BRICS+ Is A Polyhedron, Pope Francis’s Favorite Image

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 pope francis   geopolitics   evangelii gaudium  

by Victor Gaetan*

Numerous multilateral organizations sprang up after World War II, all with one center—the United States. The World Bank and International Fund were created in 1944 to stabilize the postwar global economy. The United Nations was founded a year later, idealistically, to secure world peace and security.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), military alliance formed in 1949 to counter the Soviet Block. In 1961, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) united 38 countries dedicated to liberal trade regimes. The Group of Seven (G-7) was an organized response to the oil shock of 1975; the Group of 20 (G-20) emerged in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis.

Over the last 75 years, no multilateral organization has challenged the post-World War II U.S. centric order. Until now, with BRICS+.

The geo-political and economic alliance known as BRICS after its original founders—Brazil, Russia, India, and China forged a bond in 2006, adding South Africa in 2010—is expanding. Four new members joined this year: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and United Arab Emirates (UAE). (Saudi Arabia is still mulling over an invitation, according to Reuters news agency)

Who Benefits from BRICs+ and de-dollarization?

BRICS+ is a powerful alliance with a combined population of about 3.5 billion, or 45% of everyone living on earth. It controls 30% of the world’s oil (while the US controls 2.1%).
The BBC estimates the enlarged group comprises about 28% of the global economy. However, members feel marginalized by Western powers that control traditional multilateral organizations.

As explained to Al Jazeera by Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s ambassador to BRICS, the Global South is “on the margins and outliers in terms of global decision-making…You have almost a system of apartheid where the minority decides for the majority, and that’s still the situation on the world stage today.”

Sooklal said BRICS’ goal is “a more inclusive, multipolar global community.”

At last August’s annual summit in Johannesburg, on the agenda (besides discussing new applicants, which numbered around 40 countries seeking admission was how the alliance could reduce global dependence on the dollar.

Already, members are negotiating more trade deals in national currencies not the dollar. Russia trades with India in rupees; the majority of trade between Russia and China is denominated in either rubles or yuan. Last summer, UAE agreed to accept rupees from India for trade transactions, a change which saves India money by eliminating costs related to dollar conversion. Egypt might be new to the group, but its foreign ministry is already urging member states to trade in national currency. Iran, too, has quickly taken up this theme.

In an interview with Fides News Agency, Brazilian-born international analyst, Roberto Alverez, confirmed that de-dollarization is economically and politically motivated (as countries resent financial control by Western institutions): “A friend who was at the African Import-Export Bank put together a platform helping 52 countries trade in local currencies. The bank estimated that $5 billion is saved a year! So de-dollarization has a very pragmatic aspect. It is about saving cash. Economies that are cash deprived will do anything to save money.”

Brazil’s economy is strongly tied to the dollar (over 80% of its foreign reserves are held in U.S. currency), yet on his first official visit to China, last year, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva publicly declared, “Every night I ask myself why all countries have to base their trade on the dollar. Why can’t we do trade based on our own currencies?”

The New Development Bank, Climate Change and Sustainable Development
Lula was visiting the Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB), one of BRICS tangible accomplishments. It was set up in 2015 to provide financing to projects in member and non-member countries especially related to infrastructure and sustainable development.

Rajasthan, India, the country’s largest state, has an extremely dry climate, coping with frequent droughts and aging irrigation systems. The NDB invested $345 million USD to restore a crucial canal system, built in the late 1950s, which dramatically increased water availability. The project was designed to support water conservation and crop diversification as well. The Rajasthan project is a good example of NDB priorities.

Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil and a close ally of Lula, was appointed NDB’s president last spring and will serve through July 2025. In her first address she confirmed, “NDB is a bank built by and for developing countries, where the voices of all member countries are equally heard,” a remark suggesting these countries are not heard by traditional players in international finance.

Rousseff also made clear NDB’s commitment to climate change goals: “We support the national strategies of the Bank’s member countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by financing renewable energy, green and resilient infrastructure, aiming at low-carbon growth.”

Rousseff was Brazil’s president, 2011-2016, so she helped create the NDB. Although she left office under duress, impeached on complicated corruption charges, Pope Francis defended her last year, calling her, “A woman of clean hands, an excellent woman.” The Holy Father suggested both Rousseff and Lula were victims of “lawfare,” the use of media and legal proceedings to target political opponents.

More Like a Polyhedron?

Besides appreciating the NDB president, the bank, as an enterprise, has characteristics sure to appeal to the Holy Father. It is openly committed to projects that benefit the environment, projects that are self-sustaining because they are beneficial.

As well, BRICS+ defies regional and cultural boundaries: the expansion brings together countries from many regions (Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East) and diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, namely, Catholic (Brazil), Orthodox (Ethiopia and Russia), Hindu (India), Confucian (China), and Muslim (Egypt, Iran, and UAE).

It is a collaborative response to an international system that has become highly punitive, as economic sanctions are deployed as weapons of political war.

Alvarez pointed out that BRICS+ allows Brazil, for example, to help African countries in a structured way, thereby satisfying a Catholic impulse and a sense of historic debt to African slaves who built the country’s wealth. (Slaves were brought to Brazil from Africa to work on sugar cane plantations. Most of the country’s wealth was based on slavery.)

Alvarez explained that Brazil was a net importer of food in the 1970s but is now the world’s largest agricultural net exporter. The dramatic reversal, mainly since 2000, is explained by agricultural research that increased yields, big investment in production technology, and expansion of the arable land base.

“Brazilian companies are acquainted with operating in emerging environments and can transfer specific, relevant technical knowhow. Engagement with Africa satisfies humanistic values and allows both sides to make money together,” he said.

“We constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all,” wrote the Holy Father in Evangelii Gaudium. It’s an Apostolic Exhortation that includes a marvelous image of global unity, in which each culture maintains its autonomy while contributing to the whole:

Here our model is not the sphere, which is no greater than its parts, where every point is equidistant from the centre, and there are no differences between them. Instead, it is the polyhedron, which reflects the convergence of all its parts, each of which preserves its distinctiveness. Pastoral and political activity alike seek to gather in this polyhedron the best of each. There is a place for the poor and their culture, their aspirations and their potential. Even people who can be considered dubious on account of their errors have something to offer which must not be overlooked. It is the convergence of peoples who, within the universal order, maintain their own individuality; it is the sum total of persons within a society which pursues the common good, which truly has a place for everyone.” (#235-236)

BRICS+ embodies a multipolar world, in which national difference enhances unity. It is an experiment to watch. The next BRICS+ annual summit will be held in in Kazan, Russia in October. Jacques Sapir, a French economist, expects Algeria, Tanzania, and Indonesia to be among the new countries asked to join the fast-growing alliance. (Agenzia Fides, 27/2/2024)

*Victor Gaetan is a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Register, focusing on international issues. He also writes for Foreign Affairs magazine and contributed to Catholic News Service. He is the author of the book God’s Diplomats: Pope Francis, Vatican Diplomacy, and America’s Armageddon (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021) published in paperback in July 2023. Visit his website at