Guterres and the BRICS Summit

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

What drew my curiosity the most at the “BRICS” summit, in addition to the close follow-up of the content of the speeches, of course, was the body language of Mr. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, known for his balanced positions and calm personality.

I wondered about his feelings as he is witnessing an event that translates, through actions and words, the United Nations’ failure to be a real and balanced platform for all countries, and the failure of the Security Council to represent the maintaining of stability in international conflicts. We all know that the UN Secretary-General does not hold the keys to decisions, but there’s no doubt that he was saddened, knowing that everything “BRICS” does, its vision and aspirations, stem from the bias of the international system established after World War II, which was supposed to achieve justice, solve problems, and play a role in ensuring security and peace in the world.

Guterres’ speech was also expressive of this need when he referred  to the disintegration of the global economic system, saying, “A fragmented world cannot bear fragmented economic systems amid significant disparities in countries’ economies.” He emphasized that “African countries are paying debt installments that exceed 40 times what the United States (the world’s largest debtor with over 33 trillion dollars) pays”, noting that the Western industry is based on plundering the mineral resources of the African continent at the lowest prices.

As I followed the summit, I wondered about the thoughts of Western politicians who, over the past two decades, resorted to practicing the most heinous forms of illegal and unethical sanctions against nations. They have turned wars and occupation into doctrine and strategy, even discussing rules and demanding compliance without revealing the identity and goals of these rules. How will they face this acceleration and the growing demand to join an international bloc that, with the recent inclusion of six countries, now represents 29% of the global economy and nearly half the world’s population (46% of the global population) and 32% of the world’s land area?

In fact, the summit has proven that the existing system is not global, but rather a Western system that only represents the interests of Western countries. The Southern countries’ rush to join BRICS is a clear indication of a significant conviction that the current system doesn’t work in favor of the “global majority.”

In this context, statements by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about the summit reveal their mindset, he said his country “does not expect the transformation of the BRICS group into a geopolitical competitor to itself or any other country,” and added: “This is a diverse group of countries with differing views on critical issues.” American officials have attempted to downplay the importance of BRICS as a global power, in their view, because it encompasses a very diverse group of countries, including friends and competitors. Perhaps the most important lesson that the Western bloc should learn from the Southern countries is that diversity is a human, cultural, and promising advantage for better performance. That’s why more than twenty countries have applied to join this organization, the fact that expresses a tangible need for many countries and populations around the world.

In congratulating the six new members (Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Argentina, and Iran) who joined the BRICS group in South Africa, President Vladimir Putin promised other interested applicants an opportunity to join in the next summit, hosted by Russia next year. To achieve that, the Foreign Minister of South Africa ensured that the BRICS group adopted a document outlining guiding evidence and principles for its expansion.

Undoubtedly, the convening of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, (22 – 25 Aug, 2023), and all the ideas, visions, and decisions that emerged from it, where the proceedings began with five members and concluded with eleven, marks the most significant global event of the 21st century. It laid the political, legal, ethical, and economic foundations for restructuring the global system that the West had dominated and utilized as a tool for occupying countries and oppressing people. This summit aims to guide this system back to its original purpose, establishing genuine principles of collaboration and consultation to enhance security and peace in the world. This is in response to the demonstrated inability of existing systems, including the Security Council, to solve problems and ensure development and stability worldwide, after the United States paralyzed the independent decision of many governments through intelligence penetration, threats, blackmail and terror.

At a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping emphasized commitment to peaceful development and the enhancing of strategic partnerships among nations, working to promote peace and stability in the world, Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva affirmed that BRICS seeks to achieve a more just world, as the current unipolar world threatens diversity and pluralism. Da Silva added that the world is suffering from economic recession and lacks food security.

It was evident that everyone is striving to put an end to the unipolar approach, which has only resulted in oppressive wars, destabilization, and impoverishment of people. This approach relied on dictates, warnings, sanctions, blackmail, and the plundering of nations’ resources, attempting to impose vague standards that serve the interests of a small group in the world, at the expense of a much broader number of countries across the globe. Indeed, there was a calm and realistic approach towards gradually moving away from the dollar in financial transactions and adopting local currencies instead, as mentioned by President Putin. It’s undoubtedly a challenging process, but not an impossible one.

As I followed the proceedings and ideas of the BRICS summit, I recalled the immense challenges that European countries had to face and overcome before reaching a unified methodology, vision, knowledge, and currency. The Europeans used to stop the clock and engage in lengthy discussions in open meetings, taking years to establish the foundations of a European institution.

Undoubtedly, the development of BRICS and its increasing effectiveness on political, economic, and financial levels, along with its expansion to encompass higher proportions of the world’s population and economies will take a few years. But the train has definitely left the station, and with the determination, enthusiasm, and eagerness we’ve witnessed from African, Asian, and Latin American countries, there’s no doubt that this train will continue on its course until it reaches its final destination. At that point, the world will witness the end of the system that emerged from World War II and was subsequently emptied of its content by unipolar dominance. Our children and grandchildren will witness a new world and wonder about the factors that compelled their ancestors to endure everything that Western hegemony imposed on people and centuries.

Indeed, the hope lies in asking questions about the reasons behind wars, land occupations, and massacres, and in rewriting history and events from a fair, human perspective that places matters in their proper context. It’s about positioning countries where they rightfully belong, far from the media distortions that often try to misinform rather than to inform.

In the context of the “BRICS” event, I felt that maintaining the status quo is becoming increasingly difficult, and it is sure that you can fool some of the people for some time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time. This applies to arrogance, racism, and Western dominance, which have become so apparent to the world. The only way forward is to adopt and develop the foundations necessary to end this dominance once and for all, relieving humanity from the oppression and aggression that has burdened it for so long.

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