Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 39.2020
2020.09.21 — 2020.09.27
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Ex-Goldman economist Jim O'Neill says China's economy 'well on the way' to recover from coronavirus (Экс-экономист Goldman Джим О'Нил говорит, что экономика Китая «идет полным ходом», чтобы оправиться от коронавируса) / USA, September, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges, covid-19

  • China is well on its way to recovering from a coronavirus pandemic-led economic crisis and will continue to be the most important marginal driver of global GDP, British economist Jim O'Neill told CNBC.
  • While at Goldman Sachs, O'Neill coined the term BRIC in early 2000s for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China — he recently told CNBC that Brazil, Russia and India are likely to see V-shaped bounce backs in the coming quarters after the pandemic led to economic contractions.
  • BRIC was predicted to have growing importance on the global economy in the coming decades but Brazil and Russia have struggled to exert similar levels of influence as China and subsequently, India.

SINGAPORE — China is well on its way to recovering from a coronavirus pandemic-led economic crisis and will continue to be the most important marginal driver of global GDP, British economist Jim O'Neill told CNBC.

O'Neill, former chief economist at Goldman Sachs, pointed to the latest Chinese consumer spending data as a sign of China's accelerating recovery. Retail sales for August in the world's second-largest economy rose 0.5% from a year ago, the first positive report for 2020 so far.

"I suspect Chinese GDP growth could actually end 2020 as net positive still," O'Neill told CNBC in an interview. "By end 2021, Chinese GDP growth will have possibly even made up for, not only the losses, but the loss in the trend also."

Others, including the Asian Development Bank, have also predicted China's economy will fare considerably better than the rest of the world this year.

For its part, China reported that its GDP grew by 3.2% in the second quarter of this year, compared to a year ago. That beat analysts' expectations and registered a rebound from the first-quarter contraction. The coronavirus was first reported in China's Hubei province late last year but strict lockdown measures have kept the country's reported infection numbers under 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

BRIC and China

During O'Neill's tenure at Goldman, he was credited in 2001 with coining the term BRIC in reference to the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. In a report, O'Neill predicted the growing importance of those countries to the global economy in the coming decades. While China and India have grown exponentially since then, Russia and Brazil have struggled considerably to influence the world economy, especially after the global financial crisis. Many investors have shifted away from Brazil and Russia to other emerging markets. South Africa was later added to BRICS in 2010.

In the pandemic, which has now infected more than 30 million people worldwide, India, Brazil and Russia remain the most-affected countries behind the United States. In the April to June quarter, each of the economies shrank considerably due to Covid-19: India's contracted 23.9% due to a lengthy national lockdown, Russia declined 8.5% and Brazil fell 9.7%.

O'Neill told CNBC that India, Brazil and Russia are "considerably behind" in their road to recovery. "I suspect — with a lag — they will share in the V-like immediate bounce back, partially in Q3, but especially in Q4 2020," he said.

"Beyond the impact of Covid, each of the other three, all have various structural issues to deal with," O'Neill added by email. "In Brazil and Russia's case, it effectively is to — somehow — reduce their excessive dependency on the commodity cycle, whereas for India, it is to truly embrace productivity reforms that would allow their positive demographics to generate very strong GDP growth."

"As I have said, China is well on the way to recovery. It is the country that really matters globally within the BRIC group ... and I suspect China will continue to be the most important marginal driver of global GDP," O'Neill said.

He also said that India's declines will have a "notable negative impact" on global growth while Brazil and Russia have important structural reforms to implement.

India's path to recovery

Most V-shaped recovery expectations are predicated upon significant base effects from a slump in activity this year, Radhika Rao, an economist at Singapore's DBS Group, told CNBC.

"In India's case as well, if the infection is gradually brought under control and the regional localised lockdowns are lifted as a result, we should start to witness stabilisation in growth prints," she said by email, adding that would likely happen in the first quarter of 2021 with rebound in the second quarter being the most pronounced.

Durability of next year's recovery hinges on India's ability — as well as other countries' — to keep the infection levels relatively low as well as the development and mass availability of a vaccine.

In the three months between April to June, private consumption and investment demand collapsed as most nonessential activities were barred during the lockdown. That lead to job and income losses and uncertainties that curtailed spending. The Indian government has not ruled out further stimulus measures to spur growth.

