University of Toronto
BRICS flags
BRICS Information Centre

Prospects for the 2013 BRICS Durban Summit

John Kirton and Caroline Bracht, BRICS Research Group, March 22, 2013

We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Marina Larionova and other members of the BRICS Research Group.
Download the PDF for the full article with Appendices


The Significance of the Summit

The fifth annual summit of the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, taking place in Durban, South Africa, on March 26-27, 2013, promises to be a significant event in several ways.

It is the first time that the BRICS summit will be held in South Africa, following the first such summit in Russia in 2009, the second in Brazil in 2010, the third in China in 2011 and the fourth in India in 2012. The Durban Summit thus marks the completion of the first full hosting cycle among the rapidly rising powers that are the members of this now solidified and expanding club.

Durban marks the third appearance at the annual summit for South Africa, the newest member, having joined on December 24, 2010. It is the first time that South Africa will serve as host and chair, with all the prerogatives and responsibilities those positions bring. The African location of the BRICS summit will broaden and balance summit-level global governance in 2013, beyond the European location of the G8 summit that will be held on June 17-18, in Lough Erne in the United Kingdom and the G20 summit that will be held on September 5-6 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Durban will be the first outing on the full world stage for China's new president Xi Jinping and the first appearance at a BRICS summit for Russian president Vladimir Putin. It will feature for the first time a host of invited participants, all from South Africa's neighbours in Africa. These newcomers will join the one founder, Manmohan Singh of India who has been at all five summits, and Dilma Rouseff of Brazil and host Jacob Zuma of South Africa, both at their third.

With the advanced established economies still struggling to cope with their challenges of sluggish growth, high fiscal deficits, debts and unemployment, the big emerging powers in the BRICS — now representing about a quarter of the world's production — and their vibrant African partners will have a key role in generating growth in and governing the global economy and much else in 2013.

The Durban Summit will address and advance many of the key issues on the global agenda in 2012, by continuing to treat the broad array of topics on the BRICS built-in agenda while adding the particular priorities of its South African host. These priorities begin with infrastructure and regional integration, above all in Africa and global governance reform, including producing a new BRICS development bank. The summit agenda extends to the global challenges of economic growth, job creation and employment, poverty and inequality. It also embraces the BRICS's core agenda of prosperity, trade and investment, health, food, agriculture, energy and minerals, the environment and climate change, global security in hard and soft focus, and building the BRICS institutions themselves and those beyond in the world at large.

Above all, Durban will be a defining moment for the BRICS and the development of global governance as a whole. Its decisions on a BRICS development bank will do much to demonstrate and determine if the BRICS will be an inclusive, outward-looking body adding complementary value to existing multilateral organizations and other summit clubs such as the G20 and G8, or an inward-looking forum for the direct benefit of its members only and indeed, what some would see as China's fan club in the world.

[back to top]

The Debate among Competing Schools of Thought

In the lead-up to the Durban Summit, its probable performance and the propellers that lie behind were the subject of a debate among competing schools of thought.

The first school of thought argues that the BRICS summit and its increasing institutionalization promises to change the status quo of the current international balance of forces. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (2013), South Africa's minister of international relations and cooperation, delivered this perspective in her speech at the BRICS Academic Forum.

A second school sees the BRICS as a new "sub-imperialist." In its view the BRICS countries are merely joining the club of traditional powers, displayed by their increasing interest in the African continent, in essence leading to a "new scramble" for Africa. Nigeria's central bank governor Lamido Sanusi has called for Africans to recognize that "their romance with China" has helped to bring about "a new form of imperialism" (Singh 2013). This school notes that the poorest countries are not invited and have no institutionalized way of feeding their perspectives into decisions (Ladd 2010).

