July 19, 2015

Seventh BRICS Summit & its Declarations

R Arun Kumar

THE Seventh BRICS Summit was held in Ufa, Russia, on July 9, under the presidency of Russia. The summit has adopted eight documents, together with the regular 'Ufa Declaration'. The theme for this year's summit was: 'BRICS Partnership – a Powerful Factor of Global Development'.

The Ufa Declaration stated that the five partner countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will step up coordinated efforts “in responding to emerging challenges, ensuring peace and security, promoting development in a sustainable way, addressing poverty eradication, inequality and unemployment for the benefit of our peoples and the international community. We confirmed our intention to further enhance the collective role of our countries in international affairs”.

The Declaration also reaffirmed the long standing demand of India, Brazil and South Africa for a comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including its Security Council by making it more representative. It states only such a reform will make the UN more efficient and ensure that it can better respond to global challenges. The Declaration expresses its deep disappointment with the failure of the United States to ratify the IMF 2010 reform package. It says that this is “preventing the increase in the institution’s quota resources and the revision of quotas and voting power in favour of developing countries and emerging markets as agreed by an overwhelming majority of members, including the United States in 2010”. It laments that the absence of such reforms that were agreed upon undermines the “credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness of the IMF”.




On the global economic scenario, the Declaration expresses its apprehensions. It notes: “risks to the global economy persist. The challenges are related to high public debt and unemployment, poverty and inequality, lower investment and trade, negative real interest rates along with signs of prolonged low inflation in advanced economies. We remain concerned about potential spillover effects from the unconventional monetary policies of the advanced economies, which could cause disruptive volatility of exchange rates, asset prices and capital flows”.

In this background, the BRICS decided to increase the economic cooperation between the countries in the grouping, which together constitute 42 percent of the world's population and more than 14 percent of the world's GDP. All these efforts that were in shape for the past few years, particularly after the 2008 economic crisis, led to the idea of a 'BRICS bank', which has now fructified. The summit also witnessed the signing of the 'MoU on Cooperation with the New Development Bank' between the national development banks/institutions of the respective countries. This signalled the coming into force of the Agreement on New Development Bank signed during the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil. An inaugural meeting of the board of governors of the Bank was held on the sidelines of the summit. This Bank, located in Shanghai, is to be initially headed by India. This Bank is envisaged to “serve as a powerful instrument for financing infrastructure investment and sustainable development projects in the BRICS and other developing countries and emerging market economies and for enhancing economic cooperation” between the countries in the group. The Bank is expected to approve its inaugural investment project in the beginning of next year, ie, 2016.

Together with the operationalisation of the BRICS bank, the treaty establishing a 'Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) of the BRICS' was also concluded and ratified during this summit and has come into force. It is desired that the CRA is to provide 'mutual financial support, as an important step in the financial cooperation' between the countries in the grouping. It is also thought to provide “a valuable contribution to the global financial safety net”.

The Declaration condemned the “unilateral military interventions and economic sanctions in violation of international law and universally recognised norms of international relations”. This is interpreted as an indirect expression of support to Russia, on whom US led Western consortium had imposed sanctions for its perceived role in the developments in Ukraine. As a further snub to the Western developed nations, who had boycotted the Russian celebrations of the Victory Day, commemorating the defeat of fascism and end of Second World War, the Declaration expressed “commitment to resolutely reject the continued attempts to misrepresent the results of World War II”. The Declaration also condemned the “mass electronic surveillance and data collection of individuals all over the world”, by the US and termed it “as violation of the sovereignty of States and of human rights, in particular, the right to privacy”.

