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The 12th annual BRICS summit takes place virtually

Today (17 November 2020), the five major emerging economies known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), are having their 12th annual summit chaired by Russia and President Vladimir Putin. The summit this year will take place virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all heads of state have confirmed their participation under the theme of BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth.

Who is chairing this year’s BRICS Summit?

Russia is holding this year’s chairmanship of BRICS and was supposed to host the summit 21-23 July 2020 in Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately, the pandemic necessitated that the summit be conducted virtually as heads of state Vladimir Putin (Russia), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Narendra Modi (India), Xi Jinping (China) and Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) will look to show with this year’s summit that  BRICS is still united and going strong.

BRICS heads of State: Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Narendra Modi (India) and Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa)

What is the main topic of discussion in this year’s BRICS Summit?

Under discussion in this year’s summit will be trade, security and humanitarian efforts. Russia is also looking to prioritize the strengthening of multilateral principles in global politics and promoting shared interests of the BRICS countries in international forums. This would take place in the form of coordinating efforts in the United Nations, counter-terrorism, corruption and cross-border crime.

How has BRICS faired in 2020?

This year has not been the best for BRICS countries with the coronavirus first breaking out from Wuhan, China and forcing the whole world into lockdown and quarantine. Though the Chinese economy has shown signs of recovery, the BRICS countries have had to seek financial assistance from institutions like the New Development Bank (NDB) to fund their relief efforts against the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a big test for the BRICS bloc as their relationship and cooperation came into question numerous times this year. Russia and China have led the world in research and development of vaccines in order to end the pandemic, but both countries have also come under great scrutiny as to the effectiveness and safety of their vaccines.

BRICS Health Ministers review joint efforts during the COVID-19 era.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has made no secret of his feelings towards China after he publicly celebrated the suspension of a Chinese vaccine trial being conducted in Brazil. Though the Vaccine trial has resumed once again the tension between the Bolsonaro administration and China can be seen as contradictory or maybe as a love/hate relationship.

India and China have also seen renewed conflict over their border dispute which has seen military personal killed or captured. Though tension has subsided one can only feel that the region is still one mistake away from open hostilities. Both India and China are neighbours and BRICS partners but they also see each other as rivals, the border conflict has also served to push India more westward towards the US sphere of influence which may complicate their issues even further.

On the screen: Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, speaks via videoconference during the plenary session / Photohost agency

What BRICS needs to do in the Future?

The BRICS Bloc’s future and relevancy during 2020 have been the main question of the year. The 12th summit should aim to show that the economic union is strong and its mission of creating a multilateral political world is achievable. The coronavirus pandemic has proven that more cooperation between the BRICS countries is needed to overcome future pandemics or crises, a proactive approach should be the norm in how the BRICS operate in sharing information and resources for the betterment of the Bloc.

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