Global Alternatives 2024
BRICS Guiding Principles and the Global Alternative

The question of the transition from a symbolic alternative to a real one in the activities of BRICS still remains relevant. This can be seen in both political and expert discussions among member countries, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

During last year’s BRICS Summit in South Africa, the member states adopted an interesting document in connection with the announced expansion of the group. The document clearly formulates the guiding principles for BRICS’ membership expansion, which all new countries planning to join must recognize. This year’s expansion of BRICS took place in accordance with these guidelines. Given the large number of countries expressing a desire to join BRICS (intentions to join were even submitted after the decision to expand last year), it can be assumed that these principles will continue to be used in future possible rounds of BRICS membership expansions.

It should be noted that all these clearly articulated “Guiding Principles” are not only significant in the context of the group’s expansion, but also on their own merits. We have already noted that, among all the formats of multilateral summits regularly held at the present time, communiqués based on their outcomes in the case of BRICS seem to be among the most significant.

This can be explained by the fact that BRICS, in its current format at least, brings together the largest countries from the non-Western world. These countries share, or have similar, values and interests, which makes BRICS an association of like-minded countries. Of course, this does not imply that all member states fully agree on everything. In real-world politics, it is difficult to imagine such a situation. However, it is clear that the shared geopolitical and geo-economic interests of the largest countries in the Global South and Non-West are an objective reality that outweighs their differences.

Wider Eurasia
At the Crossroads: Brazil in the Face of BRICS Expansion
Fabiano Mielniczuk
The option for disengagement from BRICS is gaining adherents among Brazilian diplomats and is being actively promoted by sectors of Brazilian organized civil society, especially those NGOs and think tanks that receive financial support from European and American institutions. The engagement of these sectors in the G20 events during Brazil’s Presidency of 2024 and the lack of interest in the BRICS process during Russia’s Presidency in the BRICS in the same year is another sign of alertness, writes Fabiano Mielniczuk.

That is why, in our opinion, the lengthy communiqués issued after the annual BRICS summits are the most interesting and less boring documents of their kind to read. This is primarily due to the fact that, in these BRICS documents, we believe, the very concept of a global alternative that has been much discussed in the modern world is manifested and formulated quite clearly.

BRICS is one of the most significant examples of this concept in terms of its composition. This makes the BRICS-related documents ideologically significant in their content, in a positive sense. These annual communiqués collectively represent the belief system of the contemporary non-Western world and its evolution from year to year.

In this regard, it is important to note the following. From time to time, both in political and expert circles, the question arises: what has the BRICS achieved in all these years? Depending on the views of a particular author, different assessments can be heard, sometimes even contradictory. However, we believe there is no doubt that BRICS has succeeded in developing and operationalizing a set of ideas and values that reflect the non-Western worldview. At present, BRICS represents an ideological alternative to Western-centric mainstream ideas and concepts. With the formulation of the “Guiding Principles,” this alternative has taken on a more concrete and comprehensible form.

By the way, it will be interesting to see whether the overall tone of the final BRICS documents changes after the expansion. Two of the new BRICS members that were invited last year, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are more integrated into the Western world compared to the “old” BRICS member states. This is primarily due to economic and financial reasons, but also political factors. Politics often follows economic trends. To a certain extent, these countries can be considered part of the expanded “global West” both in terms of their geo-economic and, to a certain degree, geopolitical influence.

It is interesting to consider whether their participation in BRICS has a significant impact on the evolution and possible transformation of their system of values and priorities in the near future. It remains to be seen whether the declarations and statements made by BRICS in this regard will become more moderate and less representative of the aforementioned global alternative. Only time will tell, and it will be especially interesting to compare the final documents from the upcoming BRICS summit with previous ones in this context.

In any case, the guiding principles for BRICS, approved a year ago, provide a framework for the future development of this organization. Moreover, they define in a succinct and slogan-like manner the global alternative that BRICS represents.

Let us recall that there are a total of nine principles. It is not necessary to reproduce them all here in this text. We would like to note only that the first principle seems to be extremely important from an ideological and conceptual standpoint. It directly refers to “The BRICS Spirit”, which expresses, according to this principle, mutual respect and understanding, equality, solidarity, openness, inclusiveness, and consensus. Other principles emphasize the need for strengthening multilateralism, promoting institutional development, preserving identity, and strengthening the role of non-Western countries in the international system. They also emphasize the importance of strengthening cooperation between these countries, etc.

All these principles form a coherent system of views. It is interesting to note that they largely correspond with the six principles of a new, fair world order that were outlined by Russian President Vladimir Putin during last year’s plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club. Therefore, one can observe a certain synergy between the approaches to the future world order expressed by Russia at the official level and the general guiding principles of BRICS.

Naturally, if we do not limit ourselves to the analysis of values and ideology (in the good sense of the word), then an important question arises not only about the declaration of certain principles, but also their actual implementation in practical politics and economics. It is clear that the BRICS countries, both collectively and individually, have been making significant efforts in this regard. The desire of several dozen countries to join BRICS as new members is very significant. However, the transformation of the symbolic alternative that BRICS documents represent into a real political and strategic vision raises the issue of greater cohesion among BRICS members in their practical actions, as well as their increased commitment to implementing these principles.

In addition, as everyone understands that future waves of BRICS expansion are unlikely to accommodate everyone who wishes to apply for membership, it may be beneficial to explore the possibility of expanding the “BRICS+” format, which would include not only the member states of BRICS but also other countries from the Global South and Non-Western world. Furthermore, the principle of inclusivity is already incorporated into the BRICS guiding principles system.

Finally, management theory teaches us that after formulating certain strategic principles, it is necessary to draw up a kind of roadmap for their implementation. Otherwise, these principles will remain on paper. Accordingly, the development of clear mechanisms for implementing these roadmaps (possibly including controls related to their step-by-step implementation) may also be on the agenda. It is clear that such an approach may raise questions about strengthening internal cohesion within the BRICS. All of this, of course, requires the political will of all member states. Nevertheless, the question of the transition from a symbolic alternative to a real one in the activities of BRICS still remains relevant. This can be seen in both political and expert discussions among member countries. Only time will tell how further developments in BRICS will proceed.
Global Alternatives 2024
BRICS+: The Path to a New World Order
Rasigan Maharajh
The original international collaboration between the large and growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China has evolved and expanded.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.