Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 36.2020
2020.08.31 — 2020.09.06
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
India-China standoff: Why the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation still matters for India? (Противостояние Индии и Китая: почему Шанхайская организация сотрудничества по-прежнему важна для Индии?) / India, September, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion

prolonged military standoff at the Himalayan border has created a new dilemma for New Delhi'sengagements at the BRICS (an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation). A series of meeting of Indian and Chinese representatives is in the offing in the near future. The interactions of the foreign and the defence ministers of the BRICS and the SCO in early September will culminate in the summit meetings in October.

The credibility of these organisations would depend on their ability to manage the present crisis and restore normalcy between India and China. Although bilateral conflict resolution is not within the purview of the SCO or the BRICS, their relevance would be greatly enhanced if they can play a role in facilitating negotiations for an early resolution of the conflict. Within the SCO, Russia can employ its influence over Beijing and New Delhi. However, ultimately it will be up to the two contending neighbours to negotiate a settlement.

In a similar stalemate over Doklam in 2017, Russia's back-channel diplomacy had been crucial to the eventual disengagement. The then-forthcoming BRICS summit at Xiamen put an ethical pressure on the leaders to de-escalate tensions and demonstrate a united front. Some experts argue that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made his visit to Xiamen conditional on the satisfactory resolution of the Doklam standoff.

There is a concern that the visuals of Modi-Xi sharing the stage at the forthcoming SCO and the BRICS summits, when the two armies are embroiled in a face-off at Ladakh, may not go down well with an agitated Indian audience. New Delhi would take every step to avoid such embarrassment. The best option is to resolve the standoff before the Summit or else it would be under pressure to take other steps to please its audience. Recently, it cancelled the participation of its troops for the joint military exercise Kavkaz 2020. It did not want its troops to be seen practising with the Chinese forces. Anti-China sentiments are at an all-time high, and Indian leadership cannot afford to be soft and conciliatory on China.

The ruling BJP government has been unable to shape the narrative on the Ladakh crisis in its favour. An immediate withdrawal of the Chinese troops would have been the best outcome for the government. However, the significant casualties of Indian troops that triggered a seemingly interminable standoff has put the government on the defensive. The stark facts on the ground have rendered ineffective the usual propaganda permeated through the ruling party's social media warriors. On the other hand, the opponents of the government have acquired a lethal weapon to flog the government on its favourite turf of national security. Having touted a policy of zero-tolerance against China, the government is caught in its trap with narrowing options at the border. To be fair to the government, however, key functionaries have downplayed the incident and are persistent in breaking the deadlock.

India should leverage the multilateral forums such as the SCO and the BRICS to its advantage. India's indispensability for these organisations can be exploited to advance its national interest. Its presence in these organisations tips the balance in its favour of Russia. Without India, China would exert a disproportionate influence over them. The border conflicts, however, have put a serious question mark on their efficacy in tackling the issues of global governance. An impression one gets is- how will they tackle the global issues if they cannot manage conflicts in their backyards.

This conflict is also pushing India closer to the US. A section of Indian experts advocates withdrawal from these organisations as a necessary precondition to forge a durable alliance with the US. Such advocacies are fraught with dangerous consequences for India's interests in Eurasia.

The government, however, has not indicated that its policy towards the BRICS or the SCO is about to shift. Rajnath Singh, the Defence Minister of India, will be visiting Moscow to participate in the SCO defence ministers' meet. S Jaishankar, the Minister of External Affairs, will take part in a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of the BRICS countries on September 4, followed by his scheduled visit to Moscow on September 9-10 for the SCO foreign ministers' meet.

At a broader level, India's policy towards the BRICS and the SCO seeks to attain a geopolitical balance in the region. In the last two decades, India has cultivated strong ties with the United States. To balance this partnership, it has developed simultaneous relations with Russia and other powers. India cannot cede the space it has created assiduously through the BRICS and the SCO. Instead, it should try to protect its interests through these organisations.

It a fact that China, along with Russia and three Central Asian states, founded the Shanghai Five (later SCO) in 1996 to resolve the border issues. Over time, however, its expanding membership and agendas have imparted a new direction to this organisation. The SCO and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) are the two critical security organisations in Eurasia. India's disinterest in the SCO would amount to giving a walkover to China and Pakistan in Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan.

As India connects to Eurasia through Chabahar, it becomes imperative to remain embedded to the security institutions in the region. It cannot function in isolation against terrorism and radicalism. Terrorism is an issue where the majority of the members of the SCO besides Pakistan would agree with India. Further, as the US army withdraws from Afghanistan, the SCO is likely to gain priority in that region. Given India'shigh economic and security stakes in Afghanistan, it would be in its interest to cooperate closely with the SCO.

Finally, India's primary role in the SCO is to enhance security cooperation with Russia and Central Asian states on issues of radicalism, terrorism, secessionism and drug trafficking. India was inducted in this organisation to counterbalance the growing influence of China. And there is no reason why India can not play that role now. New Delhi can also convince Washington that it is in their interest if India remains active in the new great game of Central Asia.

(Rajan Kumar teaches in School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Sandeep Tripathi is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Legal Studies and Research, GLA University, Mathura, UP. Views expressed are personal.)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to questions from MGIMO students and academic staff on the occasion of the beginning of a new academic year, Moscow, September 1, 2020 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова перед студентами и профессорско-преподавательским составом МГИМО по случаю начала учебного года, Москва, 1 сентября 2020 года) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech

Mr Torkunov,
Mr Yakovenko,

Traditionally, we meet here on September 1 to give a joint start to a new academic year. Of course, we send special congratulations to the first-year students who were admitted in the wake of a serious competition, of which Rector Anatoly Torkunov just provided a detailed account. MGIMO renews its reputation year in and year out. The competition here is the highest among Russian universities, and the quality of new students is always a source of great respect and admiration.

Despite the coronavirus, admissions went well this year. We followed them online and otherwise to make sure the requirements were complied with. Mr Torkunov has just mentioned the results which are impressive.

Mr Torkunov celebrated his anniversary the other day. It was especially gratifying to hear people talk on this day about MGIMO traditions, our history and the people who work and study here. So, I don't need to say more about my alma mater. I would like to once again extend my best wishes to Mr Torkunov on his anniversary. As you may be aware, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, signed an executive order to present the rector of MGIMO, Alexander Torkunov, with the Order of Merit to the Fatherland, 2nd Class. I think this symbolically goes to show not only the recognition of his personal achievements, but also his achievements at the university.

Mr Torkunov said that the Foreign Ministry as an employer is the ultimate measure of the university's success. Although, based on the numbers, an insignificant portion of the graduates join the Foreign Ministry every year, maybe dozens, or at times, a hundred or so graduates. Many more graduates find employment in government departments, private businesses or journalism. The training is fundamental in nature and provides an excellent opportunity to choose a profession to one's liking. Once again, the quality of the education guarantees that, if there's a will, great success can be achieved in any area of interest.

As you are aware, we chose diplomacy as our major at a time when it was easier to make this choice. Probably, there were fewer temptations compared to the number of faculties that are available at MGIMO now. We had four faculties. We chose diplomacy, so every year I talk about diplomacy here. Considering that you joined the Institute of International Relations, I am not going to spend much time talking about the international situation. If you are here, then you must be following developments and taking an interest in them.

I will say briefly that for several years now the international situation has been characterised by a transition to a new, more democratic and just multilateral system, which should do a better job accounting for the changes that have taken place in the world over the past decades. Primarily, the changes consist of the fact that all issues have become transboundary and affect all countries equally. No country can deal on its own with the kind of challenges we are facing now. The coronavirus is one such challenge, not to mention international terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime, climate problems and much more.

Another problem we are facing today is the reluctance of many countries, primarily the individual US-led Western countries, to recognise objective reality, notably, the forming of a new system of relations and the emergence of new centres of power. It will suffice to mention China and India as the drivers of economic growth. As for the Asia-Pacific Region as a whole, this region is growing the fastest of all. The financial might followed by political influence comes with the appearance of economic power. I consider short-sighted and dangerous attempts to ignore this reality and prevent the creation of relations that would take into account the new achievements of many countries fully and with due respect. So what is happening? For almost 500 years our Western colleagues set the tone in world affairs, controlled the economy via colonial conquest and ensured a glamorous life for their elite by exporting natural resources from their colonies. Much has happened in these 500 years.

