International Politics

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 444–456 | Cite as

‘Empty bravado or hopeful illusions’: rising democratic powers and reordering of the international system

  • Obert HodziEmail author
Original Article


India, Brazil and South Africa’s efforts within the framework of the IBSA Dialogue Forum formed in 2003 have done little to change or challenge the balance of power. Indeed, their collective objective of reordering the international system and reforming the United Nations Security Council to make it more responsive to contemporary geopolitical realities seems, in the words of John Snyder, to constitute ‘empty bravado or hopeful illusions.’ Focusing on the three countries, emerging powers increasingly dissatisfied with their position in the current global order; this paper probes the efficacy of their collective objective. The paper advances the argument that prospects for the three countries to reorder the international system are diminishing because they failed to convert their democratic credentials and economic growth into global influence. The final stroke on their epitaph, it will be argued, is the emerging recoiling of the USA from global governance and China’s seeming willingness to take on global leadership alone.


Emerging powers International system Reform Power Geopolitics 


  1. Brewer, J. 1989. The Sinews of power: war, money and the English state, 1688–1783. London: Umwin Hyman Ltd.Google Scholar
  2. Buzan, B. 2008. A leader without followers. The United States in world politics after Bush. Int Polit 45(5): 554–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Choucri, N., and R.C. North. 1975. Nations in conflict: national growth and international violence. San Francisco: WH Freeman.Google Scholar
  4. Cooper, A.F. 2002. Like-minded nations, NGOs, and the changing pattern of diplomacy within the UN system: an introductory perspective. In Enhancing global governance: towards a new diplomacy?, ed. A.F. Cooper, J. English, and R. Thakur, 1–18. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cox, M. 2012. Power shifts, economic change and the decline of the West? Int Relat 26(4): 369–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fabricius P. South Africa to challenge the African spoilers of UN Security Council reform. Institute for Security Studies. 6 February 2014. Accessed 8 Dec 2016.
  7. Hart, A.F., and B.D. Jones. 2010. How do rising powers rise? Survival 52(6): 63–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hindustan Times. Pak against UN Security Council place for India, says N-deal threatens S Asia stability. 28 January 2015. Accessed 27 Dec 2016.
  9. IBSA. 1st IBSA summit meeting joint declaration. IBSA summit declaration. 13 September 2006. Accessed 27 Nov 2016.
  10. IBSA. India–Brazil–South Africa dialogue forum third summit of heads of State/Government New Delhi declaration. IBSA summit declaration. 15 October 2008. Accessed 27 Nov 2016.
  11. Keohane, R.O. 1990. Multilateralism: an agenda for research. Int J 45(4): 731–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kurtz-Phelan T. What is IBSA anyway? Americas Quarterly. Spring 2013. Accessed 22 Dec 2016.
  13. Landsberg C. IBSA’s political origins, significance and challenges. Policy Studies Bulletin, Centre for Policy Studies. 2006. Accessed 22 Dec 2016.
  14. Mbeki T. Notes on India–Brazil–South Africa (IBSA) Summit Press conference. 17 October 2007. Accessed 7 Dec 2016.
  15. Mearsheimer, J.J. 1994. The false promise of international institutions. Int Secur 19(3): 5–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Murphy, C.N. 2002. Foreword: why pay attention to global governance. In Global governance: critical perspectives, ed. R. Wilkinson, and S. Hughes, x–xv. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Newman, E., R. Thakur, and J. Tirman. 2006. Introduction. In Multilateralism under challenge? Power, international order, and structural change, ed. E. Newman, R. Thakur, and J. Tirman, 1–18. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Nye, J.S. 1990. The changing nature of power. Polit Sci Q 105(2): 177–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ruggie, J.G. 1992. Multilateralism: the anatomy of an institution. Int Org 46(3): 561–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ruggie, J.G. 1993. Multilateralism: the anatomy of an institution. In Multilateralism matters: the theory and praxis of an institutional form, ed. J.G. Ruggie, 3–48. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Schweller, R. 2011. Emerging powers in an age of disorder. Glob Gov Rev Multilater Int Organ 17(3): 285–297.Google Scholar
  22. Snyder J. One world, rival theories. Foreign Policy. 26 October 2009. Accessed 27 Dec 2016.
  23. Stuenkel O. The uncertain future of IBSA. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 18 February 2015. Accessed 7 Dec 2016.
  24. Vieira, M.A., and C. Alden. 2011. India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA): South–South cooperation and the paradox of regional leadership. Glob Gov 17(4): 507–528.Google Scholar
  25. Waltz, K.N. 1979. Theory of international politics. Long Grove: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  26. World Bank. Gross domestic product. 2014. Accessed 27 Nov 2016.
  27. Xinhua. Argentina opposes Brazilian admission to UN Security Council. 15 April 2005. Accessed 8 Dec 2016.
  28. Zakaria, F. 1998. From wealth to power: the unusual origins of America’s world role. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Zakaria, F. 2008. The post-American world. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CulturesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations