The academics met at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg under the aegis of the just-ended tenth BRICS Academic Forum.
South Africa, which holds the BRICS Chairship in 2018, set the agenda for this year’s forum, choosing to focus on the theme of envisioning inclusive development through a socially responsive economy.
“South Africa is not a poor country but an unjust one. It is up to us right those injustices,” commented Prof Ari Sitas, Chairman of the South African BRICS Think Tank.
The theme of injustice was particularly evident in the first panel which focused on gender and inequality in BRICS countries.
Gao Hao from the China delegation pointed out that inclusivity was not only beneficial for women but for the economy as well.
“Research shows that if gender equality and women’s empowerment are realised in most countries, the global gross domestic product bonus will reach US$28 trillion,” she said.
Obstacles to gender equality are significant. In Brazil, for example, women dedicate a high number of weekly hours to unpaid domestic work and care, reducing the number of hours they are able to invest in paid labour, explained Joana Mostafa from the Brazilian delegation.
She said a scheme to empower women – Bolsa Familia Conditional Cash Transfer programme -had seen considerable success in Brazil.
Thanks to the scheme, 48 percent of Bolsa women feel more financially independent and 38 percent feel more respected by their partners.
Another highlight was the discussion around how universal health coverage could be achieved in the BRICS countries.
Aquina Thulare, from the South African delegation, pointed out, for example, that of the 911 million instances of tuberculosis (TB) globally, 423 million happen in BRICS countries.
“We haven’t looked at the real causes of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB),” Thulare said.
André de Mello de Souza from Brazil said global pharmaceutical companies do not favour the BRICS manufacturing environment.
Strengthening education and science as well as promoting energy research also featured prominent at the BRICS Academic Forum.
Thaiane Oliveira from Brazil pointed out that while the combined scientific research output from BRICS countries was 1382, only 288 of these were open access.
She therefore urged that BRICS countries to invest in more open access platforms to improve the visibility of their scientific research.
Varun Sahni from the Indian delegation who pointed out that challenges such as climate change and water scarcity could not be solved by science and technology alone.
Jaya Josie of the South African delegation called for more innovative financing mechanisms to overcome current challenges to the uptake of green energy in BRICS.
Aparajit Pandey, a member of the Indian delegation, argued that international banking regulations suppressed financial flows of funding for climate change.
Ultimately, he called for BRICS countries must push for reform in global financial institutions.
BTTC will be submitting its full list of 20 recommendations along with those discussed during other panels at the Forum for the BRICS leader’s consideration.
“In the end a multitude of entities were proposed – centres, institutes, networks, platforms, programmes, hubs and committees, as well as a forum to monitor the implementation of the agreements within BRICS in order to identify urgent areas of necessary intervention,” Sitas concluded.
– CAJ News