[back to top]

The Prospect of a Productive Summit

The prospects are that Durban will be a productive summit. It will launch the roadmap for creating the south-south or BRICS development bank. It will show that the BRICS works not only for its members in global affairs and global governance, but also directly for Africa and thus for the poorest countries and conflict-afflicted peoples in the world. It will broaden BRICS participation with its outreach to African leaders, deepen its institutionalization with a new meeting of BRICS customs officials, enrich its connection with civil society with the creation of the BRICS Business Council, the BRICS Think Tank Council (BTTC) and the public appearances and performances of the Peng Liyuan, the singer and wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Based on this foundation, the prospects for Durban are particularly promising for its South African host and its continental neighbours. It will allow South Africa to show its stuff as an accomplished, full-strength global power and player. It will demonstrate that the BRICS works for its big country members as well as for all of Africa through the investment in infrastructure that they need to build their economies and societies at home and tie their continent together as a whole.

[back to top]

The Momentum from Past Performance

The BRICS group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and now South Africa is still a significant and indeed strengthening forum, both among and for its own members and for global governance as a whole.

The BRICS is broadening as an international institution, in its membership with South Africa added in 2011, in its agenda, and in the intensity and depth of its institutions as well (see Appendix A). The most recent is the formalization of the BRICS Business Council and the formal declaration to develop the BRICS Think Tank Council signed at the fourth Academic Forum. The ministerial meetings, expert groups and technical groups have expanded in number and frequency of meeting each year since the formalization of the BRICS as a summit-level institution (see Appendix B).

What began in 2001 as a concept and accompanying acronym from Goldman Sachs executive Jim O'Neill has now become a global governance reality of considerable consequence for how the world works. It stands alongside the older G8 and G20 as a centre of global governance that counts. The BRICS group has continually established its areas of consensus, including support for multilateral diplomacy, specifically commitments to the United Nations, the G20 and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This consensus is coupled with a desire for reform of global governance, financial, political and trade architecture.

The momentum that the BRICS brings to Durban can be more systematically assessed by examining the pattern of performance of the past four BRICS summits on the six dimensions of global governance by which such plurilateral summit institutions are assessed.

In its domestic political management, all BRICS leaders have always judged the summit to be worth their time to come, to assist with their political standing and policy agenda back home. After its first four summits the now five BRICS leaders have a perfect attendance record. This compares with the G20, which lost its perfect attendance record at its fourth summit, thanks to Brazil and Australia, and the G8, which, thanks to Russia, lost its at the 38th summit in 2012.

In its deliberation, the volume of the BRICS summit agenda and collective conclusions has rather steadily grown, from the 1,844 words publicly encoded at the first to the 4,415 words at the most recent summit in its leaders' collective communiqué (see Appendix C). In its breadth there has also been an expansion, even as the subject of development has retained a strong first place, with its percentage of the communiqué 35% of the total in 2009, 41% in 2010, 40% in 2011 and 36% in 2012 (see Appendix D).

Thus the common view that the BRICS is largely and economic body is incorrect. This impression is based on a dated carryover of the initial economic-centric logic identified by O'Neill in 2001. Since its start as a ministerial forum and as a summit, the BRICS has been a full-strength summit institution, covering finance and economics, social and environmental issues and political-security ones. Of late it has done far more for global health than the G8, which has long had the lead in this domain. The analysis of the subjects covered in its annual summit communiqués, as assessed by the BRICS Research Group (, show how comprehensive its agenda has been and has become (see Appendix E).

In its collective decision making, as Appendices C and E show, the number of future-oriented, binding, specific commitments had risen, from 16 in 2009, through 46 in 2010. It dropped slightly to 38 in 2011 and to 32 in 2012. In 2009 the 16 commitments were made in 11 issue areas, the most in the area of energy (5). In 2010, the number of areas expanded slightly to 13 again with the most commitments on energy (11) and the second highest in development (7). In 2011 at the third summit, the breadth of issue areas increased considerably as commitments were made in 20 different issue areas. The most were made in the area of climate change (6) followed by trade (5) and macroeconomic (5) commitments. At the last summit in 2012, commitments were made in 15 issues areas and the most frequent were trade (9) commitments, and then a large gap with three commitments each made in the areas of development, climate change and political issues.