Even after the colonial system collapsed the teacher-pupil or boss-assistant relations still largely influenced the mentality of Western politicians. Even today they refuse to recognise the need to deal with others on an equal basis, and to take for granted a multi-polar and multi-centric reality. Now they are trying to preserve their dominant position not by using the natural mechanisms of economic dominance they created but through completely illegal approaches. These are sanctions, direct intervention and many other actions that we see practically daily as regards many states.

When they fail to dominate a country in a single effort, they create what is called "a space of chaos" that they hope to turn into controlled chaos. But experience shows it is impossible to manage chaos. It all started in Yugoslavia back in 1999 and was followed by the events in Iraq, Libya, Syria and other countries in the Middle East. The sad example of what happened in Ukraine is common knowledge. Today, our Belorussian neighbours are going through a difficult time. We have stated our position in very clear terms. President of Russia Vladimir Putin openly spoke about it. We will be guided by international law and the commitments that exist between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. Of course, we want Belarusians to have the opportunity to resolve their problems without any outside interference.

We can see that many Western states, both our neighbours and the countries overseas - I'm talking about the United States and Canada – are tempted to impose certain approaches to overcoming the current situation in the Republic of Belarus. President of Belarus Lukashenko is responding to these approaches. We believe no obtrusive intermediary services are needed. The President of Belarus has proposed constitutional reform. According to our shared assessment, this move can be used to start a dialogue with civil society and should allow for discussing all the issues of concern that are of interest to particular groups of Belarusian citizens. Later, during the interactive part of our meeting, I can provide more comments on this matter should you have any questions.

Now, I would like to conclude my opening remarks by saying that we stand for a more democratic and just world order, strict compliance with the UN Charter and against attempts to replace international law with obscure rules the world order should be based on. This is a new idea advanced by the Western countries. They coined the term "rule-based order." The rules change all the time depending on what our Western colleagues want to achieve in a particular case. Coalitions of like-minded nations are being created, usually from among Western countries; they also hand-pick partners from other regions who do as our Western colleagues say. In their circle, they agree to create some kind of a "partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons," then "cybersecurity partnership" and "partnerships to punish those who interfere in cyberspace with unseemly goals" or a "partnership to protect human rights." All of this is done in a format that is far from universal, but is used only within a narrow circle of those who will not go against the Western initiators of these machinations. Then, the rule that governs a particular issue is declared universal, and everyone is required to observe it. Those who do not comply with the rules developed in such a narrow circle are subjected to sanctions.

Unfortunately, the European Union, on cue from the United States, is increasingly going down the road of the sanctions pressure. The EU decided to create mechanisms for imposing sanctions for intrusion into the cyber-sphere with criminal intent (according to their judgment), human rights and some other matters. These sanctions are illegitimate from the point of view of international law, just like any other unilateral sanctions for that matter. This trend is clearly taking shape. "We - the West, the EU and NATO - know better how to live on this planet." Everyone else should listen up.

Look at what NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, certain EU representatives and Western leaders who head the OSCE are saying about the situation in Belarus. It's nothing short of moral preaching delivered in a tone that allows no doubt that it should be followed by everyone as a guideline. This stems from the lack of elementary diplomatic skills and, by and large, is unethical not only from the diplomatic, but also the plain good manners point of view. We can see that and we take note of it.

For example, our French and German colleagues announced last year that they would create a partnership for multilateralism. Multilateralism is probably a good thing. We have always been in favour of resolving problems through collective – multilateral - approaches rather than unilaterally. Why do those who want to promote multilateralism put forward an initiative like this outside the framework of the most multilateral and universal organisation, the UN? This remains unclear. They haven't even tried to do so. By the way, at the UN, Russia and a large group of countries, including our neighbours and countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, are promoting a partnership in defence of the principles of the UN Charter. This is probably the very motion that is required to indicate commitment to the principles of multilateralism.

We criticise the actions of our Western partners and a number of other countries on the problems that we would like to resolve in accordance with international law and the search for a balance of interests rather than unilateral pressure. Nevertheless, we do not limit ourselves to criticism. We suggest a positive agenda. As I have said, this consists of a return to the foundations of the UN: to respect the principles of the UN Charter; remember that it was born 75 years ago in the aftermath of World War II owing to Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the Victory that was achieved by the efforts of the countries with different socio-political and ideological systems. The allies in the war pooled their efforts for the sake of victory over a common enemy. They rose above the differences that divided them in the years before WWII. This has been expressed many times.

I think that today the world situation is not as bloody as it was in WWII but there are many more risks and they are no less serious. I mentioned terrorism, and drug crime that kills an enormous number of people every year. Let's not forget about the risks of WMD proliferation. Now the United States has practically destroyed the entire system of deterrence in arms control. It is adopting doctrines that actually lower the nuclear threshold. On top of all that, terrorist and other groups crave access to nuclear technology and methods of creating and using other WMDs (chemical and biological weapons). I believe it would be a crime for all of us to isolate ourselves in our "national apartments," slam ours doors and refuse to deal with a country until it complies with our ultimatums. But we are seeing all of that.

Look what problems now exist in relations not only between Russia and the US but also between the US and China.

Our position is one of searching for compromise and a balance of interest. The organisations in which Russia takes part – the CIS, the CSTO, the EAEU, BRICS and the SCO – are designed to find compromise. Recognition of new realities was expressed in the creation of the G20 that includes the BRICS countries, the G7 and a number of leading developing nations. The G20 continues its very important work. Now, in effect, this is the only venue beyond the UN where all countries with the leading economies are represented and in which they have set a common goal – to come to terms. Many other formats that our Western partners are involved in miss this logic.

We promote an agenda that should help overcome persisting international problems through cooperation. It must necessarily be equitable, based on consideration for each other's concerns and be aimed, let me emphasise this again, at searching for a balance of interests.

We have created our vision of moving towards harmony in world affairs. As for economic problems, we are convinced of the need to move towards the creation of the Great Eurasian Partnership (which is reflected in the initiative of the President of Russia) that would be open to economic and humanitarian cooperation of all Eurasian countries, including the members of the EAEU, the SCO, the EU and ASEAN. We have a huge continent with tremendous wealth, and it would be, of course, very unwise not to use this God-given advantage. Our long-term goal is to use it. I am confident that historically this process will be accepted by all countries on our continent.

In the near term, we consider it very important for the UN Security Council permanent members to display responsibility in line with the UN Charter and hold a summit. At this summit, it should be possible to review ways to drastically enhance global security by implementing the power of these five countries, which are fixed in the UN Charter. All five countries have given a positive response to this proposal by President of Russia Vladimir Putin. I hope the summit will take place as soon as the coronavirus pandemic permits. Needless to say, this must be a face-to-face summit.

Let's go to the interactive format.

Question: The coronavirus pandemic caused changes in all spheres of society's life. What changes are in store for the system of international relations?

Sergey Lavrov: The system of international relations is part of the system of society's life. Consequently, long-distance and online technologies that are becoming part of humankind's life will also expand their role in the area of international relations. This process will be directly proportional to the extent of their influence on society's life.

I should mention a very serious restriction here. Far from all important aspects of international affairs can be discussed online, even using the secure networks that are protected from bugging and illegal access. This technological process would be unsafe; however, this is not the most important thing. The problem is that it is impossible to coordinate the most serious agreements on the most crucial matters online. This calls for personal contacts, a chance to get a feeling of where the other party is at, an understanding of how they can be reasoned with, as well as a readiness to find something in their words that can be acceptable for you. As I see it, this process can never be completely conducted online. Nothing can replace personal contacts. At the same time, there is a number of events, especially those with more pronounced protocol aspects. For example, this includes a meeting of some organisation's ministers for which expert documents have already been prepared. The ministers have the opportunity to speak and approve the relevant resolutions. In this case, I don't see any major problems with using the online format. We have held a videoconference of SCO foreign ministers, and we are preparing for a BRICS conference. A videoconference of G20 foreign ministers is scheduled to be held this week. Saudi Arabia currently presides in the G20, and it is organising the event. I repeat, these are mostly protocol and ceremonial occasions. But for numerous personal meetings, including closed, private and confidential meetings between the United States and Iranian representatives, the sides would never have reached agreement without holding numerous in-person talks.

