IPC-IG Interviews Markus Fraundorfer
From the global fight against HIV/AIDS to food security, to bioenergy, Brazil has played an important role in many areas of global governance and in regards to many development issues. Exactly, how Brazil has exercised power in global governance since the beginning of the 21st century and how it has developed in various interfaces of global governance is the core of the book “Brazil’s Emerging Role in Global Governance: Health, Food Security and Bioenergy”, by Markus Fraundorfer, recently launched by the Palgrave Macmillan publishing company.
The IPC-IG spoke with Mr. Fraundorfer about his research, which focuses also on the country’s fight against hunger and poverty, and investigates Brazil’s interactions with other state and non-state actors. The author analyses the role of IPC-IG and the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger among the five institutions that assumed a key role in implementing technical cooperation programmes and in fostering South-South learning among developing countries.
IPC-IG: Why did you decide to study Brazil’s role in Global Governance?
Markus Fraundorfer (MF): I decided to study Brazil’s role in the global system due to its unprecedented political and economic rise since the beginning of this century. The multiple crises (political, financial, economic and moral) in Europe and North America made me think and look beyond my European horizon. And given the increased attention paid by the European media to the impressive international performance of countries like China, India and Brazil – these new rising giants – I started to get interested in these countries, and particular Brazil because I already knew the language. And, in retrospect, this change of perspective proved to pay off! We are witnessing now significant shifts in political and economic power away from the Western world (Europe and North America) which has for so long dominated the international system. And it is extremely fascinating to accompany these changes and transformations taking place in the international system.
IPC-IG: Based on your research findings, what is the role played by Brazil in global governance?
MF: Brazil today plays a key role in several areas of global governance, such as health, food security and to a certain degree in energy governance and climate governance. So, mainly development issues, which have received renewed attention with the Millennium Development Goals in the year 2000. For instance, in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, Brazil has been a decisive actor in making the access to essential medicines for millions of AIDS patients worldwide and, in particular in the developing world, more affordable. Here, Brazil together with leading civil society organisations and social movements challenged the US, European countries and powerful pharmaceutical companies (from Europe and North America) to lower the prices of AIDS drugs and give priority to health concerns over commercial profits. In the fight against global hunger and poverty, Brazil has brought back the importance of hunger and poverty on the international agenda and has led by example to actually do something against this shame.
In this context, Brazil’s Zero Hunger Strategy has inspired innumerous countries in the developing world. In other words, what has Brazil done to become such an important actor in many development issues? Brazil, over the last fifteen years, has inspired the world! First, in the way it dealt with its AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. Second, in the way Brazil has dealt with extreme hunger and poverty. This is what Brazil was famous for in the past. The country of hunger, poverty, and misery! The country of the favelas! Now, ironically, Brazil has become a symbol of how to successfully fight hunger and poverty. And third, how to invest in environmentally friendly energy resources.
All this would not have been possible without Brazil’s impressive re-democratisation. Let’s not forget, Brazil is currently experiencing the longest democratic period in its history and its democratic institutions have become so robust that they could easily deal with a highly polarised and ideologically loaded presidential election in 2014. A weaker democracy might have succumbed to some sort of chaos, conflict or a military coup. Of course, there is still a lot of work to do and Brazil needs to fight on many fronts to turn into a truly modern country, in particular at the moment when the government is confronted with a serious economic and political crisis.
IPC-IG: Has this role changed over the last decades? If so, what has changed?
MF: When we look at the 20th century, Brazil was barely visible on the global stage. It is true that Brazil belongs to the founding members of the UN, for example, or other important
International Organisations such as the WHO. Let alone, Brazil’s decisive role in the 2nd Peace Conference in The Hague in 1907 embodied by the Brazilian ambassador Rui Barbosa. And yet, apart from some isolated moments of influence, as I would rather call it, Brazil’s influence and impact on world politics remained rather limited. In other words, Brazil was always seen by many Europeans as the country of nice beaches, beautiful girls, Copacabana, Bossa Nova and tropical life style on the one hand. And on the other hand, as the country of the favelas, misery, poverty and horrifying inequality. And of course, thanks to Stefan Zweig, the eternal country of the future!
