BRICS: There Is More Than Just the Summits
When BRICS leaders come together in Ufa in July, analysts from around the world will have a quick look at the dynamics during the meeting and the 7th summit declaration, and then offer their view on the future of the grouping. Yet believing that the yearly summits make up the entire BRICS' edifice would be mistaken. The BRICS leaders summits are an important symbolic expression of political commitment, but what truly matters is the ongoing intra-BRICS cooperation that takes place throughout the year.
A brief look at BRICS-related meetings in 2014 shows that intra-BRICS consultation and cooperation takes place continuously. In February, the first BRICS Science Technology and Innovation Ministerial Meeting took place in Cape Town. Ministers decided to strengthen cooperation in five fields: climate change and natural disaster mitigation (led by Brazil), water resources and pollution treatment (led by Russia), geospatial technology and its applications (led by India), renewable energy, and energy efficiency (led by China) and astronomy (led by South Africa).
In early March, the inaugural BRICS seminar on population matters took place. There, participants discussed ways to address the challenges associated with demographic phenomena and processes, including migration, declining fertility rates, rising life expectancy, ageing population and changes in production and consumption patterns.
A week later, the 6th BRICS Academic Forum took place in Rio de Janeiro, bringing together scholars from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to discuss their research. Largely due to China's participation, these meetings tend to suffer from a boring whiff of officialdom, making truly innovative/contrarian academic ideas unlikely to be voiced, but still they serve an important purpose: To connect academic communities which have historically been disconnected from each other.
At the end of March, the BRICS Foreign Ministers met on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, issuing a high-profile statement opposing restrictions on the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Australia in November 2014.
A day later, on March 25th 2014, the BRICS Seminar on Systems of Innovation and Development took place in Brasília, as a direct result of the meeting of Ministers of Science and Technology in February.
In early April, BRICS Finance Ministers met on the sidelines of an IMF/World Bank gathering in Washington DC, in which they discussed preparations for the BRICS-led development bank, a U$ 100 billion contingency reserve arrangement and the forthcoming Summit in Fortaleza in Brazil. In late April, a public seminar meant to inform the Brazilian public about the upcoming Summit took place in Fortaleza.
In mid-May, the 4th Meeting of the BRICS Cooperatives took place in Curitiba (Brazil), and less than a week later, the BRICS Ministerial Meeting on the sideline of the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) occurred. There, the side event on “Access to medicines: challenges and opportunities for developing countries” was organized by the BRICS countries. The number of meetings and platforms for cooperation has increased markedly in 2015, and is set to increase further once the New Development Bank (NDB) starts operating.
Merely organizing a never-ending string of meetings will not create sustainable cooperation, skeptics will argue. That is true, and the impact of several of the gatherings listed above may not have the desired outcome. Only time will tell in how far these meetings can generate more sustainable cooperation. But they do show that intra-BRICS cooperation is indeed taking place in many different areas. Those who criticize the BRICS concept can no longer just take a quick glance at the yearly leaders' summits; rather, intra-BRICS cooperation has, over the past years, grown far too complex to be easily dismissed.
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