Session I: Global situation overview - new threats and challenges, regional hotspots, BRICS cooperation on international fora, key issues on the 75 UNGA agenda
Thank you very much, Minister Sergey Lavrov,
Dear friends and colleagues,
Minister Sergey Lavrov,
Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar,
Minister Wang Yi,
Minister Naledi Pandor,
I thank the Russian chairmanship and especially Minister Sergey Lavrov for organizing this meeting. As much as we regret not being able to enjoy the Russian hospitality in Moscow, the current circumstances require maximum caution.
Once again, we meet against the backdrop of the tragic loss of lives, the suffering, and the economic effects of COVID-19. All our countries have been deeply affected in different moments and intensities. My deepest sympathy and that of my government to the families of the victims. Since our last virtual meeting in April, the enormous challenges that COVID-19 poses to economies and societies have only become more evident.
As national measures are concerned, it is essential to recognize the complementarity between health and economic initiatives to protect the lives and livelihoods of our peoples.
Much like domestic realities, the international scenario that will arise from the worldwide pandemic is bound to be different. The Chair has asked us to reflect on the biggest challenges and threats facing the international system. For Brazil, no challenge is more urgent than ensuring that the upcoming system is based on freedom, transparency and human dignity. It is up to nations like ours to shape this new scenario.
Nation states should be the driving force of international transformations. National states where people are actually empowered are the drivers of real change. The international system that will arise will either be based on the ideals and aspirations of the peoples and communities that constitute states or it will risk losing its legitimacy, for not putting people’s wills and interests to the forefront.
I have noted in our last meeting as well that the world is undergoing a crisis of confidence and governments are required to provide answers to their populations. The nature of our choices and answers to those questions will affect the world for decades to come.
For Brazil, those answers reside in working to take the best of the diversity of our identities, not to fall prey to the standardization of a characterless international society. They reside in pragmatic cooperation and sovereign dialogue, not in the promotion of one-size-fits-all solutions conceived in international organizations.
Dear colleagues, 75 years ago, our five countries fought against intolerance, oppression, and evil. While recognizing the contribution of each soldier of every nationality that joined forces to defeat Nazi-fascism, including 25 thousand Brazilian troops sent to Europe, I would like to honor the heroism, resilience and suffering of the Russian people during the war.
The 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the creation of the United Nations represents the proper occasion for taking stock and reflecting on whether the current system is indeed providing the benefits that one could expect and which our forefathers fought for.
As a coincidence, here in Brazil, we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the creation of Brazil’s diplomatic academy, as you can see in the banner behind me, and this inspires Brazil to present new ideas and perspectives for the renewal of the international system.
We believe that Brazil can help transform the international scenario on the basis of the experience of our own process of transformation. We are replacing a system of corruption and backwardness with a system of people’s empowerment, a true democracy and economic opening, with the reaffirmation of freedom, sovereignty, and independence. We are convinced that only freedom can be the way to material progress in a healthy society and we want to bring that perspective to the world.
A more democratic governance needs a reformed UN Security Council, with an enhanced and permanent contribution by countries like Brazil. If we as a group insist on the importance of the UN, we must recognize that its effectiveness and its central role in the multilateral system depend on the effectiveness, representativeness, and legitimacy of the Security Council.
Brazil stands for democracy in the international system and domestically as well. Those two dimensions should not be separated. International democracy requires not only more participation of all countries, big and small, in international governance, but also the empowerment of nations in regard to the bureaucracy of international organizations. Reform of the multilateral system is urgent to bring it back to the path of real international cooperation and not super-nationalism by stealth.
Another aspect to be taken into account is that new technologies provide the whole world today the opportunity to become more democratic and also individual societies to exert the right to achieve the dream of more connectedness, to become more productive more creative and happier. And this immense opportunity should not be lost.
Dear colleagues, BRICS language on this issue of the reform of the Security Council that we are discussing must evolve. As a group, BRICS cannot continue to circumvent this question. It has to clearly address this topic in order to maintain its consistency and political relevance.
The elimination, also, of all weapons of mass destruction is a legitimate aspiration of peoples around the world and concrete and measurable progress in disarmament should be achieved on the basis of commitments that are taken seriously.
I would like to also address the issue of the Middle East. We are encouraged from developments in that region. Especially, the recent agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Those are steps towards a better atmosphere that can lead to realistic, pragmatic and lasting solutions.
I want also to stress and express Brazil’s solidarity with Lebanon. Brazil feels as a brother country to Lebanon, as we are home to more than 10 million Lebanese and their descendants. And we believe that all our countries here can contribute not only to Beirut’s reconstruction at this moment, as it is already happening, but also to a future of peace, independence, and prosperity for Lebanon.
