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A new forum for the developing world

On October 18, I will have the pleasure of returning to South Africa to join President Thabo Mbeki and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Tshwane. We will meet for the second summit of the India-Brazil-South Africa Forum (IBSA) to design strategies and formulate proposals in response to the concerns and aspirations that unite the three leading democracies of the developing world.

On the basis of a suggestion first aired by President Mbeki, India, Brazil, and South Africa have decided to give South-South cooperation a powerful push. This is our answer to an international world order riddled with inequality and clearly unable to deal with urgent issues of development and collective security.

In the face of the combined menace of global terrorism, persistent poverty, and spreading environmental degradation and disease, we propose more cooperation and more solidarity.

We agree that the first step should be closer coordination among our three emerging economies of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Together, we can give countries of the South a more forceful voice on critical issues


Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee (left) with South African Foreign Minister N. Dlamini Zuma and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim at a meeting of the IBSA initiative in New York last month.

 dominating the global agenda.

We advocate greater democracy in international decision-making. We wish to see stronger multilateral institutions and wide-ranging reform of the United Nations.

The support we have received for our joint stake to become permanent members of the Security Council underscores the credibility of our candidacy.

The challenge of fostering international peace and security will only be met if we arrive at enduring solutions to poverty and ensure sustainable growth. The invitation extended to us to take part in the G8 Outreach Mechanism only confirms what we have argued all along: developing countries can no longer be excluded from this critical debate.

Our continued joint action through the G20 is crucial if we are to put an end to longstanding distortions in international trade and agriculture that are inimical to the legitimate aspirations of poorer nations.

Environmental concerns are making headlines. That is why this year IBSA will be focusing on the question of sustainable growth. We are devising strategies to ensure that the concepts coming out of the Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg conferences - in particular the notion of shared but differentiated responsibilities - remain the guiding principles for international action against climate change.

Our three countries are parties to the International Forum on Biofuels, an initiative at the forefront of efforts to bring together environmental protection and energy security. Making access to new energy sources more democratic is our answer to the worldwide trend towards higher energy prices and growing scarcity of fossil fuels.

We wish to see our countries’ strengths in the fields of agriculture, trade, technology, and energy translated into meaningful initiatives in the cause of South-South solidarity. The combined resources of our pharmaceutical industries should be put at the service of countries, particularly in Africa, that are highly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other devastating pandemic diseases.

Through the IBSA Fund for Alleviation of Hunger and Poverty, triangular cooperation projects are helping countries such as Guinea-Bissau and Haiti back on to the path of national reconciliation and economic reconstruction. The powerful symbolism of this gesture has been recognised by the U.N.’s decision to confer on IBSA the South-South Partnership Award.

Our ambitions stretch beyond our three countries. We seek to bring together widely flung regions: Southern Africa, South America and the Indian subcontinent. We are working on a trilateral free trade agreement among Mercosul, the Southern Africa Customs Union, and India. Our wish is to make South-South trade a driving force of self-sustaining and sovereign development.

Our nations have responded successfully to the opportunities stemming from globalisation for increased trade and investment among developing countries. This is all the more important as South-South commerce is increasingly centred on technologically sophisticated goods with high added value that generate quality jobs.

This helps explain why Brazil’s trade with India topped $2.4 billion last year, a five-fold increase since 2000. Over the same period, the flow of goods with South Africa has tripled to $1.7 billion. We can do much more. The business event taking place alongside the IBSA Summit will no doubt help identify some of the new opportunities waiting to be grasped.

India, Brazil, and South Africa are determined to see IBSA continue to grow and mature, for this forum gives expression to some of our best hopes for a better world.

In this endeavour, we will seek to engage civil society and encourage the private sector. IBSA shortens distances, bringing peoples and continents together. Above all, it fosters a vision of the future guided by a fundamental sense of global solidarity.

I have always felt inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s and Nelson Mandela’s teachings and actions in the cause of strategic forbearance and non-violent resistance. This, I believe, is the struggle we must wage for a fairer and more peace-loving world. The IBSA is here to stay.

The writer is the President of Brazil

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