Establishing a BRICS-Civil Society Discussion Forum – Concept Note (South Africa, July 2014)

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In July 2014, the following Civil Society Organizations and Networks: South Africa Network on Inequality (SANI) at Economic Justice Network (EJN) of FOCCISA, South African Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS), Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), The Southern African Liaison Office (SALO), Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) and ActionAid SA (AASA) with support from Oxfam in South Africa, submitted a concept note to the South African Sherpa for establishing a BRICS – Civil Society Forum. The concept note was developed in response to the need for a formal space for civil society to participate in the BRICS Summits and influence its agenda. To address this need, the concept note proposes the establishment of a BRICS-Civil Society Forum that convenes every year in anticipation of the BRICS Summit that can serve as a platform for civil society from across BRICS countries to convene and discuss policies and issues, organize itself, conduct research, submit policy recommendations to BRICS sherpas, and engage with BRICS institutions.

Click here for the full draft concept note: 2nd Submission to DIRCO-SHERPA BRICS-CSO Concept Note

1. BACKGROUND

The establishment of Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa (BRICS) has brought about changes in the international balance of power. As indicated in the statement of BRICS leaders in 2009, this initiative would also seek solutions on national problems and support national objectives of the member countries. A key development in one of the Summits, were discussions and agreements by member states on sectoral co-operation between BRICS countries namely: science, technology, development, finance and energy. It was agreed that these areas of cooperation would serve as a catalyst for the economic development of most emerging economies in BRICS thereby addressing unemployment, poverty and inequality.  Since the emergence of BRICS, civil society in these countries has been preparing themselves to be able to contribute and influence discussions and decisions within this forum. This resulted in a number of civil society consultations held in India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Russia. Civil society has shown commitment in seeking to engage with BRICS in order to contribute towards the BRICS agenda and possibly reaching consensus on what the BRICS-CSO engagement should look like.

2. PURPOSE

To establish an institutional platform aimed at strengthening the role of Civil Society (CS) in the work of BRICS. This would see civil society’s contribution in the public policy making agenda and the development of related programs. The BRICS-Civil Society Forum will generate and disseminate knowledge, strengthen and build capacity of citizenry on BRICS, make policy submissions, coordinate amongst itself and liaise with the BRICS Think Tank, Business Council as well BRICS Sherpas on issues of common interest. Through joint consensus seeking process, BRICS-Civil Society will engage and and contribute in promoting the progressive realization of better development outcomes.

3. THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY WITHIN BRICS

  • To coordinate consultative meetings of Civil Society with the BRICS Sherpa and other BRICS related processes;
  • To identify and share expertise on various thematic issues to influence BRICS discussions pertaining to among others: public policy, poverty eradication, employment creation, eradication of inequality, climate change, education, health, infrastructure, economic development,  and domestic resource mobilisation.

4. DIRECT LINKAGES WITH COMMUNITIES-LOCAL EXPERTISE

Civil Society as a key stakeholder working in communities has a wealth of experience on social justice issues, most specifically in conducting research, capacity building initiatives, participating in national public dialogues and developmental processes, and knowledge sharing and exchange. To strengthen partnerships and engagements with citizens, BRICS-Civil Society recognises the added advantage it brings, especially as a convenor, development catalyst and policy advisor. Civil Society has successfully built relationships with Governments, organising side meetings alongside the BRICS Summits.

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