On July 15th, the leaders of the five BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – met in Fortaleza, Brazil. With Fortaleza already in the spotlight of the World Cup, this summer summit turned the city into a testing ground for the relevance of the BRICS group.

That is due to the long-awaited announcement of a campaign to establish what has been termed a “BRICS bank,” organized and funded by the leaders of the “global south” – in implied contrast to the Bretton Woods institutions. This New Development Bank (“NDB”) is scheduled to begin operations in 2016. The Bank’s mission: to operate as an alternative lender-partner to its member states in the hopes of one day rivaling the IMF and World Bank. It remains to be seen whether the Bank’s mission will be to directly compete with current international lenders – both large development banks and existing national banks.

This New Development Bank has the potential to demonstrate to BRICS skeptics that there are genuine reasons behind the grouping. Its predecessor, “BRIC,” was an acronym coined in a 2001 academic paper, when it first entered the global economic vocabulary. Given that the member states span several continents, very disparate political histories, language families, and social customs, their commonalities are few but important.

On July 15th, the leaders of the five BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – met in Fortaleza, Brazil. With Fortaleza already in the spotlight of the World Cup, this summer summit turned the city into a testing ground for the relevance of the BRICS group.

That is due to the long-awaited announcement of a campaign to establish what has been termed a “BRICS bank,” organized and funded by the leaders of the “global south” – in implied contrast to the Bretton Woods institutions. This New Development Bank (“NDB”) is scheduled to begin operations in 2016. The Bank’s mission: to operate as an alternative lender-partner to its member states in the hopes of one day rivaling the IMF and World Bank. It remains to be seen whether the Bank’s mission will be to directly compete with current international lenders – both large development banks and existing national banks.

This New Development Bank has the potential to demonstrate to BRICS skeptics that there are genuine reasons behind the grouping. Its predecessor, “BRIC,” was an acronym coined in a 2001 academic paper, when it first entered the global economic vocabulary. Given that the member states span several continents, very disparate political histories, language families, and social customs, their commonalities are few but important: each is deemed to be at a similar juncture of newly advanced economic development. Their “developing” status implicates their need for, among other things, funding for crucial infrastructure projects – funding a NDB could one day provide.

The statement produced at the Summit, the “Fortaleza Declaration,” noted the BRICS recognition and commitment to “human rights.” However, as experts such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Daniel Runde argue, big projects that the World Bank and other multilateral development banks enter into are often socially and environmentally complex, which could cause problems for the NDB’s plans. That is, the member states’ incongruent interests and operational challenges could likely cause the proposed Bank and reserve agreement to fail.

It is probably no surprise to anyone that the new BRICS development bank could be accused of being more about geopolitics than investment – and the Fortaleza Declaration says little about recent conflicts that could spike their plans, such as the ongoing violence in Ukraine.

In March, for instance, the BRICS members had unanimously abstained from a UN resolution condemning Russia’s takeover of Crimea, demonstrating that President Putin still retained some friends. And especially following recent exclusion of Russia from the G8 group of industrialized nations, BRICS’ refusal to criticize Russia at the Fortaleza summit suggests that the group will not be enthusiastic about Western efforts to isolate Putin’s government.

Outside of the development bank campaign, the BRIC leaders also attended to other business while in Brazil, pursuing a number of other meetings at the Summit, including closed-door talks with their counterparts from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and other South American states.

BRICS leaders also took advantage of the logistics of the summit in order to pursue their country’s bilateral agendas in Latin America. President Putin gained significant attention in the US for his visit to Cuba, in which he pursued energy deals for several Russian firms. Similar motivations also motivated his visit to Argentina, where he signed a series of agreements on nuclear power and met with President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner. True to his goal of mobilizing a non-US oriented pole of influence in the Americas, Putin also took meetings with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Venezuela’s Maduro.

China’s Xi Jinping, too, made the most of his trip, visiting Cuba, Argentina and Venezuela in addition to Brazil. Trade between China and Brazil alone is estimated at over $83 billion a year, and Jinping was eager to cement relations. The Chinese president sat down for an important meeting with newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ostensibly to discuss the Bank proposal, the discussion also saw the leaders clash over points of bilateral tension: most notably, India’s position on Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, and border issues in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

All told, the BRICS summit and surrounding diplomatic efforts both launched a new era in South-South relations, as well as highlighted many of the ongoing rifts and tensions inherent in those relations. If it succeeds, the BRICS could indeed benefit from a new development bank that focuses first and foremost on the goals of its five member states rather than competing with the rest of the world in the forum of the international lending sphere.

The “BRICS Bank” still has a long way to go before that vision becomes a reality, however – especially as economic tensions between China and Latin America and territorial tensions involving both Russia and China may conspire to complicate the endeavor.