We are now ready to support direct dialogue between the United States and Iran, and we are ready to create favourable conditions for this dialogue, if both sides are interested in this. It is always better to directly state one's grievances and listen to the answer.
Chinese FM stresses BRICS countries' responsibility for int'l peace, global development (Глава МИД Китая подчеркнул ответственность стран БРИКС за международный мир и глобальное развитие) / China, September, 2020
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, wang_yi, sustainable_development

BRICS countries should boost confidence, deepen cooperation and strengthen coordination so as to fulfill responsibilities for international peace and global development, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.

Wang made the remarks when attending the meeting of foreign ministers of BRICS on Friday via video link.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presided over the meeting. Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor and Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo attended.

Wang said at present, the world is facing a series of new threats and challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic poses a direct threat to human health; unilateral bullying poses a severe challenge to the international order; and protectionism has had a major impact on the world economy.

At the same time, it should be noted that the trend of the times featuring peace, development, cooperation and win-win results has not changed, the law of development that economic globalization continues to move forward in twists and turns has not changed, and the basic trend of the rise of emerging economies represented by BRICS countries has not changed, Wang said.

BRICS countries should jointly deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and jointly promote multilateralism, the recovery of the world economy, and political settlement of hot-spot issues, Wang added.

"As long as we maintain unity and work together, the BRICS countries can further become a force for safeguarding world peace and stability. This serves the common interests of BRICS countries and will benefit the whole world," Wang added.

The foreign ministers of the five participating countries had an in-depth exchange of views on the global situation, regional hot-spot issues and BRICS cooperation. All parties agreed that under the current circumstances, BRICS countries need to strengthen solidarity to meet challenges head-on.
BRICS countries are strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation (Страны БРИКС укрепляют антитеррористическое сотрудничество) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: terrorism, cooperation

On 1-2 September, the fifth plenary session of the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group was held under Russia's chairmanship via videoconference. The meeting was preceded by inaugural meetings of the practicing experts' subgroups established to deepen practical interaction between the five countries on certain critical issues of the counter-terrorism agenda.

The delegations had a substantive exchange of views on the existing terrorist threats on a global and regional scale and outlined steps to enhance coordination at specialised multilateral platforms, primarily at the UN.

The main outcome of the session was approving the Draft BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which should give impetus to counter-terrorism cooperation between the five states.
BRICS Ministers of Culture discuss current cooperation issues (Министры культуры БРИКС обсудили актуальные вопросы сотрудничества) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, cooperation

On 3 September 2020, Ms Alla Manilova, Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation chaired the V Meeting of BRICS Ministers of via videoconference. The meeting saw the presence of Mr Mario Frias, Brazilian Special Secretary for Culture of , Mr Prahlad Singh Patel, Indian MoS of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of India, , Mr Zhang Xu, Chinese Vice Minister of Culture and Tourism, and Ms Nocawe Noncedo Mafu, South African Deputy Minister of Sports and Recreation, Arts and Culture.

The experts discussed current issues of cultural cooperation among BRICS nations, including collaboration in the fields of museums, libraries, music, theatre, circus and folk arts, as well as the preservation of the cultural heritage of their countries.

"The year of Russian BRICS Chairmanship is decorated with the 5th anniversary of the first Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Culture and the signing of the Agreement between the Governments of the BRICS States on Cooperation in the field o f Culture - the foundation document of our relations. We have come a long way together. Over this period, cooperation within the BRICS has changed considerably and has acquired a number of new forms," Alla Manilova noted in her opening remarks.

The participants recalled the most interesting projects they had carried out, discussed the implementation of the intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Culture (2017-2021) signed in Tianjin, China in 2017, and announced their plans for BRICS cultural events in 2020.

"There will be some changes in the format of the BRICS Film Festival scheduled for 1-7 October. The traditional Film Forum on cooperation between BRICS countries in the field of movies will be held online on 7 October. However, BRICS movies will be shown for the audience in-person in cinema halls within the framework of the Moscow International Film Festival," Alla Manilova pointed out.

Furthermore, The Sides have also reaffirmed their readiness to strengthen and broaden cooperation within BRICS. In order to do thata BRICS Working Group on Culture will be formed, whose participants will annually exchange information about multilateral cultural cooperation and will update each other on the upcoming large-scale events to be held in their countries.

Following the meeting, the Declaration of the V Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Culture was adopted.
Media statement - Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs / International Relations (Заявление для СМИ - Встреча министров иностранных дел / международных отношений БРИКС) / India, September, 2020
Keywords: concluded_agreements, foreign_ministers_meeting, off_docs

