By Anna Polo / Pressenza
A multipolar and heterogeneous world is certainly more interesting than one dominated by a single power, the United States, with Europe in tow. The recent enlargement of the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – with the admission of six other countries – Iran, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – however, raises some questions which are worth thinking about, without expecting to find all the answers right away.
Many of the points of the Declaration of the Johannesburg summit that has just ended are shared [by us] – for example the reform of the UN, the strengthening of disarmament and non-proliferation mechanisms, support for dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and a new approach to the external debt problem. Beyond the fine words, however, there is an approach based mainly on economic criteria and geopolitical balances, which does not question the capitalist and consumerist model responsible for the current disaster. When deciding on the admission of new members, the GDP seems to count more than other factors that, instead of the GDP, are fundamental for independent and nonviolent journalism like ours.
So let’s see the situation of various old and new countries belonging to the BRICS from the point of view of human rights, peace, disarmament, and the environment, i.e. some of the topics dearest to Pressenza.
In Egypt, there are over 60,000 political prisoners and arbitrary detentions. There is also torture, enforced disappearances, death sentences; the persecution of independent journalists and the repression of any dissent are the order of the day.
In Iran, the protests following the murder of the young Masha Amini were brutally repressed, leading to several death sentences after show trials. Here too, arrests (often of journalists, accused of documenting protests and abuses), torture, and enforced disappearances, not to mention discrimination against women and the persecution of gays and lesbians are widespread.
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Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy where human rights are systematically violated, freedom of expression is attacked and women are discriminated against by law. Here too there are unfair trials, arbitrary detentions and death sentences often imposed for simply participating in sit-ins and protests. With the bombings in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has also caused massacres of civilians and one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world.
In the UAE, consensual same-sex relationships between adults are criminalized and political dissidents are subjected to abuse, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment. Press freedom is hindered and limited by controls and bans.
In India, democracy is degenerating into an increasingly totalitarian form and aims to transform a multilingual and multireligious country into a monolithic entity dominated by a fanatical Hindu party. Protests and dissent are repressed and religious and ethnic minorities persecuted.
As of 2022, the NGO Reporters Without Borders ranks China as one of the ten countries in the world with the least freedom of the press.
In Russia, conscientious objectors and all those who refuse to participate in the war against Ukraine are persecuted, arrested and imprisoned.
Brazil, Argentina and South Africa are the only BRICS members to have abolished the death penalty.
Peace and disarmament
China invaded Tibet in 1950 and annexed it in 1959, bloodily suppressing the revolt of the population; a situation that continues today.
Russia has been carrying on an invasion war in Ukraine for over a year that has caused thousands of dead and wounded and terrible devastation, which is countered by an equally criminal warmongering policy by NATO, the European Union and the United States.
Currently, only Brazil and South Africa are among the 92 signatories and 68 states parties to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Among the remaining BRICS members India, Russia and China are nuclear powers with expanding arsenals.
The United States holds the record for oil production, followed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates; yet fossil fuels are among the main culprits of the increasingly looming climate crisis and their abandonment in favor of renewable energies is an unavoidable need.
The BRICS summit’s emphasis on the “global south” aiming to free itself from the inhuman oppression of the West was challenged by African, Asian, and Ukrainian activists meeting in Innes Park, also in Johannesburg, who said the bombastic statements conceal in reality projects of neo-colonialism. A striking example is the Chinese state with its private companies, committed to building a huge pipeline from northern Uganda to the coast of Tanzania, destroying entire communities in exchange for negligible compensation, or ready to extract oil from Lake Albert, thus threatening one of the major water resources.
Of course, many countries of the “Western bloc” can be accused of the same iniquities listed above – and in fact, we never fail to denounce them.
However, some fundamental questions remain: Where will the profound change that humanity – indeed, all living beings – need to survive and continue in their long evolution come from? From governments, or from movements? Or perhaps by governments under the pressure and stimulus of the social base and in particular of young activists, worried about a future that promises to be bleak, barring a radical change of course?
How to carry out an internal revolution, of mentality, values and behaviors, which leads to the definitive overcoming of violence against human beings and nature and to the construction of a Universal Human Nation?
Engaged for years in the field of peace and nonviolence, Anna Polo was part of the relations team of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence and later of World without wars and without violence. She currently participates in the Italian editorial staff of Pressenza and deals mainly with the topic of migration, publishing articles and interviews and organizing events.