Parliamentarians of five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have pledged to join hands in combating COVID-19, facing the challenges and threats that each member state currently faces, and strengthening cooperation, including at the inter-parliamentary level.
In view of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sixth Parliamentary Forum on October 27 was organized via video conference. Its main theme was “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth: parliamentary dimension”.
The first BRICS Parliamentary Forum was held in Russia in 2015 at the seventh BRICS Summit. Over the five years, the BRICS parliamentary forum has become a platform connecting countries from three different continents, the states accumulate 42% of world’s population and 27% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
A statement issued at the conclusion of the Forum contains the main issues of the discussions, proposals and, thus will lay the foundation for further work within the BRICS parliamentary dimension. According to the Forum documents, the BRICS parliamentarians will take responsibility and stabilize the economies of their countries to accelerate the recovery of the global economy.
In a video message at the opening of the Forum, President Vladimir Putin expressed the hope that constructive and fruitful discussions at the Forum would help build up multilateral inter-parliamentary ties in all key areas, and promote friendship and understanding among the five BRICS nations.
Putin emphasized that cooperation between representatives of five countries is a major strategic component for the group and unites chamber speakers, national parliament members, leaders of major political parties and experts. All of them are playing a growing role in the public life of the BRICS Five.
“You here are to discuss many urgent issues of international relations and exchange the experience of developing parliamentary democratic institutions. Coordination of national legislative initiatives in healthcare, social protection and economic recovery during the coronavirus pandemic obviously require special attention,” the Russian President explained.
Speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvyenko, called BRICS cooperation a vivid example of solidarity, mutual assistance and constructive dialogue. “Our countries have a really great potential that we can oppose any manifestation of national egoism. In particular, the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership for the period up to 2025 is almost ready. The Draft BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy was agreed. The principled collaborative position of the heads of five states is also important in strengthening international cooperation,” she said in her opening remarks.
Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin emphasized the need to create a mechanism of parliamentary cooperation between BRICS countries. “We need to create a regular mechanism of parliamentary cooperation between the BRICS states, a form of parliamentary interaction which will be convenient for all five states,” he said.
Volodin, further noting the importance of international cooperation for health and well-being of the population, reminded the participants that “the world is changing rapidly, new threats appear, such as coronavirus infection. The global stability requires a prompt response to these challenges. But we see that the pandemic situation is another possibility for political confrontation and unfair competition. We should resist that. International cooperation for the health and well-being of people should address effectively these challenges.”
The Chairman of the State Duma recalled that it was five years ago, under the Russian BRICS Chairmanship, the heads of BRICS states set a course for interaction to counter infectious diseases. In particular, Russian science had achieved a lot in the field of virology and microbiology research.
Cooperation on countering infectious diseases has long been a priority for BRICS. The final declaration of the 2015 BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia, contains instructions by the leaders to jointly work on managing the risk of disease outbreaks, including the current new coronavirus. “We are concerned about growing and diversifying global threats posed by communicable and non-communicable diseases. They have a negative impact on economic and social development, especially in developing and in the least developed countries,” said the 2015 BRICS declaration.
“Our country has developed and registered two COVID-19 vaccines. The third vaccine will soon be registered. Joint actions of the BRICS states for the production of COVID-19 vaccines, including the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, demonstrate another vivid example of partnership, mutual assistance and support. We also support the South African initiative to establish a Vaccine Development and Research Center, that was announced in 2018,” said the Chairman of the State Duma.
Volodin called for strengthening of strategic partnership in the interests of global stability, shared security and innovative growth a priority of Russia’s BRICS Chairmanship in 2020.
BRICS is convinced that it is necessary to uphold the principles of international law enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, according to the Chairman of the State Duma. He however stressed that attempts to build a unipolar world on the principle of the power of force, to question the central role of the United Nations in international affairs, in ensuring global stability and security, are unacceptable.
Volodin urged the participants to ensure equal cooperation between all states within the framework of the UN and other international institutions and organizations. “The world is becoming multipolar and that requires the maximum coordination of interests, including, equal parliamentary dialogue, so all opinions would be taken into account and respected. We need to defend our common position at international parliamentary platforms. It is important to ensure fair and mutually beneficial conditions for participation of our countries in world trade system,” he emphasized.
“It would be right to pay special attention to the issue of exchange of legislative experience in the development of digital economy, artificial intelligence, and personal data protection. Modern world needs a unifying agenda, protection of the principle of sovereign equality of states, the right of peoples to choose their own future, the formation of a more just and democratic world order. Parliamentary diplomacy should give an answer to this request, moreover, it should help to reduce confrontation and conflict potential and to address together new challenges and threats,” the Chairman of the State Duma stressed.
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People Congress of the People’s Republic of China, Li Zhanshu, made several recommendations on economic recovery and countering COVID-19.
“China has done everything to counter the virus. We had mobilized all the resources to develop a strategy to counter COVID-19. We can say that the Chinese economy is reaching a plateau and recovering. We see a modest GDP growth for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic,” said the parliamentarian.
“China, in the shortest possible time, provided WHO with all information about the coronavirus and allocated US$50 million to develop measures to overcome COVID-19. Beijing also gave US$2 billion to developing countries to improve their health systems,” Li Zhanshu added.
“I have several proposals for this. First, we should enhance health cooperation. It is also necessary to develop a legal system to counter the virus. Secondly, we should strengthen cooperation to counter coronavirus infection together, as well as to exchange information and current experience, and to work on the development of new vaccines. Thirdly, it is necessary to provide support to WHO and WTO to promote trade and mutual investment,” he suggested at the forum.
In her contribution, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of South Africa, Thandi Modise, told colleague, “the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious test for all of us, but it is also a test of our strength. The pandemic has opened up many new opportunities we should take advantage of the situation.”
“All the necessary measures were taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in South Africa. But the economy of our country has been seriously affected. We would like to thank the BRICS states that provided assistance to South Africa during the pandemic. The pandemic helped us to build closer relations with Russia and China, as well as with India,” she said.