Originally Published 2015-07-15 00:00:00 Published on Jul 15, 2015
The sharpest and the most explicit critique of the US in Ufa Delcaration is its failure to ratify the IMF 2010 reform package. The second major criticism is over the on-going furore over governance of the internet. The BRICS countries see the ICT sector as a critical platform they can leverage in their transition from emerging to developed economies.
Analysing Ufa Declaration

The Russian presidency of the BRICS concluded with the Ufa declaration on the 9th of July, 2015. The declaration reaffirmed the BRICS stance on three issues - first, the need for the five countries to strengthen their economic cooperation; second, to keep in check the influence of the United States in geo-politics and geo-economics; and third, increasing the role played by the UN in world affairs.

Increased economic cooperation

The theme of the seventh BRICS summit was "BRICS Partnership- a Powerful Factor of Global Development". The declaration thus begins by formally marking the entry of the newly- established New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserves Arrangement. Building on this, the strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership was adopted on the 9th of July which will provide the guiding principles for increased economic cooperation amongst member countries in the following areas-trade and investment; manufacturing and minerals processing; energy; agricultural; science, technology and innovation; financial cooperation; connectivity and ICT cooperation. In order to make this process a success, five critical tools were identified- (i) expanding the use of respective national currencies in transactions amongst BRICS; (ii) a Framework for BRICS E-Commerce Cooperation to promote current and future initiatives; (iii) Initiative on Strengthening IPR Cooperation amongst members; (iv) the establishment of an annual BRICS Expert Credit Agencies (ECAs) meet to promote exports among BRICS and to other nations; and (v) establishing a BRICS working group on ICT cooperation.

The BRICS members have also backed the ambitious targets of the post-2015 development agenda and stated that the commitment to eradicate poverty should be adhered to by all countries. However, as an Overseas Development Report points out, there is an annual $73 billion funding gap to meet health, education and social security targets, specified in the post-2015 agenda. The declaration makes clear the displeasure of the emerging economies and asks the developed world to honour its commitments towards Official Development Assistance. In this context, the role of South-South cooperation too has been emphasised to complement the efforts of North-South cooperation i.e. the members see collaboration amongst Developing & Emerging Economies (such as the NDB and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) as a tool to supplement the efforts of existing global structures.

Critique of U.S. policy

The sharpest and the most explicit critique of the United States is its failure to ratify the IMF 2010 reform package. The BRICS members, along with a host of other developing and emerging economies, have demanded that voting rights at the Bretton Woods Institutions be more representative of the new world order in which the developing countries play a significant role i.e. global governance through multilateral bodies need to be democratized. The U.S Congress has thus far not paid heed to these demands, much to the frustration of the Global South, particularly the BRICS.

The second major criticism is over the on-going furore over governance of the internet. As highlighted earlier, the BRICS countries see the ICT sector as a critical platform they can leverage in their transition from emerging to developed economies. However, they have expressed their condemnation of mass electronic surveillance and data collection and called for the U.N. to play a critical role on the issue of internet security. On the broader issue of internet governance, there is no mention of the role of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or International Telecommunication Union (ITU), suggesting the grouping is yet to come to a consensus on the issue.

The third area of concern is the intrusive nature of U.S foreign policy. The declaration calls for adherence to principles and rules of international law while not resorting to "double standards". It further condemns unilateral military interventions and economic sanctions, and emphasises that while international cooperation against terrorism is necessary, the primary responsibility to counter-terrorism lies with respective sovereign states.

More specifically, the document takes up the crisis in Iraq and states that foreign interference that impedes the consolidation of democratic institutions must be rejected. However, there is a lack of clarity in what the members see as democratic institutions and these can vary from the U.S. definition. On the Syrian conflict, the members call for a peaceful settlement, brought about through A consultation process which reflects the aspirations of all sectors of Syrian society. This would mean including al-Assad in the dialogue process, something which goes against U.S. policy. As for Afghanistan, the declaration seems to contradict itself- on the one hand it says national reconciliation in Afghanistan must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, while on the other it calls on the international community (i.e. U.S.) to remain engaged in the country to fulfil its long-term commitments.

Reposing faith in the United Nations

Lastly, the declaration calls for the international community to repose faith in the United Nations and abide by its guiding principles, rules, and laws. It asserts that for nations to exist peacefully, adherence to universal, scrupulous, and consistent application of generally accepted principles of international law are most necessary. In this context, while reaffirming their commitment to rigorous compliance, the members urge all nations to abide by the Charter of the United Nations.

The declaration doesn't restrict the role of the United Nations to just global security needs and instead seeks a more expansive role. More specifically, it sees the United Nations as a critical institution in upholding and strengthening the principle of human rights. The members have appreciated the role of the UN Human Rights Council and have vowed to contribute towards its works. However, the document nowhere mentions the human rights violations in Crimea, and Russia and China snubbing an informal UNSC meet in April on the issue; and nor does it mention the position taken by the two countries on human rights violations in North Korea.

Other areas where the nations want an increased role of the U.N. include sustainable economic development; trade, investment and development; anti-corruption; the fight against narcotics and drugs; tackling transnational organized crime; and exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

Having said all of that, the document recalls the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document and reaffirms the stance of emerging economies, that a reform of the UN, including that of the Security Council, is long over-due. Here, too, however there is a contradiction- while both China and Russia have reiterated the importance of the role India, Brazil, and South Africa have to play at the UN, the document remains silent on India and Brazil's bid to gain permanent UNSC membership, making clear the tensions amongst member nations on this subject.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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