September 04, 2020

  • The Stand-alone Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs / International Relations under the Chairmanship of the Russian Federation was held via videoconferencing on 4 September 2020.
  • The Ministers exchanged views on major international and regional issues in the political, security, economic, trade, financial and sustainable development spheres, as well as reviewed the progress in intra-BRICS activities. They discussed also the possibilities for mutual support of their initiatives and closer cooperation at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.
  • They recalled that 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The Ministers expressed support for continued cooperation of BRICS countries in areas of mutual interest, including through regular exchanges amongst their Permanent Missions to the United Nations and in other international fora.
  • The Ministers reminded that, born out of the horrors of Second World War, the United Nations, as a common endeavor for humanity, was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. They expressed support for the high-level event on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. The Ministers further called for a resolute stand against the rehabilitation of Nazi ideology, racism and xenophobia and the distortion of history.They reaffirmed the need to strengthen international cooperation to build a brighter shared future for the international community. They emphasized their support to efforts towards making international governance more inclusive, representative and participatory with greater participation of emerging markets and developing countries in international decision-making.
  • The Ministers reaffirmed the commitment to upholding and respecting international law, including the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and to the central role of the UN in an international system in which sovereign States cooperate to maintain peace and security, advance sustainable development and ensure the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. They also underlined the imperative that international organizations be fully driven by Member States and promote the interests of all. They called for the 75th anniversary of the UN to be celebrated by enhanced efforts to establish a more fair, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multipolar international system based on sovereign equality of States, non-intervention in their internal affairs, cooperation and mutual respect for interests and concerns of all. They underlined, in this regard, the imperative of refraining from any coercive measures not based on international law and the UN Charter.
  • The Ministers recalled the 2005 World Summit Outcome document and reaffirmed the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council, with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient,and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges. China and Russia reiterated the importance they attach to the status and role of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN.
  • The Ministers acknowledged the Joint Statement by BRICS Trade Ministers on Multilateral Trading System and the WTO Reform on 23 July 2020 and reaffirmed their support for a transparent, open, inclusive and non-discriminatory rules-based multilateral trading system, as embodied in the WTO. They reiterated the importance of WTO reform and emphasized the central role of the WTOin promoting predictability, stability and legal certainty for international trade. They underlined the importance of all WTO Members abiding by WTO rules and complying with their commitments, thus avoiding unilateral and protectionist measures, which run counter to the spirit and the rules of the WTO. The Ministers stressed the urgency of ensuring the restoration and preservation of the normal functioning of the WTO Dispute Settlement System.They noted also the importance of adopting trade facilitation measures to promote trade relations among BRICS countries.
  • The Ministers recognized that currentinterconnected international challenges are a powerful reminder of the imperative to strengthen cooperation between States, and have to be addressed through reinvigorated diplomacy, strengthened and reformed multilateral system, including the UN, the WTO, the WHO, the IMF and other international organizations. The Ministers emphasized their grave concern over the major international challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its very serious health, social and economic impacts across the globe.They expressed their condolences for lives lost and their solidarity with the affected families, as well as their gratitude to all frontline health workers. The Ministers reiterated the pressing need to preserve jobs and income, in particular for the most vulnerable groups of society. They underscored the urgency of restoring international growth and international trade, strengthening markets stability and resilience. The Ministers stressed the value of cooperation between States, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
  • The Ministers recalled the decisions in the Ufa Declaration (2015) to intensify joint efforts on combating the risks of new infectious diseases. While acknowledging the role played by the WHO, they stressed the importance of enhancing BRICS countries' positive contribution to international publichealth security, the need to pursue coordinated and decisive actions, both individually and collectively, including in the framework of the UN, the WHO and other international organizations. They also expect that the international community will be reviewing and drawing lessons from measures taken at all levels to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts, including by intergovernmental institutions,so as to identify good practices and ensure better international preparedness to help States to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and other current and future health challenges,including through mobilization of political support, financial investments and resources.They recalled the decision in the Johannesburg Declaration (2018) to establish the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre and encouraged its timely and effective operationalization.
  • The Ministers underscored the need for all relevant international organizations and financial institutions to collaborate vigorously in order to ensure that the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of social and economic rights and the right to development are addressed in a timely,comprehensiveand integrated manner. In this regard, they stressed the importance of mitigating its consequences for sustainable development. They recommitted to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals in full and on time, as well of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. They also acknowledged in this respect the Statement of the 6th BRICS Ministers of Environment Meeting on 30 July 2020.
  • The Ministers stressed the importance of intra-BRICS scientific, technical, innovation and entrepreneurship cooperation to achieve early economic recovery and high-quality development. In this regard, they recalled the Joint Declaration Regarding Strengthening Cooperation in the Area of the New Industrial Revolution adopted atthe BRICS Industry Ministers Meeting on 24 August 2020 and commended the work of the Part NIR Advisory Group.
  • The Ministers noted with appreciation the role of the New Development Bank (NDB) in infrastructure and sustainable development financing and its contribution to the efforts of BRICS States to address the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. They welcomed the decision of the NDB Board of Governors to establish an Emergency Assistance Facility up to USD 10 billion to meet related needs and the approval of 4 loans in the total amount of USD 4 billion. They also acknowledged the progress made by NDB in the preparatory work towards timely expansion of its membership.
  • The Ministers underlined the imperative of dialogue to address increasing international peace and security challenges through political and diplomatic means. They stressed the need to continue to work together in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation, including by ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space activities as well as the prevention of an arms race in outer space. The Ministers emphasized the urgentneed to negotiate a legally binding multilateral instrument that could fill the gap in the international legal regime applicable to outer space, including on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects.They stressed that practical transparency and confidence building measures may also contribute towards this goal.
  • The Ministers underscored the importance of developing further BRICS cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, including through the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
  • The Ministers emphasized the paramount importance to comply with and to strengthen the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC), including by adopting a Protocol to the Convention that provides for, inter alia, an efficient verification mechanism. They reaffirmed that the BTWC is the core instrument for biological and toxin weapons. Its functions, including in what concerns the UN Security Council, should not be duplicated by other mechanisms. Efforts aimed at the resolution of implementation issues should be consistent with the BTWC.
  • The Ministers reaffirmed support for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and called upon the State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) topreserve the integrity of the CWC and engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to restoring the spirit of consensus in the OPCW.
  • The Ministers expressed concerns at the rise of violence and continuing conflicts in different parts of the world that have significant impact at both the regional and international levels. They concurred that, irrespective of their historic background and distinctive nature, conflicts should be resolved by peaceful means and diplomatic engagement through political dialogue and negotiations in line with principles and norms of international law,particularly the UN Charter.The Ministers noted the UNSC Resolution 2532(2020) demanding a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda with the exception of military operations against terrorist groups, which have beendesignated by the UN Security Council, and calling for durable humanitarian pause against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Ministers expressed deep concern over the situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and emphasized that conflicts and crises in the region should be resolved by political and diplomatic means via inclusive dialogue. The Ministers endorsed the Media Statement of the Meeting of BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys (MENA) on 26 August 2020.
  • The Ministers expressed concern over the security situation and continuing armed conflicts in parts of Africa andcalled for international support for regional and subregional initiatives aimed at strengthening peace and security in Africa based on the principle "African solutions to African problems" as articulated by Africans themselves. They further commended the African Union's commitment to promote the "Silencing the Guns by 2020" initiative and underscored the importance of an enhanced partnership between the United Nations and the African Union in the area of international peace and security.
  • The Ministers expressed serious concern over the situation in Mali. They recalled that the United Nations and the African Union have underlined the urgent need to restore the constitutional order. They called upon all stakeholders to work constructively with ECOWAS to find a peaceful solution to the current impasse and to restore constitutional and democratic order in the country.
  • The Ministers called for establishing long-term peace in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on the basis of successful, direct andinclusive Intra-Afghan negotiations supported by international partners. The peace process should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. They condemned in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attacks that took place in Afghanistan.
  • The Ministers expressed their support for continuing the diplomatic negotiations in bilateral and multilateral formats to resolve all issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula, including its denuclearization, and maintain peace and stability in North East Asia. They reaffirmed the commitment for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation.
  • The Ministers reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations whenever, wherever and by whomsoever committed, and that it should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group. They reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to contribute further to the global efforts of preventing and countering the threat of terrorism on the basis of respect for international law and the UN Charter, emphasizing that States have the primary responsibility in combating terrorism. The Ministers also stressed the need for comprehensive and balanced approach of the whole international community to effectively curb the terrorist activities, which pose a serious threat, including in the present-day pandemic environment. The Ministers welcomed the outcomes of the 5th BRICS Counter-Terrorism Group (CTWG) and its subgroups' inaugural meetings on 31 August – 2 September 2020 which further advanced BRICS cooperation in the areas of countering terrorism and its financing, foreign terrorist fighters, radicalization, the use of the Internet for terrorism purposes and capacity building. They expressed satisfaction at the approval of the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy by the CTWG.
  • The Ministers emphasized the need for launching multilateral negotiations on an international convention for suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism at the Conference on Disarmament in order to address the threat of chemical and biological terrorism.
  • The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of an open, secure, stable, non-discriminatory, accessible and peaceful environment for information and communications technologies (ICTs). They emphasized the need of a comprehensive andbalanced approach to ICTs development and security, including technical advancement, business development, ofsafeguarding the security of States and public interests, and of respecting the right to privacy of individuals.They underscored the leading roleof the United Nations in promoting dialogue to forge common understandings on the security of andin the use of ICTs and development of universally agreed norms, rules and principles for responsible behavior of States in the realm of ICTs, without prejudice to other relevant international fora. They emphasized the importance of international lawand principles applicable in this sphere. In this regard, they welcomed the work of the UN Open-Ended Working Group as well as of the Group of Governmental Experts and noted progress in the discussions.
  • The Ministers underscored the importance of establishing legal frameworks of cooperation among BRICS States on ensuring security in the use of ICTs. They acknowledged the work towards consideration and elaboration of proposals on this matter and took note ofboth the proposal by Russia on a BRICS intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on ensuring security in the use of ICTs and the Brazilian initiative towards bilateral agreements among BRICS countries on the matter. They reaffirmed the importance to advance the intra-BRICS cooperation,including through the implementation of the BRICS Roadmap of Practical Cooperation on Ensuring Security in the Use of ICTs.
  • The Ministers, while emphasizing the formidable potential of the digital revolution for growth and development, recognized new associated possibilities it brings for criminal activities and threats. The Ministers expressed concern over the rising level and complexity of criminal misuse of ICTs as well as the absence of a multilateralframework to counter crime in the realm of ICTs. Theyrecognized also that new challenges and threats in this respect require international cooperation and discussed possible legal frameworks, including the need to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes under the auspices of the UN.
  • The Ministers welcomed the 4th Meeting of the BRICS Anti-Drug Working Group and acknowledged the importance offurther developing cooperation on drug control among BRICS countries. They emphasized their commitment to the three drug control Conventions and the need to preserve the internationaldrug control system.
  • The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to promote international anti-corruption cooperation and strengthen BRICS collaboration, subject to domestic legal systems, on issues related to anti-corruption law enforcement, including on extradition of fugitives, economic and corruption offenders and in recovering stolen assets. They encouraged the BRICS Anti-Corruption Working Group to continue its work on these matters. They noted the Russian initiative on the Roadmap on organization of BRICS work on development within the UN framework of a universal international legal instrument on illicit asset recovery.
  • The Ministers commended with satisfaction that in 2020under the Russian Chairmanship, despite the backdrop of current adverse global challenges, BRICS maintainedthe momentum and continuity of its activities, aimed to produce concrete results for the benefit of citizens. Russia stressed its determination to ensure the advancement of the BRICS strategic partnership in the three pillars of policy and security, economy and finance, culture and people-to-people exchanges.
  • India, China, South Africa and Brazil extended full support to Russia in hosting the 12th BRICS Summit in autumn 2020 and committed themselves to work together for its fruitful outcomes.
BRICS countries note importance of Bioweapons Convention compliance and strengthening (Страны БРИКС отмечают важность соблюдения и усиления Конвенции о биологическом оружии) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: national_security, sustainable_development

The statement, adopted after the ministerial video conference that took place Friday, notes that efforts to resolve issues, connected to implementation of agreements, "must take place within the BWC framework"

MOSCOW, September 4. /TASS/. Foreign Ministers of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) pointed at the key role of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (commonly shortened to BWC) in their joint statement, published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

"The Ministers underscored the foremost importance of compliance and strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention, including the Convention Protocol, which outlines an efficient verification mechanism. They confirmed that the BWC is a key instrument on biological and toxin weapons," the statement says. "Its functions, regarding the UN Security Council in particular, should not be duplicated by other mechanisms."

