A two-day long People’s Forum on BRICS kick started today at the Xavier’s Centre for Historical Research, Alto Porvorim Goa.
The opening plenary, chaired by renowned women’s rights and environmentalist activist Norma Alvares, saw eminent social movement leaders from the BRICS region addressing a gathering of over five hundred people from at least 10 countries around the world.
Several speakers recounted and emphasised on the fact that BRICS was formed to challenge the imperialistic and hegemonic nature of institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. When the five countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa came together to form BRICS, it was done with an intent to bring about social justice and equity in these countries that was home to over 50% of the world’s population.
Yet, even as the governments of these nations come together for their 8th Summit in Goa, it is a matter of serious concern that BRICS is following a path that is opposed to its foundational principles by increasingly aligning with capitalist and imperialists forces of the world.
Speaking in the opening plenary that deliberated on the CRISES THAT PEOPLE FACE – WHAT IS BRICS’ RESPONSE? – noted Indian activist Medha Patkar commented that BRICS has failed to challenge the hegemony of imperialist states. She accused that in all these countries, private corporations are increasingly taking control of democratic institutions and overriding people’s participation in crucial decision-making processes. BRICS has done little to advance social justice and equity in these countries. She reminded the audience that India, despite being the largest democracy in the world, is also a sight where the poorest and the most marginalized people are continuing their struggle for social justice, dignity and identity. People have been kept outside of the decisions that are taken on their behalf for their development she accused.
Mincing no words, she accused BRICS of turning into a Free Market Ploy, that serves the interest of big capital. BRICS is no more interested in the annihilation of caste or in the welfare of its people, she said. The question of gender equality and justice is not a priority for BRICS anymore. Even if the governments of BRICS nations have started co-opting the language of the civil society and social movements during Summits like these, they end up as just words and are never implemented once the summit is over. It is fast turning into an institution that serves the interests of the elites in developing countries.
Most of the speakers, who spoke at the event emphasised on the need to build solidarities of communities in the BRICS countries and the need for the civil society in these countries to set a people’s agenda that can overcome the consumerist and destructive agendas of capital.
Maria Luisa Belo, representing the feminist movement in Brazil, spoke about the threat that democracies across the world are facing today. She also commented on the overturn of democracy and the coup orchestrated by the country’s elites and imperialists countries. The new government that came through the coup has already taken anti-people measures, she said. Maria, in her speech, read out the demand of the feminist movements in Brazil that is calling upon the world’s institutions, including BRICS, to come up with a people’s agenda to defeat patriarchy and poverty. She emphasised on the need to build an alliance of social movements in all these countries to make this a possibility.
Trevor Ngwane, who led several workers’ struggles in South Africa and also an academic, recounted the extreme levels of inequality that exists in the South African Society. He called for a pan -African unity and expressed his doubts over South Africa representing the voice of Africa all by itself.
Dorothy Guerrero, while commenting on China spoke about the urban-rural divide that exists in the country. She rued the steps taken by the Chinese authorities in curtailing migration from the rural to urban, while doing little to improve the country side. She spoke about the increasing corporate control over people’s resources – leading to massive protests by people in the countryside, led mostly by the peasants. Yet, the news of such resistances rarely make it to the global media.
Several people’s representatives from Goa also made presentations at the end of the plenary, which included, Sabina Martis, Caroline Collaso, Fr. Maverick, Favita Dias and Thalmann Pereira. Most of them spoke about the massive loot of natural resources that is taking place in Goa. They also spoke about the negative impact of corporate led tourism on small businesses in Goa and the ecological damages being inflicted. The speakers also pointed out at the atrocities being committed on women, Dalits and Adivasis in the state, while attempting to appropriate resources.
Soon after the opening plenary, the assembly held several simultaneous workshops that addressed issues of Food Sovereignty Nutritional and Agrarian Crisis, The Nuclear Power Push in BRICS countries, Parliamentary Oversight on New Development Bank and IFIs, Palestine: Building solidarities in BRICS, BRICS banks – and what does it mean to people, Energy Democracy and Labour Perspectives, Corporate Loot of Natural Resources and Alternatives from BRICS countries.
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