On Syria, the Declaration rejected all sorts of 'external interference' and opined that “there is no alternative to the peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict”. It also expressed its support to the efforts aimed at “promoting a political and diplomatic settlement of the crisis in Syria through a wide dialogue between the Syrian parties that reflects the aspirations of all sectors of Syrian society and guarantees the rights of all Syrians”. The Declaration also reaffirmed the commitment of these countries to the “territorial integrity, independence and national sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq” and rejected all forms of “foreign interference that may hamper the consolidation of its national democratic institutions and the harmonious coexistence of the rich social fabric of the Iraqi people”.  The Declaration identifies that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can contribute to a “positive outcome of other crises in the region and to the promotion of sustainable peace in the Middle East”. It calls upon Israel to put a stop to its extending settlements and called upon both Israel and Palestine to “resume negotiations leading to a two-state solution with a contiguous and viable Palestinian State existing side by side in peace with Israel within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders based on 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital”.




Another important activity that was held on the sidelines of the Ufa Summit was the meeting of the IV Trade Unions Forum of the BRICS countries. They too had adopted a declaration, which due to obvious reasons did not get any mention in the mainstream media, along with the meeting of the trade unions.

The Declaration adopted by the trade union centres of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, (Ufa Declaration of the IV Trade Union Forum of BRICS Countries) uniting hundreds of millions of workers does not mince words and unambiguously states: “Rapidly progressing neo-liberal globalisation leads to the destruction of jobs and of the Earth's ecosystem. In 2014, one percent of the planet's population owned 48 percent of the entire world's wealth; by 2016, this 'golden one percent' will own more than half thereof. A huge number of workers have no job security and are facing the highest level of inequality within the memory of living generations. Over the past two years, half of all working families have experienced either unemployment or underemployment, and 1.2 billion people live in abject poverty. According to an ILO report, in 2014 there were 207 million unemployed with a forecast of reaching 220 million. This economic model further deepens inequality, weakens democracy and undermines justice for all”.

In what can be interpreted as a warning to the BJP government in our country, “We cannot accept that austerity measures, which have failed in Europe and in the United States, are 'a way out of the crisis'. Revenues should be used to increase investment in real productive sector, infrastructure projects, health, education, science and technology, research and development, vocational training and skills upgrading: investments should be used to create decent jobs and higher wages”. Further, as an outright denouncement of the BJP government’s attempts to amend 'labour laws', the Declaration announces: “Fundamental rights of trade union representation and collective bargaining are under threat in some States, and subject to direct attacks in others. In a number of countries employers are trying to undermine the right to strike, thus putting in jeopardy this fundamental workers’ achievement that is recognised by the ILO. Civil society structures – and trade unions as their broadest representatives – are to exert a constructive pressure upon leaders of their States, public authorities and employers in order to encourage them to establish effective mechanisms for a more stable economic and financial world order”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was physically present during the adoption of these declarations, should show sincerity by standing true to what was accepted.

The Declaration strongly demands that the “trade union centres of BRICS countries, grouped in the Trade Union Forum”, be given an “appropriate place within BRICS structures, on an equal footing with employers' organisations”. The Declaration ends noting the significant contribution of Russia in the “70th anniversary of victory over fascism and the end of the Second World War”. The noting of 'victory over fascism', is indeed truly significant, to be incorporated in a formal declaration adopted by the unions.

The ruling class bias against working class and their trade unions was once again blatantly exposed in the way the BRICS summit and its proceedings were reported in the media. It is nobody's contention that BRICS has emerged as a 'Left' grouping championing the interests of the working class and other toiling sections in the developing countries. But whatever progressive content that can be gleaned from the summit outcome should be welcomed, particularly the Declaration of the Trade Union Forum, more so when the trade unions in our country are gearing up for the General Strike on September 2.

Instead, our media has largely focused on the das kadam, ten steps programme proposed by our prime minister – a trade fair, a railway research centre, audit cooperation, an agricultural research centre, a sports council, a soccer tournament, a film festival and so on. No doubt these measures may help in strengthening bonds between the countries in the group, but for these to materialise, the heart of the modern industry, the working class, should survive. Survive it will, but only through struggles against the neo-liberal globalisation, an off-shoot of the capitalist system.