The VII BRICS Academic Forum was held on 22-23 May in Moscow as part of Russia's BRICS Presidency. It was organised by the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research led by its executive director, Georgy Toloraya. The forum was attended by over 160 delegates from Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa, including leading representatives from national expert coordination centres and research, education and public organisations.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education and Chairman of the Board of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research, addressed the opening ceremony of the forum on 22 May. He spoke about the initial stage in the BRICS history and its achievements in the nine years since its establishment. He also told the forum about the group's development strategy, which will be presented at the BRICS summit in Ufa.
"BRICS has the opportunity to become an example of a new model of global relations that will not be based on the East-West and North-South division lines, because their participants will respect each other's national identities and will not interfere in each other's internal affairs," Mr Nikonov said.
Sergei Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister and the Russian BRICS Sherpa, said: "We are confident that the documents adopted at the Ufa summit will be a new landmark in the group's development."
Konstantin Kosachyov, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, spoke about the development of a BRICS parliamentary dimension. He said the group had barely started developing in the humanitarian sphere, which is one of the key priorities of Russia's BRICS Presidency, and recalled that this year BRICS youth and civil society forums would be held on the sidelines of the UFA summit.
The sessions of the BRICS Academic Forum focused on a wide range of issues such as international law, peace and security, the role of international institutions, a reform of the international financial system and the future of new BRICS financial institutions, social challenges, trade, new economic cooperation priorities of BRICS countries and comprehensive development of the group.
On 22 May, First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Alexander Zhukov met with the heads of foreign delegations. They discussed the future political, economic and cultural cooperation of BRICS countries.
Mr Zhukov said it was significant that the Academic Forum was held ahead of the Ufa summit and that the BRICS parliamentary dimension has good potential.
After their sessions, the forum participants met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who spoke highly about the contribution of the research and expert community to the further development and improvement of BRICS. Mr Lavrov said that the five-member group can only achieve its goals through the concerted efforts of the member countries' diplomats and scientists concerned with various aspects of BRICS.
The VII Academic Forum continued its work on 23 May with discussions of security issues, new threats, challenges and opportunities for BRICS, culture, science and education as drivers for enhanced cooperation within BRICS, enlargement and outreach, perception and opportunities for managing BRICS' image and several other issues.
An analytical report titled The Long-Term Vision for BRICS Countries was presented at the final session. During discussions that followed the report, Georgy Toloraya pointed out that the BRICS expert community would propose a roadmap on the group's development to BRICS governments.
Zhou Yuyun, Deputy General Director of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Council of the China Centre for Contemporary World Studies, said: "We are like the five fingers of a hand. Five fingers make a fist. But we are not going to hit anyone with this fist; instead, we are taking a constructive stance for promoting our interests."
Olive Shisana, President and CEO of the South African Human Sciences Research Council, said that BRICS has a strong long-term perspective.