The statement, adopted after the ministerial video conference that took place Friday, notes that efforts to resolve issues, connected to implementation of agreements, "must take place within the BWC framework."

The top diplomats of the fiver countries "reiterated their support to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and called on the BWC signatory states to preserve its integrity and to conduct a constructive dialogue to restore the spirit of consensus within the OPCW."
Russia ready to share experience of developing COVID-19 vaccine with BRICS — Lavrov (Россия готова поделиться с БРИКС опытом разработки вакцины против COVID-19 - Лавров) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, covid-19, quotation

On August 11, the Sputnik V vaccine received a registration certificate from the Russian Ministry of Health, becoming the world's first registered coronavirus vaccine

MOSCOW, September 4. /TASS/. Russia is ready to share the experience of fighting coronavirus, including developing a vaccine, with its BRICS partners, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.

"Let me remind you that the first Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, was registered recently. Russian scientists developed drugs against the coronavirus infection. We are ready to share this experience with other countries, including our BRICS friends," the minister said in his opening remarks at a meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers held via a video conference.

On August 11, the Sputnik V vaccine developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology received a registration certificate from the Russian Ministry of Health, becoming the world's first registered coronavirus vaccine. More information on the Sputnik V vaccine and other details are available at
Cooperation enhanced among BRICS nations (Расширяется сотрудничество между странами БРИКС) / China, September, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, cooperation

National IP administrations work together for economic recovery, innovation amid outbreak

The National Intellectual Property Administration is enhancing international cooperation to promote global innovation and economic recovery in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19.

The pandemic poses huge challenges to global public health safety, economic development and innovation activities, NIPA Commissioner Shen Changyu said at a videoconference of leaders of IP offices in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa on Aug 26.

During the special period, the collaboration among the BRICS IP offices in response to the pandemic is of great significance, Shen said. "It shows the five offices' strong resolution and solemn commitment to providing users with high-quality services."

Each of the offices in the BRICS group has adopted efficient and effective measures to ensure their steady operations and services, which have won wide acclaim, he added.

While advancing the projects under the IP BRICS Cooperation Roadmap, which was signed in 2013 in Magaliesburg, South Africa, in an orderly and pragmatic way, they also need to further cooperation in digitalization in a bid to jointly respond to global challenges and provide support for IP rights owners and the public, Shen noted.

The attendants conducted exchanges on the measures taken to alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the progress in granting patents to drugs that can be used to treat the novel coronavirus. They also discussed their application of digital technologies and cooperation prospects in this field.

The videoconference was chaired by Grigoriy Ivliev, head of Russia's Federal Service for Intellectual Property, also known as Rospatent.

Heads of Brazil's National Institute of Industrial Property, India's Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, and South Africa's Companies and Intellectual Property Commission were among the attendees.

Since they began to join hands in 2012, the BRICS IP offices have cooperated and made substantial progress in such fields as increasing IP awareness, personnel training, exchanges among examiners, trademarks and industrial designs, according to NIPA.

Also on Aug 26, Shen delivered a keynote speech at another videoconference, part of Singapore's IP Week event last week.

NIPA has adopted a slew of measures to ensure the interests of applicants, support breakthroughs in research for the prevention and control of the pandemic, assist in resumption of business operations and production and increase international cooperation, he said.

The Chinese government put people and their safety first in response to the pandemic and has launched comprehensive and stringent prevention and control measures to curb the spread of the virus, he noted.

In the first half of 2020, filings for invention patents and trademarks both registered growth in China, which reflects the faith of innovators and market entities in the country's economic prospects, despite the impact of the pandemic, Shen said.

Government data show that invention patent applications with NIPA reached 683,000 during the first six months of 2020, 176,000 of them from domestic filers. Of the domestic filings, 96 percent or 169,000 were on-duty inventions.

And trademark filings during the same period surpassed 4.28 million in the country.

Facing the global public health crisis, NIPA will continue working with IP authorities in various countries and regions to enhance exchanges and cooperation, and increase communication and coordination to promote innovation and a recovery in business operation and economic growth, Shen said.
Unpacking the BRICS Summit 2020 - Development benefits for South Africa and Africa / Ashraf Patel (Распаковка саммита БРИКС 2020 - Преимущества развития для Южной Африки и Африки / Ашраф Патель) / South Africa, September, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, summit, economic_challenges
South Africa
Author: Ashraf Patel

The BRICS group of nations was formed in 2010 with a view to promote closer economic, political, developmental and peace and security objectives in a multi-polar world. Moscow has taken over the chairmanship of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in 2020, at a time when multilateralism is under severe strain due to resurgent nationalisms in many regions of the world. The Russian government is planning to organize at least 150 events at expert and ministerial levels during its term, which will culminate in the hosting of the BRICS summit. In addition, the five heads of state will hold an unofficial meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit convened by Saudi Arabia in November.

Since 2009 BRICS has achieved tangible results and has gained a reputation as a powerful and independent bloc: established coordination mechanisms within itself that are conducive to effective cooperation in politics, trade, finance, sport and culture. This year Moscow is to focus on further enhancement of foreign policy alignment among member states on key issues on the international agenda, most importantly those discussed at the United Nations. The Russian leader Vladimir Putin believes that BRICS countries should play a pivotal role in the UN.

Russia's chairmanship in BRICS has the potential to yield positive outcomes for South Africa and its ailing economy. Russia strongly supports the need for the dialogue with the Global South. Thus, it will seek to reinvigorate the BRICS outreach and BRICS+ programmes. Both mechanisms can be used by South Africa to advance the interests of the AU and SADC within the bloc and its allies. Except for the 2019 summit in Brasilia, expanded outreach meetings have been taking place on the sidelines of BRICS summits since 2013, which involve the presiding country's neighbours. There is also the expectation for the New Development Bank (NDB) to announce new members, with some of them most likely to come from Africa. Additional African countries on board will assist South Africa in attaining the SDGs envisaged by Agenda 2063 with the help of the BRICS states.

South Africa's borrowing alone from the bank for sustainable infrastructure projects has already reached the mark of $2 billion, representing roughly 16% of the NDB's total portfolio, and more than $1.5 billion will follow in further loans. Both BRICS and NDB have proven themselves to be reliable and resilient institutions that are not influenced by the West.

Addressing the equitable trade equity & digital economy development issues.

