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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Role of Civil Society in BRICS’ Success

On 30 June, Moscow hosted the second day of the Civil BRICS Forum, including the plenary session "Invigoration Through Deeper Cooperation: Civil Society for BRICS Success".

Anna Popova, Head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor), delivered a report on the BRICS countries' contribution to global health security.

Ms Popova said BRICS countries should expand cooperation while developing and manufacturing various systems and methods for the prevention, diagnostics and treatment of infectious diseases. She also called on BRICS countries to jointly reduce the risks of infectious diseases.

The consumer watchdog head also stressed that Russia and other BRICS countries should pool efforts to reduce HIV treatment costs. In this, they could be guided by the experience of Brazil, where a 12 month HIV treatment costs under $100. "Cooperation and joint efforts are highly important. Reducing the cost of treatment is vitally important: Brazil has managed to bring down the cost of a 12 month HIV treatment to under $100, and it is precisely this parameter that should now be studied, promoted and introduced," Ms Popova said.

On the second day of the Civil BRICS Forum, delegates raised the issues of gender inequality, gender discrimination in the economic sphere, in the areas of employment and decision-making. Yelena Topoleva-Soldunova, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, said representatives of BRICS civil societies called on national governments to pay attention to this problem, which is highly relevant for virtually all BRICS countries. Moreover, forum participants suggested establishing a common media resource for exchanging experience. They also suggested establishing national commissions on the issue of inequality and to actively involve third-sector organisations in the provision of social services.

Ms Topoleva-Soldunova noted that Russia has achieved better results than Brazil or South Africa in terms of fighting poverty and housing problems, but that its parliament had far fewer women than other BRICS parliaments.

Cultural cooperation issues were raised on the second day of the forum discussion. Mikhail Lermontov, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Civic Chamber's Commission for Culture, Art, Creative, Cultural and Historical Heritage and Head of the Moscow Civic Chamber's Commission on Culture, noted that cultural cooperation between BRICS countries created an opportunity to search for new shared meanings and values.

"Our discussion aims to lay the foundation of the cultural environment where BRICS countries would feel comfortable. We have moved over to the atmosphere of trust proceeding from cultural relations and ethical principles that the sides accept. We are currently considering the best practices from each country," he said. Mr Lermontov added that representatives of BRICS civil societies could formulate ethical principles on which cultural, economic and interstate development could be based.

The forum participants did not focus on cultural cooperation alone. Representatives of BRICS civil societies suggested establishing an interstate tax agency and to stop the use of tax havens, thus minimising tax evasion schemes. Unfair taxation is the main problem of the population's economic inequality, Ms Topoleva-Soldunova said.