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It is highly symbolic that BRICS is returning to Africa in 2018 which marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, a prominent political and public figure of a global scale. A true son of the South African nation, he dedicated all his life to the fight against apartheid and rightfully became a key figure in the national reconciliation process in South Africa. We will always be grateful to him for his great personal contribution to the establishment of friendly relations between our two countries that have now reached a high level of a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Our Group is a unique example of building partnerships between States that differ greatly in terms of culture and civilization. And this is exactly why it is so strong and united. The cooperation between the five countries is based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, as well as strict consideration of each other's interests. BRICS countries represent a major stabilizing factor promoting sound multilateral initiatives in global affairs.
I am convinced that BRICS can be proud of the fact that it is a successor in interstate relations of the Wise Madiba's work. The five countries advance the same principles that Nelson Mandela stood up for – equality, dignity and justice – when forming constructive and equitable polycentric pattern of international relations.
We welcome the active and highly effective work done by South Africa at the helm of the Group in 2018. Led by Pretoria, our countries managed to significantly enhance the multifaceted strategic partnership, make qualitative and quantitative leaps in all three major pillars of intra-BRICS cooperation: policy and security, economy and finance, culture and humanitarian exchanges. Our South African friends have succeeded in strengthening successive, consistent, sustainable and continuous interaction between the five States. This serves as a foundation for the steady development of BRICS.
Russia supports fully BRICS priority areas of action proposed by South Africa for this year. The crosscutting issue of the Chairship – launching partnership on the Fourth Industrial Revolution – is of high relevance for us since it is in line with Russia's state programmes on digital economy development.
We welcome special attention paid by Pretoria to Africa-related issues in the work of BRICS. This area of work is becoming increasingly important for the Russian foreign policy as well. Russia has significantly contributed to decolonization processes and the rise of new independent States on the continent. We support further strengthening of the sovereignty of African countries, their independent choice of the way of development while preserving national distinctiveness. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most dynamically developing region of the planet which plays a key role in world mineral and hydrocarbon markets, a broad and rapid-growing consumer market, and one of the most attractive investment areas.
BRICS-Africa Partnership that was launched during South Africa's 2013 BRICS Chairship is steadily developing. During the Johannesburg Summit a special outreach session will be held with the participation of the heads of States presiding over regional organizations of the continent in order to focus on its most relevant issues.
We welcome the decision of the BRICS Chair to invite to Johannesburg other friends of the five countries from around the world representing authoritative integration associations. This is the practical implementation of the «BRICS plus» initiative approved by our leaders during the Xiamen Summit. Thus we expand the global reach of the Group and establish the outer circle of like-minded countries. In this regard, BRICS has good potential to become a unique platform for linking various integration processes in a flexible way.
The attractiveness of the «Big Five» to third countries is explained by the fact that they are open to constructive cooperation and share universal values. I am referring to the impeccable respect for the United Nations Charter and basic principles of international law, including sovereign equality of States, commitment to the UN central role and inpisibility of security. We do not accept double standards, military interventions, unilateral coercive economic measures, protectionism and unfair competition. We stand in solidarity that the use of military force to solve international problems is unacceptable. We defend the foundations of an open, inclusive, equitable, transparent and mutually beneficial multilateral trade system with the WTO at its core.
Russia consistently advocates a greater coordination of the five BRICS countries within major international platforms, such as the UN, G20, WTO, IMF, World Bank, as well as other multilateral organizations and fora. When the States of the Group speak up in a strong and unified voice about the core issues of global politics and economy, this voice is heard by other States as well. Consolidation of our efforts is a key to ensuring world stability and a way to settle serious conflicts.
BRICS successfully promotes cooperation in international politics, in particular on such issues as terrorism, drug threat and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Russia pays particular attention to strengthening cooperation in international information security, including the development of a relevant intergovernmental agreement between the five countries. Our country aims to increase joint efforts with partners against the use of ICT for terrorist or other unlawful purposes.
BRICS economic and financial cooperation remains the most active area of development. Over the past two years significant progress has been made in the establishment of the fully operational New Development Bank (NDB). The pipeline of approved investment projects in the BRICS countries is now more than USD 5,1 billion and can exceed USD 18 billion by 2021. We expect that the NDB Africa Regional Center established last year will make an important contribution to financing initiatives in South Africa.
Among other economic achievements of the five BRICS countries, it is worth mentioning the establishment of the mechanism of the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and the launch of a practical dialogue on mutual payments in national currencies. We expect that new initiatives to enhance interaction in the field of energy research and female entrepreneurship will also be made, adding value to the practical results of South Africa's Chairship.
Interaction within the so-called «third basket» of intra-BRICS cooperation, which includes humanitarian issues, looks promising. South Africa gives priority to this area. The work to implement the Agreement between the Governments of the BRICS States on Cooperation in the Field of Culture and the Action Plan to promote practical cultural interaction is underway. The BRICS Games, Film Festival, Civil and Academic Fora, events with the participation of young diplomats, scientists, and representatives of the friendship cities have taken place so far this year.
We note that the Johannesburg Summit is properly prepared and has an intense programme. We are confident in its success. We expect that it will have a special «milestone» character. The anniversary meeting of the leaders is intended not only to confirm the BRICS countries' commitment to further strengthening of the full-fledged strategic partnership, but also to determine the key priorities of the «Big Five» activities for years to come.
Building of the Russian Embassy in Kingston