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BRICS to BRICS+: Expanding Horizons

By Dr Asif Channer

September 3, 2023 11:03 PM


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The fifteenth BRICS summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 23-24 August 2023 marked a significant turning point in the history of this influential bloc. Comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, BRICS decided to expand its membership, embracing a broader vision of global governance. This historic meeting also witnessed a unified voice from the BRICS nations, expressing dissatisfaction with the Western world's role in global crises and conflicts.

One of the standout decisions at the summit was the unanimous agreement to admit six new member countries: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This expansion is set to become official in January 2024, and it signals a profound shift in the dynamics of the group. While BRICS was initially a coalition of major emerging economies, it has now evolved into BRICS+, demonstrating its willingness to engage a more diverse range of nations in shaping global affairs.

The decision to include these new members is significant for various reasons. Firstly, it broadens the geographical reach of BRICS, extending its influence into the Middle East and Africa, two regions of increasing global importance. Secondly, it reflects a shared belief among member nations that the current global governance system, largely dominated by Western powers, requires a more inclusive and multipolar approach.

One noteworthy aspect of this expansion is the potential impact on the global financial landscape. The recent oil transaction between India and the United Arab Emirates, conducted in rupees, rather than the traditional petrodollar, serves as a symbol of the changing tides. BRICS countries are exploring alternatives to reduce their reliance on the US dollar, challenging the decades-long hegemony of the greenback. While this may not immediately usher in a new world order, it is undoubtedly a step towards an alternative global economic system that prioritizes the interests of developing nations over those of the established few.

However, with this expansion comes the challenge of decision-making within the BRICS framework. As more countries join the bloc, reaching a consensus on various policy positions becomes increasingly complex. The BRICS nations have long been committed to a consensus-driven decision-making process, which can be challenging when accommodating diverse perspectives and interests. Nonetheless, the commitment to democratize global governance by including a wider array of voices is a commendable effort.

Moreover, the BRICS summit in Johannesburg was notable for its vocal criticism of the West's role in global crises and conflicts. Member nations expressed their concerns about the West's involvement in instigating conflicts and its inability to manage the aftermath effectively. This collective complaint underscored the growing frustration among emerging economies about the current world order and their desire for a more equitable international system.

In conclusion, the fifteenth BRICS summit was a pivotal moment in the history of this influential bloc. The decision to expand its membership by admitting six new countries demonstrates BRICS' commitment to reshaping global governance and challenging the existing world order. The shift away from the petrodollar in international transactions and the collective complaints against the West highlight the growing influence and assertiveness of BRICS on the global stage. While challenges lie ahead in managing the decision-making process within a larger and more diverse group, the aspiration to democratize global governance is a noble endeavor that could lead to a more inclusive and multipolar world order. BRICS+ has emerged as a potent force for change, and the world will be watching closely to see how it shapes the future of global politics and economics.

5As BRICS embarks on this new phase of its evolution, it is essential to consider the implications of the expanded membership and the challenges it may pose. Here are a few key aspects to keep in mind:

  1. Diversity of Interests: With the inclusion of new member countries from different regions and backgrounds, BRICS will need to navigate a more diverse range of interests and priorities. This diversity can be both a strength and a challenge. While it brings fresh perspectives to the table, it also means that achieving consensus on various issues may become more complex. Effective diplomacy and negotiation will be crucial in managing these differences.
  2. Economic Collaboration: BRICS has traditionally focused on economic cooperation, and the inclusion of new members offers opportunities for expanded trade and investment. However, it will require careful planning to ensure that economic integration benefits all members equitably. The bloc will need to work on harmonizing trade policies, reducing trade barriers, and promoting sustainable economic growth.
  3. Geopolitical Influence: The admission of countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates carries significant geopolitical implications, particularly in the context of Middle East politics. BRICS will need to navigate potential conflicts of interest and find common ground on issues like regional stability, energy security, and the promotion of peace.
  4. Global Governance: BRICS has expressed its desire to reform global governance structures to be more inclusive and representative. With an expanded membership, the bloc will have a stronger voice in international forums and can push for reforms in institutions like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. This could lead to a more balanced and fair global order.
  5. Challenges to Western Dominance: The collective grievances voiced by BRICS members against the West underscore the bloc's ambition to challenge the Western-dominated global order. This could lead to increased competition in various domains, including diplomacy, economics, and technology. BRICS countries may explore alternatives to Western-centric systems and institutions.
  6. Cooperation on Global Challenges: BRICS can play a vital role in addressing global challenges such as climate change, pandemics, and cybersecurity. The expanded membership brings together countries with diverse experiences and resources, allowing for a more comprehensive approach to tackling these issues.
  7. Democratic Decision-Making: As BRICS expands, the challenge of maintaining a consensus-based decision-making process becomes more pronounced. It will be essential for the bloc to find mechanisms that balance inclusivity with efficiency in decision-making.

In conclusion, the fifteenth BRICS summit marked a significant milestone in the evolution of this influential bloc. The decision to admit six new member countries and the collective criticism of Western policies demonstrated BRICS' determination to reshape the global order and assert its influence on the world stage. While challenges lie ahead, including managing diverse interests and maintaining consensus, the potential benefits of an expanded and more inclusive BRICS are substantial. The world will be closely watching how BRICS+ navigates these challenges and whether it succeeds in creating a more equitable and multipolar world order. As the geopolitical landscape continues to evolve, the role of BRICS in shaping the future of global politics and economics is set to become even more critical.


Dr Asif Channer


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