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BRICS poised to galvanize multilateralism

YOU HAN and MENG LIJUN | 2020-12-18 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The launch ceremony of the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution innovation center was held in Xiamen, China's southeast Fujian Province. Photo: XINHUA

The 12th BRICS Summit wrapped up virtually on Nov. 17, 2020. The theme this year is "BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth." In the context of a once-in-a-century pandemic and unforeseen changes, BRICS leaders spoke about solving global challenges and maintaining continuous activities, building a solid foundation for broader and deeper cooperation among BRICS member countries. The adoption of the Moscow Declaration and the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025 shows their determination and confidence in adhering to multilateralism and injects impetus into global governance.

Key to global governance
In the declaration, BRICS countries agreed once more to uphold multilateralism. They reiterated the resolve to secure UN-centered international architecture, and the international order based on international law. They made their voice heard on security issues at regional and international levels. Also, they unanimously recognized the UN Security Council's coordinated efforts in tackling terrorism, preventing the proliferation of nuclear and WMD (weapons of mass destruction), and avoiding an arms race in outer space. At the same time, they agreed that regional conflict negotiations and flashpoint issues should be discussed under the UN resolution framework. Political dialogue and diplomatic means should be the solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the spread of unilateralism and trade protectionism. The BRICS countries are committed to galvanizing multilateral cooperation to restore global confidence. In the post-pandemic era, BRICS member states aim to build a stable supply and industrial chain, and create open, safe, and enduring global trade and financial markets. They are working with the international community to promote vigorous, sustainable, and inclusive development and growth of the global economy. The declaration again pointed out the need to reform major UN agencies, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to make more space for developing countries to participate in the global decision-making process. These reforms would also help the international community improve their ability to tackle global threats.
Challenges and opportunities
Due to the differences in national conditions and resource endowments, BRICS cooperation mechanisms have faced gloomy predictions since establishment. At the moment, the pandemic has brought unprecedented changes and new challenges to BRICS cooperation and development.
The world is undergoing a period of turbulence and reforms, as the scope of global governance deficits expands dramatically. Global economic forces have seen almost irreversible shifts from the West to the East and from Northern countries to Southern countries. 
In recent years, some Western countries' populist governments have implemented a series of unilateral and trade protectionist policies, remarkably denting the international community's confidence in multilateral cooperation and dampening the political environment for global governance. The pandemic has expedited this avalanche of once-in-a-century changes. The virus's persistent and repetitive nature has thrown the world economy into distress, and the global political and military patterns are also evolving at an accelerated speed, increasing the risks of social unrest, regime change, and armed conflict.
The organization's cohesion is facing a test. The BRICS countries are split regarding the mechanism's targets, cooperation priorities, and concrete cooperation approaches due to the widening differences in their economic fundamentals. Catalyzed by the pandemic, their economic and social development is facing hardship, old problems are reoccurring and new problems are emerging. These new problems include the unsolved border issue, and differentiations within political institutions in regard to pandemic prevention and control methods. 
Facing external interference, BRICS cooperation is an important force which advances South-South cooperation. The partnership stimulates solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, and builds a more just and reasonable international order. Many factors, such as Cold War mentalities and geopolitical containment, may hold back BRICS cooperation and disrupt their coordination on major issues such as the reform of global governance institutions.
However, opportunities always exist alongside challenges. This year's unprecedented events have also provided opportunities for BRICS countries to reform the global governance system.
The key message behind "a community of shared future for mankind" is to consolidate. The concept emphasizes human's shared identity and value orientations and the objective reality of our interdependence beyond national borders. No country can address global issues such as disease, poverty, climate change, and environmental issues alone. No single country can fix them. The pandemic's prevalence and its impact on the global landscape has highlighted the necessity and urgency of building a community of shared future for mankind. It will help lay a foundation for global governance.
The exploration of global governance continues to deepen. The pandemic has exposed the fragility of our current global governance system, and cast doubt on the effectiveness of many multilateral organizations. Multi-party cooperation seeks to provide leadership and action for global governance initiatives. During the pandemic, the BRICS mechanism displayed unity and efficiency through mutual aid in medical supplies, the sharing of virus-fighting experiences, and emergency loans from the New Development Bank. Currently, countries around the world are facing dual challenges, namely economic stability, and pandemic prevention and control. The BRICS countries are focused on restoring the world economy through multilateral cooperation. This model of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual aid in hard times will shed light on the reform of the global governance system.
The BRICS countries are seeing a growth in their shared strengths. The world is undergoing a new round of industrial revolution, and shifting toward intelligence, digitization, and informatization. As latecomers, the BRICS nations may start to excel on the global stage through sci-tech innovations and economic transformations. They should cooperate in tandem in the fields of information and communication technology, aerospace, energy conservation, environmental protection, and new materials. Their expanding strength will help to elevate their discourse power regarding global governance system reforms and exhibit their commitment. 
Cooperation beneficial for all
How can the BRICS countries further expand cooperation while upholding the BRICS principles? First, the five nations should manage their differences, adhere to their shared goals, and always put a premium on securing the interests of emerging economies and developing countries. Today, emerging economies and developing countries contribute 80% of the global economic growth and account for nearly 40% of the total global economic volume. 
Although the BRICS countries have long agreed to democratize international relations and optimize the global governance system, collective action targeting governance institution reforms still falls short. For example, they have not yet formed concrete and consensus-based plans regarding WTO reform. The BRICS countries should put multi-layer dialogue mechanisms into use and collectively raise detailed proposals for IMF and WTO reform, and G20 Action Plan renewal. Through these actions, they can effectively improve the discourse power of emerging economies and developing countries in international organizations, consolidating BRICS legitimacy in governance.
BRICS countries should enhance practical cooperation and expand their common interests. The freshly established the BRICS Partnership and New Industrial Revolution innovation center is a manifestation of their partnership. They should formulate legal norms and technical standards for the innovation center’s implementation plan, and the cooperation in such emerging fields as vaccine research and development, space exploration, polar development, and data security. This type of innovation is conducive to advancing grounded partnerships among the BRICS countries. Also, the BRICS plus model can broaden the scope of cooperation, while amplifying BRICS countries’ platform for filling the global governance vacuum.
BRICS countries should deepen cultural exchanges and people-to-people bonds. Friendship between nations rests upon friendships between people. They can launch more BRICS projects in areas such as poverty reduction, education, health, media, and youth development. The outcomes of these projects will benefit citizens of BRICS countries, which will help increase their understanding of the BRICS cooperation mechanism, promote dialogues between nations, and foster common global governance concepts.
You Han and Meng Lijun are from the BRICS Research Institute at Sichuan International Studies University.
Edited by MA YUHONG