The BRICS and the Global Human Rights Regime: Is an Alternative Norms Regime in Our Future?

Lucas D. Rivers


Since the end of World War II, the ‘West’ has enjoyed economic and ideological dominance in the international arena due to institutions built around favorable multilateral agreements.  This position has allowed the ‘West’ to craft an international system rooted within the individualistic norms of democracy and capitalism.  However, the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] – a global unit of states with increasing economic power – views this international system as unfair.  Accordingly, these states have increased their cooperation to advocate for a developmental-multipolar world order.  But what implications does this shared interest by the BRICS have on the existing global human rights regime?  Will these countries’ strong emphasis on the “right to development” undermine prevailing human rights norms?  Could the BRICS challenge the current norms regime with an alternative one focused on development?  Concentrating on the existing labor regime, this paper will examine how China, the self-proclaimed leader of the developing states, employs the “right to development” as a means of circumventing fundamental labor rights in Chinese-owned companies in Africa.  In the end, this paper seeks to determine whether the BRICS’ newfound economic power and cooperation will allow these states to promote an alternative norms regime that exists concurrently with the prevailing one.


BRICS; human rights; development

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