Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa signed the Ufa Declaration, a 77-point document that summarizes the group’s achievements so far and outlines areas of further cooperation. Despite negative prospects from Western media, the Ufa Declaration reaffirmed the unity of BRICS.
The 7th BRICS Summit was held on July 9-10, 2015, in the city of Ufa (Russia). At the end of the meeting, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa signed the Ufa Declaration, a 77-point document that summarizes the group’s achievements so far and outlines areas of further cooperation. Despite negative prospects from Western media, the Ufa Declaration reaffirmed the unity of BRICS. A detailed reading of the document even reveals that the group is moving toward a more assertive role in the main issues on the international agenda.
In the field of international political economy, the five countries reasserted their commitment to the core demand that gave rise to the group – the restructuring of international economic governance. However, differing from previous declarations, the document contains strong language on IMF quotas, stating that the BRICS countries "remain deeply disappointed by the United States’ prolonged failure to ratify the IMF 2010 reform package, which continues to undermine the credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness of the IMF" (point 19). Besides being the first explicit mention of the United States in one of the final declarations, the criticism comes in the same document that formally launches the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, dubbed by commentators as the World Bank and the IMF of the developing world. It seems clear that the strategy to reform the ongoing international economic order is being replaced by the intent to build a new one led by the group and in accordance with the demands of the developing countries.
The BRICS Summit was not only about the economy. The security agenda was also very impressive, and the countries managed to agree on highly contested issues. Two of them are of major importance for understanding the BRICS stance on security issues: Syria and Ukraine. On Syria, the countries confirmed their respect for "the independence, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of the country and indicated that the basis for solving the Syrian crisis should be the Geneva Final Communiqué of June 30, 2012 (point 36). Although the work of the Geneva Contact Group on Syria has been mentioned in other documents, it is more explicit in the Ufa Declaration. The Geneva Final Communiqué suggests establishing a transitional governing body that would include both members of the opposition and the government. However, this option was ruled out later by the United States after the controversial claim that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own people in 2013.
In the case of Ukraine, the group "call(s) on all parties to comply with all the provisions of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, adopted in February 2015 in Minsk by the Contact Group on Ukraine, supported by the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine and endorsed by the UN Security Council in its resolution 2202" (point 43). For those familiar with the Ukrainian crisis, the Minsk agreements call on all parties to the conflict to negotiate a solution that includes granting more autonomy to the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. However, a couple of months after the agreements were signed, the US-backed Ukrainian prime minister said that his government does not negotiate with terrorists. Hence, mentioning the Minsk agreements is a very bold move for countries that were very superficial with regard to the Ukrainian crisis at the previous summit.
Certainly, the explicit condemnation of the United States as responsible for the IMF’s lack of legitimacy, as well as the commitment of BRICS countries to solutions that are not in accordance with America’s interests in Syria and Ukraine do not represent a total departure from the non-confrontational stance that is stated in all BRICS declarations. However, these positions cannot be attributed to Russian diplomatic excellence alone. They are, indeed, manifestations of growing discontent with the West's failure to promote a more just and equitable world, a situation which is made worse by the harsh treatment of one of the group’s members. In this view, the Ufa Declaration may be a benchmark in the process of building a different international order.