Academic journal article Global Governance

Notes on the Evolution of Brazilian Multilateral Diplomacy

Academic journal article Global Governance

Notes on the Evolution of Brazilian Multilateral Diplomacy

Article excerpt

The article describes the evolution of Brazilian multilateralism since the First Pan American Conference in 1889. The impact of the domestic and international spheres are examined to understand the continuities and changes in Brazil multilateral attitudes. In our days, the increasing influence of Brazil international presence, especially in multilateral forums, is evident. The open question is how the emerging countries will influence the new international order. KEYWORDS: Brazil, foreign policy, United Nations, multilateralism.

IT IS EVIDENT THAT, AS A RESULT OF THEIR ECONOMIC GROWTH AND POLITICAL maturation, a number of countries once cast as merely "developing" have emerged over the past two decades as consequential international actors. Among the most prominent are Brazil, India, China, Turkey, South Africa, and Indonesia. A restored Russia, emerging from the wreckage of the Soviet Union, is generally seen and sees itself as a member of this cohort. Collectively, they promise to play a progressively more important role in determining the shape of global governance.

It is equally evident that effective and sustainable responses to the great transnational challenges of our time, including climate change, armed conflict, terrorism, gross violations of human rights, and uneven and unstable economic globalization, have to be universal in breadth and broadly perceived as legitimate. Multilateralism in some form is the natural and necessary means for confronting these challenges.

The difficulties and precariousness of extant multilateral institutions are well known. With their newly acquired influence, will the emerging powers move the world order in a better direction? Can we reasonably hope for stronger multilateral institutions? These questions require long and necessarily speculative answers. To the end of throwing some light on present problems and prospects for addressing them, this essay focuses on only one of the moving parts that is shaping the future; namely, Brazil. Specifically, I inquire how the Brazilian attitude toward multilateralism has evolved in the face of its own internal challenges and those that engage the entire world.

To cope with today's complex realities, Brazil has participated in the creation of new multilateral forums: Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC); India, Brazil, and South Africa Forum (IBSA); and Group of 20 (G-20). But in Brazil's view of the world, regional and other limited number forums are not a substitute for the universal forum that is the United Nations. It remains the preeminent multilateral institution. This view of the UN could be called the core of Brazilian multilateral ideology. And while it may not be unique to Brazil, it is nevertheless a key to understanding Brazil's multilateral diplomacy.

Seminal Moments in the Making of Brazil's Multilateral Principles

The multilateral focus was a constant in Brazilian diplomacy even before the creation of the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations. To be precise, that focus first appeared in 1889 when Brazil attended a meeting of Western Hemisphere countries in Washington, DC, convened by President Grover Cleveland. The meeting turned out to be the embryo of the Organization of American States (OAS). By participating in this meeting, Brazil implicitly accepted multilateralism as a useful means for advancing its national interests. At the same time, however, it demonstrated its determination to resist multilateral commitments inconsistent with its perceived self-interest by joining with other Latin American countries in rejecting the US government's proposal of a continental free-trade zone.(1)

While opposing that particular US initiative, Brazil regarded amiable relations with the United States as very much in the national interest. Consistent with that view, in 1906 it consolidated what both sides perceived to be an "unwritten alliance" with the United States. The essence of the understanding at the heart of that alliance was that the United States would help Brazil defend itself from European threats and would also support Brazil in the event that it encountered diplomatic problems with its neighbors. …

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