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The Foreign Ministers of Brazil,Russia, India, China and South Africa – also known as the BRICS countries – on Tuesday called for reforming and re-invigorating multilateral fora like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the World Health Organisation to strengthen their ability to tackle twenty-first century challenges.

Meeting virtually under the chairmanship of India, the BRICS countries also laid out a list of changes that would make these institutions examples of effective and representative multilateralism. Given the covid-19 pandemic, the need to have effective multilateralism was no more an “abstract ideal" but “an essential tool for ensuring successful governance of matters of everyday life," a standalone joint statement on the subject said. This is being seen as other countries in the BRICS grouping moving closer to India’s position on the need for reformed multilateralism.

Among those attending the meeting hosted by Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar were Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Ambassador Carlos Alberto Franco França, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov and the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor.

India is the current chair of BRICS and the meeting of the foreign ministers is expected to pave the way for a summit of BRICS leaders in September.

The joint statement also said that the BRICS ministers “stressed the need to promote initiatives aimed at ensuring timely, affordable, and equitable access to, as well as the distribution of diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines, and essential health products and technologies," to tackle the covid-19 pandemic. This comes against the backdrop of India and South Africa jointly moving a proposal at the WTO for a waiver of patents controlling the production of covid-19 vaccines and drugs. South Africa’s Pandor had referred to the joint proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for waiver of patent protections for covid-19 vaccines, in her opening remarks.

“The Ministers reaffirmed the need to use all relevant measures during the pandemic, including supporting ongoing consideration in WTO on a covid-19 vaccine Intellectual Property Rights waiver and the use of flexibilities of the TRIPS agreement," to make covid-19 vaccines available to all, the statement said.

“They also reiterated the need for sharing of vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities and supply chains for medical products, promotion of price transparency and called for exercise of due restraint in the implementation of measures that could hinder the flow of vaccines, health products and essential inputs," the statement said.

On reforming institutions, the joint statement said that “instruments of global governance" should be made more “inclusive, representative and participatory to facilitate greater and more meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries, especially Africa, in global decision-making." Institutions should be based on “inclusive consultation and collaboration for the benefit of all, while respecting sovereign independence, equality, mutual legitimate interests and concerns to make the multilateral organizations more responsive, effective, transparent and credible."

“Multilateral organizations should be “more responsive, effective, transparent, democratic, objective, action-oriented, solution-oriented and credible, so as to promote cooperation," the statement said adding there should be innovative and inclusive solutions “to promote sustainable development and facilitate affordable and equitable access to global public goods for all."

On strengthening the international financial architecture, BRICS foreign ministers agreed to the “broadening and strengthening the participation of emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs) in the international economic decision-making and norm-setting processes, especially in the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic."

“The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to a strong Global Financial Safety Net with a quota-based and adequately resourced IMF at its center and expressed their deep disappointment at the failure in addressing the quota and governance reforms," the statement said.

To improve global economic governance, seen as a key for a quick economic turn around in the post covid-19 world, BRICS ministers “reaffirmed their support for a transparent, rules-based, open, inclusive and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization at its core," the joint statement said.

It was important to recognize that “the majority of the WTO members are developing countries," the statement said adding that “It is critical that all WTO members avoid unilateral and protectionist measures that run counter to the spirit and rules of the WTO." The ministers also “emphasized the primary importance of ensuring the restoration and preservation of the normal functioning of a two-stage WTO Dispute Settlement system, including the expeditious appointment of all Appellate Body members," it said.

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