It would be wise to contemplate the reasons why a simple acronym was transformed into an organization as an alternative to the major multilateral groups in just a few years. The BRICS recently met in Durban – their fifth summit in the rotation – and appears that their decisions will be a landmark moment in their emancipation from the western model.
The heads of state of Brazil, China, Russia, and South Africa, and the Prime Minister of India have taken important steps, albeit with less impact than was initially hoped. Besides taking a common stand against the use of force against Iran, the establishment of a shared fund has emerged as the most important result. A pool of monetary reserves worth $100 billion will be used to ward off the effects of the financial crisis on the five countries. It is a safety net for a world dominated by Atlantic finance, but also a challenge to the historic dominance of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The BRICS represent an unbalanced giant with strong internal inconsistencies. They are responsible for 20% of worldwide GDP, half of its population, and one third of its growth, but they are dominated by China. Its economic size is bigger than the total of the other four members combined, and by no coincidence it was Xi Jinping who best described the results of the Durban conference, his first: “The potential of BRICS development is infinite. The reality of their cooperation is yet to be defined.”
While industrialized countries are being battered by stagnation and recession, the marginalized majority of the world is now getting organized and its voice is being heard. It does this through difficulties and internal strife that will probably not be masked much longer by the generic press release at the conclusion of the Durban talks. Despite this, the goal of finding alternative solutions – if not outright hostile to the West – is no longer a mirage on the horizon.
The West in crisis should see this event as either a warning bell or a lifesaver. The outcome will produce not only measures to defeat the crisis, but most importantly there will be doubts over the West’s own development model. It would be a fruitful bath of humility that those in power seem nevertheless unprepared to take. Never ending and often inconclusive meetings are going on as we speak, both to decide the fates of small Mediterranean economies and for the improbable construction of a majority in the Italian senate.