Russian BRICS Presidency: models of engagement with international institutions

Russian BRICS Presidency: models of engagement with international institutions

Six years after the first summit in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, the BRICS grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa has established its identity as an informal global governance forum. The members have consistently consolidated their cooperation, expanded and deepened their agenda, coordinated their efforts aimed at the recovery and growth of their economies, and developed their engagement with other international organizations. This work continued during the Russian presidency in 2015.

This article focuses on one dimension of BRICS performance: its engagement with international organizations. There are at least three reasons defining the relevance of this analysis:
  • from its launch, the BRICS collectively pledged to build a multipolar, fair and democratic world order, which cannot be attained without cooperation with the key international organizations
  • the objective of enhancing sustainability, legitimacy and effectiveness of the global governance architecture defines the need for the summit institution to rely on a flexible combination of models of engagement with other international institutions
  • according to the concept note published by Russia on its BRICS presidency, one of its priorities was a transition to a qualitatively new level of engagement with international organizations.
The analytical framework for the study builds on the theory of rational choice institutionalism. The calculus approach fits the analysis of summit institutions bringing together states from a wide range of cultures, continents and economic development. Its distinctive features clearly apply to the analysis of the origin and performance of the BRICS. First, members act in a highly strategic manner to maximize the attainment of their priorities. Second, summitry presents an arrangement for strategic interaction among leaders to determine the political outcomes. Third, rational choice institutionalism offers the greatest analytical leverage to settings where consensus among actors accustomed to strategic action and of roughly equal standing is necessary to secure institutional changes – the features typical of summit institutions. Fourth, the institutions are created by the voluntary agreement of the respective countries’ leaders to perform specific functions and missions.

In order to maximize benefits from the new arrangement, the founders may choose to engage voluntarily with
existing institutions in a mode they regard as most efficient. The summit institution members’ choice of partners, modes and intensity of engagement is accepted to be strategic, intentional and voluntary, aiming to compensate for efficiency in their performance. The models of engagement are not mutually exclusive but coexist, with their choice dependent on the policy area and type of organization. The models of engagement with the other international organizations reflected in the leaders’ discourse indicate their place and role in the global governance architecture, imputed to them at their launch and subsequent evolution.

The study applies qualitative and quantitative methods. Drawing on the content analysis of the BRICS documents, the author tracks dynamics of BRICS engagement with multilateral organizations and main models of engagement, comparing them with the previous summits.
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