One key issue that touches the Middle East, but not only, is the issue of religious freedom. Brazil considers that it is essential for the international community to work harder in promoting and protecting religious freedom and freedom of belief around the world.
Freedom and human dignity cannot be afterthoughts in the resolution of crises and conflicts. Political and diplomatic means should also be at the service of delivering societies from the suffering resulting from tyrannical governments.
Here, it is necessary to remember the suffering and repressed aspirations of the Venezuelan people. Brazil is committed to a prosperous, democratic and open South America. Venezuela currently, unfortunately, does not fill a single one of those criteria. Worse, it exemplifies the growing threat represented by the conjunction between certain currents of politics and organized crime in our region.
Brazil is a neighbor of Venezuela, as you know, and we know what is going on there. We feel it in the flesh. Venezuela became a hotbed of organized crime and terrorism. It lives out of drug trafficking and gold trafficking. I urge you, colleagues, and your countries, to help in finding a way out for Venezuela. All of us here can play a key role. You can play a key role. It is in no interest to any of us to keep the current situation. The current regime is not capable or willing to provide the conditions for free and fair elections in that country.
The solution, in our view, is for those who hold power presently to step down and agree to the formation of a national union government. Our commitment to fight terrorism, or the joint commitment of BRICS countries to fight terrorism, should be translated into helping the Venezuelan people out of a regime which supports terrorism, lives out of it, uses it as an instrument of state power. We must live up to the principles which shape, for example, the BRICS Counterterrorism Strategy and our commitment to fight organized crime.
Coming back to the issue at hand, the COVID pandemic, I would like to stress that the COVID pandemic brought to the fore the question of the role of international bodies in this worldwide crisis. Brazil considers that the World Health Organization has not fulfilled, unfortunately, its tasks of being responsive, transparent, and of promoting the free flow of information for the common good. As we encourage the WHO to take all necessary measures to correct the shortcomings already identified, we hope that this case stands as an example that international organizations should not be seen as having the monopoly of knowledge, science, and righteousness.
Unfortunately, again, WHO helped foster a “health only” approach to the pandemic. In Brazil, from the beginning, President Jair Bolsonaro stressed that we had to protect lives and livelihoods, jobs and the health of people at the same time, and this approach is now considered the right one by the World Health Organization itself, but we still feel that it is too little, too late.
In that sense, I would like to also stress that multilateralism should not be an automatic response to the current crisis. Multilateralism is not a magic word which just by being pronounced will solve our problems. Multilateral institutions should serve as a space for coordination among countries, but it is not an answer to the deep challenges emerging from the pandemic, certainly not the only one. It is part of the answer, but not the only one.
As I had the opportunity to say yesterday in the G20 meeting, I think all of you colleagues were there and allow me to repeat, Brazil is ready, of course, to cooperate with every nation, in all geometries, to fight the consequences of the pandemic, and we thank the corporation received from your countries here represented in many different ways. We thank India, China, Russia, and South Africa and we stand ready to enhance that cooperation.
But we are also convinced that the bulk of the response to the consequences of the pandemic comes from the efforts of Brazilian themselves. To give an example, to keep the production of agriculture goods in Brazil, which can feed more than 1 billion people around the world and which we are shipping to all our trade partners in spite of the pandemic. This is maybe our largest contribution – to fight the poverty consequences of the pandemic.
Minister Lavrov, dear colleagues,
To end, Brazil is confident that BRICS will respond to the post-pandemic scenario with its usual result-oriented approach, guided by mutual respect and sovereignty. More than ever, we should focus on the potential of our BRICS cooperation in areas that result in tangible solutions to the challenges that our societies and economies are facing and will continue to face as a consequence of the pandemic. The New Development Bank (NDB) is a valuable tool in this regard.
Brazil also trusts that BRICS will continue to exchange views on different situations around the world, even where our views may differ. And exactly there I think is where our dialogue is more important. We should continue to do that with the full understanding of the possibilities of contributing from different angles and perspectives to reach agreements among ourselves and to help other countries to reach agreements and solutions.
As the international agenda becomes ever more complex and national positions evolved, BRICS has to emphasize the larger picture over punctual differences and to concentrate on the convergences.
BRICS cooperation can result in significant progress when we converge around common goals. Overall, all nations need to work today, in all geometries, to address the new challenges and opportunities and BRICS is an excellent example to the whole world of that possibility of working in different formats.
Thank you very much.
