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Understanding the Emerging Rising Powers: G20 and BRICS Acting in whose interests?
Organised by Economic Justice Network (EJN), University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society (CCS), groundWork (gW), South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)

and South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS)
15th November 2012
Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI), Tshwane University of Technology Ground Floor, Metro Skinner Campus
159 Skinner Street, Pretoria

While widening inequality, extremely high unemployment rates, destruction of the social and environment fabric, corruption and the rise of a repressive security apparatus are

reaching epidemic levels in South Africa, the government is nevertheless often hailed as a crucial player in global economic governance. South Africa is member of the Group of

Twenty Countries (G20) a self-appointed group of the world’s most powerful countries, established after the G8 lost legitimacy, in order to address the global finance crisis.

Last year, South Africa was added to the BRICS grouping – joining Brazil, Russia, India and China – and plays a strong role in other formations of the same countries such IBSA

economic cooperation network and the BASIC climate negotiations group.

In these forums, the leading emerging economies’ governments do not address the root of our global crisis, which is the economic growth paradigm based on wealth accumulation,

consumerism, for-profit logic and rampant resource extraction. Instead, they act on the economic self-interest of their largest corporations and state agencies. Therefore,

BRICS tends to contribute rather than to solve the planetary ecological, climate, food, energy, finance crises.

South Africa is Africa’s sole representative within these self-appointed economic forums, co-chairs the G20 Development Working Group, and may attempt to host a BRICS

‘development bank’. While the G20 claims it will address food security, human resource development, trade, private investment, domestic resource mobilisation and knowledge

sharing, in order to generate links between infrastructure and ‘inclusive green growth,’ most evidence is that this agenda confirms existing trends. For example, a key function

of the G20 is address global economic governance, which should entail reforming the international financial architecture, closing tax secrecy jurisdictions and halting transfer

pricing, but decades of advocacy for fairer globalisation have had no success. As Durban learned in hosting the COP17 climate summit last December, the multilateral system for

solving our biggest problems is sabotaged by the most powerful forces in the world economy.

It is overdue to ask hard questions: is the G20 making in-roads into international financial regulatory oversight and reforming the global financial architecture, or is the

world financial just as anarchic and dangerous as ever? What measures are the G20 proposing to ensure greater accountability of MNCs and the super wealthy and end tax havens,

given the influence of these forces in controlling G20 governments? Can we rely on the G20 to come up with transformative solutions or will they merely tinker with symptoms of

the crisis? Since the G20 is incubator for expanding the neoliberal dogma and new strategies of capitalist expansion, such as the ‘Green Economy’ and ‘Payment for Ecosystem

Services’, more forceful critical watchdogging is required.

Regarding BRICS, South Africa’s economy is relatively small compared to its counterparts, yet corporations with a Johannesburg identity have a significant stake in the African

continent. Although these firms may have been founded in South Africa, most moved during the 1990s to relist in London, Melbourne and New York. What was formerly Gencor, for

example, is now BHP Billiton, the world’s largest resource company.

South Africa will host the BRICS Summit on 26-27 March 2013. There will be apparently be a new BRICS Development Bank – in contrast to the Bank of the South proposed by

Venezuela and Ecuador – and this will aim at financing infrastructure development oriented to neo-colonial extraction patterns, under the rubric of a supposed South-South

development strategy based on equality, mutual development and cooperation. In reality, thanks to the re-legitimisation of the Washington Consensus and export-led growth, partly

thanks to BRICS interventions (such as the $100 billion recapitalisation of the IMF in mid-2012), African countries are in a race to the bottom to attract investment, providing

huge tax incentives, leasing large tract of land to investors, offering mining rights and providing infrastructure and the policing of labour – as witnessed in Marikana in

August on behalf of Lonmin. This process, especially of China’s extractive infrastructure investments, has raised the question: are BRICS’ corporate and parastatal

investments any different to Northern counterparts?

The Economic Justice Network, South Africa Forum for International Solidarity, and three Durban organisations – the Centre for Civil Society, groundWork and the South Durban

Community Environmental Alliance – are organising a critical discussion and strategy meeting with other like-minded, progressive civil society organisations, academics, and

research institutes to enhance our understanding of the political economy of the G20 and BRICS. We are especially conscious of South Africa’s economic self-interest, the role of

Pretoria in continental geopolitics, and the overarching problem of neoliberal ideology. We note and welcome the rise in local struggles against mining, land grabbing,

inappropriate infrastructure, and the impacts of exploitative investments, tax avoidance and corruption catalyzed by transnational corporations. We aim to strengthen our

analysis, link struggles and join forces while building an alternative to the dominant model.

We aim to use November 15 to strategise our engagement, organisation and response to the G20 and BRICS, beginning with a week of actions to welcome the BRICS Summit next March.

This will include a counter-summit, a community-based teach-in, mobilizations, ongoing research and analysis, media outreach, common messaging, and linkage with other like-

minded campaigns and initiatives at the national, regional, intra-BRICS and international level. We aim to connect the dots between community, gender, labour, environmental,

anti-racism/xenophobia, youth, disability and many other struggles for justice.

Please RSVP to Phindi Siwela on or 021 424 9563 by Monday the 5 November 2013.

For more information please contact:
Sipho Mthathi, SAFIS,
Michelle Pressend, EJN,
Patrick Bond, CCS,

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