Beyond containing the infection outbreak, which would enable uniform relaxation of restrictions, India needs to spur growth by creating employment opportunities for the urban poor and migrated laborers, Rao said. She added the country also needs to backstop the financial sector as institutions face lockdown-induced stress, which hit underlying business viability and credit quality of borrowers.

Brazil's future

Brazil experienced a "deep record-setting" contraction in activity between March and April followed by a V-shaped bounce back during the May to August period, according to Alberto Ramos, head of Latin America economic research at Goldman Sachs.

But there are concerns about the sustainability of that recovery.

"The initial bounce was supported to a large extent by very large fiscal transfers which will need to be phased out by the end of the year given rising concerns with medium-term fiscal sustainability," Ramos told CNBC.

He added that the investment bank is predicting a robust "real activity bounce" in the third quarter of 2020 followed by a "significant loss of the growth forward momentum" in the fourth quarter and in 2021.

Brazil's fiscal and monetary response to the economic and social damage of the pandemic had been swift and aggressive. The central bank slashed interest rates and adopted measures to facilitate credit flows and support domestic liquidity while the government announced spending and tax forbearance measures equivalent to about 7% of GDP to support households and economic sectors most affected, according to Ramos.

"There is not much policy room left to support the economy," he said, pointing out that Brazil's public debt load was surging towards close to 100% of GDP.
NDB prices USD 2 billion benchmark bond to further support COVID emergency response (НБР оценивает облигацию на сумму 2 млрд долларов США для дальнейшей поддержки мер реагирования на COVID) / China, September, 2020
Keywords: ndb, covid-19, investments

  • The New Development Bank's (NDB) latest issue in the international capital markets represents another strong step forward in developing its yield curve.
  • The USD-denominated 5-year COVID Response Bond is yet another demonstration of NDB's commitment to fighting the coronavirus outbreak in its member-countries.
  • This transaction continues to broaden NDB's high-quality investor base, with continued strong participation from central banks and official institutions, allowing for 3 basis points spread tightening.
On September 22, 2020, the New Development Bank (NDB) priced its USD 2 billion, 5-year COVID Response Bond in the international capital markets, following its inaugural issuance on June 16, 2020. This is the NDB's largest-ever USD benchmark bond to date.

The net proceeds of the bond issuance will be used to finance sustainable development activities in the Bank's member countries, including COVID-related emergency assistance programs. NDB is targeting to provide up to USD 10 billion in crisis-related assistance, including financing healthcare and social safety-related expenditures, as well as supporting economic recovery efforts. NDB has approved USD 4 billion of COVID-19 related emergency assistance projects to date.

The transaction marks NDB's second foray into the international capital markets following a highly successful inaugural benchmark issuance. The transaction garnered notable demand from a geographically diverse investor base, and substantial participation from central banks and official institutions, which accounted for 66% of final allocations. The geographic distribution of investors of the final bond book was: Asia – 57%, EMEA – 34%, Americas – 9%.

The 5-year benchmark bond was issued at a spread of 37 bps over mid-swaps and pays a fixed annual coupon of 0.625%. Bank of China, Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs International and Standard Chartered Bank are acting as lead managers of the bond issuance.

"We are grateful for the enthusiastic response from investors to our second benchmark transaction which supports NDB's fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in our member countries. The transaction resonated well with investors and led to an extremely high-quality book, which saw a significant contribution from central banks and official institutions," said Mr. Leslie Maasdorp, NDB Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. "I would like to express my appreciation to investors for their continued support for NDB and our sustainable development mandate. It allows us to work together with our member countries to respond to the adverse public health and economic challenges caused by the pandemic."

Qiu Wei, Deputy General Manager, Investment Banking & Asset Management Department at Bank of China said: "The successful pricing of the USD bond not only demonstrates NDB's market impact and JLMs' expertise, but also strengthens the ties between NDB and its member countries. Furthermore, this issuance will help push forward NDB's efforts to help member countries in fighting the challenges brought by the COVID-19 epidemic."

Harry Koppel, Managing Director, SSAR Origination at Barclays said: "Huge congratulations to the New Development Bank for this remarkable result on their second-ever USD benchmark transaction in the international capital markets. NDB took another large step forward, issuing both a larger size and at a longer tenor than its debut issue. And indeed, this was all achieved with a minimum new issue concession vs. estimated fair value. It has been a privilege to work with the NDB team on this transaction, beginning all the way back in July with virtual marketing, and this outcome is a testament to all the work and dedication by the team."

