South American political elites seem to have jettisoned much of the high minded left idealism of past years in favor of crass economic interests. In a somewhat outlandish turn of events, Brazil has embraced Vladimir Putin, a figure who has desperately sought to end his country's political and diplomatic isolation.
Isolationist America's foreign policy and standing in the world has been further emasculated in the process. Conservative political pundits in the U.S. criticize President Obama for failing to act in a more decisive manner to stem the tide. They remain delusional in their belief that anything the U.S. can do will make a difference.
The "New Development Bank" announced in Fortaleza this week marks the launch of a collective lending platform steered exclusively by the BRICS countries. With an authorized capital of $100 billion, it could lend up to $34 billion per year. It is not an understatement to say that this is a new kind of bank for a new world order. For the first time in history, infrastructure spending consistently exceeds military expenditure.
The West's power is fading, and emerging economies are gaining ground. In the near future, the world will have numerous centers of power, founded on alternative models. This change can take place in an orderly and peaceful way if the West recuperates its leadership role, and to do so, it will have to relaunch its economy and its democratic institutions. The twenty-first century will not belong to the United States, Europe or China. It will be no one's world.
Not surprisingly, governments and civil societies at the sharp end of these missions -- especially in Africa, the Americas and Asia -- are demanding a greater say in decisions that affect them. Questions of international peace and security are frankly too important to be decided by five countries alone.
For the African growth story to be more than the "one-trick" resources story, its leaders have to prioritize the diversification of their economies. Natural resource extraction offers immediate benefits but this growth path is unlikely to translate into tangible improvements in the lives of most Africans.