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The fifth official summit of BRICS countries took place from 26 to 27 March 2013 at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC), South Africa.
According to the summit’s official website: “BRICS is an acronym for the powerful grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.”.
The summit purportedly aimed to “contribute significantly to the development of humanity and establish a more equitable and fair world”. However, a summit organized in parallel to the official meeting by civil society organizations of BRICS and African countries seems to claim otherwise.
The parallel meeting, BRICS from Below, was hosted by environmental group groundWork, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and the UKZN Centre for Civil Society. According to the event’s website the summit “aims to monitor and challenge the process and outcomes decided on by the government and big business”.
To know more about this process, the outcomes of the BRICS official summit and the assessment by the civil society groups at BRICS from Below, Real World Radio interviewed Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa.
Peek said that one of the main criticism made by CSO to BRICS is the fact that they aim to continue a neoliberal paradigm, a neoliberal development and “they are not seeking to change that development paradigm that can serve and that can respond to positive rights, to equality, to poverty and unemployment”.
One of the main flaws the CSO found about BRICS is that they promote a kind of development that is not what the poor people need. Bobby said “This is the Washington Consensus repeated. It is an imperialist agenda”.
Brics from Below
The Director of groundwork said that between 100 and 150 people participated at the BRICS from Below conference every day. This included people from unemployed, social movements fighting environmental injustice, NGO, FoEI, FoE Mozambique, Philippines, India, Brazil, Russia, as well as critical academic thinkers who “met for two days to show the contradictions in each BRICS countries while they claim to act against poverty and for justice.”
Peek exposed these 5 countries as the new imperialists, since they seek to exploit the poor in other countries.
According to Peek “South Africa is part of BRICS because it is seen as gateway to Africa. Brazil, India, Russia and China have a bigger population and bigger economies, while South Africa has a strategic place to allow other countries to further exploit African countries.”
According to BRICS from Below: “Africa would be left overwhelmed by Brics corporations that would use its resources to attract billions of dollars worth of Brics infrastructure developments”.
All this, according to Peek, will have several local impacts and global impacts in regards with climate change. “We have the same development model being pushed”.
One of the main criticisms is that “environmental issues are not of concern to BRICS governments”, said Peek. “Their concern is to develop infrastructure in Africa so that Africa can be exploited, energy can be taken out of Africa to serve these countries.”
The activist exposed that the “development paradigm now in Africa is fuelling climate change, they are promoting coal, gas and oil”, which means “short term gain for the elite, continual suffering for the poor and long-term suffering of planet and the poor”.
During ‘BRICS from Below’, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) organized a memorial in honor of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. According to Peek NUMSA has learned many lessons from Venezuela’s work on the social aspect of energy. Chavez had a clear agenda that energy needs to be owned by the people.
A two-and-a-half year process of work which resulted in a meeting with several thousand Brazilian peasants; “a process that didn´t start now, and that won´t end here”, said Itelvina Massioli, national leader of the peoples´ struggle for land, agrarian reform and food sovereignty, in interview with Real World Radio after the 6th Congress of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).
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