By P.K.Balachandran/Ceylon Today
Colombo, August 28: The 15th. BRICS summit in South Africa ended on Thursday with the adoption of the Johannesburg Declaration. Proving the Cassandras wrong, the summit addressed, in a cooperative atmosphere, a wide variety of issues confronting the Global South and showed how these can be solved.
Besides addressing the specific concerns of the member countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) the summit provided an opportunity for the mutually antagonistic India and China to work towards a settlement of their border dispute.
On the last day of the summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and in a brief conversation, told Xi that the maintenance of peace on the Sino-Indian border by respecting the Line of Actual Control (LAC) would be essential for the normalisation of India-China relations.
Indicating a positive outcome, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that the two leaders “agreed to direct relevant officials to intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation.”
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that Modi and Xi “agreed to resolve the remaining issues in an expeditious manner and maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations through military and diplomatic channels. In the interim, the two sides agreed to maintain the peace and tranquillity on the ground in the border areas”.
This is a critical step forward in the context of the G20 summit to be held in New Delhi on September 9 and 10 with China’s participation.
Modi has attached great importance to the G20 summit, using his Presidency to buttress India’s claim to be the Global South’s voice and also get brownie points for himself in the run-up to the May 2024 Indian parliamentary elections in which he will be bidding for a third term as PM.
On cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, which is a major issue for India, the Johannesburg Declaration (JD) said: “ We are committed to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the cross-border movement of terrorists, and terrorism financing networks and safe havens.”
However, BRICS condemned the tendency to link terrorism with Islam. On this, the JD said: “We reiterate that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”
It called for preventing and countering terrorism “on the basis of respect for international law, in particular the Charter of the United Nations, and human rights, emphasizing that States have the primary responsibility in combating terrorism with the United Nations continuing to play central and coordinating role in this area.”
“We reject double standards in countering terrorism and extremism conducive to terrorism,” the JD further said and called for an “expeditious finalization and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism within the UN framework.”
The JD brought solace to Russia and China which are being subjected to crippling sanctions by the West led by the US.
“We express concern about the use of unilateral coercive measures, which are incompatible with the principles of the Charter of the UN and produce negative effects notably in the developing world,” it said.
Without mentioning either Russia or Ukraine, the JD appreciated efforts, including China’s, to find a solution to the conflict.
“We note with appreciation relevant proposals of mediation and good offices aimed at peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, including the African Leaders Peace Mission and the proposed path for peace,” it said.
Calling for multilateralism on international issues, the JD said that it supported the central role of the United Nations as a prerequisite to maintain peace and security and stressed the imperative of refraining from any coercive measures not based on international law and the UN Charter.
On UN reform, which countries like India are calling for, the JD said: “ We support comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council, with a view to making it more democratic, representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of developing countries in the Council’s memberships so that it can adequately respond to prevailing global challenges and support the legitimate aspirations of emerging and developing countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America, including Brazil, India and South Africa, to play a greater role in international affairs, in particular in the United Nations, including its Security Council.”
Linking human rights with the right to equality of nations and to economic development, the JD said: “We agree to continue to treat all human rights including the right to development in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis.”
It pledged to take into account the necessity to promote, protect and fulfil human rights in a “non-selective, non-politicised and constructive manner and without double standards.”
On the general concern in the Global South over the skewed international economic system, the JD called for “greater representation of emerging markets and developing countries, in international organizations and multilateral fora in which they (the Global South ) play an important role.”
“We reaffirm our support for the open, transparent, fair, predictable, inclusive, equitable, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its core, with special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries, including Least Developed Countries.”
On food security, which is of critical importance to the Global South, the JD said it recognized the importance of respecting the mandates with regard to a Permanent Solution on Public Stockholding (PSH) for food security purposes and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for developing countries, including LDCs, in their respective negotiating contexts.
Calling for reform of the international financial systems, the JD supported a robust Global Financial Safety Net with a quota-based and adequately resourced International Monetary Fund (IMF) at its centre.
The JD called for reform of the Bretton Woods institutions, including for a greater role for emerging markets and developing countries, including in leadership positions in the Bretton Woods institutions, that reflect the role of EMDCs in the world economy.
On the grave issue of debt facing many developing countries, the JD said: “We believe it is necessary to address the international debt agenda properly to support economic recovery and sustainable development, while taking into account each nation’s laws and internal procedures.”
“One of the instruments, amongst others, to collectively address debt vulnerabilities is through the predictable, orderly, timely and coordinated implementation of the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatment, with the participation of official bilateral creditors, private creditors and Multilateral Development Banks in line with the principle of joint action and fair burden-sharing,” the JD added.
On the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) the JD said that it is an important mechanism for mitigating the effects of a crisis situation. It reiterated BRICS’ commitment to the strengthening of the CRA and looked forward to the successful completion of the sixth Test-Run later in 2023.
National Development Bank
The JD said that the National Development Bank (NDB) is promoting infrastructure and sustainable development of BRICS. The NDB should “provide and maintain the most effective financing solutions for sustainable development, a steady process in membership expansion, and improvements in corporate governance and operational effectiveness towards the fulfilment of NDB’s General Strategy for 2022-2026,” it added.
Bangladesh, Egypt and United Arab Emirates have joined the NDB
New Industrial Revolution
On the New Industrial Revolution, the JD said that BRICS is committed to strengthening intra-BRICS cooperation to intensify the BRICS “Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR)” and creating new opportunities for accelerating industrial development.
It expressed continued support for the BRICS Centre for Industrial Competences (BCIC), BRICS PartNIR Innovation Centre, BRICS Startup Forum and collaboration with other relevant BRICS mechanisms, to carry out training programmes to address challenges of NIR for Inclusive and sustainable industrialization.
On the crucial role that Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) play in unlocking the full potential of BRICS economies, the JD said: “We endorse the BRICS MSMEs Cooperation Framework which promotes BRICS cooperation on such issues as exchanging information about fairs and exhibitions, and encouraging participation of MSMEs in the selected events to enhance interactions and cooperation amongst MSMEs which may secure deals.”
“In addition, we will promote sharing of information on trade policies, and market intelligence for MSMEs to increase their participation in international trade. We will facilitate access to resources and capabilities such as skills, knowledge networks, and technology that could help MSMEs improve their participation in the economy and global value chains.”
On the critical issue of skills development, the JD said: “We reiterate the commitment to promote employment for sustainable development, including to develop skills to ensure resilient recovery, gender-responsive employment and social protection policies including workers’ rights.”
On the controversial issue of payment systems, the JD said: “We recognise the widespread benefits of fast, inexpensive, transparent, safe, and inclusive payment systems. We look forward to the report by the BRICS Payment Task Force (BPTF) on the mapping of the various elements of the G20 Roadmap on Cross- border Payments in BRICS countries.”
The JD said that BRICS recognizes the importance of encouraging the use of local currencies in international trade and financial transactions between BRICS as well as their trading partners.
“We task our Finance Ministers and/or Central Bank Governors, as appropriate, to consider the issue of local currencies, payment instruments and platforms and report back to us by the next Summit,” it added.
Recognizing the importance of infrastructure investments, the JD said BRICS would continue to support the work of the “Task Force on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and Infrastructure.”
JD also said that BRICS has decided to invite Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to become full members January 1, 2024.