Building with BRICS – Part 1
With barely two months to the big event at Rio de Janeiro, the world is torn between hopeless resignation and curious expectation. Speculations are rife by people and media regarding the possible outcome of the summit. Contrasted against the week long meeting in 1992, this time it’s a 3 day affair – so the nagging suspicion that we are up for another face saving declaration can not be ruled out. The UN has come under criticism for moving sluggishly without much useful progress towards a new world capable of social equity. The UN must also be ready to take on the multidimensional challenges of Climate Change, Poverty, Sustainable Growth, World Resource management, Health and Gender Neutrality. This June, World Leaders will meet in Rio and deliberate on the exact same issues on which they agreed to work on 20 years ago. There is a feeling that the meeting will deal with agenda, which are basically new names given to old, unresolved and failed issues.
This will be interesting because talking about all good and wise actions like GE (Green Economy), SD (Sustainable Development) and PE (Poverty Eradication – in the popular acronym as GESDPE, the central focus of Rio+20) in very general terms on a global platform is one thing. But taking effective steps in national levels to fulfill those promises without sacrificing some local aspirations for growth is quite another. The leaders represent the people and the people want development. The leaders also represent varying national interests of stakeholders and developmental stages of labour and resource intensification. The ideas and paths towards sustainable development vary from one country to another. So it becomes an interesting question as to how countries can have such different motives for development yet truly support a new world order that the UN is dreaming of. The world seems to be split over ‘Green Economy’, the new catch phrase – both conceptually and ideally, the lack of clarity of the term in the context of sustainable development forcing the UN to consider its explanation in a more inclusive way. The criticisms go deeper than a prioritization issue – some see Green Economy as a new phase of Capitalist Expansion and Structural Adjustment.
“Twenty years later, in 2012, the plunder continues. The “Green Economy” agenda is an attempt to expand the reach of finance capital and integrate into the market all that remains of nature. It aims to do this by putting a monetary “value” or a “price” on biomass, biodiversity and the functions of the ecosystems – such as storing carbon, pollinating crops, or filtering water — in order to integrate these “services” as tradable units in the financial market,” writes Climate & Capitalism.
The Environmental Policy Research Centre of Frerie Universität Berlin in their report ‘Green Economy discourses in the run up to Rio+20’ gist the various debates into three main discourses.
1. Greening the Existing Economy
2. Green Development
3. Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, CBDR
The BRICS group of countries stand, in this juncture, as a crucial axis in realizing a fairer, cleaner and safer world. It will be very interesting to identify the BRICS countries within the above discourses because we can then know and assess with some rationality how the Rio+20 is going to be concluded. We will attempt to review if there is a consensus among the BRICS; who is more willing to change and who is not. The problem with non-comparable targets is that each country is establishing its own targets to reduce GHG emissions, and are using their own measures making a global comparison almost impossible to compare. The popular and common question is : Wouldn’t it be ideal for BRICS countries to have a more common proposal? The popular perception is that If they work as a solid group, they would be much more efficient to bridge the gaps and give a definitive direction at the UN talks.In subsequent articles three countries, namely China, India and Brazil will be discussed with special focus to these questions and perceptions.
As a side note we should remember that BRICS are the major economies of the regions where they are situated. They are the first (China), second (India), fifth (Brazil), eighth (Russia) and twenty-fourth (South Africa) most populated countries. They all also have ever growing consumer markets which are rapid and more stable economies. Their economies are also growing more than the traditional richer nations. They have huge natural resources and potential for investment by multinational companies – due to cheaper labour. Together, the 5 countries represent more than 40% of the world’s population. China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council, while Brazil and India are aspiring candidates. All of these countries are emerging powers in our world today. They are typically misnomers of development; because their economies grow fast but continue to struggle while they distill the benefits of this status and wealth to all their citizens. They are a microcosm of the world, in that sense.
Are the BRICS going to procrastinate, overly tied to individual national/political obligations while the world dangerously race towards a tipping point? Or will they be game changers? We will go to some BRICS countries to look for answers.
Part 1 End
Feature Image Courtesy: We Are Barnsley