The BRICS Digital Agenda provides interesting insight into the emerging agenda of BRICS and the Global South. As members of the UN and its key agencies such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as well as UNESCO, all BRICS nations align to these international fora, both in the domain of cyber resilience as well as the regulation of the digital economy. For instance, the recent BRICS summits in Goa in 2016; Xiamin in 2017; Johannesburg in 2018; and Brasilia in 2019 all discussed 4IR and Development and offered an avenue to share domestic experiences in a new Digital industrialization model, and keeping the internet safe, data uncompromised and access affordable – a challenging task indeed. How can the various stakeholder institutions in the BRICS countries work together to address these common challenges? The Digital BRICS themes related to internet policies: the new BRICS 4IR centre, digital industrial development, institutional cooperation in Cyberspace, access and inclusion, Internet and pluralistic Governance and the digital economy. [1]

While it is clear that digital economy, 4IR and e-commerce is developing rapidly across the globe, the proposed WTO E commerce treaty is a site for contestation, with current models of this development highly uneven, asymmetrical, with e-commerce (both in platforms, sales, revenues and jobs) extremely concentrated amongst a few countries. Indeed, critical segments of the digital economy and e-commerce are highly oligopolistic, replete with instances of rent-seeking, anti-competitive practices, tax evasion, and associated with a weakening of labour conditions and marginalisation of SME's. The challenge for BRICS policy makers, regulators, academics and the private sector, and civil society alike will lie in fostering greater access to the Internet, creating new innovations & apps, funding creative solutions on the labour disruption and new skills development for 21st century jobs; Additional engagement will be driven by tech-facilitated creative solutions and mechanisms for digital innovation for the creative sector; including how tech solutions are changing the game, using blockchain, smart contracts and digital copyright solutions.

Early indications are that Moscow is determined to renew the BRICS Strategy for Partnership in Trade and Investment adopted at the 2015 Ufa summit. The BRICS working group on tourism is to resume its meetings this year after being neglected under the Brazilian chairmanship. Given the importance attached by the National Development Plan (NDP) to the hospitality sector of the economy, South Africa can capitalize on deepening cooperation with the BRICS partners in this sphere and market itself as a major tourist and business events destination. The impact of tourism cannot be overestimated, as it supports more than 1.6 million jobs in South Africa and accounts for more than 9% of the country's GDP.

As a part of the long-term planning for the bloc's economic development Moscow also calls for defining new strategy tasks aimed at boosting cooperation between specific industries up until 2025. The five countries have great potential to boost collaboration in transport, agriculture and energy fields. Russia will further promote the projects of Energy Research Platform and the BRICS Women Business Alliance. Since China is the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power (surpassing EU countries); and Russia has profound expertise in constructing nuclear and gas-fired power plants, both states can contribute to the diversification of SA's energy mix and ease the burden on Eskom's energy supply gap.

Another vital area of cooperation between the BRICS member countries is to deliver real benefits for people and help improve living standards and the quality of life. That is why the 2020 agenda includes such topics as the development and integration of remote areas, the exchange of experience in regulatory impact assessment, strengthening ties in healthcare, including fighting infectious and non-infectious diseases. In the light of the recent novel coronavirus outbreak it is of paramount importance for BRICS members to join efforts in combating the deadly disease known as 2019-nCoV.

Moscow has made it clear that 4IR-related projects should be a priority for the bloc, for this reason digital trade, the use of digital solutions in the field of intellectual property development and the promotion of artificial intelligence technologies will be high on the agenda of the summit. An exchange of opinions will help SA embrace innovative digital technologies and tap into the global ICT market to create new jobs. With an unemployment rate of 29% such an opportunity cannot be missed.

Vladimir Putin highlighted that Russia seeks to strengthen the existing BRICS structures and financial mechanisms, namely the New Development Bank (NDB), the Contingent Reserve Arrangement and its microeconomic data exchange system. Moscow will also be promoting the development and integration of BRICS national payment systems to reduce dependence on the US dollar in international transactions. An efficient BRICS payment system can encourage payments in national currencies and ensure sustainable payments and investments among the five countries, which make up over 20% of the global inflow of foreign direct investment.

The upcoming summit will rely heavily on the input from the academic community, namely the BRICS Think Tanks. The chapters in Beijing and Moscow have held their first planning meetings in early January 2020. Russia will further promote the activities of the BRICS Network University, expand contacts between academic and scientific centres, research institutions and universities in the five member countries. BRICS academics firmly believe that their work will offer much-needed advice on future progress of the group and help the five leaders be at the forefront of international decision-making.

Mr. Ashraf Patel is a development and public policy analyst and researcher with a focus on digital and ICT policy regulation, knowledge economy and innovation policy. He is currently a Senior Research Associate at the IGD focusing on the digital economy. Mr Patel has over 15 years of experience in Public Policy, development, management advisory, communications, stakeholder management, ICT policy and telecoms regulation, innovation systems development, e-education projects and ICT4D initiatives in various capacities in South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa. Mr Patel's various roles and responsibilities included ICT Policy research programme manager, Africa ICT/Telecoms analyst as well as innovation programme coordinator.
Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the Stand-alone Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations (Об участии Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова в полноформатном совещании глав внешнеполитических ведомств стран БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, foreign_ministers_meeting

On September 4, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chaired a Stand-alone Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations via videoconference.

At the event, the ministers held a detailed exchange of opinions on urgent international issues, including regional conflicts, joint efforts to counter new challenges and threats, and cooperation of the BRICS nations at multilateral venues, in part, the forthcoming 75th anniversary session of the UN General Assembly. They conducted a comprehensive analysis of the current condition of five-lateral cooperation during Russia's BRICS Chairmanship in three major spheres – politics and security, the economy and finances, and humanitarian ties.

The participants discussed some aspects for the preparations of the 12th BRICS summit. They approved a joint statement following the meeting.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's opening remarks during BRICS Foreign Ministers Council online meeting, Moscow, September 4, 2020 (Вступительное слово Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова в ходе заседания СМИД БРИКС в формате видеоконференции, Москва, 4 сентября 2020 года) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, sergey_lavrov, quotation

Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,

Welcome to the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council meeting which, for obvious reasons, is being held as a videoconference, but is no less important because of that. I'm convinced we will be able to resume face-to-face meetings soon.

BRICS has established itself as an influential factor in international politics and economy. Our strategic partnership is based on commitment to dialogue, multilateralism, sovereign equality of states and the UN Charter principles.

This year, as we celebrate the creation of the UN and the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II, which we celebrated earlier, our common collective voice in support of the democratic multipolar international order is needed more than ever. This order is based on mutual respect for the legitimate interests of all states, non-interference in their domestic affairs, and respect for the norms and principles of international law.

The role of the states, that are part of our association, in global trade and global economic growth is steadily increasing. In 2020, the total GDP of the five countries amounted to 25 percent of the global GDP ($21 trillion), and the share in international trade stood at almost 20 percent ($6.7 trillion). Particularly important is the fact that mutual exports of our five countries has grown by 45 percent over the past five years.

This trend will continue into the future regardless of the global coronavirus crisis, which is corroborated by the ongoing development of the strategic BRICS partnership during Russia's current chairmanship. The organisation has reaffirmed its ability to respond flexibly to the changing international situation. Through joint efforts, we have preserved the continuity and stability of all areas of our cooperation. Over 150 joint events will take place throughout the year, albeit many of them online.

The New Development Bank (NDB) is working at its fullest. Approximately 60 projects in our countries totaling about US $20 billion have been approved. The NDB has responded to the pandemic in a timely and effective manner and announced the creation of a special lending mechanism to deal with the aftereffects of the coronavirus infection. In total, $4 billion have already been allocated for projects to assist in the recovery of the BRICS economies, with the entire aid package potentially reaching $10 billion.

Notably, the first Russian COVID-19 vaccine "Sputnik V" was recently registered. Russian researchers have developed medicines against the coronavirus infection. We are ready to share our experience with other countries, including our BRICS friends.

Relying on our partners' support, we plan to approach the end of Russia's BRICS chairmanship with a strong set of new agreements, including the already agreed upon BRICS Anti-Terrorism Strategy and the updated Strategy for Economic Partnership to 2025. A number of initiatives advanced by our chairmanship to strengthen sector-specific cooperation between BRICS members are at the final stages of development. The people-to-people and cultural ties, as well as contacts between experts and civil society representatives are expanding.

Importantly, BRICS and all of our countries are invariably open to interaction with constructively-minded partners. Our association has become a centre of attraction for many participants in international relations, primarily from among the developing economies and emerging markets.

I'm convinced that BRICS can and should take an active part in shaping the global architecture in the post-coronavirus world.

Today, we will discuss the interaction of the BRICS countries on important issues on the international agenda, as well as the expected results of Russia's BRICS chairmanship in 2020.

