BRICS and Global Governance: Will the Grouping be able to Reform the United Nations Security Council?

AuthorFrancesco Petrone
Published date01 July 2021
Date01 July 2021
Subject MatterResearch Articles
International Studies
58(3) 363 –379 2021
© 2021 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00208817211029409
Research Article
BRICS and Global
Governance: Will the
Grouping be able to
Reform the United
Nations Security Council?
Francesco Petrone1
This article analyses the role played by the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South
Africa (BRICS) countries within the context of the reform of international
institutions, in primis the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In recent
years, the new emerging powers, among which the BRICS occupy a central
position, have instigated a paradigm shift in international relations and global
governance (GG). Furthermore, some scholars argue that the BRICS could
inaugurate a new world order. Since the United Nations (UN) is one of the
institutions in which these changes need to be more broadly reflected due to
its global projection, it is doubtful if the BRICS will be able to bring about its
reform. In fact, several debates were conducted about the need to reform the
UN and, in particular, the Security Council (SC). In order to do this, the article
examines the interests of the BRICS countries, within the group itself, and their
vision for the UNSC. Only a common vision within the group could have specific
effects in reforming the UNSC, thus giving a new shape to GG, which may not be
possible. There are several obstacles from within the BRICS itself in this regard,
despite the fact that during their summits, they have repeatedly called for the
UN reforms.
BRICS, global governance, UNSC, global order, international institutions
1 Universidad de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
Corresponding author:
Francesco Petrone, Universidad de Barcelona, Barcelona 08001, Spain.
364 International Studies 58(3)
In recent years, the role played by international institutions in the context of global
governance (GG) has often been among the main topics of discussion by scholars.
The institutions that emerged after World War II (above all the UN) and Bretton
Woods meetings in 1944—the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World
Bank (WB)—were created to maintain and guarantee an international equilibrium.
Currently, the international framework is undergoing continuous evolution, and a
number of issues that concern us closely have arisen within it (such as climate
change, migration, international security, financial crisis, etc.). Thus, while the
original mission of these institutions was the maintenance of an international
equilibrium, we often witness their inability to tackle current problems, thus
highlighting their limitations. Despite these institutions having tried to act as
forums to debate and take action on global issues, in practice, they have very often
been criticized for not being able to do so.
Broadly speaking, they have been criticized because they represent an
international system through which Western powers, led by the USA, have
dominated (Stiglitz, 2002). Using the excuse of maintaining the balance of power
in a globalized world, the victors of World War II, which promoted a liberal global
order, were able to act with almost complete impunity by imposing their decisions
through these institutions. In the case of the UN, this imbalance has undermined
‘its effectiveness and capacity to represent adequately the aspirations of “we, the
peoples”—the opening words of the UN Charter—particularly in the global
South’ (Abdenur & Weiss, 2014).
Western powers have been able to take advantage of their pre-eminence for
several reasons: in part because of an asymmetric voting system (Weisbrot &
Johnston, 2016) but also because of the greater amount of funding that they provide
to these institutions (IMF, 2020). In this sense, Western countries became the major
funders and, consequently, those with the greatest decision-making weight.
This system continued until important global changes occurred. Among these,
the rise of the new emerging powers that today can decisively influence the
international system. There are many examples in this regard: such as the
increasing weight these emerging powers play in the regional context (e.g., Brazil
in South America or China in Asia), as well as the enormous influence that some
of them, like China, are having globally.
In this article, we consider the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
(BRICS) group as the main example of an emerging group that has the means to
influence the global system. There are also other emerging powers (such as Turkey,
Mexico, Indonesia, etc.), but we consider the BRICS as the most uniquely capable
bloc (at the moment), which could represent an attempt to build an alternative model
to the current system (Duggan, 2015; Stuenkel, 2016; Thakur, 2014; Xinhua, 2017).
Since they made their appearance within the global framework, the declared goal
of the BRICS has been to reshape GG. In particular, their aim has been to shape GG
so as to reflect the (changed) current international system. In it, they stated, there is
now not only one centre of power, the USA, which many authors consider to be ‘in
crisis’ (Acharya, 2014), but other centres that are demanding that their voices be

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