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South Africa, BRICS, and Global Governance

Thursday, 1 June 2017 10:20am

Image of Philip Nel 2017A new working paper from Professor Philip Nel


Since the dawn of a democratic order in South Africa in the early 1990s, the country has had the ambition to play an important role in shaping global governance. Right from the start, though, there were ambiguities and tensions in this ambition. While embracing liberal globalization, South Africa at the same time also tried to exercise issue leadership in a range of global governance venues in order to promote the interests of developing countries, and in particular of Africa. Closer cooperation with and eventual membership of BRICS gave further impetus to South Africa’s desire to be a regional leader and global player, but has shifted its overall orientation away from embracing liberalism to the promotion of more developmental-state and “sovereignist” approaches. This shift was not due solely to BRICS membership, as it has been brewing in policy discussions and domestic political debates in South Africa since the mid 2000s. However, BRICS membership clearly coincided with its consolidation. This contribution traces this evolution in South Africa’s orientation by looking at the factors that made South Africa attractive to the other BRICs, and how BRICS membership coincided with a marked shift in South Africa’s domestic development approach and in its orientation to and behaviour in global governance. It also assesses this evolution by raising the question of whether South Africa has become more or less of an
inclusive social order.

Read the full article here.

Professor Philip Nel
Department of Politics
University of Otago
Dunedin, New Zealand