[in] focus

BRICS partnership: A case of South-South Cooperation? Exploring the roles of South Africa and Africa


The BRICS partnership is developing rapidly. Current global events, such as economic crisis in the advanced industrialised economies, and hand-wringing over the crisis in Syria, have brought the group, and its individual members, to the forefront of international decision-making. BRICS is no longer simply an economic and historical phenomenon; it is increasingly becoming an actor with agency in the current international milieu. This was most recently evident in the pledge of BRICS – along with other emerging markets - in mid-June 2012, of more than USD 90 billion to boost IMF reserves. This serves as an indicator both of these states’ ability to affect international outcomes, and their intentions to do so.

However, serious questions need to be asked about the extent to which BRICS can agree on common positions, and claim its agency in international affairs. With each successive summit, BRICS have enunciated additional plans for future action, as well as core areas of interest and areas of commonality. The objectives of this policy brief are to examine the concept of ‘South-South cooperation’ in relation to BRICS; to analyse South Africa’s role within BRICS; and, to situate Africa within the context of BRICS’ growing global significance and activity.

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What does the row between the AU and Malawi say about the arrest warrant for al-Bashir?

Recently, a disagreement between the Malawian Government and the African Union (AU) over the guest list for the upcoming bi-annual summit of the AU resulted in the former rescinding its decision to host the meeting. Malawi declined from hosting the July 2012 meeting after the insistence of the AU on the participation of the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. More than just straining relations between Malawi and the AU family, and prompting the relocation of the AU summit from Lilongwe to Addis Ababa, the disagreement between the AU and the Malawian Government further underscores the weakness in the decision to indict al-Bashir.

It should be recalled that following a referral by the UN Security Council, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir in March 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur. In July 2010, the crime of genocide was added to the Sudanese president's charge sheet. As a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Malawi is under obligation to cooperate with the court to arrest al-Bashir, a responsibility that sits uncomfortably with the AU’s hostile attitude towards the ICC in general and its disapproval of the indictment of al-Bashir in particular.

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Whither Europe, whither Africa, whither the World

If the father of pan-Africanism, William Edward Burghardt "W. E. B." Du Bois could proclaim the problem of the 20th century to be the problem of the color line, it might well be proclaimed that the problem of the 21st century is the problem of integration – global integration.

Indeed, the Du Boisian ‘color line’ is but a tiny racial fraction of this larger integration challenge; a problem at the macro-level euphemistically dubbed ‘global governance’ when, in fact, it is only one step removed from the seeming utopianism of ‘world federalism.’

Of course no one of conventional intellectual pretensions wishes being dismissed as a purveyor of ‘utopianism.’ Hence, that euphemism of futility called ‘global governance.’ Yet the federalization of multilateralism may well become the emerging reality in the reconfiguring of a post-Westphalian international system, Europe once again being fore grounded in global transformations to come.

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But what of Bahrain?

While the world witnesses the results of the Syrian government crushing dissent within its borders, the international spotlight has faded almost entirely from the small island state of Bahrain. Although comparatively tiny to other states in the Middle East, both in terms of geography and population, inconsequential it is not. Indeed, major international players ignore the stratified political dynamic in Bahrain at their peril, as the possibility of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran could further destabilise the world’s most volatile region.

Since February 2011, Bahrain has experienced civil and political unrest characterised by mass demonstrations and protest. These events can be contextualised within the broader remit of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, which has seen a wave of socio-political unrest spread over the Middle East, triggering instability in states that were once considered stable by virtue of their authoritarian governments.


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The 2012 US Presidential Election and US Africa Policy

Now that the contest for the Republican Party presidential nomination is effectively over, the implications of the upcoming US presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for US Africa policy become clearer.

At the broadest level, there is not likely to be a big divergence on Africa policy between Obama and Romney. US foreign policy interests in Africa’s economic development have been closely tied to broader US strategic objectives such as access to secure energy supplies and combating the spread of terrorism. Former President George W. Bush’s support for the PEPFAR programme, an emergency AIDS relief initiative, was indicative of US recognition of the interrelatedness of security, governance, global health and economic development in meeting US Africa policy objectives. This convergence of US interests is not likely to change dramatically, irrespective of who wins the White House in 2012.

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