India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Strengthens its Commitment to Democracy
BuaNews (Tshwane) May 12, 2008
The "strategic alliance" that is the India-Brazil-South
Africa trilateral axis is now more than simply a
dialogue but a "privileged relationship" favouring a
world where democracy will prevail not only in its
political manifestation but also on social and cultural
levels, writes Shaun Benton.
This is according to the Foreign Minister of Brazil,
Celso Amorim, who joined South African Foreign Minister
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Indian Foreign Minister
Pranab Mukherjee at the fifth IBSA Ministerial
Commission meeting at Somerset West in Cape Town on
The IBSA alliance, said Mr Amorim, is "in favour of our
peoples, of humanity, a world where democracy will
prevail - not just a political democracy but a social,
Mr Mukherjee told the audience from the three countries
gathered at the Lord Charles Hotel that it was "truly a
special relationship" that now has the ability to
impact on the world at large, should it be adequately
For Ms Dlamini-Zuma, the IBSA formation, started in
2003, has now gained "unprecedented momentum" as a
cross-continental, trilateral forum that is now
"beginning to be noticed" by the rest of the world.
In terms of trade - widely seen as probably the most
important of the levers that turn the trilateral axis -
the combined value at the end of last year had reached
over $10 billion, said Mr Mukherjee.
This means that the three countries could feasibly see
their target of $15 billion in turnover from combined
trade by 2010 being exceeded, the Indian Foreign
Minister said, adding that the success of IBSA requires
the resolution of "connectivity problems".
The meeting of the three countries at ministerial level
comes less than one year since a meeting in New Delhi,
India, and precedes the third IBSA presidential summit
scheduled for the Indian capital in October.
The second summit of IBSA - which has 10 working groups
that bring together senior officials from the three
countries, providing focal points of convergence - was
hosted by South Africa last year.
Currently, the navies of the three countries are
engaged in joint exercises - the first time the three
nations are cementing the geopolitical alliance with
military cooperation - off the coast of Cape Town, as
part of the IBSAMAR "maritime camaraderie".
Such exercises raise the visibility of the IBSA
alliance and as such are "very important", said Mr
Amorim, allowing, as they do, the world to see "how we
are working together" and providing an evolving
Such an identity means that the three rapidly
developing countries are no longer subject, in their
relations with one another, to the "intermediation of
richer, more powerful nations", he said, but rather,
the three can now immediately engage in the "great
economic space of the South".
The catalyst of tighter cooperation would be economic
growth jointly encouraged and shared between the three
nations - all leaders in their respective continents -
said Ms Dlamini-Zuma.
While the three countries have three distinct levels of
interaction, from joint positions on global issues such
as United Nations reform to government-to-government
cooperation, the "people-to-people" cooperation between
the three countries needs to be widened and deepened,
This ground level, people-to-people interaction would
require "less bureaucracy" and more action on tangible
issues of cooperation, the South African foreign
Meanwhile, in a communique released to the press, the
three foreign ministers reiterated that the structures
of global governance needed to become "more democratic,
representative and legitimate by increasing the
participation of the South in their decision-making".
Such a reordering of the international system would be
meaningful only if accompanied by a "comprehensive"
reform of the United Nations and its Security Council,
both in the permanent and non-permanent categories of
Underlining the seriousness with which such reform is
viewed, intergovernmental negotiations on the issue of
reform of the 15-member - including five, permanent,
veto-wielding countries - Security Council must
commence "forthwith", they said.
Similarly, a call for reform of the international
financial institutions - most notably the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank - was reiterated, with
India, Brazil and South Africa lamenting the "slow rate
of progress" of such change, which would bring the
voices of developing countries to the governance and
administration of these crucial financial levers.
At the same time, the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals - aimed primarily at dramatically
reducing global levels of poverty and hunger and 2015,
requires "equity and transparency" in international
economic relations for developing countries.
To this end, the fifth IBSA ministerial meeting
welcomed a commitment made by India, at the Africa-
India Forum Summit held last month, to extend a duty-
free tariff preference scheme to all Least Developed
Countries, on the back of a similar commitment recently
made by Brazil.
The three ministers also called on the world's most
developed countries - the industrialised North - to
provide a "substantial and effective" reduction in
Overall Trade Distorting Support, such as farm
It is these government subsidies to farmers in the rich
North that the Brazilian Foreign Minister - referring
to recent remarks by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva - on Sunday likened to a drug that turned
the farmers of rich nations into "addicts" while the
real "victims" of this addiction are the developing
countries, whose economies are in many cases still
highly dependent on agriculture.
Trade between Brazil, India and South Africa also came
into sharper focus, with the governments welcoming
moves by their trade ministers towards harmonising
progress made in preferential trade agreements between
the South African Customs Union (SACU) and Mercosur,
the Latin American trading bloc.
Similar progress in the India-Mercosur trade axis could
then culminate in an India-Mercosur-SACU trilateral
trade arrangement, which is likely to be ultimately
crucial to the real fruition of the IBSA axis, with
such an outcome being urged by the three ministers.
Intellectual property rights was also covered, with
"balance" sought in order for these rights to become
properly consolidated by the three nations.
Joint positions were also taken further biodiversity,
climate change - with technology transfer to developing
nations seen as a central to providing capacity for
mitigation and adaptation - as well as sustainable
development and not least, human settlements.
As of this year, the meeting noted, half the world's
population is living in cities, with urban slum
dwellers now numbering over one billion people.
By 2020, most of the largest cities in the world would
be located in the South, raising "serious concerns over
the urbanisation of poverty".
Gender equality was also put on the table, as well as
issues surrounding energy - in an environment of
soaring oil prices - and the question of disarmament
and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The foreign ministers of the three democracies also
hailed the importance of the advancement of the global
human rights agenda, noting at this point progress
being made at building the United Nations' elevated
Human Rights Council (which replaces the UN's Human
Ms Dlamini-Zuma, Mr Mukherjee and Mr Amorim also
reiterated their commitment to the "complete
elimination" of nuclear weapons, and expressed concern
at the lack of attention being paid towards
disarmament, which are "mutually reinforcing processes
requiring continuous irreversible progress".
According to the IBSA communique, the removal of all
nuclear weapons from the world would be best served by
embarking on this process systematically, and ensuring
that it is done in "a comprehensive, universal, non-
discriminatory and verifiable manner".
Copyright (c) 2008 BuaNews. All rights reserved.
Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).