Now let's get to the agenda of our meeting.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (О встрече Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова с Министром иностранных дел Индии С.Джайшанкаром) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, foreign_ministers_meeting

On September 9, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to meet with his counterpart from the Republic of India, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

As you know, India is one of Russia's key strategic partners and we maintain a comprehensive political dialogue with it. Personal meetings with its leaders are being resumed despite the pandemic-related restrictions. This year we will mark the 20th anniversary of signing the Declaration of Strategic Partnership.

Of course, we regard Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar's visit to Moscow as an important step in maintaining this intense dynamics. The ministers intend to discuss a wide range of bilateral cooperation issues as well as current issues on the regional and international agendas. Among the topics are interaction within the SCO, BRICS, RIC (Russia, India, China), the East Asia Summit, developments in Afghanistan and the situation regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Our joint work at the UN has special significance, particularly considering the fact that India is to receive the status of non-permanent member of the UN Security Council next year.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following an online meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council, Moscow, September 4, 2020 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы СМИ Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова в ходе пресс-конференции по итогам видеоконференции министров иностранных дел стран БРИКС, Москва, 4 сентября 2020 года) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, sergey_lavrov, quotation

A full-format online meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers has ended. This is the second such meeting this year under Russia's chairmanship.

The first was dedicated exclusively to mobilising efforts to effectively prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Today, we discussed a wide range of international issues and key items on the agenda of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly as well as our practical cooperation among the five member states.

We have adopted a detailed and appropriate final communiqué. You can read it, so I will not dwell on the key international matters that the communiqué covers in detail.

I would like to note that the communiqué reaffirms the BRICS' commitment to the principles of multilateralism, reliance on international law and resolving conflicts exclusively through political and diplomatic means and according to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. Once again, we resolutely supported the central role of the UN in the search for collective answers to the challenges and threats facing humanity.

In this year of the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II, we noted the importance of preserving the historical memory of this tragedy's lessons in order to avoid repeating it in the future. We unanimously condemned any and all manifestations of Nazism, racism and xenophobia. The corresponding resolution that is adopted annually by the UN General Assembly is traditionally supported by all BRICS countries.

We agreed to strengthen and promote our strategic partnership in all key areas of BRICS activities, such as politics and security, the economy and finance, and cultural ties.

We are grateful to our friends for supporting Russia's chairmanship of the Five under rather difficult circumstances, when direct international communication, face-to-face communication, has, in fact, been put on hold. Nevertheless, using modern technology, we have managed to carry out most of the planned activities. We have had over 50 activities and as many will take place before the end of the year. We have every reason to believe (our partners also mentioned this today) that all of the Russian chairmanship's plans with regard to the BRICS activities will be fulfilled.

We have reached a number of practical agreements, including the one to promote investment and to support the effective participation of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises in international trade. Our respective ministries have adopted a joint statement in support of the multilateral trade system and WTO reform. Another important document, the Memorandum of Cooperation in the Competition Policy, was renewed for another term. Our development banks have agreed on an action plan for innovation and blockchain working groups. Other ministries and departments continue to work energetically.

Most of these initiatives are being drafted with an eye to approving them during the next summit, which is scheduled to be held in Russia in the autumn. We will determine the dates later based on the epidemiological situation.

These are the main results. Once again, the communiqué that we have circulated will provide a great deal of interesting information.

Question: The year in which Russia was the BRICS chair has been fairly difficult. The pandemic has taken its toll on every area. What did you manage to accomplish this year in BRICS? What kind of meetings and statements can we expect before 2020 runs out?

Sergey Lavrov: I partially talked about these issues when I presented the main results of our meeting today. To reiterate, we consider it critically important to have reached an agreement on a number of issues.

This includes a package of documents devoted to trade and investment, encouraging small-, medium- and micro-businesses to participate in international trade, strengthening cooperation between banks (central banks and development banks in our respective countries), and the active work of the New Development Bank, which was created by the leaders of the BRICS countries and is operating successfully.) By the way, the Eurasian Regional Centre of the New Development Bank will open in Russia in October.

The agreements concerning the prevention of new challenges and threats are notable as well. A very powerful document on counter-terrorism has been agreed upon and will be submitted for approval by the heads of state. The activities to combat drug trafficking and drug crime have been resumed. Our joint cybersecurity efforts are on the rise. This is a critical area to which we pay special attention.

Notably, special attention was paid to Russia's initiatives, which were presented a year ago, and that supplemen BRICS' activities with two new formats. I'm referring to the Women's Business Alliance (it has been effectively created and is about to go live) and the Energy Research Platform, which is designed to encourage the research community's involvement in the practical activities on drawing up energy resource plans. Two major events have taken place as part of the Energy Research Platform. Their results will also be submitted for consideration by the heads of state.

Question: You have repeatedly mentioned the importance of international cooperation in combating the coronavirus. China and Russia are now working to develop their own COVID-19 vaccine. China has officially announced its plans to strengthen cooperation in vaccine research and development.

What is your take on the prospects for possible cooperation between China and Russia in vaccine development and production? To what extent will cooperation between the two countries help ensure access to vaccines for other countries in need of support, including the BRICS members?

Sergey Lavrov: Today, we confirmed that this area remains a BRICS priority. Russia and China's partners (India, Brazil and South Africa) actively supported Moscow and Beijing's efforts in this regard. All of them appreciated the statements made by our Chinese colleague and myself to the effect that we are interested in the broadest possible cooperation, including with the participation of our BRICS friends. Notably, the coronavirus has by no means initiated the motivation for BRICS cooperation in this area. Interaction began much earlier. The first document on this subject was adopted at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, in 2015, when the heads of the BRICS states put forward an initiative to establish cooperation in combating infectious diseases. Then, at the 2018 South Africa Summit, our South African partners advanced an initiative to establish a vaccine development and research centre. So, this work has been ongoing for the past five years, even before the coronavirus infection posed very difficult problems for us.

Thanks to the visionary decisions adopted at the earlier summits, the BRICS countries were well prepared and are now able to mobilise their full potential in the face of the coronavirus infection.

Russia's additional initiatives introduced this year have been reviewed and approved. One of them concerns the creation of an early warning system for epidemiological threats. The other proposes developing specific steps for the legal regulation of medical products which will certainly improve our ability to cope with the coronavirus now and prepare for the fact that we will most likely have to deal with similar challenges more than once in the future. So, BRICS is among the leaders in developing measures to prevent such epidemics and to deal with the aftereffects.

Question: How will statements that we've heard in the past two days from Berlin on the issue of Alexei Navalny influence the strategic dialogue between Russia and Europe? Today, NATO urged Russia to fully open its file on Novichok to the OPCW. Who is now interested in a crime scenario on Navalny's poisoning?

Sergey Lavrov: Representatives of the Presidential Executive Office and the Foreign Ministry have already made statements on this issue. We have nothing to hide. Let me recall again that as soon as Navalny felt unwell on the plane it landed immediately. An ambulance was waiting for him in the airport and he was instantly taken to hospital, switched to an artificial lung ventilator and given other necessary measures. As I understand it, Navalny spent a bit more than a day and a half there. During this time, we were urged every hour to explain what happened and report any information immediately.

For over a week after he was taken to Germany, no one who raised a concern during his stay in Omsk has expressed interest in his case or loudly demanded information from the German doctors. We don't have new information on this up to this day. It's the same old story: we are publicly accused of something and our official requests for answers to specific questions from the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, under legal assistance treaties, remain unanswered. German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has been accusing us for two days of this action (ostensibly, the poisoning) but cannot present anything specific. Today, we once again asked our colleagues in the EU and Germany whether Ms Merkel plans to instruct her staff to send the German Justice Ministry's response to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office inquiry.

I already have to say out loud that we have information that this reply is being delayed due to the position of the German Foreign Ministry. We have instructed the Russian Ambassador to Germany to ask for a reason for the delay. Today we were at least promised that the reply would come soon. We will react when we receive it with specific facts. As I see it, the Germans believe their reply will contain these facts. Let me repeat that, regrettably, all this brings to mind what happened with the Skripals and other incidents where Russia was groundlessly accused and the results of the investigation (that took place in Britain in the latter case) remain classified. Nobody sees the Skripals themselves.

