Are informal coalitions good or bad? The case of IBSA

The twenty-first century is a century in which countries are increasingly seeking equal rights, which involve, for instance, the acknowledgement in their regional spheres of influence and their will for equal status within formal and informal international institutions.

Informal organizations, particularly IBSA, and their countries’ joint actions will be discussed below. It is believed that through these informal dialogues emerging countries can gain much more credibility as well as more power to influence other states internationally (like Keohane’s “system-Influencing States”). It is in these coalitions that dialogue becomes, in fact, real action – although asymmetries exist and should be overcome – and it is within them that emerging countries can independently and concurrently draw foreign policy plans based on their own restrictions.

The case of IBSA

“IBSA is a unique model of transnational Cooperation on a common political identity. Our three countries come from three different continents but share similar world views and aspirations. “Manmohan Singh.
The IBSA Forum is a grouping that brings together three multiethnic developing democracies, from three different continents (India, Brazil and South Africa), which have similar foreign policies. Although considered by the Brazilian government as the most successful mechanism of its foreign policy, it is still informal in its legal personality.

IBSA had its starting point in 2003, after the Brasilia Declaration, and it covers mainly three spheres of activity: i. policies coordination, ii. sectoral cooperation and iii. IBSA Fund.

Policies coordination can be translated by the Trilateral Joint Commission, which offers annual meetings held by the countries’ foreign ministers. The coordination between the three countries transcends IBSA and is therefore projected onto multilateral bodies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Council of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). In 2011, IBSA countries were represented in the occupation of non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council (UNSC). To exemplify their joint action, the group decided in 2010 to coordinate their vote towards Syria, opting for the cessation of violence and civil war in the country.

The sectoral cooperation aims to use the potential of the three countries for their own benefit, as a way to complement, to deepen mutual understanding, and to explore possibilities in the field of cooperation. IBSA has 16 working groups, which include those related to Public Administration, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Trade and Investment, Education, Environment and Climate Change, Transport, Tourism among others. It is through this cooperation that the countries can develop themselves, gaining a more prominent space in the international arena. Concrete examples of such cooperation can be described by the various forums, cultural events and seminars, such as the Small Business Forum and the Global Governance Forum.

About the IBSA Fund, which started in 2004, one can say that is a way for the three countries to show a bit of their soft power, since the Fund is dedicated exclusively to finance self-sustainable projects in poor or in post-conflict countries, and it is also dedicated to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, set out by the UN. The Fund is composed by equal donation from each member country ($ 1 million per year). According to the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations, the aid is based on the potential for reducing hunger and poverty in the world (in line with the priorities of the recipient country), in the use of available capacities of the IBSA countries, in their successful experiences, in the possibility that the initiative can be replicated, and, finally, in the realization of the project within 12 to 14 months.

IBSA proves to be a very ambitious coalition both in its operations and in their projects. If countries can cope positively with their challenges, this dialogue platform can continue to be very helpful for each country’s projection in the international arena.