IBSA: Challenges of social progress for Brazil, India, South Africa

by Dave

IBSA – “A people’s project”
The Japan Times Online

Governments from the South are assuming leading roles in decisions on global issues such as climate change, health governance, trade regimes, and water and food security. Complementing the new economic and geopolitical importance of the developing world is the rapid pace of South-South investment, cooperation and trade.

Meanwhile, bilateral trade between Brazil and India is expected to surpass $6 billion by the end of the year, according to the Brazil-India Chamber of Commerce. However, these three large countries face enormous challenges of meeting the aspirations of their populations, many of whom are hungry and poor.

 But economic growth is not sufficient for the public, which demands social equity because of the history of colonial rule in India, apartheid in South Africa and military rule in Brazil. Therefore, policymakers face the arduous task of tackling long-prevailing social ills that have often propelled the political system and led to the energetic involvement of civil society organizations.

While the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) was launched in June 2003 to push for the countries’ attempts to get into the U.N. Security Council, attention has shifted over time toward development and economic reform. The most recent IBSA gatherings have revealed a staunch commitment to issues related to the fields of technology and renewable energy.

Brazil’s social policies have been successful as they are based on background research, successful innovative targeting and shrewd combination of programs. For instance, Zero Hunger works in close conjunction with Bolsa Escuela and under the umbrella of Bolsa Familia, thus providing a combination of social polices that tackle hunger, education, health and empowerment.

These countries’ membership in the Group of 20 provides them with an opportunity to shift their focus on international economic governance from macro-issues — particularly the misalignment of interest rates and exchange rates among the Group of Seven nations to development for the poor — so that greater progress can be made in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. They can push for reform of the institutions currently in charge of international economic governance — not merely to increase the voting shares of developing countries but, more importantly, to reform policies supported by these institutions.

The three democracies face similar challenges of tackling poverty and deprivation. The problem before Brazil and South Africa is more severe as economic growth has been slower than in India. Their experience shows the crucial importance of civil society in the design and execution of programs directed toward the poor. The three countries can extend cooperation beyond multilateral trade negotiations into the areas of finance and provision of services.

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