IBSA is a unique Forum which brings together India, Brazil and South Africa, three large democracies and major economies from three different continents, facing similar challenges. All three countries are developing, pluralistic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious nations.
The idea of establishing IBSA was discussed at a meeting between the then Prime Minister of India and the then Presidents of Brazil and South Africa in Evian on 2 June 2003 on the margins of the G-8 Summit. The grouping was formalized and named the IBSA Dialogue Forum when the Foreign Ministers of the three countries met in Brasilia on 6 June 2003 and issued the Brasilia Declaration.
Cooperation in IBSA is on three fronts: first, as a forum for consultation and coordination on global and regional political issues, such as, the reform of the global institutions of political and economic governance, WTO/Doha Development Agenda, climate change, terrorism etc.; second, trilateral collaboration on concrete areas/projects, through fourteen working groups and six People-to-People Forums, for the common benefit of three countries; and third, assisting other developing countries by taking up projects in the latter through IBSA Fund.
The success of IBSA reflects an important demonstration effect. It demonstrates, most vividly, the desirability and feasibility of South-South cooperation beyond the conventional areas of exchange of experts and training. IBSA success in contributing to the discourse on global issues also shows the importance of engaging with the countries of the South.
Joint Working Groups
Joint Working Groups to promote sectoral cooperation have been established. There are 14 Joint Working Groups in areas, Transport; Health; Education; Defence; Science & Technology; Trade & Investment; Culture; Agriculture; Energy; Public Administration and Governance, Revenue Administration, Human Settlement, Environment and Social Development. These Working Groups meet as per their respective plans.
There are six People-to-People Forums under IBSA. These are Parliamentary Forum, Women’s Forum, Academic Forum, Local Governance Forum, Business Forum, and Editors’ Forum. There is also a Tri-nation Forum on MSME.
Senior Officials from the Foreign Offices of the three countries dealing with IBSA are the designated Focal Points; Secretary (West), assisted by Joint Secretary (MER), Ministry of External Affairs, is the IBSA Focal Point for India. Focal Points meet once a year for a standalone meeting and also meet prior to the Trilateral Commission.
The Brasilia Declaration established a Trilateral Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers. The Commission meets regularly; the first meeting of the Trilateral Commission was held in New Delhi on 4 – 5 March 2004. The 7th meeting of the Commission was also held in New Delhi on 8th March 2011; 8th Meeting is due in South Africa. In addition, Foreign Ministers meet regularly before every IBSA Summit as well as on the sidelines of UNGA in New York.
An innovative work of IBSA is the establishment of the IBSA Facility Fund for Alleviation of Poverty and Hunger through which development projects are executed with IBSA funding in fellow developing countries. An annual amount of US $ 1 million is contributed by each IBSA member country. IBSA Fund received the 2010 MDG Award for South-South cooperation on 17 September 2010 in New York recognizing the work of the three countries in using innovative approaches to share development experiences in other parts of the world.
IBSA projects cover Haiti, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Burundi, Palestine, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Sierra Leone. A sports complex has been completed and inaugurated in 2011 in Ramallah under the IBSA Fund.
IBSA Business Forum
An IBSA Business Forum was launched in Cape Town in March 2005. From India, CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM are represented on the Council; CII coordinates India’s participation.