In its delivery of these decisions, through the compliance of its members with their commitments in the year after the summit is held, the available evidence, as Appendices C and F show, indicates that compliance has always been in the positive range. It was 74% for 2011 (or +0.48 on the scientific scale from -1.00 to +1.00), then dropped to 64% (or +0.28) for 2012.

In its development of global governance, the number of international institutions that BRICS summit have referred to, in a guiding, supportive or neutral way, has expanded, as Appendices C and G show. Inside the BRICS, in regard to its own institutions, it made two references in 2009, 16 in 2010, 12 in 2012 and double the previous peak with 32 in 2012. Outside the BRICS, in reference to other international institutions, it expanded from 13 in 2009 to 34 in 2010 and then, after a dip to 28 in 2011, to 43 in 2012.

The number of references to different outside international institutions has generally expanded as well, from 5 in 2009 to 15 in 2010 to 10 in 2011 to 9 in 2012. In 2012 attention was given for the first time to the Arab League, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development.

The leading centre of attention for the BRICS has always been the UN. It has been followed by the G20, save for 2012 when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) tied for the second spot, dropping the G20 to fourth. The WTO has been of constant interest. Other institutions have come and gone.

[back to top]

The Durban Agenda and Achievements

The BRICS Development Bank

The BRICS members are deeply committed to creating a BRICS development bank, sometimes labelled a "South-South" development bank. Diplomatically, the idea was first raised by Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh at the G20 summit in Seoul in November 2010. Subsequent intellectual support came from two prominent economists, Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz. At the 2012 BRICS summit in Delhi, host Singh launched the current initiative, and secured the agreement of his BRICS partners that they would receive a report at their summit in March 2013.

South Africa as host of the 2013 summit is very committed to having its summit produce to the BRICS development bank, both as the centrepiece achievement of a thereby successful summit but also one of direct benefit to South Africa in financing the investment for infrastructure that South Africa as well as India badly needs. Brazil too has a big requirement for new investment for infrastructure, well beyond the resources of its otherwise formidable national development bank. And Russia and China can see political as well as economic advantage in putting their own massive financial reserves to work through such a bank, to help their fellow emerging powers in a club they invented and lead.

In short, there is a strong common commitment based on convergence between the large needs for infrastructure investment from outside of India, Africa and a now slow-growing Brazil nicely matched by the foreign exchange reserves looking for growing markets in which to invest from China, which is still booming, and Russia, still rich in oil and gas.

[back to top]

Roles and Relevance

The central achievement of the Durban Summit will thus be the launch of the BRICS development bank at least in a basic blueprint form. It will probably come with a sufficiently large capital base to be newsworthy and effective. That capital base will be between $100 billion, as China want, and $50 billion as preferred by the other members. It will probably come with equal shares from all five members, rather than, as in the IMF, economically weighted capital contributions and resulting proportional voting weights, with China putting up much more of the money and getting more control of the bank in return. It remains to be seen whether non-BRICS countries will be allowed to contribute, following the model of regional development banks, and whether the United States and United Kingdom will put about 40% of the money, as some of the bank's designers seem to want. In the first instance, it is likely that the investments from the bank will be destined for BRICS countries only, but with outsiders able to benefit as recipients at a later stage.

Less economically but equally politically important are the questions of where the banks' headquarters will be located and from which country its chief executive officer will come. South Africa has a strong claim to housing the headquarters, as it has sound banks, serves as the financial centre of Africa, and is closely connected to London, Toronto and the other consequential financial centres of the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world beyond. It could also be the ideal compromise candidate, as the host of the Durban Summit and as the BRICS smallest and newest member, thus avoiding a cruel choice between a covetous India and China. The nationality of the bank's CEO is a more difficult choice, but it could be solved by rapidly rotating the top job among nationals from the five member countries. It is even possible that the bank's headquarters could be co-located, so that more members could share in the glory of the bank at its birth.

