Brazil and Global Leadership

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Now my excuse on waiting to blog on the Brazil meeting (November 21st-22nd, “Global Leadership: The Role of Brazil and the US and the Agenda for the 21st Century) referenced in my blog post “Constructing New Leadership“, was in anticipation of the finaling of the meeting’s consensus document. Well the document is now out and you can review it at the Stanley Foundation website.

The Conference in Rio de Janeiro hosted by CEBRI , the Brazilian Center for International Relations,  lasted a day with Brazilian and US experts – yes, your right,  once again I was the interloper in the crowd – in Rio de Janeiro hosted at Cebri offices and focused on global governance leadership questions.  It was both a lesson for me in Brazilian motivations, attitudes and behaviors toward the United States and Brazil’s role in international relations.

Brazil feels highly satisfied by its emergence as a rising power.  Brazilians have always seen themselves as a great power but their domestic political and financial conditions in particular always seemed to get in the road.  But they believe that – finally – they have made it.  As one Brazilian expert pointed out Brazil always saw itself as “Greece upside down”.  The Greeks always look back to a golden age; but Brazilians always look forward.  Brazilians now believe they have gotten their democratic politics right; they have emerged as a multicultural/multiracial society; and their economics and finances have overcome the limitations and manipulations of earlier decades.  They are proud of President  Lula – who leaves on January 1st extraordinarily popular – leaving the presidency  to his PT party successor, Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil was – as one of the Outreach 5 (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa) and was most vocal in questioning the legitimacy of the G8.  Now, of course, with the emergence of the G20 leaders club it sits at the heart of global governance leadership.  But there is no sense that Brazilian experts feel that it needs to shoulder greater leadership responsibility.  While it is possible, even likely, that President Lula took on an animated role discussing issues in Seoul (he didn’t show up in Toronto), his countrymen seem less inclined to claim a visible leadership role.  Evaluate the following from the Report:

A Brazilian participant helped explain why his foreign policy expert compatriots are hesitant about new global political responsibilities when he noted that Brazil’s basic outlook is to be generally satisfied with its strategic position and lack of immediate threats. Conversely, in other words, the United States has not been totally convincing as it argues for urgent action and the unsustainability of the status quo. Naturally, all participants hope their countries join each other and the rest of the world for enough international cooperation to promote the steady spread of peace and prosperity.

The lack of enthusiasm for seizing leadership was sharpened by the difficulties encountered by Brazil with Turkey when President Lula tried to mediate the proliferation issues between Iran and the P6 (the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany).   The rather harsh public dismissal by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the compromise offered by Brazil and Turkey certainly embarrassed President Lula – and did nothing to encourage the President or Brazil to continue his efforts.

But international leadership remains in flux.  The greater diversity of leadership seen most evidently in the G20 suggests a more-concert-like structure for global governance.  But how to move from American hegemony to a diverse concert of powers that may not reflect like-mindedness is not clear at all. As the Report identifies:

The task of integrating newer pivotal powers into the multilateral order and adapting its structure, norms, and policy frameworks involves intertwined challenges. The international system must make room for the new players to assume a bigger role— which calls for traditional powers to welcome political leadership and policy ideas from new quarters, support adjustments to multilateral decision making, and address their own leadership shortfalls. In return, the emerging powers must give tangible content to their new stature by shouldering some of the burden of leadership, bolstering key international norms, and adding their impetus and influence to resolution of major global problems.

3 thoughts on “Brazil and Global Leadership

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  3. Thanks for this post. I emphatically agree with what you are saying. I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with my father so may this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!

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