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Dhruv Singhal asked: What benefit does an organisation like BRICS bring for India in ensuring food security and countering health related risks?

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  • Chithra Purushothaman replies: Non-traditional security issues facing developing countries including food security and health challenges, all of which require a coordinated international response to arrive at both short-term and long-term solutions, are of high priority for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries. Comprising more than 42 per cent of the global population, the BRICS countries have been fighting against hunger and undernourishment for several decades.

    In this regard, the BRICS countries are committed to creating a level playing field for all the countries, which is possible only by improving market access to developing countries, eliminating trade-distorting subsidies in developed countries, and improving global market conditions. It is noteworthy that the BRICS countries had welcomed the outcomes of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) High-Level Conference on World Food Security held in Rome in 2008, as well as the World Grain Forum held at St. Petersburg in 2009 and Sochi in 2016.

    As for India benefitting in terms of food security as a member state of BRICS, it may be mentioned that India had sought the assistance of other member states to meet the shortfall in the production of pulses and oilseeds. During the 2016 BRICS Agricultural Ministers’ Meeting held in New Delhi, the member states agreed to promote the production of pulses. In 2016-17, India also earmarked Rs.1100 crore for cultivation of pulses, out of Rs. 1700 crore meant for the National Food Security Mission (NFSM). The BRICS countries have also agreed to establish a BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP), which was proposed by India during the 2015 BRICS Summit held at Ufa in Russia, to promote strategic cooperation in agriculture among the member states. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish ARP in India has already been signed and approved.

    Even though the BRICS countries have registered good economic growth, they are facing a significant increase in non-communicable diseases as well as rising health inequality. In the 3rd BRICS Summit held in Sanya, China in 2011, a BRICS Health Ministers’ Forum was constituted in an effort to build a sustainable and inclusive health agenda. Various thematic areas including the ‘Framework for Collaboration on Strategic Projects in Health’ have been identified for cooperation among the BRICS countries in health sector. To improve regulatory standards, certification and systems for medical products, a MoU was signed between the drug regulatory authorities of the BRICS countries during the 6th BRICS Health Ministers’ Meeting held in New Delhi. India, along with China, is a pioneer in manufacturing low-cost medicines and vaccines. Both countries have been playing a constructive role in making medicines accessible to the developing countries around the world. Inter-BRICS health cooperation is gaining momentum and could be considered as a major platform for these countries to share their experiences with the Global South.

    Even though there is a lack of uniform approach towards food security and countering health-related risks, these emerging economies have made progress in poverty alleviation and have made significant contributions to the global health sector and are helping developing countries of the Global South in tackling both hunger and lack of access to medicines.

    Posted on May 15, 2019