BRICS foreign ministers hold virtual meeting; discuss Covid-19 challenge

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday highlighted the key principles guiding the five-nation grouping BRICS and referred to international law and the UN Charter that recognises the sovereign equality of all states, and respects their territorial integrity.

In his address at a virtual ministerial meeting of BRICS, Jaishankar said desired change can be achieved only by conducting policies in accordance with these principles.

The meeting was attended by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi South African Minister of International Relations Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, and Brazil Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franco. India hosted it in its capacity as the chair of BRICS — Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa.

For the first time, BRICS foreign ministers have agreed on a common, standalone joint statement on reforming the multilateral system. They have also agreed that such reform has to cover all key multilateral institutions, including the UN and its principal organs (UN Security Council, General Assembly, ECOSOC, the Secretariat, etc); international financial architecture (IMF, World Bank); multilateral trading system (WTO, UNCTAD); and the global health governance system with the WHO at its core.

In particular, BRICS ministers agreed to instil new life in the discussions on reform of UN Security Council. They also agreed to a set of six principles that should guide the reform of multilateral institutions, sources said.

In his opening remarks, Jaishankar said BRICS has come a long way from the first time its foreign ministers met in New York in 2006 but the principles that guide the grouping remained consistent over the years.

“We strive for a fair, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multipolar international system. It is one based on international law and the UN Charter, that recognises the sovereign equality of all States, and respects their territorial integrity while displaying mutual respect for interests and concerns of all,” he said.

Wang expressed solidarity with India as it has been dealing with a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. “In these trying times, China stands in solidarity with India and all BRICS countries,” he said.

Pandor spoke about the proposal by South Africa and India at the WTO seeking a patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines. “South Africa and India submitted a proposal to the WTO for a temporary waiver of certain aspects of TRIPS to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines, for treatment and diagnostics,” she said.

Lavrov expressed Russia’s solidarity with India in its fight against the pandemic.

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