Created on the initiative of Russian leadership in 2006, the interstate association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) succeeded in becoming a significant factor in global politics and economy in a short time. BRICS is both a symbol of a growing trend towards the formation of a polycentric world and the main locomotive of this trend's development. The commitment to comprehensive strengthening of BRICS, which is outlined in the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation and specified in the concept of our country's participation in this association, is one of the key vectors of Russian foreign policy.
A long-term objective of the Russian Federation in BRICS and, accordingly, a cross-cutting task of the chairmanship of the association is a gradual transformation of BRICS from a dialogue forum and a tool for coordinating positions on a limited range of issues into a full-scale mechanism for strategic and day-to-day interaction on key issues of global politics and economy. The main means of achieving this objective are progressive expansion of the range of cooperation areas, an ever more active promotion of the common interests of BRICS states on the international scene, creation of an extensive system of interaction mechanisms and the beginning of their institutionalisation, primarily in the financial and economic sphere. All this is intended to raise BRICS to the level of an important element of the global governance system in the 21st century.
The key objectives of Russia's BRICS Presidency are as follows:
- to strengthen positions of BRICS and, on this basis, to solidify international political and economic positions of our country on the international arena in general; - to promote solutions to the most pressing international political issues which represent a priority for Russia and its BRICS partners (regional conflicts, fighting international terrorism and drug threat, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction), based on consolidated approaches of the five member countries; - to strengthen positions of BRICS in the international system through expanding external relations of the association including in Eurasia, and ensuring mature and stable nature of these relations; - to achieve tangible progress in reforming the international monetary and financial system, primarily the IMF, with the support of BRICS; - to further develop multilateral financial cooperation within the framework of BRICS, including a full-fledged launching of the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement of BRICS countries; - to identify qualitatively new areas of BRICS activities, such as parliamentary, cultural, information and youth; - to promote initiatives aimed at improving management of BRICS and implementing practical measures for gradual institutionalisation of the association; - to enhance the efficiency of BRICS by improving accountability of the previous commitments assumed by participating States.
Specific priorities of Russia's Presidency are as follows:
1. Strengthening international political positions of Russia and BRICS association as a whole
BRICS has become an influential collective participant in the global politics, with its own voice on some key issues of international peace and security. Regional conflicts (Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan, conflicts in Africa) and international information security are the most advanced areas of cooperation.
At the same time, much is yet to be done in this area. BRICS partners still have limited experience of practical interaction in the "five-country" format. Working mechanisms of multilateral cooperation are developed insufficiently.
In these circumstances, the practical tasks of the Russia's Presidency in the international political sphere are as follows:
- development of comprehensive cooperation in the UN, including countering attempts made by individual countries to impose on the international community policies aimed at overthrowing "undesirable" regimes and promoting unilateral solutions to conflict situations by means of sanctions and military force; - close cooperation among BRICS members in order to strengthen the rule of international law in global affairs, countering trends leading to the erosion of fundamental principles of international law, arbitrary interpretation of the UN Charter provisions and the UN Security Council decisions; - enhancement of the BRICS "soft power" potential by coordinating practical approaches of the participating States to international development assistance.
To attain these objectives, the Russian side proposes to substantially develop the existing cooperation mechanism by introducing the practice of consultations on specific regional conflicts and topical issues of international law.
2. Advancing Russia's national security interests and BRICS' common security interests, strengthening international security
An efficient mechanism of dialogue between the high representatives of the participating states responsible for national security has been developed within the BRICS. During the Russia's Presidency this mechanism should be aimed at reaching the following objectives:
- to coordinate positions of the BRICS States on strategic stability, international and regional security, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, settlement of regional conflicts and the maintenance of regional stability; - to strengthen cooperation in combating transnational terrorist groups. The consolidation of the BRICS countries against the threats of international terrorism, which come from the hotbeds of local wars and armed conflicts (Syria, Afghanistan), shall be of primary importance; - to make BRICS a collective leader in the global community in the area of strengthening international information security (IIS), internationalisation of the Internet governance and development of the rules of responsible behavior of states in the information space. It should be presumed that the IIS issue is one of the key priorities of the Russia's Presidency. It is necessary to translate the interaction between the BRICS countries in this area into a practical work-stream and provide it with a legal basis in the form of the intergovernmental agreement of the BRICS States on IIS-related cooperation. It is essential to work towards the development of such an agreement within the BRICS Expert Working Group on security in the use of ICTs.
Cooperation with BRICS partners outside the framework of the dialogue of the high representatives of the participating states responsible for national security should continue to promote at the UN and other international forums the proposals of the five countries on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities, as well as the draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects.
Joint efforts to fight the drug trafficking - taking into account the growing relevance of this problem for all participants of the association - should be an important area for cooperation with the BRICS partners. In addition to a regular meeting of the heads of anti-drug agencies, which will be held during the Russia's Presidency, it is necessary to strive for establishment of a working group on that subject.