Philip Brown, Head of Public Sector Debt Origination at Citi said: "This was a terrific second Dollar Benchmark for the NDB, who is seeing the benefit of their considerable and continuous program of investor relations. Building on the successful debut 3-year benchmark in June, we've now gone longer, larger and tighter. Congratulations to the NDB Treasury team, it's been our privilege to travel on this exciting journey with them as NDB builds out its capital markets presence so successfully."

Maud Le Moine, Head of SSA DCM at Goldman Sachs International at Goldman Sachs International said: "NDB's second COVID-response USD benchmark comes at a critical time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect many countries globally. Building on the success and performance of their debut USD issuance before the summer, today's USD transaction extends the NDB curve with a new $2bn 5yr, priced 1bp inside of their inaugural issue. The deal achieved an orderbook of $2.4bn and 66% participation from official institutions, a testament to NDB's continuous marketing effort globally. It has been an honour to be a part of NDB's story this year and we congratulate the team on another incredible milestone."

Annemarie Ganatra, Managing Director, Capital Markets at Standard Chartered Bank said: "Standard Chartered is honoured to support New Development Bank's highly successful second USD benchmark bond issuance. The 5yr issue, NDB's largest to date, achieved a flat yield and spread to the outstanding 3yr USD benchmark, and attracted a diverse and high-quality order book; a testament to the borrower's strong profile in the international SSA markets."

Bond Summary Terms Issuer New Development Bank (NDB) Issuer rating AA+ (S&P) / AA+ (Fitch) / AAA (JCR) / AAA (ACRA) Format Reg S, Registered form Size USD 2,000,000,000 Settlement date 29 September, 2020 Maturity date 29 September, 2025 Issue price 99.651% Issue yield 0.695% Coupon 0.625%, Fixed, Annual 30/360 Denomination USD 200k+1k Listing Euronext Dublin Regulated Market – Irish Stock Exchange Lead managers Bank of China, Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs International, Standard Chartered Bank Co-managers China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, HSBC, Nomura, TD Securities, Royal Bank of Canada
Background information

In December 2019, the NDB registered its inaugural USD 50 billion Euro Medium Term Note Programme in the international capital markets. The Programme has been rated 'AA+' by Fitch and has been assigned 'AA+' long-term and 'A-1+' short-term issue ratings by S&P. The Base Prospectus, each supplement thereto and any Final Terms published in relation to any series of Notes is or will be available for viewing at here.

The NDB established Emergency Assistance Facility to meet the emergency needs of its member countries. Emergency loans to the member countries could be used to finance direct expenses related to the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak or provide support to governmental measures contributing to economic recovery. The NDB targets to provide up to USD 10 billion in crisis-related assistance. As at September 22, 2020, the Bank has provided RMB 7 billion Emergency Assistant Program Loan to the Government of China, USD 1 billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to the Government of India, USD 1 billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to the Government of the republic of South Africa and USD 1 billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to the Government of Federative Republic Brazil.

The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. The NDB received 'AA+' long-term issuer credit ratings from S&P and Fitch and 'AAA' foreign currency long-term issuer rating from Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR) and Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA).

World of Work
Experts sum up BRICS Civil Forum outcomes (Эксперты подводят итоги Гражданского форума БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, social_issues

On 25 September, BRICS Civil Forum 2020 concluded in Moscow. During the three days of the Forum, over 450 members of civil society institutions, experts, researchers and journalists took part in the events in both online and offline formats.

The forum's programme featured ten thematic sessions in Food and Healthcare; Education and Science; Economic Development in the Digital Era; Information Strategies and Society; Environment, Climate and Energy; Sustainable Cities and Rural Development; Women and Girls; and People-to-People Exchanges.

The closing session was moderated by Victoria Panova, co-chair of the BRICS Civil Forum, Managing Director of the National Committee on BRICS Research, Scientific Supervisor of the BRICS Russia Expert Council, and Vice-President for International Relations of the Far Eastern Federal University.

"Initiatives in three pillars of BRICS cooperation – political, economic and humanitarian – are aimed at boosting living standards and the quality of life of the peoples of the five BRICS countries. This is a paramount task both for Russia's BRICS Chairmanship this year and for the group's entire multifaceted strategic partnership. The Forum has once again clearly demonstrated that civil organisations in the five countries are proactive and committed to constructive and mutually complementary cooperation. BRICS Civil Forum 2020 has proven the format's great value as an efficient and appealing platform for the five states' cooperation, which is particularly relevant as it was initiated by our country during its previous chairmanship in 2015", said Pavel Knyazev, Russia's BRICS Sous-Sherpa and Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Foreign Policy Planning Department.

