Academics unpack BRICS domestic agenda

The BRICS domestic agenda, its country impacts, have not been subject to analysis by scholars from the five BRICS countries, whether university-based or those in the public research institutions. This is according to Prof Nico Steytler, South African Research Chair in Multilevel Government, Law and Policy, at the Dullah Omar Institute of Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights, University of the Western Cape during the BRICS conference last week.

The conference is aimed at unpacking dynamics between the BRICS Partnership and multilevel governance systems in the five member countries. This conference brought together for the first time academics and government researchers from Brazil, Russia, India, China South Africa to examine the unexplored dimension and dynamics of the BRICS Partnership’s initiatives on domestic matters and multilevel government systems.

The keynote speaker was Honourable Thandi Modise, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, who recently co-led the South African parliamentary delegation to the BRICS First Parliamentary Forum in Moscow, Russia, on 8 June 2015, a month before Seventh Summit at Ufa, Russia.

The speakers addressed the role of subnational governments in the implementation and shaping of BRICS domestic initiatives, the BRICS New Development Bank and the intergovernmental fiscal systems, and the common challenges of urbanisation. The conference is attended by senior government officials, diplomatic corps of the member states, and academics.

Prof Steytler says, “it should be noted that, as an international initiative, the BRICS Partnership is relative young - only seven years old. The domestic impact of BRICS institutions is very limited. The New Development Bank must still make its first loan. Thus we are in the area of policy, of speculation and conjecture, of scenario building. Yet, it is worth our while to commence our examination now as the process rapidly unfolds.” conference addressed three interlinked themes:

· examining the impact that the BRICS initiative may have on the systems of multilevel government, and how, subnational governments may, in turn play an important role in the implementation of BRICS initiatives.

· looking at the impact that the BRICS initiative will have on intergovernmental fiscal relations, and the role that the New Development Bank may play in this regard.

· addressing the concrete question which is already on the BRICS agenda: metropolitan governance and urbanisation. In particular, how major cities as important subnational governments, and engines of economic growth, may play a crucial role in the BRICS domestic initiatives.

The conference was hosted by the University of the Western Cape in collaboration with the Financial and Finance Commission and the Human Science Research Council. Not only will the conference set the agenda for research on this aspect of the BRICS Partnership, but it will also establish a research network between the five countries on this topic. The conference proceeds will be published for distribution in the five member countries and elsewhere.