One of many discussion points during the recent BRICS summit in South Africa was more involvement of the bloc in peacekeeping.
Putting the concept forward, International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, a former defence minister, told a briefing the BRICS leaders recognised the importance of UN peacekeeping for the maintenance of international peace and security.
She added the leaders of the BRICS nations – Michel Temer (Brazil), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Narendra Modi (India), Xi Jinping (China) and Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) – acknowledged the need to increase BRICS’ co-operation on peacekeeping.
In this regard the South African initiative to create a BRICS working group on peacekeeping was recognised. South Africa, Sisulu told a media briefing “could pursue the creation of the working group by facilitating agreement on guidelines for the creation of the working group”.
Looking at the overall picture presented by Minister Sisulu, military analyst Helmoed Heitman said Brazil and India are both regular force contributors to UN peace support operations (PSOs).
“Contributions from China and Russia have been miniscule compared to the size of their forces and, in the case of Russia, also the size of its economy.
“It is good to see them say PSOs are important but it would be better to see a pro rata contribution. Even Brazil could do more,” he said, adding any step up in contributions would be welcome.
He is not fully in agreement with Minister Sisulu’s thinking on a BRICS working group.
“Surely, the relevant discussions are better held at the UN or in the AU, with the EU funding what the UN doesn’t.”
Heitman sees talking peacekeeping in the BRICS bloc “not doing any harm and might do some good”.
As far as South Africa’s contribution to peace support operations is concerned, he said the country “does not do well” when compared to some other African countries.
“We are playing well below what would be a reasonable level for our economy and certainly doing far less than we should be if we want to be one of the movers and shakers in Africa and speak for Africa.
“But then, of course, we are short of troops and have no airlift, so it is difficult to do anything much more than what we are doing now. A clear case of government disconnect between what role it sees for South Africa and wants the country to play, the regional/continental security contribution that role would demand if we want to be taken at all seriously and the funding government provides for defence.”