I would like to remind you that when, on the wave of this Russophobic hysteria over the Skripals, our British colleagues compelled most EU countries to expel our diplomats (to which Moscow certainly responded), we confidentially asked the EU members whether the Brits presented any facts in addition to what they publicly reported in the media. We received a negative answer. Facts were not presented but they asked to expel our diplomats and promised that specific information would be provided later. I am not being lazy and whenever I meet with my colleagues, I ask them about the Skripals case when they expelled Russian diplomats based on London's parole of honour and followed its appeal. I ask them whether they were given the promised specific information in addition to what was publicly mentioned and they again said "no." Nobody has given any information to anyone.

This is why we now approach such high-flown, dramatic statements by our Western colleagues with a large dose of scepticism. We'll see what facts they present. I think this public conduct and such haughty, arrogant demands made in a tone that our Western partners allow themselves shows that there is little to present except artificially fueled pathetics.

Question: The Ukrainian foreign minister said that the foreign ministers of Germany and France seek to hold a Normandy format foreign minister meeting in September. According to him, you have no objections to this. Is that right?

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry has already responded to this question. If someone wants to meet, let them meet. We have not discussed any such matter. We are now talking about preparing a meeting of foreign policy advisers to the Normandy format leaders. Nobody said anything specific about a meeting of foreign ministers, because, I think, they are well aware of our position. First, we need to act upon what the leaders of our countries agreed on in Paris in December 2019. There has been little progress so far. We only see more problems in connection with the constant worsening of the Ukrainian authorities' position with regard to their commitment to implementing the Minsk agreements.

Question: Yesterday, it became known that the Democrats in the United States demanded immediate imposition of sanctions on Russia in connection with the upcoming US presidential election in November. They are referring to intelligence that says that Russia can allegedly intervene. What can you tell us about this?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been hearing accusations that Russia is interfering in US presidential elections for many years now. It has now become a kind of a game of who is interfering more: Russia, China or Iran? A US national intelligence official recently said that China is interfering more than Russia or Iran. So, grown-up people have been playing these games for a long time now, and this does not surprise us. Sometimes, though, we can't help but be surprised. I'm referring to recent accusations against Russia to the effect that we are trying to abuse or use in the interest of a particular candidate the planned voting by mail in the United States. I was surprised by this accusation, because until then I thought that voting by mail was part of the differences between President Trump, who outright refuses to allow this type of vote to be held, and the Democrats, who want to use voting by mail as much as possible.

Truth be told, we are used to these attacks. In this case, as in the case of poisonings and other situations in different countries, we will respond to specific facts, if they are presented to us. We keep telling our partners – Americans and Europeans alike – if you have any concern about anything, especially cybersecurity, which has become a particularly common subject for accusations and reproaches against us, let's sit down and review your facts. We are ready to do so. Unfortunately, our partners in the United States and the EU shun direct conversations based on professional analysis of available facts. We are ready for this, and we encourage our colleagues to do so. They should stop living in the past reminiscing about the colonial era and considering themselves smarter and mightier than others and start working on the basis of what they signed in 1945, namely, the UN Charter principles, including equality, balance of interests and joint and honest work. We are ready for this.
World of Work
Internationalization of higher education: excellence or network building? What do BRICS countries need most? (Интернационализация высшего образования: совершенство или построение сети? Что больше всего нужно странам БРИКС? ) / Brazil, August, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, research


The article is devoted to discussing international collaboration regarding higher education in the BRICS countries. It starts with the analysis of the radical changes occurred in the global academic world, described as a joint influence of global trends towards massification, globalization and internationalization. We argue that BRICS countries can meet these challenges by means of two main approaches: through building excellence university projects and via developing horizontally structured university networks, such as the BRICS Network University. The goals of the first are creating elite universities and better integration to the global academia, while the second addresses most pressing development issues faced by BRICS' societies. The conclusion is that while excellence projects do help to develop world-class education, the networks better answer current needs of the BRICS countries.
Union Minister of State (I//C) for Culture and Tourism Shri Prahlad Singh Patel virtually attends 5th BRICS Culture Ministers' Meet (Государственный министр (I // C) Союза по культуре и туризму Шри Прахлад Сингх Патель виртуально присутствует на 5-м заседании министров культуры стран БРИКС) / India, September, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, top_level_meeting

Union Minister of State (I//C) for Culture and Tourism Shri Prahlad Singh Patel virtually attended 5th BRICS Culture Ministers' Meeting on September 3, 2020. The 5th BRICS Culture Ministers' Meeting was held through video conference under the Chairpersonship of Russian Federation. The delegates from Culture Ministries of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa participated in the meeting.

During the meeting the discussion was held on the impact of the epidemiological situation on the cultural sphere in the BRICS countries and review of the possible implementation of joint cultural online-projects within BRICS. The Minister of State for Culture addressed participants of the meeting and presented India's perspective to strengthen the cultural cooperation within BRICS through alternative mechanisms of sharing and organizing cultural events in online format given the prevailing pandemic situation.

The Minister stated "Covid-19 has been a sad experience for us. But it has again showed us that nature does not discriminate among countries. It does not differentiate between people on the basis of caste and creed. Humans have divided the countries and defined borders by putting fences. But culture is the bonding force above all manmade demarcations and connects people through love and harmony. Therefore when we meet through such programs, we come back more enriched than before."

Some suggestions/events proposed by Indian side in Culture Minister's address are as below:

  • To explore possibilities of hosting a Digital Online Exhibition on a Shared theme towards end of 2021 under the auspices of BRICS Alliance of Museums. And to extend full cooperation and content sharing for website envisaged under the BRICS Alliance.
  • Opening the BRICS Corner under the auspices of BRICS Alliance of Libraries proposed to be inaugurated during the India's BRICS Presidency in 2021. The Corner will disseminate information related to the history and culture of BRICS countries. The corner will display the books, periodicals and other e-resources gifted by the BRICS countries, viz, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.
  • The National Gallery of Modern Arts, New Delhi will host the BRICS Joint Exhibition titled 'Bonding Regions & Imagining Cultural Synergies' under the auspices of the BRICS Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries. The exhibition is proposed to be organized in 2021 coinciding with the BRICS event that India would be hosting in 2021. The exhibition aims to present around 100 works of art from the five prestigious institutions under the BRICS Alliance.
  • At the end of the meeting Declaration of the V Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Culture was agreed upon and signed by all the representatives of BRICS Nations.
Preparing for the Civil BRICS Forum: experts discuss international cultural exchange policies (Подготовка к Гражданскому форуму БРИКС: эксперты обсуждают политику международного культурного обмена) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: social_issues

On 27 August, the International Cultural Exchange Working Group of the Civil BRICS Forum to take place on 23-25 September held a meeting via videoconference.

The Meeting was moderated by Ms Lyudmila Sekacheva, President of "BRICS: The World of Traditions" regional public organisation, , and saw the presence of Ms Jane Mufamadi, Freedom Park CEO (South Africa); Mr Leonardo Valente, Director of the Institute of International Relations and Defence of the Rio de Janeiro Federal University and member of the BRICS Network University; Ms Purnima Anand, President of the BRICS International Forum and Honorary President of the International Federation of Indo-Russian Youth Clubs in New Delhi, and other foreign public figures.

The experts discussed the ways to expand cultural exchanges between the five countries through literature, art and tourism, relevant issues on the youth agenda, as well as protection of the cultural heritage of BRICS countries.

Opening the discussion, Ms Yelena Marinina, Director of the social platform of the Roscongress Foundation-the Innosocium Foundation, presented a new initiative, the first Russian Creative Week, to be held in Gorky Park, Moscow, on 11-13 September 2020.

"We would like to create a venue for continuous dialogue between leaders of creative industries and youth creative projects, on the one hand, and development institutions, businesses, as well as public and non-profit sector, on the other. The creative industries do more than strengthen relations between countries. They are some of the fastest growing in the world economy. The BRICS countries have always been distinguished by priority growth rates. Our task for today is to offer maximally favourable conditions for the creative communities to actualise their economic potential. The Russian Creative Week and our Working Group's activities are important steps in this direction," Yelena Marinina said.

The meeting participants drafted Working Group proposals for the Final Recommendations of the Civil BRICS Forum for the leaders of the five countries.

For more details on the Civil BRICS Forum, see:
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