3. Promoting the interests of Russia and BRICS in the development of multilateral financial cooperation, reforming the International Monetary and Financial System (IMFS) and ensuring a strong, sustainable and balanced growth
Cooperation among BRICS partners on international financial and economic matters in the long-term perspective will remain a key area of work in view of its great importance for ensuring financial stability and economic security.
Priority tasks in this sphere are as follows:
- qualitative improvement in the coordination of positions of BRICS partners on the G20 agenda during the chairmanship of Turkey (2015) and the People's Republic of China (2016) on the basis of the decisions adopted by the G20 St.Petersburg Summit (September 2013). The top priorities here are as follows: promoting reforms in international financial institutions, first of all, the IMF; implementing the Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth, including the implementation of "comprehensive growth strategies" and minimisation of adverse "side effects" of the normalisation of monetary policy in developed countries; establishing a common position of BRICS countries regarding the consequences suffered by their economies from phasing out of unconventional monetary policies by the USA and other developed countries; - launching of full-scale work of the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement; - adoption of measures by BRICS states to increase availability of public financial services in conjunction with strengthening of protection of rights of consumers of such services and increasing financial literacy among the population; - greater coordination with BRICS partners in the context of the implementation of the Action Plan on Tax Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and examination of possible steps to de-offshore national economies.
Besides, in case of mutual interest, it would be possible to discuss some new topical issues. These may include exchange of best practices in setting national payment systems and improving the work of credit rating agencies.
4. Using the capacities of BRICS for diversifying the foreign economic ties of Russia, strengthening its economic security, as well as reinforcing the foundations of multipolar world order in the field of economy
In the context of increasing turbulence in global markets, intensified international competition and broader practice of imposing unilateral economic sanctions, launching of "internal" economic cooperation within the framework of BRICS is acquiring a qualitatively new importance. Such cooperation will enable BRICS countries to use advantages of mutual complementarity of their economies, as well as reduce the existing vulnerabilities to unfavourable international trends.
Therefore, the priority objectives for the Russia's BRICS Presidency are as follows:
- to coordinate positions of BRICS states in the WTO on issues where the partner's approaches are close (support for the multilateral trade system, the earliest completion of the Doha round of WTO negotiations, transparency of the conclusion of regional trade agreements, etc.); - to take active measures to come to an agreement with the partners on the draft BRICS Strategy for Economic Partnership as a key tool for promoting multilateral business interaction for the purposes of accelerating social and economic development of BRICS countries and increasing their competitiveness in the world economy; - to encourage the practice of mutual settlement of accounts in national currencies and develop relevant foreign transaction mechanisms; - to use the capacities of sectoral interaction formats, the BRICS Business Council and Business Forum, for identifying and launching multilateral economic cooperation projects in industrial sectors, as well as those of energy, transport and logistics, information and communication technologies, prioritised by the Russian side and its partners; - to step up investment cooperation activities, including the improvement of investment climate and exchange of best practices; - to further advance agricultural cooperation; - to actively promote cooperation within the framework of BRICS in science and technology; - to develop, as a new avenue of cooperation, interaction between BRICS countries and private companies in using raw mineral resources, including their extraction and processing. To this end, meeting of the ministers of natural resources has been scheduled; - to hold a meeting of environment ministers taking into account the increasing importance of environmental issues in all BRICS countries; - to mobilise BRICS partners to take coordinated actions aimed at removing impediments to the development of mutual trade and economic ties (simplifying visa regime for entrepreneurs as much as possible, harmonising national technical standards of BRICS countries in certain sectors of economy on the basis of international standards, addressing problems of providing insurance and loans for export to BRICS countries); - to continue active cooperation within the framework of BRICS on competition policy and taxes, as well as between statistical agencies; - to promote cooperation in combating corruption.
5. Enhancement of cooperation on migration and social and labour relations
The cooperation in this area is becoming ever more relevant due to the increased scale and complexity of social problems which the BRICS countries face today.
The objectives of the Russia's Presidency in this area are as follows:
- to create a qualitatively new area of cooperation within BRICS related to migration and hold the first meeting of the heads of migration services of BRICS states; - to improve the efficiency of interaction in social and labour sphere, including on the basis of the St.Petersburg G20 Summit decisions. To this end, it is proposed to establish within the framework of BRICS a working group on social and labour issues with the participation of international experts.
6. Cooperation in the field of health care as an important source of strengthening Russia's positions in BRICS
The growing influence which BRICS exercises on the elaboration of solutions to global health problems by the international community increases the need for further strengthening the role which Russia plays in BRICS activities in this field.
The Russia's Presidency encourages its partners to implement measures, which would help take a more systematic and concerted action on the following tracks:
- non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases; - infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, malaria and dengue fever; - health care system; - biomedical sciences; - development of the most efficient mechanisms for assessing the quality and accessibility of health care; - effective promotion of cooperation in the development, production of and trade in means of preventing, diagnosing and treating infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS and other dangerous infections), including joint analysis of legal, economic and institutional aspects of the expansion of such cooperation; - exchange of information on the achievements in the field of advanced medical technologies.
