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How Much Weight Do The BRICS Really Have?

Bricks for new walls?
Bricks for new walls?
Pierre Haski


PARIS — The late 1990s anti-globalization movement that protested against summits like the World Trade Organization in Seattle and G8 in Genoa used the slogan: "Another world is possible." Is this "other world" now being constructed before our eyes by the BRICS, as the emerging countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have come to be known?

In early July, the leaders of these countries held a summit in Ufa, Russia. It was the seventh such gathering for the BRICS, which is looking more and more like a legitimate parallel world organisation and less like the simple acronymn first coined by a Goldman Sachs analyst.

The BRICS group, which represents 40% of the world's population and 20% of its GDP across three continents, is the first attempt at creating alternative authorities to the West since the fall of the Soviet bloc and the Berlin Wall.

It has its own annual summits, will have its own non-dollar-dependent development bank by early 2016, and is even linked militarily through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a "cousin" organziation launched in the mid 1990s by Moscow and Beijing. The SCO ties together all of central Asia and India. It also includes Iran, which has observer state status.

"The BRICS and the SCO work hand-in-hand to go further," reads a recent headline of the People's Daily, the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. The SCO had its own summit in Ufa, held immediately after the BRICS gathering.

Even though they undeniably form a bloc meant to thwart Western, and especially U.S., influence over major instituions such as the IMF and World Bank, the BRICS nations are by no means a homogenous entity. While member states Brazil and India have bonafide democracies, Russia and China are under the thumb of different shades of authoritarian regimes.

Room to breathe

In economic terms, the BRICS all have market economies that are more or less controlled. As such, the countries can easily step on each other's toes and create conflict, espeically given the heavy protectionism in place in China and Brazil.

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Rousseff (Brazi), Modi (India), Putin (Russia), Xi (China) and Zuma. (S. Africa) Photo: Kremlin

Still, the emergence of the BRICS does serve as a counterbalance to the all-powerful United States. Russian leader Vladimir Putin, for example, has been able to lean on his "friend" Xi Jinping of China for relief from the asphyxating economing sanctions applied by the West since the Ukrainian crisis. The soon-to-be world power China, in turn, sees this group as a way to breach what is sees as a Cold War-like containment policy carried out by the U.S.

Military cooperation between BRICS states, furthermore, could be the only alternative to NATO, which has dramatically expanded its zone of action since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Despite their limitations, contradictions and weaknesses, the BRICS do affect international power relations — and in a way that does not favor the U.S. The group is not, however, following the same Cold War logic of bloc versus bloc. Nor is it creating "another world" in terms of models and values. If "another world is possible," as the Seattle protesters insisted, it won't be the BRICS that bring it about.

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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