International Security and global governance: Strengthening the role of BRICS to facilitate conflict management, by Renata Thiebaut

The institutionalization of the BRICS has gained widespread coverage in the media within the last few years. Consequently, the five members have gained notoriety and have assumed a more vital role in the international arena.

The BRICS countries have become more imperative players in the world’s security, adopting a noticed and active stance in both peacemaking and peacekeeping fields. They have formulated a proposal to reform the Security Council, issued the Sanya Declaration, signed a Global Food Declaration, vowed for peace in the Middle East.

The BRICS concept is, indeed, a unique platform for dialogue through which its members can discuss their main points of convergence and synergy in order to boost a broader international agenda that goes beyond economics. Therefore, two key questions may be answered to achieve a feasible solution to strengthen and institutionalize the BRICS: What are the similarities that unite the BRICS in terms of power politics?How can the BRICS overcome their disparities in order to boost cooperation in the field of international security?

 Beyond the economic emergence of the BRICS, they have shown a stable and strong policy in supporting international peace. The most significant similarity to be highlighted is the use of soft power. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have clear policies against peace enforcement and sanctions, believing that peace could be reached through soft power and diplomatic negotiations. In short, both peace enforcement and sanctions can be understood as coercive method that could bring more instability and violence.

 The second similarity to be pointed out is their position within the United Nations, more specifically, in the Security Council. All of the BRICS States are currently members of the United Nations Security Council: China and Russia are part of the P5; India, Brazil and South Africa are rotating members that seek a permanent representation to counterpart their growing world influence.

 The BRICS countries have called for the Security Council reform for the first time in the Sanya summit in early 2011. China and Russia support the candidacy of the other BRICS members to have permanent seatsto give more representative and effective to the UNSC. If the reform is implemented, the Security Council will have, for the first time in history, members from the five continents, well represented according to their new global position.

 Certainly, which of the five BRICS countries have a particular role in the international arena. Brazil is the leader in Latin America, peaceful country engaged to peace-building and peace-keeping. Brazil has lead peace-building in Haiti and has built strong influence in the Middle Eastespecially under the Lula administration. Perhaps, amongst the BRICS members, Brazil is the country that had achieved a higher status quo in world affairs in a shorter amount of time.

 Russia, a both nuclear and military power, is a permanent member of the Security Council and has great influence in Western Europe, especially in the former Soviet Union zone. A so-called superpower in the past, Russia has kept its importance in international security issues, especially by its strategic geographical position.

 India is the largest democratic country in the world. Its relations with Pakistan and China are marked by their boarder disputes. As a nuclear State and a non-signatory of the NTP, India has been seeking a stronger relation with NATO and a permanent seat the United Nations Security Council.

 China, perhaps the leader of the BRICS, is known for being an economic rising power. It is as well, a military and a nuclear power, permanent member of the Security Council and a declared responsible stakeholder.

 And finally, South Africa, the last BRICS member, is the African leader. Despite of have an increasing economic growth, being a hub of a large amount of investment, its role in the international relations has increased and fortified, especially in the field of climate change.

 One of the biggest challenges for the institutionalization of the BRICS is, without a doubt, balancing the member’s symmetries and disparities. Two challenges shall be discussed carefully in order to understand the members’ disparities.One, is the different status quo each of the members has in the international arena. Many scholars have considered Chinaa new global power. Studies have been done to explain weather China could surpass the United States and become a superpower. Yet, Chinese authorities prefer continue working on their domestic policy of harmonious society and international policy of peaceful development and trying to avoid discussion on rather the country can finally become the new superpower. On the other side of the balance, South Africa and Brazil has a leastcentral position. Both countries have shown great skills in international summits to discuss climate change and food crisis, for instance.  Domestically speaking, they have faced great economic and social changes, improved rates of education and hunger. Social inequality and violence, however, are still issues to be taken care of.

 The cooperation amongst them, and the support from China and Russia to reform the Security Council and consequently support the candidacy of the three other members, would contribute to counterbalance this disparity.

A second and bigger challenge would be the adoption of a common approach concerning International Security issues. Counterbalancing the BRICS’ domestic interests with the international ones would be a feasible, but not simple, solution for the issue.

As already highlighted, Brazil, Russia, China and India, for many times had shown support to the UN and NATO peace-keeping and peace-building, pledging peaceful resolution though diplomatic negotiations. They also had vowed in several opportunities, being against peace-enforcement, intervention and sanctions deliberately.

One recent example is the Libyan crisis, also known as the Jasmine Revolution. Brazil, Russia, China and India abstained from voting the UN Resolution 1793 to impose a non-fly zone in the Libyan territory. South Africa, however, voted for, even after being criticized that it had marginalized its African agenda to be able to obtain benefit from the BRICS. Notwithstanding, one may understand that South Africa based its decisions on its domestic policies and measure the implications of a possible Libyan war to its own territory.

Yet, in the recent Syrian outbreak, the BRICS membersseem tobe willing to adopt a common approach. The United Kingdom and France presented a draft resolution to condemn the violation of Human Rights in Syria. Russia and China strongly opposed the resolution and are believed to use their veto power.

Some international well-known newspapers reported that France is trying to persuade Brazil, India and South Africa to vote for the resolution, since Western diplomats have suggested that Russia and China are using the BRICS as a pretext for possibly vetoing the Syrian resolution.

Despite of the controversy, if all of the BRICS members adopt a same stance on the Syrian resolution, as it has likely shown, the group can be seen as a united and stronger group, overcoming their disparities and synchronizing their policies for the first time in history.

Renata Thiebaut is PhD student at Tsinghua University, China, in Public Policy and Management, with specialization in International Security (

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