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[1].  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[2].

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[3]

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[4].



    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[5]. Those who criticise the law see a risk of increased state control and monitoring of the Internet in Russia[6]. They fear that Russian Internet policy, which has been fairly liberal until now, might increasingly follow the example of China.

    Mehr zum Thema
    1. [1] Media statement – Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Rio de Janeiro, 26. Juli, 2019, in: http://www.itamaraty.gov.br/en/press-releases/20673-media-statement-meeting-of-the-brics-ministers-of-foreign-affairs-international-relations-rio-de-janeiro-july-26-2019
    2. [2] Brasília Declaration, 11th BRICS Summit, Brasília, Brazil, 14. November 2019: „18. We underscore the importance of an open, secure, peaceful, stable, accessible and non-discriminatory environment for information and communications technologies (ICTs). We emphasize the importance of universally agreed norms, rules and principles, under the auspices of the UN, for the responsible behavior of States in the realm of ICTs, and uphold the centrality of the United Nations in their development. In this connection, we welcome the establishment of a UN open-ended working group on this matter, as well as the launch of a new edition of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE). While supporting both mechanisms, we underline that the dual-track process can provide complementarity and synergies in the international efforts in this matter. 19. We reaffirm our commitment to tackling the misuse of ICTs for criminal and terrorist activities. New challenges and threats in this respect require international cooperation, including through discussions on possible frameworks of cooperation, among which a UN universal binding regulatory instrument on the criminal use of ICTs. We recognize the progress made by the BRICS countries in promoting cooperation through the Working Group on Security in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies (WGSICT), which approved its revised Terms of Reference, and through the BRICS Roadmap of Practical Cooperation on Ensuring Security in the Use of ICTs. Bearing in mind previous BRICS Summits, we reaffirm the importance of establishing legal frameworks of cooperation among BRICS member States on ensuring security in the use of ICTs and acknowledge the work of the WGSICT towards consideration and elaboration of proposals on this matter. We take note of both the proposal by Russia on a BRICS intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on ensuring security in the use of ICTs and of the Brazilian initiative towards bilateral agreements among BRICS countries on the matter“, in: http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/docs/191114-brasilia.html
    3. [3] Brasília Declaration, 11th BRICS Summit, Brasília, Brazil, 14. November 2019: „ 52. We highlight the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) as one of the main drivers of economic growth as well as a key element to shape the future of our societies. We welcome the results of the 7th Meeting of the BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Ministers and cooperation initiatives which have been fostering collaboration among researchers, young scientists and government bodies and bringing closer together our innovation ecosystems. We express satisfaction at the results achieved by the Innovation Action Plan, such as the creation of the iBRICS Network. We welcome the new BRICS STI Architecture aimed at streamlining and intensifying STI joint activities, to be implemented through the BRICS STI Steering Committee. 53. We welcome the outcomes of the 5th Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Communication. We will continue to strengthen joint activities among BRICS countries, create new cooperation opportunities and expand and intensify partnerships already in progress including taking necessary steps for early setting up of the Digital BRICS Task Force (DBTF). We note with appreciation the outcome of the first meeting of the BRICS Institute of Future Networks (BIFN) Council. 54. We recognize the New Industrial Revolution (NIR) as a critical development opportunity from which all countries must benefit equally, while acknowledging the challenges it brings. We note with satisfaction the progress in the implementation of the Johannesburg Summit decision to commence the full operationalization of PartNIR. We also welcome the adoption of the PartNIR Work Plan and the Terms of References of PartNIR Advisory Group. We will continue to take mutually beneficial initiatives in the six cooperation areas identified in the Work Plan, as agreed at the BRICS 2nd PartNIR meeting held in Brasilia in September 2019, including establishing BRICS industrial and science parks, innovation centers, technology business incubators and enterprises network.“ In:
    4. [4] Press release on the results of the meeting of the SCO Expert Group on International Information Security, Moskau, 12. November 2019: „On November 12, Moscow hosted a regular meeting of the SCO Expert Group on International Information Security. Ambassador at Large of the Foreign Ministry and Special Presidential Representative for International Cooperation in Information Security Andrey Krutskikh chaired the meeting…. The sides discussed the most topical matters of multilateral and regional cooperation on international information security between SCO member states. They agreed to further coordinate their positions on international information security and internet governance within the UN, as well as at other key specialised international venues and forums. They reaffirmed their readiness to jointly advance draft Russian resolutions of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, namely, Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security and Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes, by SCO member states at the UN General Assembly. The sides noted the importance of further strengthening collaboration in order to maintain international information security under the relevant 2009 inter-governmental agreement. For these purposes, they discussed a draft joint statement by the SCO heads of state in this area, due to be adopted after the SCO Heads of State Council (HSC) Meeting in 2020“, in:
    5. [5] Russia 'successfully tests' its unplugged internet, BBC London, in: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50902496
    6. [6] Siehe: Robert Coalsen, Explainer: Russia Takes A Big Step Toward The 'Internyet', 1. November 2019: „For average Russian Internet users, not much will change immediately. The law itself states that compliance with some of its provisions begins in 2021. „After the law was passed, it became clear that they also needed to adopt more than 30 normative acts on implementing it," Aleksandr Isavnin, an analyst with the Internet-freedom advocacy group Roskomsvoboda, told RFE/RL. "Some of them have already been adopted but they were quite vaguely written…. Others that were in the process of being drafted were rejected on purely bureaucratic grounds. The law will not come into full effect precisely on November 1," he concluded, and many of its effects will depend on the exact wording of the normative acts. Over the longer term, Russian Internet users can expect higher costs, slower access speeds, and fewer provider options.“ Russia, Isavnin noted, has about 8,000 registered Internet service providers (ISPs), some 5,000 of which are active at any given time. "Of course, this situation doesn't please those in the government who love total control, who love to be in charge," he said. "It is much more difficult to control 5,000 providers than two or three or four – or one, like they have in Syria." ISPs have warned that compliance with the law will result in higher costs and slower services. "Russian operators will have to spend much more to secure access to the Internet than other operators do," Isavnin said. "And all this is necessary in order to, in one way or another, limit Russian citizens’ access to information. It isn't just censorship – it is censorship that Russians themselves must pay for. That's the saddest part." Government estimates put the ultimate cost of the legislation at between 20 billion and 30 billion rubles (3 million to 0 million). Roskomnadzor announced in late September that it would begin conducting a test of the new system in the Urals Federal District over the rest of 2019. Activists and analysts will be monitoring the region to see if there are noticeable reductions in access speeds or Internet reliability.“ in: https://www.rferl.org/a/explainer-russia-sovereign-internet-law-censorship-runet/30248442.html