While Brazil remains a highly unequal country with people living in poverty-stricken favelas, and there is still Copacabana, beautiful girls, nice beaches, etc., etc., something new has taken shape in the European vision about Brazil. The vision of Brazil as an important and indispensable partner in world affairs. In fact, nowadays Brazil is taken seriously by the established powers. And, this has to do with Brazil’s impressive re-democratisation since the mid-1980s and its unexpected political and economic rise in the international system in the last fifteen years.
IPC-IG: Can this role be compared to any other developing countries, perhaps other BRICS countries?
MF: I very much like this comparison. In my view it is much more appropriate to compare Brazil with the other BRICS countries than with particular European countries. Brazil shares much more similarities with the other BRICS countries than with European countries, such as size, level of development, particular development challenges and the marginal position in the international system. Brazil’s economy may be stuttering at the moment, unlike in China or India. However, Brazil, compared with the other BRICS countries, is a consolidated democracy and performs much better on many social indicators. And it is here where Brazil’s present and future potential lies, in its democratic and social development.
IPC-IG: South-South cooperation seems to be a driven force underlining Brazil’s international dialogue. What are the concrete gains this South-South Cooperation has provided to the country’s international partners?
MF: Africa and South America are now Brazil’s main geostrategic areas of focus of interest in terms of technical cooperation, investment and humanitarian support. The main gain is of a psychological nature. And it is not by coincidence that these two continents have a strategic importance in Brazil’s foreign policy. Brazil can offer what many African and South American countries desperately need. Solutions for health crises, hunger, poverty and misery! Through its South-South technical cooperation Brazil gains in recognition and leadership experience proving to the international community that Brazil has become a respected leader in confronting development challenges on a global scale. Another significant aspect of Brazil’s South-South cooperation refers to the country’s ability to convey to the international community a different meaning of technical cooperation and humanitarian assistance. Brazil very much tends to avoid imposing its solutions or models upon other countries, as Western organisations and/or governments much too often do. Instead, Brazil tends to share its knowledge, experiences and ideas with other developing countries and tries to help these countries to adapt Brazil’s solutions to their own social context. This approach makes Brazil an attractive partner in the developing world.
IPC-IG: Can you tell us about Brazil’s engagement with state and non-state actors?
MF: In the areas of health and food security, Brazil has frequently allied with social movements and transnational civil society organisations, such as Oxfam, ActionAid or Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). One could say that a principal strategy in Brazil’s recent political rise lies in securing the support of social movements and civil society organisations as a means of confronting the powerful governments from the West. So, in many aspects, civil society organisations have turned into Brazil’s natural allies.
IPC-IG: Currently the international community is discussing the post-2015 development agenda, how the debate can influence Brazil’s strategy?
MF: Brazil can play a very important role. Given its recognition as a leader in development issues Brazil has the potential to shape the debate and the agenda. One critical aspect of the Millennium Development Goals refers to the fact that the agenda is heavily influenced by the Western powers. It is interesting to see that Brazil’s vision in its technical cooperation differs very much from that all too often embraced by the West, the strategy of imposing a particular Western strategy or model on developing countries. Brazil tends to act differently. In its technical cooperation in health and food security, Brazil tends to share its experiences with other developing countries without imposing anything or acting like a neo-colonial power. This vision is highly attractive to developing countries and principally responsible for a successful and efficient fight against health crises and hunger and poverty. The discussions on the post-2015 development agenda can very much benefit from this vision and help to elaborate more efficient and successful strategies in confronting development challenges.
About the interviewee: Mr. Markus Fraundorfer is Associate Research Fellow at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Hamburg, Germany and Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the University of São Paulo (USP) He received his PhD from the University of Hamburg. He also holds an MA in International Politics from the University of Manchester, UK. He was a visiting research fellow at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and the University of Brasilia (UnB). His current research focuses on the transformation processes in global governance, the possibilities to democratise global governance mechanisms and Brazil’s political role in the international system.
Short URL: http://pressroom.ipc-undp.org/?p=16905