[back to top]

Challengers or Complements to the Established IMF–World Bank

Due to the potentially long implementation plan and period to formalize a fully functioning BRICS bank, an agreement to create currency swaps and pool reserves until the BRICS bank is born may be a stepping stone and companion to the bank, and another deliverable for the Durban Summit. If so, the BRICS bank could appear to be a serious challenger to both the World Bank in Washington and the IMF standing beside it there too.

There is one specific sense in which the BRICS bank is a competitor and alternative to the World Bank. India's first choice was to have the G20 agree to substantially increase the capital of the World Bank, as the G20 had just done for the IMF, so that the World Bank could meet India's ballooning infrastructure investment needs. Only after that idea failed did India turn, at its 2012 Delhi Summit, to its second best alternative of building a bank of its own for this purpose inside the BRICS.

Yet even here the BRICS bank will add to, rather than subtract fund, the funds currently and likely available to the World Bank and the regional development banks beyond. That is why Robert Zoellick, as president of the World Bank, gave the idea of a BRICS bank his general blessing when he visited Delhi at the time of the summit in 2012. More broadly, the massive investment of new money from the BRICS countries into the IMF shows that they remain overwhelmingly and primarily committed to the IMF as the centre of global financial governance. The additional financial facilities and fallback safety nets a BRICS bank would create would be a welcome reinforcement of the IMF's already hard-pressed repertoire, rather like the European Union is now in coping with the European financial crisis, but now one backed by big, growing global powers closer to where the next global financial crises could break out.

[back to top]

Challenges and Constraints for the Operations of the BRICS Bank and Fund

To be sure, once the BRICS bank and accompanying funds are up and running, there could well be competition between it and the Bretton Woods Washington-based twins, most obviously in the conditionalities and interest rates each set for their loans. A BRICS bank could dispense with many of the conditionalities for ecological protection, local participation, transparency and accountability that have now become mainstream in many ways for the World Bank. Yet these are unlikely to pull the World Bank's standards down, in a global race to the regulatory bottom, in order to keep its clients from defecting to the BRICS bank with its lighter touch and fewer questions asked. Far more likely is a global division of labour, in which the BRICS bank specializes in high-risk, high-cost, lumpy capital physical infrastructure projects, while the World Bank continues to move, especially under its new president, toward safer, less expensive social investments in soft human capital infrastructure such as education and health.

[back to top]

The Emerging New Global Economic and Financial Order

Thanks to the success of the BRICS countries and their colleagues in the G20, the twenty-first century successor to the Bretton Woods global financial and economic order is already taking shape. At its centre stand an IMF and World Bank where, as agreed at the G20 summits in 2010, voice and vote will be proportional to power in the real world, and thus where the BRICS and other emerging countries will have a larger and ultimately dominant share. In both bodies the person chosen for the top job will be based on merit rather than nationality, so that the historic monopoly that the Europeans and Americans have had on those positions will disappear and the talented individuals from the BRICS countries will take their place. In time some of the institutions that make up the World Bank Group could see their headquarters migrate from an internationally institutionally crowded Washington to other places on the planet, with China and other BRICS countries as new destinations having a privileged place. And in the longer term the then internationalized national currencies of China and others will join the U.S. dollar, euro and yen as the global reserve, transaction and accounting currencies of choice, probably bundled together into a new Special Drawing Right currency that will be as good as gold has been in the past.

[back to top]

Reserve Pools and Currency Swaps

Due to the potentially long implementation plan to formalize a fully functioning BRICS bank, an agreement to pool reserves until the BRICS bank is created may be an alternative or short-term deliverable.

[back to top]

Development and Social Policy

The BRICS support for multilateral diplomacy and international law will continue, specifically in areas of development, security and energy. The institutionalization of the BRICS health ministers' meeting, recognition of the increasing strain of non-communicable diseases on their development and the acute awareness of high unemployment and lagging education standards position the BRICS countries to contribute to and assist in shaping the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unemployment and specifically youth unemployment are high on the agenda, inspiring a potential deliverable on education and education standards.

