University of Toronto
BRICS flags
BRICS Information Centre

Building on Xiamen: The 2018 South African BRICS Presidency

Alissa Wang, BRICS Research Group
October 9, 2017

On September 21, 2017, the foreign ministers of the BRICS countries met on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), under the theme "Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All On a Sustainable Planet." South Africa, host of the 2018 Johannesburg Summit, chaired the sideline meeting. A press communiqué was released, which sheds light on how Johannesburg will build on the 2017 Xiamen Summit. South African president Jacob Zuma also made a speech to the General Assembly, providing more insight into his approach as BRICS host.

In the communiqué, BRICS ministers touched on the issues of multilateralism, economic growth, development, terrorism, regional conflicts, BRICS expansion and people-to-people exchange. There was a strong sense of continuity on the idea of BRICS expansion through the BRICS-plus approach of building a network of emerging and developing countries (EMDCs) and launching initiatives for dialogue and cooperation, as stated in the Xiamen Declaration and supported by China. At UNGA, the BRICS ministers stressed the "need to strive towards broad partnerships with EMDCs, to pursue equal-footed and flexible practices and initiatives for sustainable dialogue and cooperation with non-BRICS countries, regional or sub-region groups, including through BRICS Plus approach."

There was also continuity with regional security challenges in general and terrorism in particular. The Xiamen Declaration included a detailed statement on regional conflicts around the world, and declared a firm stance against terrorism, naming many specific terrorist organizations. This was reiterated in New York, as BRICS ministers again "reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations" and "urged concerted efforts to counter terrorism." They committed to "an expeditious adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations" and stressed the role "of the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group." They also expressed concern over regional conflicts that provide a breeding ground for terrorism and refugee crises, including conflicts in Israel-Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Africa and the Korean Peninsula. Zuma also focused on the conflict in the Korean Peninsula in his speech and made a strong statement against the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, there will likely be a strong focus on climate change at Johannesburg. While the issue received limited attention in the BRICS communiqué, Zuma made it clear in his UNGA address that South Africa will build on Xiamen's strong and supportive attitude toward the Paris Agreement. Zuma said that countries must "resist all efforts to unravel and undermine the Paris Agreement" and pressed for efforts "directed at the mobilisation of the required resources for its implementation."

It is evident that South Africa will build on many of the core results of the Xiamen Summit in  2018. In particular, the 2018 Johannesburg Summit will likely make further progress on climate change by pushing for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, continuing to strengthen BRICS cooperation on regional security issues, especially through joint counter-terrorism efforts, and further exploring and consolidating the mechanisms of a BRICS-plus expansion.

[back to top]

Alissa Wang
Alissa Wang is the chair of summit studies for the BRICS Research Group, and a research assistant at the G7 and G8 Research Group, the G20 Research Group, and the Global Health Diplomacy Program, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She studied international relations, global health and political science as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and is currently pursuing a JD/PhD at the Faculty of Law and Department of Political Science. She is an editor for the reports produced by the G20 Research Group summit studies team, an analyst for the G7 Research Group summit studies team, and works on compliance research. Alissa is interested in Chinese history and politics as well as China's role in global governance. She was a member of the field team at the G7 Elmau Summit in Germany in 2015, the G7 Ise Shima Summit in Japan in 2016, the G20 Hangzhou Summit in China in 2016 and the G20 Hamburg Summit in Germany in 2017.

[back to top]