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Civil society – BRICS engagement: opportunities and challenges

The nature, scale and strength of civil society across the five BRICS countries vary greatly. While civil society is reasonably strong and visible in Brazil, India and South Africa, its nature and pattern is
considerably different in China and Russia. In addition, the democratic space for civil society, is relatively open in the first three BRICS countries, as compared to China and Russia. Therefore, civil society’s engagements with national policy-makers, political leaders and senior officials are very different in character across the BRICS

The paper aims to inform civil society about BRICS and initiate deliberations primarily amongst indigenous civil society from BRICS countries and with civil society from other developing countries (affected by BRICS’ agenda), with a view to exploring the relevance, scope and modalities of civil society engagement with BRICS. It considers the following questions:

  • does BRICS as an alliance of the ‘rising powers’ hold any promise to address the shared interests and concerns of civil society in these countries nationally and globally?
  • what does the collective BRICS represent in the emerging architecture of global governance? Should civil society take notice of its agenda and its implications on the citizens? Should civil society engage at all with BRICS?
  • if answers to these open ended questions are found in the affirmative, what should be the modalities and purposes of such engagements and what are the potential pitfalls?

The authors argue that it useful to recognise that networks of civil society in each of these five BRICS countries should come together to explore these questions of why to engage, what to engage and how to engage BRICS from their own national/domestic perspective.