[back to top]

The Summit Process, Outreach and Civil Society Participation

In summits past the spouses of the leaders have had a high profile at the summit or been engaged in any substantial way. This year there is a slight deviation, as the Peng Liyuan, a renowned singer in China and wife of the new president, will be touring South Africa during the summit proceedings and will meet with Gurshuran Kaur, wife of Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.

[back to top]

Summit Shortcomings

There are a number of potential shortcomings to come from the Durban Summit. The mounting anticipation of the birth of the BRICS bank may turn out to be the delivery of a feasibility study. The main question remains how the relative monetary contributions will determine voting rights. Second, the non-interventionist disposition of the BRICS must shift in order to develop a collective mandate, so collaborative action can take place. Due to these politically sensitive issues, the deliverable on the BRICS bank may end up being a long-term roadmap for implementation.

There is too little attention to sustainability and social development within the BRICS countries and beyond in their expanding relationship with Africa. For long-term, sustainable and secure growth to occur, the social dimensions of BRICS infrastructure finance is paramount. To date the projected interests of the BRICS bank have been identified as infrastructure, energy and telecommunications projects and not education, training and health care. The Russians as host of the 2013 G20 have positioned equality and sustainable growth as central aspects of the agenda. The anticipated deliverable of the Durban Summit, the bank is missing a discussion on the social dimensions of development.

How will the BRICS contribute to shaping the post-2015 MDGs? Infrastructure, investment, industrialization and regional integration are the pillars of the Durban Summit, but what common approach will the leaders take to shape the next development paradigm after the fast-approaching deadline of 2015 for the MDGs?

The actual duration of leader-to-leader interaction is limited to a few hours. In sum the five BRICS leaders meet as a group for the morning of March 27. The afternoon will be the BRICS–Africa Dialogue Forum and therefore a much larger group. However, multiple bilateral and trilateral meetings between the various leaders may strengthen the interpersonal relationship building necessary to develop common approaches to transnational issues and challenges.

[back to top]

Propellers of Productive Performance

The prospective performance of Durban as a productive summit, rather than a more highly performing one, is a result of the particular current characteristic and configuration of the six causes of the concert equality model of G8 governance, as adapted to explain the BRICS. These are the absence of shock-activated vulnerabilities directly affecting the BRICS countries, the modest levels of multilateral organization failure, predominant equalizing capabilities, common political characteristics, domestic political strength, and controlled participation as a club.

[back to top]

Shock-Activated Vulnerability

In the year leading up to the Durban Summit there have been no severe shocks that have directly struck the BRICS countries to remind them of their underlying vulnerabilities and inspire them to vulnerability-reducing cooperation among themselves. The global financial crisis of 2008 did not erupt in the BRICS, affected them only in a second global wave, and has since receded as even an indirect threat to them. No other shocks from states, non-state actors or nature have arisen since.

The one partial exception is terrorism, as it has recently afflicted Mali and Algeria to South Africa's distant north. Even more distant if much more deadly is the violence and civil war in Syria further north.

The BRICS countries are thus left to focus on their large and broad chronic vulnerabilities. One is drugs, which has had new cooperation among customs officials. Another is cyber espionage and insecurity. Well behind in their novelty are climate change and human health.

[back to top]

Multilateral Organizational Failure

Multilateral organizational failure is present in moderate of not acute forms. The UN Security Council (UNSC) remains unreformed, as it has been since 1945 and as most expect it to be for a long time hence. It is also the case that all BRICS members were members in the UNSC in 2011 and were thus able to move the agenda and treaties along in a direction complementary to the their own positions. But the IMF has been reformed to give BRICS members the enhanced voice and vote they want, even if the agreement remains to be implemented after the due date for doing so has passed. World Bank reform is also progressing, although the failure to increase its capital in order to enable it to finance more infrastructure development is a major cause of the BRICS plan for a development bank of their own. Similarly the failure of the WTO to complete or replace the long overdue Doha Development Agenda spurs BRICS action on trade and investment too.

