On July 26th a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of BRICS countries is set to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The meetings at the level of the heads of Foreign Ministries is held twice per year with the approaching meeting set to be focused on the preparation for the 11th BRICS Summit to be held in Brasilia in November 2019. While no major breakthroughs are to be expected in the meeting, it may serve to consolidate the BRICS position on a number of important issues, including with respect to joint participation in international organizations and initiatives, as well as in building cooperation to counter terrorism.
As regards Brazil’s stance in the upcoming talks concerns regarding the possible disengagement of Bolsonaro’s team from the BRICS discussions have largely been overblown. While the scope of the agenda put forth by Brazil during its year of presidency in the BRICS might not seem too ambitious, there do appear to be important priorities accorded by the Brazilian side to issues of economic cooperation in the sphere of innovation and digital economy development. With important innovations of the past several years such as the BRICS+ and outreach exercises unlikely to be actively pursued this year, Brazil will likely seek to show more results in the economic and security areas to mark its contribution to developing and furthering the BRICS policy agenda.
For her part Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Maria Zakharova announced that a meeting between Lavrov and his Brazilian counterpart will take place on the sidelines of the BRICS foreign ministers’ conference on July 26. The meeting will thoroughly review bilateral cooperation, conducted as part of strategic partnership. According to Maria Zakharova, the BRICS foreign ministers’ conference will address "the issues on the global and regional agendas, ensuring peace and security, settlement of acute international conflicts." The meeting will "focus on the issues of coordinating approaches of BRICS states on key international platforms, boosting efforts to jointly counter terrorism and transnational organized crime and ensuring international information security”.
As for South Africa, one of the key priorities in the coming years is likely to be directed at exploring the modalities of cooperation between BRICS and the regional organizations of the African continent. The BRICS may be a crucial platform for strengthening South Africa’s regional role in Africa and indeed throughout the past several years there has been a marked increase in the outreach activities and interaction at various levels between BRICS countries and their African counterparts in regional organizations. With the opening of the African office of the New Development Bank there may be scope to galvanize the project activity of the Bank not just in South Africa, but in the broader African region. Accordingly, the South African side is likely to be more focused on expanding the scale and the scope of the NDB projects, something that may well feature prominently on this year’s agenda of Brazil’s presidency.
Overall, the momentum and the focus in BRICS policy agenda may be changing, but the grouping is set to carry on cooperation in areas that are crucial not just for its individual members, but for the global economy as well. The vagaries of electoral cycles could well temporarily affect the tempo of mutual cooperation within BRICS, but the progress in setting the development agenda attained by the group’s members throughout the past decade lays sufficient groundwork for further cooperation. Even more of a unifying force for BRICS is not just the legacy of the past decade of cooperation, but the tremendous potential harboured in broadening BRICS cooperation to other developing nations and contributing to resolving global challenges though multilateral cooperation.