BRICS under Russia’s presidency (2024) has begun with the first meeting of of Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas, held January 30 – February 1, with participation of new countries – Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The meeting wholeheartedly noted substantial contributions in shaping the agenda and comprehensive plan of activities scheduled to take place in the Russian Federation. During its chairmanship of BRICS, Russia will do its best to find solutions to economic, policy and humanitarian issues, to strengthen common consensus and approaches with partner countries.
During the meeting, chaired by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russia’s Sherpa in BRICS, Sergey A. Ryabkov, the priorities of the association were outlined. Representatives of Russian ministries and departments gave detailed briefings on key areas of cooperation. The importance of implementing a number of Russian initiatives was noted, in particular, the launch of an Integrated Early Response System to the risks of mass infectious diseases, the establishment of an Industrial Competence Center based on UNIDO, the BRICS Medical Association and a specialized journal, and strengthening cooperation in the field of transport and tourism.
As part of the implementation of the instructions of the leaders of the BRICS countries following the results of the XV summit of the association (Johannesburg, August 22-24, 2023), discussions continued on the modalities of the category of BRICS partner states, as well as increasing the role of national currencies and payment instruments in cross-border transactions of the “ten” countries. All participants in the meeting confirmed their focus on further constructive work within the three “baskets” of the BRICS strategic partnership: in the field of politics and security, economics and finance, culture and humanitarian ties.
It was pointed out that it’s about time to tackle extraordinary challenges and to steer the association towards creating a more fairer and interactive world. A quick analysis shows that the present situation is engulfed with new conflicts and unprecedented threats that endanger further sustainable development. But in a conscientious manner, BRICS is set to handle the collective tasks and priorities, the fragile situation in Ukraine, the human catastrophe emerging from the horrific Israeli war against Palestine and its impact on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
In addition, BRICS is also targeting result-oriented work and opportunities in the developing countries, especially those in the Global South. Its invaluable platforms are available to ensure cohesive and sustainable responses to the challenges, and for fostering cooperation and for renewed multidimensional partnerships, for instance, with Africa.
Over those three days (January 30 – February 1) the meeting held ten working sessions, during which representatives of Russian ministries and departments, business and academic circles presented detailed briefings on key areas of cooperation in BRICS and the initiatives of the Russian chairmanship in the association. BRICS partners have assured to lend their support for the chairmanship plans and their readiness to vigorously work together this year.
Fruitful and constructive discussions took place on a number of pressing issues in the fields of trade and investment, transport and energy, technology and innovation, and sustainable development. They exchanged views on strengthening cooperation in the fields of education, healthcare and sports, and confirmed their focus on maintaining and deepening ties between business and experts.
This year members will work to implement the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy until 2025, including by strengthening supply chains, developing the digital economy, supporting small and medium-sized businesses, stimulating tourist flows, and interaction in the field of transport. They are aimed at launching the BRICS Contact Group on Climate and Sustainable Development, initiated by the Russian side.
It noted the great potential for cooperation between the BRICS countries in the field of healthcare, and hope that this year the practical work of the Integrated Early Warning System for the risks of mass infectious diseases will be launched. The meeting plans to facilitate the connection of new countries to the BRICS Vaccine Research Center. There was also the proposal to create a Medical Association and a BRICS specialized journal. They welcome the start of the functioning of the Working Group on Nuclear Medicine.
Under Russia’s presidency, BRICS will focus on further strengthening cooperation along anti-terrorism, anti-corruption and anti-drug lines, as well as in the field of international information security, and continue coordinating the approaches of the BRICS countries to resolving key foreign policy issues, including at such international platforms as the UN, G20, and WTO.
They also consider it important to increase humanitarian ties between our peoples, contacts between ordinary people, and expand opportunities for mutual enrichment of the countries included in the association.
The BRICS association sees a growing interest of friendly, like-minded states around the world in developing cooperation with BRICS. They are impressed by the basic principles on which interaction is based: compliance with international law, respect for each other’s interests and the right of each state to a sovereign choice of development path. Responding to the desire of a wide range of countries to strengthen ties with BRICS, the association has begun to develop modalities for the category of partner states of the association. It is envisaged also to actively use the outreach/BRICS plus dialogue mechanisms to interact with third countries to make significant contributions to achieving practical results in all areas of our strategic partnership.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a BRICS sherpa and sous-sherpa meeting on January 31, also outlined the agenda parameters – related to the objective processes underway and deep transformation of international architecture. This also connects the present-day notion of multilateralism and the popular slogan of inclusiveness intended change the global politics, security and the economy.
“Washington and its European satellites are spending vast amounts of money to contain Russia, in stark contrast to the Western capitals’ approach to the Global South, especially the African countries. There are cases where support for Ukraine is financed by suspending projects in Africa and the Middle East,” according to Lavrov.
Nevertheless, the Global Majority – the states of Eurasia, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean – gain a stronger foothold in the world system. Most of these countries are increasingly asserting their national interests and identities and striving for genuine strategic independence in pragmatic pathways.
In principle, Russia’s BRICS chairmanship is “Strengthening Multilateralism for Equitable Global Development and Security” – and as BRICS is an association with mutual principles for the Global South and East. Its basic principles are based on mutual respect, a sovereign choice of development path and the implementation of the fundamental principle of the UN Charter, that is, the sovereign equality of states.
Lavrov spoke about visible impact of the turbulent geopolitical situation, the key trends of forming a multi-polar world, emphasised the growing impact of the cultural and civilisational factor on world politics, and the importance of facilitating various cooperation mechanisms that would be resistant to the destructive actions of unfriendly countries. He also pointed to successful creation of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre.
As an association, it follows the same trends and on a global scale. BRICS represents a cooperation network for regional and subregional processes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. BRICS association boasts an aggregate GDP, in terms of purchasing power parity, that has reached about one third of the global value and has exceeded that of the G7 countries. BRICS accounts for 30 percent of dry land and 45 percent of the world’s population, a substantial part of the global production of oil and other resources, and about 25 percent of global exports. In a nutshell, the association now has the ability to form a global agenda by consistently upholding the interests of the Global Majority.