The BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) gathered for its annual Leadership Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 22-24, 2023. The fifteenth summit culminated in an agreement to admit six new member countries: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, who will officially join the group in January 2024.
The fifteenth BRICS summit went further than any in the recent past in modernizing and revitalizing the group. This sent a clear signal that the post-World War II order must embrace a multipolar reality and change over time. The sheer volume of BRICS membership applications is clearly a symptom of a deeper malady. The West's propensity to impose unilateral financial sanctions, abuse of international payment mechanisms, renege on climate finance commitments, and lack of respect for the food security and health imperatives of the Global South during a pandemic are just some of the elements contributing to the growing disenchantment with the established international system.
The expansion of BRICS to the BRICS+ format and the adoption of guidelines, standards and procedures for it has potentially made BRICS a more attractive institution for consensus building and dialogue in the developing world. Even the profile of the new members suggests that the system is moving towards something beyond the traditionally "acceptable" partners in the eyes of the West.
Another important aspect will be how these partners will be able to connect to the new cooperation systems that the BRICS are trying to create. The hype around the BRICS single currency may be impractical and premature, but trading in national currencies is becoming a reality. The recent oil deal between India and the United Arab Emirates, denominated in rupees, is not just a blow to the petrodollar deal that has prevailed since 1973. It is also a signal that the world's largest exporters and importers of commodities may be trying to reduce their dependence on the dollar. It may not be about a new world order, but the expansion of the BRICS is certainly an attempt to create an alternative world order that will treat the developing majority more favorably than the developed few.
The challenge ahead will not be who will join the BRICS as a partner country, but who will have the key to making decisions on political positions. The decision-making process in the BRICS, based on consensus, will cost a lot of effort.
Western countries need to understand that BRICS+ will continue to be a loose group, heterogeneous in composition but of high ambitious size, seeking to expand its practical capabilities to other countries around the world.