The Civilian Power from the Tropics
As a developing country and emerging power, the main aim of Brazil's foreign policy is to contribute to the economic development of the global South. It's programs have achieved considerable success, but they have received little recognition, respect, or support from the countries of the West. The transatlantic community must begin to recognize Brazil, not as a threat, but as an ally who can help in tackling some of the world's most pressing challenges.
The EU has always claimed to be a civilian power, dedicated to strengthening peace and human rights in the world. Since the beginning of this century another civilian power has risen to leave its mark on the international system. The transatlantic community, and the European Union in particular, should wholeheartedly embrace Brazil's rise on the international stage. It must start by understanding and accepting Brazil's view of the world.
Brazil's key objective is the realization of its own economic and political potential, with the aim of contributing to the economic development of the global South. Brazil should be respected by the transatlantic community for its efforts in this part of the world, as it is already respected in a huge majority of countries in the global South, and be embraced as an important ally in achieving international development goals.
Brazil's success in the developing world is not accidental. In the case of Africa, Brazil has been able to understand the real needs of Africans due to its own experience as a developing country and its own conflicts with the Western world. In its international technical cooperation efforts, Brazil does not pressurize anyone into adopting its successful models. Nor does it claim to know better than other developing countries how to fight AIDS, hunger, or poverty. On the contrary, Brazil's strategy is based on sharing its knowledge with other countries so that they can adapt it to their own particular needs.
For example, Brazil is a key actor in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Its global AIDS program has revolutionized the fight against the disease, but it has also, at times, brought it into conflict with Western interests. In its fight against the exorbitantly high prices of AIDS drugs, for example, Brazil has taken on pharmaceutical companies from North America and Europe. In this context, it has faced powerful opposition from the West in its efforts to strengthen the human right to health and the human right to access to medicines. Yet, with the outstanding success of this program, Brazil has discredited the views of many actors from the industrialized world on how to fight HIV/AIDS.
Similarly, its Zero Hunger Strategy set new standards in the global fight against hunger and poverty, and is now seen as a model in the endeavor to improve food security in the developing world. The UN, for example, has recognized the Strategy as a crucial tool in reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
During the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012, Brazil emphasized that it was committed to playing an important role in sustainable development and, more broadly, in tackling the global challenges of climate change. As a result, the government is currently establishing a world centre for sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, the Rio+Centre, which is to further advance the topics discussed during the Rio+20 Summit.
Since the beginning of this century, several countries from the developing world have been gaining increased political clout in the international arena. Meanwhile, developments in the European Union and the transatlantic community as a whole have been marred by crisis, stagnation, and lethargy. In the context of this changing international system, the new developing powers have not always been seen in a positive light by some Western countries. The emergence of China, for instance, has been increasingly perceived as a threat to the existing status quo. The Western world must be careful not to make the same mistake with Brazil.
The EU and Brazil established a strategic partnership in 2007 and the first ever EU-Brazil summit was held in the same year, in Lisbon. Yet little progress has been made since then. It is time for the EU to take this emerging civilian power from the tropics seriously, and to recognize Brazil as a special ally in tackling some of the most pressing and serious challenges in the history of mankind.
The EU should start institutionalizing the existing dialogue by establishing an EU-Brazil Center which would bring together important think tanks and government officials from Brazil and the EU. The Center may work on few, but clearly outlined, topics like sustainable development, climate change and the fight against global epidemics such as hunger and AIDS. This approach would help to concentrate forces and ideas from both Europe and Brazil, and to bind these two actors together, reminding Europe that Brazil has always been part of the transatlantic community.
Markus Fraundorfer is a PhD candidate at the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg and is writing his PhD thesis about Brazil´s emerging influence in global governance. He was a PhD visiting fellow at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and currently lives in Brasília working as a PhD visiting fellow at the University of Brasília. He also holds an MA in International Politics from The University of Manchester.
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