When the 15-nation United Nations Security Council voted 10-0 in March to authorise the no-fly zone over Libya, emerging power bloc BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), along with Germany, abstained. A month later, the West-led coalition that supported the resolution struggles to justify its decision and is far from achieving consensus on how to end the crisis.
By the same measure, though the BRIC?s decision to abstain has also not helped resolve the crisis, it nevertheless made a huge statement that could help the economic bloc consolidate its political agenda and offer a formidable alternative in global politics.
With an eye on Libya, the third BRIC Summit, which ended in China last week, called for a greater say on the UN Security Council. Demanding that the system be more representative and effective, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said: ?It is just impossible?that we should still remain attached to institutional arrangements that were built in the post-war period.?
Currently, only China and Russia from the group are permanent members. In a coincidence, however, Brazil and India are non-permanent members for two years, which explains their recent voting pattern and consolidated voice at the United Nations.
In a statement, the leaders said: ?We are deeply concerned with the turbulence in the Middle East, the North African and West African regions. We share the principle that the use of force should be avoided?We are of the view that all the parties should resolve their differences through peaceful means and dialogue.?
With the Libyan crisis prolonging beyond initial expectations, the United States, Britain and France are considering looking beyond UN resolution 1973, which only authorises action to protect civilians. With the new Western push likely to see more military action and regime change too, the war of ideas with the BRIC countries is likely to intensify.
BRIC became a part of the economic lexicon at the turn of the 21st century as part of a forecast that the bloc would surpass some of the world?s top economies by 2050, thus laying the foundation for a new world order.
What the Goldman Sachs report did not forecast, however, was the sudden onset of global economic slowdown, how it would assist BRIC to close the gap much faster than first predicted and, most importantly, how BRIC may also become a formidable political bloc.
Following the economic crisis, the original prediction was revised in 2009 to suggest that BRIC could overtake the G7 by 2030 ? two decades sooner than first envisaged. With the four nations having contributed one-third of the world?s growth since 2000, what this and the UN vote on Libya advance is the possibility of BRIC serving as a viable political option in a slowly diminishing unipolar, and surely emerging multipolar, world.
While the global economic crisis and reforming the international financial institutions are the topics of focus during BRIC meetings, the bloc?s leaders have also been focussing on food, energy and climate change issues, which have assumed a political tinge. This has left very few in doubt that the BRIC countries are attempting to make political capital of their sustained robust economic credentials.
In fact, one of the first steps towards challenging the US?s global political dominance was made in Yekaterinburg, Russia. At the end of the first and ?historic? summit of BRIC countries in 2009, the leaders? declaration called for a ?multipolar world order,? which was construed as ?a diplomatic code for a rejection of United State?s position as the sole global superpower.?
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev then went as far as saying that the BRIC countries wanted to ?create the conditions for a fairer world order.?
Amid the declining influence of the Non-Aligned Movement and other such alternative international multilateral forums, it is important for like-minded countries to evolve a viable substitute that makes international politics diverse and more democratic, thereby also reflecting the shift in the global economic balance of power.
The transformation of the G-8 into a more realistic and representative G-20 ? including Saudi Arabia from the Gulf region ? is a welcome step. It is also heartening to note that Turkey, South Africa, Mexico and the countries affiliated to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation have also evinced interest in evolving alternative global forums.
Some analysts view the BRIC?s political agenda as ?substantial and substantive…a new-born non-Western cooperation framework between the four biggest emerging economies of the world, creating a reasonable balance against the dominance of developed countries…The imbalance of the world?s economic and political order would finally result in a crisis. The world should applaud the cooperation among BRIC countries as it builds up influence to represent the due interests and rights of the developing countries.?
As the BRIC countries? geopolitical advantages reinforce their increasing global leverage against the reigning world order, it may be useful for under-developed, developing and, more importantly, developed countries to start internalising the fact that ?the old order gives way to the new.?