Emerging nations, long allied with these two BRIC states, are showing greater concern for human rights.
South African President Zuma, Brazilan President Rousseff, and Indian Prime Minister Singh at the end of the fifth India-Brazil-South Africa summit in Pretoria / Reuters
The Security Council's recent failure to condemn Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown in Syria after months of attacks against unarmed civilians would suggest the case is hopeless. Russia and China vetoed a resolution proposing a process for a negotiated transition to democracy despite full backing from the usually anti-interventionist Arab League. The stalemate raises perennial questions about the international community's ability to respond to crises, the legitimacy of the veto power and the doctrine of responsibility to protect that underpinned intervention in Libya. The Syria vote, however, may have strengthened what appears to be an increasingly common view among the world's emerging democracies: dictators determined to stay in power at any cost are no longer tolerable.
The double veto has made international action in Syria all the more difficult. But it also shows that Russia and China are increasingly isolating themselves from a widening consensus that human-rights violations demand an international response. In one corner, established and newer democracies, more attuned to their voters at home, are under pressure to support movements for universal rights. In the opposite corner, China and Russia are silencing domestic dissent at home while trying to prop up comparable autocrats abroad. This divide became abundantly clear when India and South Africa disassociated themselves from their usual affiliates (BRICS) to support the Security Council resolution on Syria. Brazil likely would have joined its democratic cohorts if it were still on the council.