"In 2013, the year of Russia's G20 Presidency, we launched a transparent and highly efficient civil process that has been replicated by the countries presiding in G20 since then. What has taken place in the BRICS format since 2015 is also a highly engaging and open process that should be developed further. In my opinion, recommendations by the BRICS Civil Forum's Environment, Climate and Energy Working Group are even more ambitious than those made by the Civil G20 in certain areas this year, which is a surprising and very positive outcome. Immense work has been done in other areas as well, in particular, on women's issues as well as the work of the Healthcare Working Group. As official representatives, we should base our efforts on your ideas – this is the purpose of our work. These interaction formats exist to improve people's lives in all areas. Without the contribution of civil society, meetings at the level of heads of state would be pointless", Svetlana Lukash, Deputy Chief of the Presidential Experts' Directorate noted.

The Forum's outcomes included a set of recommendations developed by BRICS civil society for the five countries' governments, as well as a concluding document, the Address by BRICS States' Civil Society to the Countries' Leaders.

"Today, we are handing over the Civil BRICS Forum's recommendations to the offices of BRICS and G20 sherpas. These recommendations will ensure the successful completion of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 and help the five countries to make a confident step towards the new five-year period. The ideas voiced by our civil society have received broad support from our BRICS colleagues as well as from participants from a number of countries in Europe and Asia. I believe that we have held a comprehensive exchange of opinions that will prove useful to people worldwide," Victoria Panova emphasised.

Russia‒BRICS International Youth Cooperation Project Office opens in Ulyanovsk Region (В Ульяновской области открылся проект международного молодежного сотрудничества Россия ‒ БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, social_issues

On 23 September, the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs held the first meeting of the Supervisory Councils of four International Youth Cooperation Project Offices: Russia‒Arctic Council (Salekhard, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area), Russia‒BRICS (Ulyanovsk, Ulyanovsk Region), Russia‒Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan) and Russia‒Central Asia (Omsk, Omsk Region).

This is a joint initiative of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs and the governments of the four participating regions with the support of the Russian Foreign Ministry and a number of major Russian educational and public organisations, including the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russian National Committee on BRICS Research, the "Opora Russia" national public organisation of small and medium-sized businesses, the Association of Volunteer Centres and the Urban Renovation national public organisation for the involvement of young people in territory development.

The main purpose of the Project Offices is to support systemic cooperation between young people, Russian youth organisations and their foreign partners in their respective areas.

Konstantin Kolpakov, Chairman of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Young Diplomats' Council, noted that developing cooperation in youth policy is a priority task for strengthening BRICS Strategic Partnership.

"We pay special attention to the events of the BRICS youth dimension. Such events include the Meeting of BRICS Ministers and Heads of Departments for Youth and Young Leaders Forum, Young Parliamentarians Forum, Young Diplomats Forum, Young Entrepreneurs and Young Scientists and Scholars from the countries of the grouping. Despite the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, we consider it necessary to maintain dynamic contacts and youth exchanges between the BRICS countries in energy, sports, culture and arts," Konstantin Kolpakov said.

Yelena Semyonova, Deputy Head of the Russia‒BRICS Project Office, Advisor on Youth Policy to the Rector of Ulyanovsk State University, spoke about the project office's activity and presented a work plan and priority projects for 2021‒2023. The next upcoming event, the International BRICS Youth Business Incubator, will be held online between 20 October and 2 November 2020, followed by the 6th BRICS Youth Summit scheduled for 29 November ‒ 3 December in Ulyanovsk.

On 23 September, Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency also held a news conference on the official launch of the Project Offices.

"Establishment of the Russia‒BRICS Project Office is one of the significant achievements of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship this year. We hope that the projects and initiatives for youth cooperation between the BRICS countries will be implemented with the support of the Project Office," said Grigory Gurov, Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs.

BRICS Agriculture Ministers discuss cooperation against the background of the pandemic (Министры сельского хозяйства стран БРИКС обсудили сотрудничество на фоне пандемии) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, cooperation

On 23 September, Dmitry Patrushev, Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation chaired the 10th Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development via videoconference.

The Agriculture Ministers discussed the impact of the pandemic on food production and agriculture, as well as current cooperation in agriculture.

"Our countries have the best resource base. The area of cultivated agricultural lands in the BRICS countries makes up almost 40 percent of the world's cultivated land. This has facilitated the turning of the agro-industrial complex into a strategic industry in all BRICS countries. We are the biggest producers of agricultural products, providing almost 40 percent of global production," Dmitry Patrushev said, noting the complementary nature of the BRICS economies.

According to Mr Patrushev, the BRICS countries have considerable potential for strengthening their position in the global agricultural market and providing uninterrupted supplies with a view to ensuring global food security.

Mr Patrushev expressed support for the meeting participants in connection with the challenges and losses caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus. Speaking about the Russian experience, the Minister noted that during the quarantine restrictions, the Russian agro-industrial complex saw a certain decline in its business activities. Nevertheless, the peak of the crisis passed easier than expected, and the economic situation improved in June.

The Minister emphasized that Russia is interested in further increasing trade with other BRICS countries. "Our mutual turnover is steadily growing – it has almost doubled in value since 2010. Such growth shows the increase in the commercial appeal of the national agricultural markets and the reduction of tariff and technical barriers. We need to look for new points of growth for developing intra-BRICS trade. In particular, granting a most favoured nation status and the removal of trade barriers in veterinary and phyto-sanitary control areas may present additional opportunities," Mr Patrushev said.

Following the meeting, the participants adopted a Joint Declaration of the 10th Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development, which reflects the issues of facilitating trade and investment, using digital technologies for sustainable development in the agricultural sector, fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as implementing international programmes on food security, nutrition and support for the vulnerable groups.

Civil BRICS Forum 2020 starts in Moscow (Гражданский форум БРИКС-2020 стартует в Москве) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, cooperation

On 23 September, Mr Sergey Ryabkov, Russia's BRICS Sherpa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, chaired the inaugural session of BRICS Civil Forum 2020 in Moscow.

The three days of the Forum are expected to gather both in online and offline format up to 400 representatives of civil society, non-profit organizations, foundations, authorities, socially-oriented businesses, media and academic experts from the BRICS countries, who will participate in the plenary sessions of 8 Civil BRICS Forum Working Groups: Food and Healthcare; Education and Science; Economic Development in the Digital Era; Information Strategies and Society; Environment, Climate and Energy; Sustainable Cities and Rural Development; Women and Girls; and People-to-People Exchanges.

Within a decade, BRICS has come a long way from an informal venue for exchanging views on current issues on the international agenda to an absolutely mature and stable network of multilateral interaction on the diverse issues on the international and domestic agendas of the five countries. This year, the year of the 75th anniversary of Great Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the 75th year since the establishment of the UN, the voice of solidarity of the BRICS nations is needed in the international arena like never before. We advocate and will continue advocating the enhancement of the democratic foundations of a multipolar world order, which rests on a mutual respect for the legitimate interests of all countries and peoples, and unconditional compliance with the principles of international law, including the UN Charter. We are confident that we will be able to effectively face today's challenges through a collective effort by matching our national measures and our capabilities," Sergey Ryabkov noted.

The Forum participants were also greeted by co-chairs of the BRICS Civil Forum Victoria Panova, Managing Director of the National Committee on BRICS Research, Scientific Supervisor of the BRICS Russia Expert Council and Vice-President for International Relations of the Far Eastern Federal University, and Alyona Peryshkina, Head of the AIDS Infoshare foundation and co-chair of BRICS & G20 Russian NGOs Working Group.

"The Civil Forum does not adhere to the themes of the official BRICS track. However, most of the themes of the Forum overlap with the priorities of our BRICS Chairmanship, which shows that the themes of the official track are relevant to the peoples of the BRICS nations. A lack of constructive dialogue with the authorities often leads to disastrous consequences of which our contemporary history has numerous examples. The Civil Forum sees its mission in promoting this dialogue and adequately representing public demands," Victoria Panova said.

According to Alyona Peryshkina, "The novel coronavirus pandemic has revealed the importance of civil society's participation in a dialogue with a respective government of any country to overcome new challenges in a prompt and efficient way. The BRICS countries' public organisations and individual activists are involved and effectively carry out the initiatives aimed at helping the segments of the population hardest hit by COVID-19. These include volunteer movements such as medical volunteer programmes to help patients and assist medical staff; they include participating in vaccine research and testing; support for compatriots who were caught out of the country during border closings; NGOs, media and researchers' involvement in information and prevention educational campaigns; help with NGO participation in pursuing the development of BRICS friends – countries in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Global South countries. All these joint efforts of civil society helped to slow the spread of the virus under the most complicated conditions and to strengthen government measures to combat the pandemic and its impacts."

The inaugural session was followed by the plenary session "Post COVID-19 Era: Pooling Efforts and Resources for Maximizing BRICS Progress on SDGs. The Role of Civil Society." The participants discussed the reports presented by Vladimir Kuznetsov, Russia, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Moscow; artist Vik Muniz, Brazil, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador; Samir Saran, India, President of Observer Research Foundation (ORF); Ai Ping, China, Vice-President of the Chinese Association for International Understanding, Jane Mufamadi, South Africa, co-chair of the People-to-People Exchanges Working Group of the BRICS Civil Forum and CEO of the Freedom Park, a heritage memorial complex.
BRICS Youth Energy Agency launches "From BRICS with SDG" campaign (Молодежное энергетическое агентство БРИКС запускает кампанию «От БРИКС к ЦУР») / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: innovations, cooperation

Honouring the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations and the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, BRICS Youth Energy Agency has launched a campaign "From BRICS with SDG♡", in partnership with the SDG7 ("Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all") Constituency of the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. The campaign's information partners are the Vernadsky Nongovernmental Ecological Foundation and the UN Information Centre in Moscow.

This year the campaign is dedicated to "Smart and Sustainable Cities". BRICS Youth Energy Agency encourages young people from the five countries to share their urban experiences in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 7: "Affordable and clean energy", by using hashtag #FromBRICSwithSDG on social media.

The concept of smart cities is no longer just a theory and is actively being implemented in the largest metropolitan areas of our planet. In this regard, BRICS countries are a unique area where smart cities are at the very forefront of innovative technology. Energy efficiency is one of the key priorities that brings smart cities closer, in particular the BRICS megacities, which have similar problems but require tailoredsolutions to them.

The online project "From BRICS with SDG" invites young people to take part in an academic programme, comprises of a series of webinars to be attended by leading experts and youngpractitioners. Professor Johannes Urpelainen, Director of the Sustainable Energy Policy Initiative, Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Ilsur Metshin, Mayor of Kazan, President of the Advisory Committee of Local Authorities to the UN (Russia), were the key speakers at the webinars on "Environmentally-Friendly and Efficient Transport and Buildings" and . "Sustainable and Inclusive Municipal Governments and Business". Other speakers were Natalie Chung, co-founder of V'Air Hong Kong (China), Pranav Sinha, energy economist and expert on life-cycle economic analysis of wind energy power generation (India), Bruce Roberto Scheidl Campos, International Advisor at the Sao Paolo City Hall's Secretariat of International Relations (Brazil), and Yevgenia Parinova, Division Head at the Moscow Agency of Innovations.

Young people from BRICS and other countries will be able to take part in an online survey and to prepare recommendations to improve their urban managementand enhance their sustainability.

The outcome document of the campaign will comprise proposals for the mayors of BRICS cities, describing best practices in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular energy efficiency.

Find out more at

Official language: English.

Register for the campaign here.

Young scientists to discuss developing research, innovation and scientific collaboration between BRICS universities (Молодые ученые обсудят развитие исследований, инноваций и научного сотрудничества между университетами БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, innovations

On 21‒25 September, the 5th BRICS Young Scientist Forum under the theme "BRICS Partnership of Young Scientists and Innovators for Science Progress and Innovative Growth" will take place via videoconference.

The programme of the Forum comprises of three parallel sessions on thematic subjects: ecology, material science and artificial intelligence.

The Forum will have the annual Young Innovator Prize Competition aimed at identifying and encouraging best research and innovation projects.

All the events will be streamed live via an interactive platform developed specifically for the Forum. Attendees will participate in panel sessions with reports by young scientists, plain-language science pitches, quizzes, Smart City project workshops and other activities.

The programme and more details about the Forum can be found at

Impact of COVID19 on International Development Assistance System (Влияние COVID19 на систему помощи международному развитию) / India, September, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, sustainable_development, expert_opinion, social_issues

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has hit many developing countries hard and threatens the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The World Bank estimates that between 40 and 60 million people may be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 as a result of pandemic, making it difficult to end poverty by 2030. Assistance provided by developed countries constitutes an important source for financing the needs and SDGs of weak economies, particularly for countries that have no access to international capital markets. However, most donors are facing deteriorating macroeconomic conditions, including economic growth, production output, employment rate, output gap, fiscal position and the amount of debt. Evidence shows that under the current adverse conditions, the governments of donor countries have redirected funds allocated for development assistance to the resolution of domestic issues.

Figure 1 depicts aid quantity indices ten years before and five years after a crisis against the first crisis year. Countries whose growth slowed during the 2008-09 recession are compared against mean value for countries, which exhibited slower growth during previous financial crises. The list of crises contains 30 cases of financial crises experienced by different countries in 1974-2000 and the recent financial crisis of 2008.

Figure 1: Forecast of Official Development Assistance after COVID-19 crisis

Source: Authors' calculations based on "Bilateral Official development Assistance: Impact of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009" Figure 1 demonstrates that during prior recessions, the Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by countries hit by a crisis dropped on average by eight percent in the first post-crisis year and by ten percent in the second post-crisis year against the pre-crisis period. Moreover, ODA typically did not rebound until three years after the onset of a crisis. If the same logic is applied to the current trend, ODA will drop in 2021 and reach its pre-crisis level no sooner than in 2024. Especially worrying is the fact that during preceding crises, developing countries with upper-middle income were less susceptible to post-crisis changes in donor behavior, i.e. donors preferred to decrease aid quantity at the expense of poorer countries.

Given that COVID-19 is the most profound global crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, it will likely have a far stronger influence on development aid than what is suggested in studies of prior crises. Despite confirmations from donor countries that they will strive to protect their ODA budgets, bilateral aid commitments reported to the International Aid Transparency Initiative in the first five months of 2020 are about 30 percent lower than during the same period in 2019. Some of the largest donor countries have already announced international support measures in response to COVID-related crisis, but this is not sufficient to support recovery in low-income countries and to sustain pre-crisis ODA levels. First, some of the declared expenditures are in-donor expenses on vaccine development (for instance, reprioritisation of European Commission program Horizon 2020, funding to Canadian researchers' and life sciences companies' coronavirus research), which is impactful but should not be confused with ODA. Second, most of the announced contributions to international organisations are financing of the international efforts on the development of drugs and vaccines (for instance, investment in the development of drugs and vaccines by Japan and contribution of the UK to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation). Third, some projects are the result of refocusing existing resources (for instance, the redirection of German ODA budget to COVID-19-related projects, and the French emergency response project "Covid-19 – Health in Common"), which does not lead to an increase in total ODA levels, concentrates resources on emergency response and leaves other spheres such as basic healthcare and education underfinanced.

Slow and insufficient response to the COVID-19 crisis by traditional donors represents an opportunity for emerging powers such as BRICS to play a bigger role in the international development assistance framework. BRICS countries, especially China and Russia, have already shown a readiness to provide leadership on global issues and provide beneficial and well-timed international development aid. Thus, the New Development Bank (NDB) has approved the first NDB Emergency Assistance Program in Combating COVID-19 in March, and by now has provided loans to Brazil, China, India and South Africa, totaling US$10 billion. China and Russia have also taken some bilateral measures aimed at support of other developing countries. Russia has distributed COVID-19 tests, protective and medical equipment, medicine, medical personnel and directed funds to 46 countries around the world. Apart from bilateral aid, Russia made additional contributions to international organisations such as United Nations Development Programme, Red Cross and World Health Organization. In May 2020, China announced a US$2 billion aid package for other developing countries to be distributed in 2020-2021, the establishment of a cooperation mechanism of Chinese hospitals with 30 African hospitals, a debt relief programme, and promised to make any vaccine developed by China a global public good. Obviously, these measures are similar to humanitarian aid actions taken by traditional donors, and to take the leadership, BRICS should present a striking difference to other countries, including scaling up of resources, increasing effectiveness of development assistance and its transparency.

Thus, if traditional donors follow the historical trend and decrease their ODA volumes in the post-crisis period, it will seriously challenge the world's ability to get on a sustainable development path in the near future. In this case, the BRICS nations, which often position themselves as representatives of emerging countries, have an opportunity to increase their role in global governance, although it depends on their ability to develop an ambitious agenda in development assistance sphere and show an example of effective and beneficial post-crisis development aid.

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