Q4/2019 - Brazilian BRICS Presidency
BRICS Summit, Brasília, 14 November 2019
The 11th Summit of the BRICS countries took place on 14 November 2019 in Brasília. Despite substantial differences of opinion between the five presidents (Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Cyrus Ramaphosa, Jair Balsonaro), the loose alliance of the five countries, which was founded at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, is a helpful instrument for coordinating national policies in numerous areas. In the meantime, a network with hundreds of BRICS events every year and more than a dozen new BRICS institutions has emerged, although the results created by this cooperation have not yet had a lasting effect. Uniform larger initiatives to solve global problems are still rather rare. This is also true for the two topics cyber security and digital economy, which were once again on the agenda at the BRICS Summit in Brasília. But the descriptions of the alliance given in the “Brasilia Declaration” of 14 November 2019 are very general and more bureaucratic than substantial.
As to the issue of cyber security, the Brasilia Declaration confirms the wording already agreed at the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on 26 July 2019 in Rio de Janeiro. Like their foreign ministers, the five heads of government share the opinion that the UN should assume a more important role:
- The Declaration explicitly welcomes the activities of the OEWG and the UNGGE6 and points out the potential for synergies of the two processes. No reference is made any more to the project of drafting a UN cyber security convention (or a code of conduct), as was advocated only a few year ago. This may also be due to the recently started negotiations within the OEWG and the UNGGE.
- The process initiated by Russia to draft a cybercrime convention under the auspices of the United Nations is supported.
- Russia’s proposal to conclude a separate plurilateral agreement on cyber security exclusively between the five BRICS countries did not meet with approval. Brasilia suggested a network of bilateral agreements as an alternative solution. However, here too little concrete progress is seen.
- There was no response to the Russian proposal suggesting that the BRICS states join the project designed to create a separate root for the Internet. The Brasilia Declaration does not even mention the issue. It only refers to the activities of the “BRICS Working Group on Security in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies (WGSICT)”, which, however, are not very transparent, and to the “BRICS Roadmap of Practical Cooperation on Ensuring Security in the Use of ICTs”, which does not make any mention of a separate BRICS root.
A second focus was on the digital economy. Preparatory work on this issue was done by the 7th BRICS Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and the 5th BRICS Communication Ministers’ Meeting.
One of the concrete results of these meetings is the formation of an “iBRICS Network“ as part of the BRICS Innovation Action Plan, which is designed to foster the cooperation between the five countries. A “BRICS-STI Steering Committee” shall coordinate the work.
Between 2016 and 2019 at total of 91 research projects involving 3400 researchers from all five BRICS countries were promoted. The total sum of the project funding, however, is not mentioned.
The formation of the “Council of the BRICS Institute of Future Networks Council” (BIFN) was welcomed. The first branch of the decentralised BIFN was opened in August 2019 in China.
It is further planned to establish a new “Digital BRICS Task Force” (DBTF) which is to take over a coordinating role in this field. The DBTF would also be responsible for the PARTNIR Initiative, which emerged from the South African BRICS Presidency 2018. The main task of the PARTNIR Initiative is to develop a potential solution for the five BRICS states how to approach the challenges of the New Industrial Revolution (NIR), as they call it. The 2nd meeting of the PARTNIR Advisory Group was held in Brasília in September 2019. It is planned to establish a BRICS network of science parks, innovation centers and technology business incubators under this program
On 1 January the BRICS presidency will pass on from Brazil to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already announced that cyber security and digital economy will be two focal issues at the 12th BRICS Summit . The Summit is scheduled for 21 to 23 July in St. Petersburg. In addition, the Russian BRICS Presidency will focus on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. In this context, Putin is planning to launch an initiative to combat Nazi propaganda that will include the Internet. The aim is to strengthen and boost the knowledge of historical facts concerning the outbreak and the course of World War II.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
In 2020, Russia will also hold the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is closely related to BRICS. The priorities Russia has defined for the BRICS presidency apply mutatis mutandis for the SCO presidency. For the first time, the summits of the SCO and of BRICS will take place at the same time. It was already announced that the SCO Summit is going to adopt a special statement on cyber security. The SCO experts had agreed to draft such document at a meeting in Moscow on 11 November 2019 chaired by Russia’s Internet ambassador Andrey Krutskikh. Krutskikh represents Russia both at the UNGGE6 and the OEWG. The Moscow SCO meeting reaffirmed the SCO states’ stance that the UN should take ion a more central role with regard to cyber security and Internet governance issues. The SCO states further confirm Russia’s initiative to draft a new UN convention to combat cyber crime.
Russia’s initiative to establish a separate (“unplugged”) Internet root has not yet been supported by any of the BRICS or SCO countries.
After Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had signed the “Sovereign Internet Law” adopted by the Russian Duma in April 2019, the law became effective on 1 November 2019. In mid-December the first test was performed. Russia’s Ministry of Communication rated the test successful. According to them, the Internet users in Russia did not notice anything of the compartmentalisation measures. With the so-called “Sovereign RuNet” the government of Russia wants to become independent of the global Internet and be prepared in case Russia is unplugged from the global Internet as a result of US sanctions. According to the Russian Deputy Minister of Communications Alexey Sokolov the “Sovereign RuNet” is going to reduce negative influences from outside the country and reduces the vulnerability of Russian systems, e.g. in the context of the Internet of Things.
Cyber sovereignty and data localisation have been one of the priorities of Russia’s digital policy for years. Current law in Russia forbids, for instance, to sell a smartphone without preinstalled Russian software. Moreover, it is planned to create a separate Russian version of Wikipedia. Those who criticise the law see a risk of increased state control and monitoring of the Internet in Russia. They fear that Russian Internet policy, which has been fairly liberal until now, might increasingly follow the example of China.