Photo: (L-R) Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva; Chinese president, Xi Jinping; South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa; Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, and Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov pose for a photo at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg
by Marco Lopez
The three-day summit, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa this week, saw the participation of around 50 heads of state.
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Thurs. Aug. 24, 2023
Talks of expansion were at the forefront of the 15th annual BRICS Summit held this week from August 22 to 24 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Under the chairmanship of the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, the other leading members, China, Brazil, Russia, and India, agreed to accept six other countries as members of the bloc.
This decision was made today on the last day of the summit. The inclusion of Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Saudi Arabia as members will take effect in January 2024. President Ramaphosa said that the countries have been discussing the issue of expansion for more than a year. The new members were invited following an agreement that was reached at the summit.
Over 50 states are in attendance at the three-day summit. These include African countries, the bloc’s members, and those countries that have applied or expressed their intention to apply to the BRICS grouping. A United Nations delegation is also in attendance at the summit.
Four heads of state of the BRICS grouping were in physical attendance, while the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, attended via video conference. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, was in physical attendance.
The criteria for potential BRICS expansion was one of the main subjects of this summit. Looking at ways to strengthen local currencies by creating stronger ties within the bloc is also on the agenda, as well as the goal to develop a common financial payment system. This is to end the dependence on the US dollar-dominated global financial system by creating an alternative, the member countries have noted.
The bloc is thus discussing the long-term prospect of creating a new reserve currency. The leaders stressed the importance of finding solutions to the challenges faced in the effort to unite and support the development of the member countries. At a news conference, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi in his comments said that he is pleased that the team agreed on the guiding principles, standards, criteria, and procedures for the expansion. He noted that based on those principles, the six new members were invited.
“First of all, I would like to convey my heartfelt congratulations to the leaders and people of these countries. I am confident that together with these countries we will be able to infuse new momentum and new energy into our cooperation,” Modi said. He added that India has had very deep and historic connections with all of the countries.
“The expansion is also a new starting point for BRICS cooperation,” President of the Republic of China, Xi Jinping said in his remarks.
“BRICS itself is a diverse group of nations; it is an equal partnership of countries that have differing views but have a shared vision for a better world,” President Ramaphosa said.
He shared that they have reached a consensus on the first phase of the expansion process, and that “other phases will follow”.
“We value the interest of other countries in building a partnership with BRICS,” he said. Leaders from Africa and the Global South were hosted in a side event at the summit – the Africa Outreach and BRICS Plus Dialogue.
In comments made at the summit, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said, “We are moving towards a multipolar world, and that is a positive thing. But multipolarity in itself is not enough to guarantee a peaceful or just global community. To be a factor of peace, equity, and justice in international relations, multipolarity must be supported by strong and effective multilateral institutions.”
Another highlight of the meeting was the signing of the Johannesburg Declaration II. The declaration reaffirms the commitment of BRICS to focus on inclusive multilateralism, peaceful development, mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development, people-to-people exchange, and institutional development.
It also underlines the importance of addressing the ongoing global conflicts.
“We all stand for the building of a new multipolar world order. One that is truly balanced takes into account the interest of as many nations as possible and opens possibilities,” President of Russia, Vladimir Putin said in his comment.
The group seeks to create a multipolar world order that puts the voices of those in the global south at the center of the world agenda. Breaking away from the global dominance of the US dollar is a main objective of the BRICS grouping.
The group created the New Development Bank in 2014. The bank continues to “seek alternatives to the current internationally traded currencies,” South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, told AP News last month.
The New Development Bank is seen as an alternative to the US and European-dominated International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.
The BRICS bloc dates back to 2009, and was known originally as BRIC before South Africa joined in 2010, adding the “S” to the name.
Notably, in March of this year, International Criminal Court judges issued an arrest warrant for President Putin for war crimes committed in the Ukraine War. That conflict is still currently ongoing, with no clear end in sight. Vast casualties have been reported on both sides.