This year South Africa took up the BRICS presidency again. The anniversary BRICS Summit in Johannesburg scheduled for the 25-27 of July will mark a decade of concerted efforts of the five countries, efforts that have been yielding tangible results. What made it possible is our adherence to such fundamental principles as continuity, sustainability, inclusivity and complementarity. It is quite symbolic that the South African Chairship coincides with the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birthday, who also stood up for the principles and values that the BRICS association shares.
The BRICS group has been continuously improving its architecture of cooperation mechanisms, addressing simultaneously three main pillars of intra-BRICS partnership: 1) policy and security; 2) economy and finance; 3) culture and humanitarian exchanges.
Most importantly, this partnership has been evolving in quality as much as in quantity. It is also based on a very firm foundation, which is a close connection to the vital demands of the modern-day life. This essential feature of BRICS makes the format responsive to the requirements of building up a truly multipolar world. The BRICS format reflects cultural and civilizational varieties of the present-day world, setting an example of how joint work can and should be based on equality and consensus.
Cooperation in BRICS – the strategic partnership of the five countries is based on the UN Charter, the universally recognized principles and norms of international law, as well as openness, pragmatism, solidarity, non-block nature and non-aggression towards third parties. This type of cooperation is not aimed against anyone. BRICS does not threaten anyone, but serves as a remarkable role model of how to reach goals set through dialogue. BRICS is always “for”, not “against”.
The BRICS association has moved beyond the initial modest expectations of facilitating the objective processes of the redistribution of power and influence in the new multipolar world. Today BRICS stands as an important factor in international affairs and an efficient mechanism for harmonizing positions on contemporary and most pressing challenges.
BRICS cooperation architecture comprises around 100 annual events, including over 25 ministerial level events and meetings of heads of specialized governmental bodies and agencies. As of now, there are more than 50 tracks of collaboration. An impressive amount of cooperation agreements, joint declarations, memorandums of understanding and other meaningful documents have been signed and implemented. As for people-to-people contacts, one would find it extremely challenging to track all of them. And this is certainly a most positive development because it proves that the BRICS format of cooperation is self-sustainable and generates a genuine interest among ordinary people.
Deepening the strategic partnership within the BRICS format is one of the priorities of Russia’s foreign policy. Russia is making every effort to ensure that the BRICS association remains successful, functional and results-oriented project with a positive outlook of fostering mutually-beneficial and equality-based relations as well as strengthening the universal norms of international law, the UN Charter and the multilateral foundation of international relations and global economy.
It is very gratifying to witness a successful increase in cultural, sports and humanitarian contacts. Cooperation is flourishing among the academia, civil society and youth organizations. The BRICS countries take it in turns to hold forums of experts, politicians, civil society organizations, youth representatives, young diplomats, trade unions, sister-cities and many more. Cinema, theater and other festivals have emerged.
Once again, the strength of BRICS lies in its cultural and civilizational diversity. In the light of this, the governments of the BRICS countries are working on implementing the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Culture (2015) and the BRICS action plan to advance practical cultural cooperation. For example, 2017 saw the emergence of four alliances: libraries, art museums, national galleries, theatres for children and young people.
The Russian Federation supports deepening the BRICS-Africa dialogue, which was launched in Durban in 2013 during the first meeting with the African Union leadership and the heads of 8 leading regional integration associations. This year the tradition will be continued. And thanks to the BRICS Plus concept adopted last year, the dialogue between BRICS and Africa will expand beyond the South African Chairship.
Mutually beneficial cooperation with Africa is one of the national priories of the Russian Federation envisioned by the updated Russian Foreign Policy Concept, approved in 2016. Russia’s relations with African countries have been traditionally friendly and based on the principles of equality and mutual respect.
Russia has contributed actively to the achievement of independence by African countries as well to strengthening and integration processes on the African continent. Today, we continue maintaining friendly relations with a focus on the future. At present, the relations are progressing both on a bilateral basis and along the line of African regional organizations.
On the humanitarian track the Russian Government annually allocates federal scholarships for the training of African students at Russian universities. In 2017 alone, more than 1,800 young African people received federal scholarships and studied in Russia. Overall, around 15,000 young Africans are studying in Russia.
All such initiatives that engage young people – be it student exchange and scholarships or forums like the BRICS Young Diplomats Forum – are the cornerstones that help us build our common future characterized by strength and stability as well as the convergence of our diverse and vibrant cultures.