The informal plurilateral summit institutions that are the colleagues of the BRICS are also performing rather well, especially on the issues that the BRICS care about. The major exception is development, where the G8's 2013 Lough Erne Summit is not privileging this subject as the G8 did in 2010 and 2005 and deliberately not trying to raise new concessional resources for any development cause. Similarly, the G20 with its Seoul Development Consensus is doing little directly for development in terms of classic official development assistance, even if it has taken up the task of helping shape the post-2015 MDGs.

[back to top]

Relative Capability

It is big in the collective gross domestic product (GDP), territory, population, natural resources and geographic relevance and reach that its members possess. It is booming in its economic growth, for, despite the recent slowdown of all its members, China is bouncing back and together their growth rate beats that of the still beleaguered, often recession-ridden members of the G8 and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

It is seemingly understood that as a group the BRICS is unlikely to become as big as the West now is. One must always beware of linear extrapolations of countries' rising relative capabilities, as those who proclaimed "Japan as number one" some decades ago know all to well. Once countries become bigger it is more difficult for them to keep growing in percentage terms as rapidly as they did when they were small. Moreover, the BRICS countries face many natural limits to growth — aging populations, natural resource constraints, and challenges of social cohesion and political stability. Moreover, some have regional tensions to deal with. Democratic polities are the wave of the future, as of the past, and not all BRICS members are there yet.

[back to top]

Political Convergence

Much has been made of the many difference among the BRICS members, above all the fact that not all are democratic polities at home. These large levels of difference matter, even if they promise to lessen in the medium term. Yet they also come with commonalities and convergence that matters as well.

Each of the five members has a common core in its concept of the BRICS club and distinctive difference that give it a diversity, dynamism and source of rich internal debate. All members are united in the common cause that launched the club as a summit in 2009 — that the old centres of global financial governance had failed as the 2008 financial crisis showed, and that they should come together to lead in prompting or producing a reformed or alternative centre in which they would have a greater place, as appropriate for a newly multipolar world.

Within this commonality, as the newest, smallest member South Africa is most committed to making the club work, and making it work for South Africa and its neighbouring African continent as a whole. India, long a big, influential, well-connected global power, still needs the BRICS to help it get the investment for infrastructure that it needs at home and to get the coveted seat on the UNSC that it wants abroad. Similarly Brazil — also a member of the democratic IBSA forum with India and South Africa — wants the BRICS to help secure for it a bigger place at the old centres of global governance established in 1944–45 — in its case the IMF. China, while big and booming enough to go it alone, still wants and needs the BRICS as a club that it can quietly lead from within, to assist it with its peaceful rise and its efforts to reform global governance as a whole.

In this configuration Russia is not only the founder of BRICS summitry, as host of the first summit in 2009, but also the great connector of the BRICS with the G8, with Russia joined as a full member in 1998, as well as a connector with the G20 forum. Russia is constantly seeking to make the BRICS work with the G8 and to make both work for the broader G20. Russia will see the BRICS as an alternative centre of influence if the G8 and G20 fail, which, thanks in part to Russia's efforts, they are unlikely to do.

The BRICS countries, despite their diversity, do share many commonalities. But their strength lies primarily in their complementary convergence, as dramatically shown by China's need for South Africa's and Africa's resources, in return for Africa's need for Chinese investment. Yet to reap the rewards of complementary convergence, the interdependence among the BRICS countries must increase. Their trade and investment are still overwhelmingly with countries other than their fellow BRICS members, rather than with their colleagues within. The BRICS development bank may prove to be the catalyst to enhance this interdependence, as enhanced dependence and collaboration are required to run a formal institution.

There is also an inherent competition between the BRICS countries as they individually pursue relationships with various African countries. China has been in Africa for many years now; South Africa's foreign policy has and continues to be directed towards its regional partners in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African continent at large. Brazil has been expanding its technical and knowledge-sharing partnerships with African countries.

