At the end of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNSD), the world was left with more questions than answers. The main objective of the conference has advanced too little. Sustainable Development costs were subject to different visions, therefore non-compromising positions. It is easy to understand the difficulties involved on the process. Developed countries expect more financial involvement from the developing countries. This attempt has been regard with suspicion by the developing countries. In their view the crisis may have more impact than just the financial one. Developed countries may be using the environment negotiations to level the economies competitions. However, this lack of will shall not stop the environment negotiations. What will be the Brazilian strategy to negotiate in this area? If the “Future We Want” turns to be the guide of future negotiations, will Brazil recur to bilateral negotiations? What could be the impact of the crisis in the way in which Brazil will prefer to proceed? In this brief text, it is sought to underline the different possibilities of Brazilian insertion. However based on Brazilian foreign policy history there is one most likely option. Before properly proceeding to the Brazilian position we must recover some of the history of Brazil’s insertion.
Since the military government has lost its space on Brazil, foreign policy has changed. The Brazilian position with the President José Sarney (1985-1990) turned out to be more cooperative than the previous ones. It is claimed that this government and the following ones have broken with previous values. The decades of 70s and 80s were the stage in which environmental problems have been given more attention than ever before. The military government on Brazil has maintained sovereignty as the guidance for negotiations. Brazil would leave the negotiation room if any sensitive point was object of questioning. But have the civilian governments totally abandoned sovereignty? The Brazilian position towards the negotiation on a forest accord on the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNED – 1992) showed otherwise. A more balanced opinion would say that Brazil has never abandoned the sovereignty as a guide. What we have seen was the inclusion of more priorities and maybe more will to compromise its fundamental guide. However sovereignty may mislead us when we attempt to indicate the next steps of the Brazilian foreign policy. One more historical fact has to be added in order to make our vision more precise. Brazil has used bilateral negotiations several times in his history. In economy, the Brazil of Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945) has used bilateral negotiations in order to proceed with its plan of industrialization. The military governments have constructed Angra I by bilateral negotiations. Therefore why wouldn’t Brazil recur to this kind of negotiation when the multilateral arena seems to be stopped? There are two possible positions for this question.
Why would Brazil use bilateral negotiations when much of the content of the environmental agreement involves national budget? At the first sight this is certainly impossible. Since it has neither been a tradition of Brazilian foreign policy (it is a last resort), nor it would be wise when it comes to damaging national funds. But this is one side of the argument. We must see the big picture before taking any precipitate conclusion. Negotiating environment bilaterally would enable Brazil to gain much more than in the multilateral arena. First we may see financial gains, since many countries have budgets that are projected to be used on environmental projects. So if the crisis makes some of the developed countries cut down all their investments on environmental issues, others like Germany have little cut their funds for environment. Second, the gains in terms of Soft Power may be more important than in the first sight. This power would give more primacy to Brazilian decisions when it comes to environmental discussions. These regimes could be depending more on the Brazilian view and this is exactly what Brazilian foreign policy has been pursuing all over its history. However, the viability of binding national funding not just with negotiations, but certainly with implementation is not a popular option.
The other option is to maintain the expectations on the multilateral treatment of the issue. This option would by one side attend the historical Brazilian position. But are these regimes (the environmental ones) actually walking on? This question may be very tricky. The will of countries to bind themselves in times of crisis is very low. Therefore it is unlikely that these multilateral negotiations go any further before the crisis comes to an end. This may be seen as a great advantage. Brazil wouldn’t have to bind itself to any accord that could harm national treasure. Beyond that, Brazil could have bigger GDP growing in spite of environmental needs. This position wouldn’t be suitable for some areas of the Brazilian government (known as Bancada Ruralista – politicians that represent the owners of farms). However the environment itself is not the problem. The option that the Brazilian foreign policy has to take involves more than that. The Brazilian claim for more importance at the global level is given one opportunity. And this is certainly the principal point that may or may not guide the future of Brazilian position. The treatment that will be given now and then will say much of the Brazilian global insertion.
Different crisis have presented new international actors. The gaining of Soft Power is actually the Brazilian way of insertion. Brazilian foreign policy is based on giving Brazil its global place. It is said that Brazil wouldn’t behave itself as previous powers have. Brazil would portray a more cooperative stance. So if this is the proposition of the Brazilian global insertion, isn’t this the perfect time for bringing more responsibilities on its shoulders? However, the question may have one expected answer. What we see today is the Brazilian hesitation to make any choice. Although governmental claims are that in Rio we have reached a new guide, and that Brazil is actually fulfilling its role, it is clear that we are far from that. The Brazilian position is far from what could be and so does its proposals. What can be regarded as an opportunity to assume more in the international arena is actually a vexed term at the governmental stance. The sovereignty position is clashing with the Brazilian foreign policy proposal. At the same time that Brazil would like to assume a bigger role at the international arena, it hesitates on binding itself to more compromises and accords. However this hesitation could be labeled with different names (as multilateral preference), we see little indications that the only problem is that. Will Brazil utilize this opportunity of getting more international recognition? In my point of view it does not matter what will be the final decision, it has to be taken as quickly as possible. But certainly the sovereignty principle tends to echoes much more than anything else. Will we have to wait until the crisis comes to an end before any other step is taken on environmental regimes? Probably yes, but is the environment willing to wait for how long? That is the question we may all see in the future.
Stefanos Georgios C. Drakoulakis é Graduando em Relações Internacionais da Universidade de Brasília, Membro do Programa de Ensino Tutorial – PET- IREL -UnB (email@example.com)