BRICS and Covid-19 challenge
GS PAPER II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora - their structure, mandate.
Context: BRICS foreign ministers hold virtual meeting; discuss Covid-19 challenge. India hosted the meeting in its capacity as the chair of BRICS —Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa.
- Key principles guiding the five-nation grouping BRICS and referred to international law and the UN Charter that recognises the sovereign equality of all states, and respects their territorial integrity.
- Desired change can be achieved only by conducting policies in accordance with these principles.
- For the first time, BRICS foreign ministers have agreed on a common, standalone joint statement on reforming the multilateral system.
- They have also agreed that such reform has to cover all key multilateral institutions, including the UN and its principal organs (UN Security Council, General Assembly, ECOSOC, the Secretariat, etc); international financial architecture (IMF, World Bank); multilateral trading system (WTO, UNCTAD); and the global health governance system with the WHO at its core.
- BRICS FMs called for further consolidation and strengthening of the working methods of UN Security Council Sanctions Committees to ensure their effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency.
- Four key deliverables were identified that are
- reform of the multilateral system,
- counter-terrorism cooperation,
- using digital and technological solutions to achieve SDGs, and
- enhancing people-to-people cooperation.
- They spoke about the proposal by South Africa and India at the WTO seeking a patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines.
- South Africa and India submitted a proposal to the WTO for a temporary waiver of certain aspects of TRIPS to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines, for treatment and diagnostics.
- All BRICS countries agreed to support this measure, and called for supporting ongoing consideration in WTO on a Covid-19 vaccine Intellectual Property Rights waiver and the use of flexibilities of the TRIPS agreement and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.
What is BRICS? How did these countries come together?
• It is an informal group of states comprising the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa.
• The BRICS is actually rather a forum than a traditional-type organization with rigid membership and regulations.
• Originally the first four were grouped as "BRIC" (or "the BRICs"), before the induction of South Africa in 2010.
• The growing economic might of BRICS countries, their significance as one of the main driving forces of global economic development, their substantial population and abundant natural resources form the foundation of their influence on the international scene and are the driving forces behind the grouping.
• At the Fortaleza Summit (2014), in Brazil, important institutions were created: the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA).
• Among other areas of collaboration, matters pertaining to drug trafficking is an important area of cooperation among the BRICS member states.
What challenges BRICS is facing?
- Disagreements between its members and slow progress shown on the ground when it comes to implementation of initiatives make it quite vulnerable to criticism.
BRICS and COVID-19:
- Most of its programs and mechanisms proved to be effective during the pandemic.
- The BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Framework Programme pioneered in 2015 helped scientists and researchers to stay connected and effectively exchange their findings to better facilitate a common response to COVID-19.
- BRICS looks better than other global governance institutions amidst the ongoing COVID crises.
- There is no blame-game or pointing fingers within BRICS, rather there is only a common vision for intensifying cooperation, including in sectors like healthcare, social welfare.
- BRICS has progressed on developing a common position on the most important matters of the global economy and security and also got institutionalised with the setting up of the BRICS New Development Bank in 2015.