On January 1st, 2024, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Ethiopia became full members of the BRICS. Since then, the BRICS countries have had 10 full member states. This shows both the attractiveness of the BRICS countries to the world and the cohesion of developing countries. Following the first expansion of the BRICS since 2010, the leader of the BRICS Presidency, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa declared that, “Through an expanded BRICS, we will be able to better align the voices of those countries that seek a fairer global governance, financial, investment and trading system based on clear rules that apply equally to all countries.”
Spread of the BRICS spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation
The BRICS cooperation mechanism has gone through 17 years of ups and downs. Looking back, the BRICS countries upheld the BRICS spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, while making gratifying progress in political, economic and cultural exchanges. Also, they wrote wonderful stories of the joint development of countries with different systems, cultures and regions, which has become a golden signboard for South-South cooperation.
With an increasingly complex international environment and a sluggish global economic recovery, many developing countries are facing debt pressures, inflation and slow growth. As representatives of the Middle East and Africa, the accession of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Ethiopia will undoubtedly help expand the global influence of the BRICS. Although the conditions of the BRICS cooperation mechanism are different among the member countries, the spirit of win-win cooperation has kept the mechanism alive and attracted the attention of more countries. Thus, this expansion is a concrete manifestation of this.
Development of internal agenda setting and changes in the way of interacting with external actors
Unlike the original BRICS countries, the newcomers are all from the same region, which might lead to a more specific agenda setting for region issues and a change in the way the BRICS countries interact with other developing countries. As the original BRICS countries are scattered across continents, while they can exchange views with each other, they rely on external mechanisms to address problems in their own region, such as the South Africa, the rotating presidency in 2024, to facilitate cooperation between the BRICS countries and the African Union (BRICS, 2024). However, the concentration of new countries in the Middle East and North Africa makes it possible to solve regional problems, especially Middle East problems, through internal mechanisms, making it necessary to develop new mechanisms. For the same reason, the BRICS countries could change their reliance on the intermediary role of the rotating presidency in each year for external interaction and create a more effective and long-term platform for cooperation.
Expand the voice of developing countries
In today’s era, the collective rise of emerging market countries and developing countries represented by the BRICS countries is fundamentally changing the world map. BRICS countries always supported international fairness and justice, upheld justice on major international and regional issues, and enhanced the voice and influence of emerging market countries and developing countries.
Therefore, the continuous growth of the BRICS family is bound to strengthen the voices of developing countries, promote the profound transformation of the world pattern, and inject more certainty, stability and positive energy into the world. Emerging markets and developing countries have contributed 80 percent to world economic growth over the past 20 years, and their share of global GDP has increased from 24 percent to more than 40 percent over the past 40 years. Enhancing the representation and voice of the countries of the “Global South” in global governance is the common expectation of developing countries and also the inevitable direction of the timely development. The continuous growth of the BRICS cooperation mechanism will help consolidate the momentum of unity and self-reliance among developing countries, and promote the realization that global affairs should be jointly governed by all countries and the fruits of development should be shared by all countries. International rules should be written and upheld by everyone according to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Moreover, it is necessary to practice true multilateralism, safeguard the international system, with the United Nations at its core, and also support and strengthen the multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core.
Enhanced capacity of the BRICS group to address regional and global issues
As a result of the changes mentioned above in the way the BRICS framework operates and its representativeness and influence in the international environment, the BRICS will be able to play a greater role in regional and global governance. The New Development Bank (NDB) is one of the core parts under the BRICS framework and one of the main mechanisms in which the group is able to directly contribute to regional and international affairs. As of December 2023, the bank had approved investments totalling $3.28 billion (NDB, 2024). However, due to its small number of member countries, it has long played more of a role within the BRICS countries. And with the addition of new members, although none of the new members are currently in the bank except for the UAE and Egypt, who joined before, it can be expected that with the expansion of the bank’s membership, they will have the ability to make a greater contribution in economic construction, humanitarian assistance, and disaster prevention and control in the member countries and other developing countries.
Strengthen the forces for world peace and development and promote multi-polarization
Over the years, the BRICS countries have been an important platform for strengthening cooperation and contributing to the rise of the “Global South”. The establishment of the NBD, together with the establishment of the BRICS Emergency Reserve Arrangement (CDB), is sufficient to demonstrate that the BRICS cooperation mechanism is pragmatic and effective. As such, the expanded BRICS countries can coordinate multi-party actions to promote common growth, uphold multilateralism, and promote a more just and equitable global governance system.
Also, calling for reform of the Bretton Woods institutions to increase the representativeness and voice of developing countries in them is an important goal of the BRICS organization. This has been emphasized in joint declarations since the second BRICS leaders’ meeting in 2010. The 2011-2015 joint declarations included the content of urging the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to complete 2010 governance and quota reform, and each declaration after 2015 included the content of urging the IMF to complete quota review as soon as possible.
Today, the international order is changing dramatically. The conflict in Ukraine and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have not only disrupted global supply chains, but also brought risks to regional and global peace and development. What is even more frustrating is that some Western countries cling to the Cold War mentality, recklessly create division and confrontation, and do everything possible to maintain their hegemonic status.
With the entry of the countries from the Middle East and North Africa, not only will the economic significance of the BRICS organization in the world economic system increase, but also its representativeness and voice as an organization representing the Global South will increase directly in the world economic system. According to the data published by the IMF in 2024, the accession of new members increased the share of the BRICS countries in the IMF by 3.83%. Moreover, owing to their special position in the world economic system, the Middle Eastern countries will have an important role to play in promoting the establishment of an economic and financial network with a greater focus on developing countries and the inclusion of developing countries in global economic governance.
In this context, the BRICS cooperation mechanism supports emerging economies and developing countries to obtain a more equitable share of the global market and contributes to global multi-polarization. And as a developing country, a member of the Global South and a founding member of BRICS, China positions itself with full confidence towards the development of the BRICS cooperation mechanism.
Overall, the entry of new countries could change the operational mechanisms of the BRICS framework and its future development strategies. It will not only enable the BRICS countries to have greater influence in the world economic system externally, but will also enable the mechanisms within the framework to have a greater impact on regional and global affairs. It should be emphasized, however, that the mechanisms of the BRICS are on the basis of the shared values of its member countries and the Global South, and they are fundamentally complementary to the current world economic system.
About the author:
Mrs. Jun Qiao is student at the Anhui University, China and Mr. Mingxuan Huang is student at the Yunnan University, China. They are interns at MEPEI.