Session II: Russian BRICS Chairmanship 2020 - progress review in three pillars and expected deliverables
Friends and colleagues,
Thank you, Minister Lavrov, for your very encompassing report. Brazil is very encouraged by the chair’s engagement. The Russian presidency deserves our full appreciation for, despite the pandemic, being able to keep the momentum and to promote constructive discussions. In spite of the unfavorable conditions, video conferences have made possible ministerial meetings, like today, technical work and, most importantly, have kept our dialogue alive.
Having had the presidency last year, Brazil and myself, we understand the burdens of the chair and we praise its effort to address so many demands and to fulfill so many expectations of which the Russian chairmanship has proved totally capable.
Colleagues, last year, with the support of all of you, Brazil privileged intra-BRICS cooperation activities that could have a positive impact on the lives of our populations. We firmly believe that mutually beneficial, pragmatic, and sovereign cooperation was an important legacy of last year’s work, and we see that the same spirit presides over the Russian chairmanship.
We are encouraged to notice that the Chair is fostering continuity and emphasizing initiatives that concretely benefit our societies. Brazil looks forward to a successful Summit in November, as just announced by minister Lavrov, with the adoption of relevant deliverables, which help our citizens overcome social and economic challenges caused by COVID-19.
We are committed to work with the Chair in order to arrive at the Summit with an important set of results. We support the Russian presidency, therefore, in its goal of aiming for meaningful deliverables, of streamlining the calendar and of focusing on those meetings that are essential to our leaders’ dialogue in coming November.
Allow me, please, to briefly touch upon two deliverables and developments related to the main areas of dialogue and cooperation.
First, BRICS counter-terrorism strategy: unfortunately, and as I had the opportunity to mention in the previous panel, terrorism is now very much present in our region, in South America, not only because of Venezuela, but mainly because the Venezuelan regime harbors and promotes terrorism among other challenges. So, Brazil views a cooperation to fight terrorism not as an abstract endeavor, but as essential to our own well-being and security. Moreover, we need to bear in mind that drug trafficking is today one of the main sources of financing for terrorist organizations. More and more, terrorism and drug trafficking become not two different phenomena, but the same phenomenon. Thus, by fighting strenuously against drug trafficking in our region, as our government is doing, Brazil is contributing in no small measure to the fight against terrorism worldwide, and, given the multi-continental nature of this terrorist drug trafficking phenomenon, we are in need for joint strategies and coordination among all concerned nations, and BRICS is, again, a good example of progress in that direction.
Second, the BRICS Women Business Alliance: Brazil congratulates Russia for the holding of the first meeting of the BRICS Women Business Alliance (WBA). We value this initiative, as it relates both to inclusive economic growth, since it aims at strengthening women’s role in business and entrepreneurship, and at enhancing social interactions among our societies. Despite being the majority of the Brazilian population and very active in many fields of the economy, women are still underrepresented in positions of command in companies and international trade, as we know. Promoting their perspectives on business issues is an important and necessary complement to the business discussions in BRICS. We encourage the Alliance to decide on its agenda and priorities. Decentralized contacts are more important than governmental inputs in this context. At the same time, the WBA and the BRICS Business Council should not duplicate their efforts, but work in a complementary form.
Brazil is of the view that we should increase business and trade promotion activities in BRICS. The Memorandum of Understanding among our trade and investment promotion agencies, signed during the Brazilian chairmanship, could be explored for that goal. Our decision last year to host the latest BRICS Business Council back to back to the Summit proved useful to stimulate contacts among our business communities and to allow our leaders to hear their aspirations and ideas. Further business exchanges and a closer relationship between the Business Council and the NDB are also useful in this context. In particular, I am glad to report that the NDB regional office in Brazil is now fully operational, as our Congress has approved its host country agreement with Brazil.
Let me also say a word regarding the people-to-people exchanges. Brazil sees this aspect as essential to a successful cooperation, as our peoples should be the ultimate beneficiary of cooperation and also key actors in cooperation. We are full believers in bottom-up approaches in dealing with every major challenge facing our societies. The interaction of people, with their dynamism and ideas, can be the most efficient way nowadays of generating the necessary drive to put our economies back to work. Our civil societies are resilient enough to overcome the momentary difficulties posed by the pandemic—those are immense, but we can overcome them— and to be ready for an even stronger cooperation later. For that to be true, initiatives in this area should genuinely be the result of joint efforts by representatives of our five countries.
We need to be open to the people in our countries. Allow me the redundancy, but people, not governments, must be the essence of people-to-people exchanges.
I renew, Minister Lavrov, Brazil’s commitment to the success of the Russian presidency and welcome, once again, the constructive spirit of continuity that has been presiding our initiatives this year. Let us focus on our most fundamental priorities for 2020, so we can have a fruitful and successful Summit.