sustainable development and democracy. Thus BRICS+ is not creating the replica of the “Warsaw Pact” as a contending power to NATO and Global North. Rather it helps to transform the world order from confrontation to cooperation.

BRICS+ is developing a new system that can shape the current global order which is dominated by the Global North. BRICS has life to develop from time to time (from BRIC to BRICS then to BRICS+6 and it will continue). Membership is not cut and dried like that of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. This shows that the world is moving from veto to motto of partnership and cooperation.

Unlike the veto power of the United Nations system, BRICS+ will work on equal footing with member states. It has also affirmed about “mutual respect and understanding, sovereign equality, solidarity, democracy, openness, inclusiveness, strengthened collaboration and consensus”. The theme of the 15th Summit of BRICS has shown sympathy to Africa and other developing countries. It is based on neither political ideology (such as socialism and capitalism) nor religious sects (Sunni, Shia, and denominations of Christianity). Thus ideology and religion are not determinant factors to create partnership under the BRICS+ grouping.

Similar to a football team, the number of BRICS+ is eleven. Both need strong teamwork to be successful. Each member and player contributes to the success of the team. The weakness of one member will affect the entire team. Eleven members of BRICS+ play together for a shared goal or purpose i.e. economic prosperity, peace, and security. Success means winning the game. When the need arise they can change their strategies and tactics to be winner. All members communicate to work effectively and efficiently. There must be trust among the members and to have autonomy in decision-making.

Before the enlargement, BRICS covered 30% of the world’s territory and 18% of global trade. As stated in the Declaration, BRICS countries produce “one-third of the world’s food”. Sources show that the additional six nations to BRICS have increased the coverage of the group concerning the world population from 42% to 46%, of global GDP from 23% to 36%.

In conclusion, BRICS+ will help to grow together and build trust among “unfriendly” member states. As Helen Keller forwarded the famous quote “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. BRICS+ members have their own comparative and competitive advantages i.e. some have fuel, others have big population and markets, and others have important geopolitical positions, and others have technological advancement. BRICS+ will combine the advantages of each member for success of the group. Thus the eleven members of BRICS+ can play in their comparatively advantageous position for the same goal be it midfielder, striker, defender, or goalkeeper.

(This author is a researcher in International Relations and Diplomacy,

Institute of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia,



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