The BRICS and the Arab Uprisings, 2011-20Download this article in PDF format
How have the BRICS countries responded to the changes unfolding in the Middle East since 2011? What insights can be gained by their reaction to the region’s conflicts over the past decade? Doing so is relevant since it moves analysis of the BRICS beyond their initial economic association to questions of global governance and regional security. The Arab uprisings were notable because they began at a time when all five BRICS countries were on the UN Security Council (UNSC) and therefore at the forefront of the international community’s response to the emerging crisis and subsequent challenges. Drawing on a study of individual behaviour by the BRICS countries alongside collective statements from the group, the study reveals that despite some variations between the authoritarians (Russia, China) and democracies among the BRICS, the five all broadly embraced the principles of state sovereignty and non-intervention. In practice, this meant that they were more inclined towards the regimes over their populations and demands for social change. Overall, though, it was the authoritarians who had the most lasting regional impact. In addition to greater Russian activism in Syria and Libya, the authoritarians benefited from structural factors, including their permanent UNSC membership and China’s preponderant position in the global economy.