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Brazil, China and other “emerging” nations want to take the lead on aid and development

The group of nations known (by wonks anyway) as BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are fast moving away from being recipients of foreign assistance and toward taking a more active role as donors, drivers of aid and development.

It’s worth paying attention to this shift, what’s driving it and the broader implications beginning with the prediction that the U.S. will soon be second to China as a world economic power. These ‘development’ issues may soon be viewed less as charitable America sending help overseas and more about assuring that a globalized world doesn’t simply increase inequities everywhere.

BRICS 2011 meeting in China

At this group’s recent summit meeting in New Delhi, these countries which now represent half the world’s population said they want more of a say in how the world fights poverty, reduces inequities and who gets to make the decisions. As the Mail & Guardian online reported, the BRICS are reshaping a reluctant world order partly out of anger at the West’s historic dominance:

The BRICS grouping’s political clout has grown with its importance to the world economy and the latest summit declared its intention to set up (its own) development bank.

This idea of these ’emerging economies’ setting up their own World Bank or International Monetary Fund appears unlikely to succeed, the Mail & Guardian concludes. But what’s more important is to recognize that there is a new world order on the horizon.

Kel Currah at the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog notes:

While these countries’ contributions don’t come close to matching the aid from Western donors, the report finds these countries’ shift from dependency to donors is occurring with startling speed….  (adding that Bill) Gates identified the need for donor countries to remain the core of external financing for development and to increase the effectiveness of their aid.

But development isn’t just about who pays for what or just about responding to poverty by donating food, resources or talent to solve specific problems. Most experts recognized that fighting global inequity has to include fighting injustice, political cronyism, corruption and human rights abuses.

As academic business expert Doug Guthrie writes in Forbes about China and its human rights record:

China must decide whether it will continue to cleave to the narrow policies of a developing nation, too weak and fearful to claim the higher ideals of human rights, or will it evolve to be a global leader that respects civil liberties and disavows the thuggish tactics of a less advanced nation.

It isn’t just China that has such problems, of course. Russia’s got its own issues and India’s neglect of its massive number of poor people has already been judged by some as bordering on human rights abuse.

The BRICS are building, emerging as leaders in the international dialogue on how to make a better world. You should pay attention to this because it will continue to dramatically change the way the world works. But among their first steps as new leaders, the BRICS — other than creating their own international development institutions — should be dealing with inequity and injustice at home.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.