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Up Front

Four Steps Brazil Can Take to Influence Global Governance More Effectively

Harold Trinkunas


Editor’s note: In this commentary, Harold Trinkunas outlines four policies Brazil should adopt to improve its impact on global governance. This is the first post in a two-part piece highlighting policy recommendations from the recently released report
Brazil’s Rise: Seeking Influence on Global Governance


. Part 2 looks at what role the United States might play.

Brazil’s Rise: Seeking Influence on Global Governance tracks Brazil’s unique path towards becoming a major power, prioritizing the use of soft power over hard to achieve its goals. Brazil’s reluctance to develop or use hard power is grounded in historical and geopolitical realities. Brazil is constrained by its commitment to the norms of sovereignty, non-intervention, and respect for international law that have historically guided its foreign policy. Brazil’s shortage of military hard power is likely to be enduring since its regional security environment is – and is likely to remain – peaceful. Brazil’s reluctance to deploy economic hard power is grounded in its respect for norms of sovereignty and its not so distant history of macroeconomic instability.

Brazil has attempted to compensate for the limits on its hard power by deploying soft power. It has a compelling story to tell about democratization and economic growth accompanied by poverty reduction and social inclusion. This is an ambition of many countries around the world, and it is complemented by Brazil’s vibrant culture, international engagement, and active diplomacy. Yet this soft power story, attractive to the developing world, plays less well among the established powers. Brazil’s criticism of the inequities of the present international order and nettlesome approach to participating in global governance limits its ability to influence the established major powers.

How Brazil Can Improve its Impact on the Present World Order

As outlined in the report, there are policies Brazil can adopt to meet its goal of influencing global governance, while still maintaining its commitment to traditional values of respect for sovereignty and international law.

  1. Increase contributions to international peacekeeping operations
    Brazil should consider increasing the scope of its contributions to international peacekeeping operations under the United Nations mandate. Drawing on the lessons learned from leading the U.N. military mission in Haiti, Brazil should focus on building capabilities to provide leadership, command, control, communications, intelligence, logistics and transportation that make up the core of complex multinational peacekeeping contingents. This is a capability that is in short supply, and it is one that can only be readily provided by major powers.
  2. Expand humanitarian and development assistance
    Brazil should expand the scope of its humanitarian and development assistance to a global scale. As of 2011, Brazil currently ranked 23rd among international donors of humanitarian assistance, although it was the seventh largest economy in the world. Brazil has extensive domestic experience in designing social programs designed to reduce poverty and build state capacity as part of its internal development agenda. It is already using this knowledge and technology in its international assistance programs in the Americas and parts of Africa. Brazil should extend the geographic scope of its programs, increasing their budgets and raise the visibility of its development strategy.
  3. Consolidate regional institutions in Latin America
    Brazil should reconsider its approach toward Latin America and focus on building a smaller number of stronger regional institutions. Brazil has been very successful in establishing regional forums: Common Market of the South (MERCOSUL), Council of South American States (UNASUR); South American Defense Council (CODESA), Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), among others. However, these organizations tend to produce presidential summits rather than concrete outcomes that are aligned with Brazil’s efforts to rise. These institutions should instead feature binding rules, greater capacity to execute programs that benefit member-states, and stronger incentives for others in Latin America to participate. This would confirm to its neighbors that Brazil’s rise benefits the region as it is bound by a shared set of institutional arrangements and commitments to the region.
  4. Collaborate with established powers who can support Brazil’s success
    Brazil should identify additional issues on which it takes a collaborative approach in international forums vis-à-vis the established powers. In avoiding the use of hard power, Brazil needs to attract the support of established powers for its rise. This requires establishing a collaborative agenda that gives major powers a stake in Brazil’s success. Brazil’s repeated criticism of the U.S.-led liberal international order negates its ability to deploy soft power in its relationship with the West.

Brazil faces important choices about the future at this stage in its rise. It is still highly ambivalent towards the deployment of hard power. Furthermore Brazil’s society still largely perceives itself as living in a developing country that has persistent social ills, unaccountable politics and fragile economic foundations on which to build its emerging middle class. Targeting resources to foreign policy, peacekeeping and international assistance is a hard sell for Brazilian diplomats and politicians. However, the alternative is for Brazil to fall short in its rise, unable to effectively shape the global order in a way that protects its interests, benefits its citizens and fulfills its aspirations.


Read Part 2 of this piece:

Seeking Common Ground in the U.S.-Brazil Relationship






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