[back to top]

Domestic Politics

The BRICS leaders will come to the Durban Summit with substantial political power at home. Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have fresh mandates. Manmohan Singh, Dilma Rousseff and host Jacob Zuma have secure legislative majorities. None will face elections in the short term. Moreover, all remain relatively popular with their voters and people, even with chronic social unrest in China and civil strife in India. In all the BRICS leaders should be sufficiently secure at home to give them the freedom to make the adjustments abroad that will make their BRICS summit a success.

[back to top]

Compact Club Participation

The ratio of old, established summit participants to new comers is relatively evenly spread across the level of experience. India's Singh is the only leader to have attended all five summits. Brazil's Rousseff and South Africa's Zuma are the second most experienced summit participants, each having attended the last two summits in 2011 and 2012. Of the two newest leaders to attend, Russia's Putin is new to the BRICS but not to the summit process, having attended the G8 summits during his terms as Russian president from 2000 to 2008. The newest participant to summitry is China's recently elected Xi.

The BRICS is a compact club of five members. Other than the invitation to South Africa to join the group in 2011, the BRICS summits have not extended invitations to additional guests in the way that the G8 and G20 have done in the past. The BRICS–Africa Dialogue Forum will be the first time the BRICS leaders have facilitated an outreach session. The outreach session will nearly triple the size of the group for the afternoon session. The outstanding question is whether BRICS outreach represents too much too soon, and comes at the cost of deepening cohesion among its own leaders in the very short time they will be left with to meet alone.

The BRICS–Africa Dialogue Forum will take place on the afternoon of the March 27. In addition to the BRICS leaders, the chairs of the African Union and African regional bodies will attend the session. The only issue specific representation will be from the NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative. It is questionable whether this dialogue and the expansion to include additional leaders is too soon within the newly established BRICS summit. It is also questionable how much can be accomplished in the afternoon comprised of short presentations and an even shorter amount of time for back and forth dialogue.

[back to top]


The debate on the success and longevity of the BRICS group as a summit body continues as the fifth BRICS summit approaches. South Africa, a first time host, set an agenda directed at the African continent, its development and industrialization. This geographically specific agenda is coupled with the anticipated birth of the BRICS development bank. Together, these two items indicate the evolution of the BRICS as a cohesive group with collective interests and communicates their common approach to development. Still, this emerging common and convergent approach is not free from the differing country characteristics between the members and their strong seeded desire to keep their sovereignty and non-interventionist disposition. The Durban Summit will prove to be productive as once again the leaders have expanded and directed the agenda to include a focus on Africa, the development of a BRICS bank and an outreach session with African partners. The success of the summit however, will be determined by the details, clarity and the timeliness of the commitments they make.

In all, the Durban Summit should show that the BRICS is not primarily and internally diverse closed, collection of countries characterized by deep disagreement among themselves and concerned only about themselves, but rather an outward looking group able, willing and eager to cooperate and contribute to the intensely interconnected global community as a whole at a critical and uncertain time.

[back to top]

References and Related Reading

Kirton, John (2013), "Prospects for the BRICS and G20 Summits through China's Contribution," People's Daily Online, March 22.

Kirton, John (2013), "Burgeoning BRICS Consequences for Canada," paper prepared for a panel on "Boom or Bust! Rewards and Risks of Greater Canadian Integration with the Emerging Nations of Brazil, Russia and South Africa," Canadian International Council — Toronto Branch, Toronto, February 5.

Kirton, John (2013), "The BRICS Summit at Durban and Beyond," Article prepared for Julia Netesova, March 12.

Ladd, Paul (2010), "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: LDCs in a G20 World," Poverty in Focus, no. 20, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, Brasilia.

Nkoana-Mashabane, Maite (2013), "Speech by Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the BRICS Academic Forum Welcome Dinner," March 10, Durban.

Singh, Jaswant (2013), "Crumbling BRICS," Project Syndicate, March 19

[back to top]