The main result of these efforts by the Presidency taken jointly with BRICS partners could be the development of a set of practical arrangements "BRICS Contribution to Improving Global Health Security" to be included in the final communique of the Summit.
7. Establishing full-fledged social, political, as well as humanitarian cooperation within BRICS
Up until now, cooperation in this field has been rather limited within BRICS. The Russia's Presidency could achieve qualitative changes in the current situation in this important area, which will contribute to strengthening of the role of Russia in BRICS, developing of intercivilisational dialogue and promoting common values of the BRICS member countries on the global arena. It is essential to be able to use cooperation in this field for enhancing the status of Russian culture and language in the world's major countries to which our BRICS partners belong. Moreover, the involvement of political forces and civil society organisations of the BRICS member countries into BRICS' activities will broaden the basis for internal support for this intergovernmental association.
The objectives stated above call for the following measures:
Social and political cooperation: - to provide, through the federal executive bodies, active assistance to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in promoting the establishment of a Parliamentary Forum of the BRICS countries; - to provide assistance to Russian NGOs in organising and holding the BRICS Civil Society Forum; - to provide assistance to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR) in organising and holding the BRICS Trade Union Forum.
Youth policy: It is high time for the establishment of the youth dimension within BRICS through the implementation of a targeted program of action, which should include: - organising a BRICS Young Leaders Forum and a BRICS Global University Summit; - establishing the BRICS Network University; - increasing admission of the citizens of BRICS countries to Russian higher educational institutions; - organising a Forum of Young Diplomats from the BRICS countries, launch internship programs for young diplomats from the BRICS countries in the Russian Foreign Ministry and their admission to Russian higher educational institutions on the basis of reciprocity, particularly to the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry under the Agreement on Cooperation among the Diplomatic Academies of the BRICS countries.
Culture: Creation of cultural dimension of BRICS should be initiated. Specifically, the following measures are proposed: - organising meetings of ministers of culture of the BRICS countries; - actively encouraging elaboration of the intergovernmental agreement among the BRICS countries on cooperation in culture; - broadening cultural exchanges among the BRICS member countries with a focus on the promotion of Russian culture, as a priority measure; - facilitating enhanced cooperation among specialised agencies and tour operators of the BRICS member countries. Attracting tourists from other BRICS countries to Russia is a priority task.
8. Awareness-raising work of the Russia's Presidency
During the Russia's BRICS Presidency, it is necessary to focus on measures which can radically raise awareness of activities of this institution in the BRICS countries and the international community.
For these purposes the following actions are planned:
- to set up a Public Diplomacy Forum with the participation of the heads of press-services of ministries of foreign affairs of the member countries and leading mass media to exchange best practices of covering the activity of BRICS and possibly to elaborate common approaches; - to hold together with the BRICS partners a number of awareness-raising campaigns devoted to the 70th anniversary of the victory in WWII. In political terms, the events are aimed to promote the ideas of friendship and mutual understanding among the peoples of the BRICS countries, of vigorous fight against attempts to revive the ideology and policy of Nazism, racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia in all their manifestations; of prevention of the history falsification aimed to undermine the foundations of the post-war world order; - to start the work of the BRICS "Virtual Secretariat" - a joint Internet site of foreign services of the member states, which will contain information on the BRICS activities, history of this association, its objectives and principles of operation. The Virtual Secretariat is aimed to become a common information platform for development of interaction of the BRICS members in social and political, economic, scientific, cultural, and youth spheres; - to ensure State's support for the production of documentary TV films and TV and radio programmes devoted to BRICS; to prepare a special issue of "Mezhdunarodnaya zhizn" (the International Affairs) journal devoted to Russia's BRICS Presidency; - to hold a competition among journalists of the BRICS member states for the best material on BRICS.
9. Ensuring a qualitatively new level of the BRICS external relations
The achieved quality of cooperation within BRICS on a wide range of problems and increasing authority of the association in the international arena prompt to put a new task on the agenda, i.e. elevating the BRICS external relations to a level commensurate with its increased capacities.
To solve this task, it is recommended:
- to hold, on the margins of the BRICS leaders summits and ministerial meetings, regular outreach events with the participation of the heads of major countries with emerging economies and developing countries, international and regional organisations. In this context, the Russia's Presidency is proposing to organise such an event on the margins of the BRICS Summit in Ufa with participation of Eurasian regional organisations; - to launch the system of regular consultations of the BRICS Presidency with the heads of leading international and regional organisations - the UN, the EEU, the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Islamic Cooperation Organisation, the Latin American regional integration associations, the ASEAN, etc.; - to establish the practice of sending messages by the BRICS Presidency to the heads of leading international organisations on the most topical issues of the international political, financial and economic agenda.
The implementation of this Concept will strengthen Russia's positions in one of the most promising association of states, which increasingly determines the vector of the world's politics and economy. The Concept will enable to promote our country's foreign policy interests, its economic development, strengthen its influence in the world in terms of information and culture. There will emerge preconditions to bring BRICS to new frontiers in the international arena.