BRICS+ should consider creating a forum for Least-Developed Sub-National Regions
by Andrew Korybko on 11 Dec 2023 0 Comment

Russia’s 2024 presidency and the group’s unprecedented expansion during its last summit in August combine to present the opportunity for implementing this proposal over the next year, during which time BRICS’ new Ethiopian member could become the first beneficiary of this policy.


Russian geo-economic guru Yaroslav Lissovolik, who’s responsible for the BRICS+ concept, published an intriguing article about “Tierra del Fuego: a new dimension to BRICS+”. He drew attention to this Argentine sub-national region’s (SNR) interest in cooperating with the group after its newly elected leader pledged to distance his country from it. Lissovolik argued that this proposal could lead to “a rejuvenated effort to re-construct and re-imagine BRICS+ cooperation” during Russia’s 2024 presidency.


His suggestion to pioneer a cooperation mechanism between BRICS and non-member-states’ SNRs should be seriously considered as a means for this group to accelerate non-Western globalization processes within the largest possible number of countries at this crucial moment of the global systemic transition. Those states that either don’t meet the criteria for membership or fear coming under Western pressure if they formally apply to join could still reap the benefits of BRICS via SNR cooperation.


It’s worth reminding the reader that most countries’ economic growth is concentrated in a handful of SNRs so the latter’s engagement with BRICS through these means could amount to de facto membership in the event that the most economically dynamic ones cooperate with it via the proposed mechanism. Coupled with the existing municipal BRICS+ forum, within which there’d presumably be a large degree of overlap as explained above, this could turbocharge non-Western globalization processes.


At the same time, while the aforesaid processes are naturally led by economically dynamic and comparatively more prosperous SNRs, their respective national governments also have an interest in ensuring that all their citizens benefit from BRICS-led non-Western globalization. No responsible policymaker wants to unwittingly widen the gap between their leading SNRs and least-developed SNRs (LD-SNRs), ergo the need for BRICS to pioneer a cooperation mechanism for the second category too. 


It would therefore be wise to build upon Lissovolik’s proposed SNR mechanism by widening it to include LD-SNRs too, potentially as a separate mechanism in order to remain focused on these regions’ particular needs, which are much different than leading SNRs. In practice, a LD-SNR BRICS+ forum could raise maximum awareness of these regions’ similar needs while also sharing bespoke investment plans from each of them with the participating countries, municipalities, and/or more developed SNRs.


Those who take them up on these plans wouldn’t just be doing a humanitarian service, but would also help those LD-SNRs and their respective national governments reduce their dependence on Western aid, which always comes with strings attached and accordingly places limits on their sovereignty. The BRICS countries have a strategic interest in this since it’ll further advance their shared goal of accelerating non-Western globalization processes while also narrowing the gap between leading SNRs and LD-SNRs.


Russia’s 2024 presidency and the group’s unprecedented expansion during its last summit in August combine to present the opportunity for implementing this proposal over the next year, during which time BRICS’ new Ethiopian member could become the first beneficiary of this policy. Not only is it the only least-developed country (LDC) in the group, but its government is actively working to rehabilitate those SNRs that were afflicted by the Northern Conflict that raged from 2020-2022.


These SNRs – which include all of Tigray as well as parts of the Afar and Amhara Regions – require bespoke investment plans, which Ethiopia’s fellow BRICS members have a strategic interest in assisting it with, both out of solidarity as well as for the reasons that were earlier explained in this piece. Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin already pledged to assist his host country’s rehabilitation back in December 2021 before that conflict even ended so Moscow could easily take the lead in this respect.


Bilateral relations have never been better as proven by what President Putin had to say about them earlier this week during the Kremlin ceremony where he received the credentials of newly appointed Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Cham Ugala Uriat:


“The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is our long-standing and reliable partner in Africa. This year, we marked the 125th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s official visit to Russia in July was quite useful and productive.


An array of intergovernmental and trade agreements in transport and logistics, telecommunications, as well as in the sphere of peaceful atom were concluded during this visit. Once implemented, these agreements will undoubtedly help diversify Russian-Ethiopian cooperation.


Russia supported Ethiopia’s application to join BRICS from the time it was submitted. We will facilitate the effective integration of our Ethiopian partners into all interaction mechanisms within the association during our chairmanship in 2024.”


The excellent state of bilateral relations, Russia’s earlier pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia, that country’s membership in BRICS, the array of agreements reached over the summer, and Russia’s 2024 BRICS presidency provide the basis upon which to implement the present piece’s proposal.


As a means to that end, Russia and Ethiopia should begin discussions aimed at inaugurating a LD-SNR BRICS+ forum next year in which that country’s three previously mentioned regions – Tigray, Afar, and Amhara – would court bespoke investments for advancing their rehabilitation. This could improve its people’s living standards, reduce Ethiopia’s dependence on strings-attached Western aid, and thus prove that BRICS benefits all of its members’ people while also strengthening its members’ sovereignty.


These outcomes would go a long way towards counteracting claims that BRICS is all talk but no action, which would discredit the group’s naysayers in the West while spiking interest in membership among the Global South’s other LDCs that have similar challenges as Ethiopia. Whereas the West has destroyed the Global South via its myriad Hybrid Wars against those states, BRICS could help rebuild those same states through the proposed LD-SNR BRICS+ platform that would essentially function as a form of “BRICS-Aid”.


LDCs – especially those that are in the process of rehabilitating themselves after devastating conflicts – still consider strings-attached Western aid despite their misgivings about it because no viable alternative exists, but that would if the proposed BRICS-Aid mechanism is unveiled. Ethiopia can therefore play an historical role by serving as a successful example of no-strings-attached non-Western aid in action, thus breaking the West’s monopoly on this industry that it ruthlessly leverages to limit LDCs’ sovereignty.


Circling back to the lede, Lissovolik’s article about SNR BRICS+ cooperation inspired the proposal for a complementary LD-SNR mechanism within which the group’s new Ethiopian member would serve as the centerpiece of this initiative during its initial phase. BRICS would benefit from this by accelerating non-Western globalization processes, narrowing the gap between leading SNRs and LD-SNRs, and breaking the West’s monopoly on the foreign aid industry, so hopefully something will soon come of it.  



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