The acronym "BRICs" was initially formulated in 2001 by economist Jim O'Neill, of Goldman Sachs, in a report on growth prospects for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – which together represented a significant share of the world's production and population.
In 2006, the four countries initiated a regular informal diplomatic coordination, with annual meetings of Foreign Ministers at the margins of the General Debate of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). This successful interaction led to the decision that the dialogue was to be carried out at the level of Heads of State and Government in annual Summits. As of the First Summit, held in Yekaterinburg in 2009, the depth and scope of the dialogue among the Members of BRICs – which became BRICS in 2011 with the inclusion of South Africa – was further enhanced. More than an acronym that identified countries emerging in the international economic order, BRICS became a new and promising political-diplomatic entity, far beyond the original concept tailored for the financial markets.
After the Yekaterinburg Summit, five annual Summits were held (Brasilia, 2010; Sanya, 2011; New Delhi, 2012; Durban, 2013; and Fortaleza, 2014). The leaders of the member countries have been holding at least one annual meeting. In Durban last year, the first cycle of Summits was completed, each member country having hosted a meeting of leaders. In this period, BRICS has evolved in an incremental manner, in areas of consensus amongst its members, strengthening its two main pillars: (i) coordination in multilateral fora, with a focus on economic and political governance; and (ii) cooperation between members.
Regarding the first pillar, the efforts towards reforming the structures of global governance, especially in the economic and financial fields – Financial G-20, International Monetary Fund, World Bank – receive a special emphasis, as well the reform of political institutions, such as the United Nations.
Intra-BRICS cooperation has also been gaining density: a broad agenda has been developed, comprising areas such as finance, agriculture, economy and trade, combating transnational crime, science and technology, health, education, corporate and academic dialogue and security, among others.
In that context, the financial sector receives a special focus as a new front of cooperation. At its 6th Summit, the BRICS established the New Development Bank, aimed at financing infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the BRICS and other developing countries. The new institution will count initially with a subscribed capital of US$ 50 billion.
Likewise, the BRICS also concluded the agreement that creates the Contingent Reserves Arrangement (CRA), a fund with an initial sum of US$ 100 billion, which the BRICS countries will be able to use to forestall short-term liquidity pressures. One of the objectives of the CRA is to contribute to international financial stability, by providing an additional line of defense to the BRICS.
The establishment of the Bank and the CRA conveyed a strong message on the willingness of BRICS members to deepen and consolidate their partnership in the economic-financial area.
The Fortaleza Summit launched a new cycle for the BRICS. Brazil will follow up on the initiative, aiming at incrementally increasing existing cooperation. The meeting's particular focus on social inclusion and sustainable development gave visibility to policies implemented by member countries, and to the contribution of the BRICS' economic growth to poverty reduction. The theme "inclusive growth, sustainable solutions" is not only in line with the member countries' social policies, but also highlights the need to tackle challenges in the social, economic and environmental fields, and creates new opportunities for the BRICS in different areas, including the negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.
For Brazil, BRICS has a special significance: it comprises four of the country's strategic partners, all of which have a strong regional leadership and growing participation in the global economy. Brazil is now in charge of the group's presidency, and will lead the implementation of the Plan of Action to be approved on the occasion. In view of BRICS' informal nature, the role of Secretariat is played by its pro tempore presidency. BRICS is cautiously and incrementally being consolidated, gradually moving forward the institution-building process.