South-South Cooperation in the News

Has the BRICS killed IBSA?

South Africa's inclusion into the BRICS in 2011 served to kill off the distinct relevance of the India, Brazil and South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA), an alliance formed in June 2003 and which, at the time, was heralded as creating a new dynamic in international politics, bringing together as it did three important economies of the global South.  

IBSA was established as a targeted and economically-driven project that at its launch hoped to construct strategic partnerships between the three states.  The original principle of IBSA was to generate an alliance that would hopefully present a unified position at the bargaining sessions anticipated for the Doha Rounds, as well as apply pressure on the North on various issues at the United Nations.
As for the BRICS, they aim to advance a reformist project in global governance structures and increase the political influence of the now five members at multilateral fora, particularly the United Nations. In other words, the raison d'être of the BRICS initiative is identical to IBSA's.

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Keep BRICS and IBSA Separate

South Africa’s successful inclusion into the BRICS grouping in 2011 was much more than a mere expansion of the emerging powers’ club by one member. Rather, it marked the moment in which the BRICS assumed ownership of an idea conceived a decade earlier by the Goldman Sachs investment banker Jim O’Neill. Today, his point of view about whether or not South Africa deserved to be part of the group no longer matters for the leaders of the BRICS who have, since the first summit in St. Petersburg in 2009, begun to develop their very own ideas about how to reform global structures and increase their political influence.

Efforts to create a BRICS Development Bank, a BRICS Stock Exchange, greater cooperation at the G20 and the IMF, as well as to develop working groups to share best practices on topics such as health and education show that the BRICS grouping has both expanded and deepened.

This raises an important question about the continued usefulness of IBSA, a trilateral group founded in 2003 by India, Brazil and South Africa. Now that all IBSA members are also part of BRICS, why not simply merge IBSA into BRICS? While this idea may seem appealing and practical, it would be a mistake. Although IBSA’s visibility in international affairs pales against that of the yearly BRICS Summits, the three IBSA members have identified themselves as partners because they share a set of fundamental notions about global order.

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BRICS Partnership: A Case of South-South Cooperation?

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, but it is increasingly becoming an actor with agency in the current international milieu. This was most recently evident in the emerging markets’ pledge, in mid-June, of funds to boost IMF reserves, which serves as an indicator both of their 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.

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About The Project

Funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA), the project focuses on the changing dynamics and implications of South- South cooperation, in the context of South Africa's avowed commitment to this cause in its international relations. The need to understand the complexities of South-South dynamics and their implications for foreign policy is particularly urgent for South Africa, which, while working to advance South-South multilateralism, must also contend with the corresponding need to remain true to other universal values underpinning its foreign policy as well as guarantee the specific interests of its immediate environment, that is, the African continent.

Key Themes

In recent times, South-South cooperation has received renewed attention, inspired mainly by the emergence of new southern clubs such as IBSA, BRICS and CELAC. This trend reflects a growing push by developing countries to respond to current global challenges in a coherent and concerted manner.


Aims and Objectives of The Project

The aim of the project is therefore to contribute, through critical research and dialogue, towards a nuanced understanding of contemporary South-South cooperation. In particular, it seeks to appreciate the basis on which countries in the South cooperate or compete with one another, and the implication of these dynamics for South Africa's policy.


Contact details
Address:   3rd Floor Robert Sobukwe Building
263 Nana Sita Street
South Africa

PO Box 14349
The Tramshed
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      Telephone:   +2712 337 6082
      Fax:   +2786 212 9442
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