Política Externa Brasileira

“Diplomats, Quo Vadis? The determinants of Brazilian diplomatic presence”, an interview with authors by Mauricio Kenyatta Barros

The paper now published in Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional is entitled “Diplomats, Quo Vadis? The determinants of Brazilian diplomatic presence” (vol. 62, n.1) and examines the factors which determine the amount of diplomatic attention bestowed to partner countries by analyzing the Brazilian case from 2008 to 2015. The authors compare the effect of structural, bilateral, and bureaucratic factors in shaping the country’s diplomatic presence abroad, as measured by the ranking and size of its diplomatic representations. Rafael Mesquita, Marcelo de Almeida Medeiros e Luiza Vilela Amelotti gave an interview about their research to Maurício Kenyatta Barros da Costa, PhD candidate at the Institute of International Relations of the University of Brasilia, regarding their article.

The article considers a complete set of bibliographies to determine the correlation between the variables analyzed. The choice of variables from this complete set of bibliography allowed the test and verification of which factors most influence the diplomatic presence in a country, the Brazilian case illustrates well the research developed. Thus, from the typology of Duque (2018, 579) cited in the article, which of the two categories would best define the Brazilian case? What material factors would be more important than ideological factors in determining the diplomatic presence in the world?

Our analysis revealed that some of the most influential factors determining Brazil’s diplomatic presence abroad were quite material and concrete in nature. Geographical contiguity and size of expatriate community, for instance, were powerful predictors of high diplomatic attention in all tested models. The matter of values is more elusive. Our article does not test for the effect of ideological affinity, for example, in increasing diplomatic presence. We acknowledge nonetheless that this is an important question to be rigorously tested by scholarship, given the mounting salience of the “ideologization of foreign policy” motif in public discourse. In a recent interview, former minister Celso Amorim was yet again vocal to dismiss allegations that ideology determined the opening of embassies during his tenure.FOOTNOTE: Footnote A recent study by Rodrigues et al. (2019), which we cite, argued otherwise, though we would advise a parsimonious interpretation, given the difficulty in measuring ideological affinity between a Brazilian head of state and all other national leaders in the world. At any rate, one of the aims of our article was to elucidate, via multivariate regression analysis, that there is never one key ingredient determining foreign policy attention; instead, it is the product of a combination of forces on multiple levels.

“The Brazilian crux: between North and South, the region and the world” is a great way to visualize Brazil’s diplomatic strategy of setting priorities and changing strategic partnerships over time. The Brazilian foreign policy literature, which points to moments of alignment and autonomy at different scales and variants, receives an interesting contribution to reflect on this strategy. So, does the “The Brazilian crux” mentioned in the article really represent a choice between south and north and between South America and the world when it comes to strategically determining the Brazilian presence in the world? Or does “the crux” itself constitute a series of possibilities that are not contradictory, and it is possible and desirable to act in a balanced way in the different diplomatic scenarios?

FOTO LUIZABrazilian officialdom traditionally frames this “crux” as non-exclusive and synergic: Mercosur, for instance, was labelled as “open regionalism” because the prioritization of the region was meant to boost global actorness too. Our research design focuses instead on an empirical indicator which underscores the more exclusivist, “either/or” facet of diplomacy: resources are scarce and Brasilia must choose which embassies will receive more staff and assets. Under this light, Brazil must indeed choose whether it is the region or the world which will receive more emphasis. Yet, a consular network is not so volatile as other diplomatic assets, for example presidential visits. Indeed, our data actually show strong inertial effects. This means that Brazil’s consular network tends to both preserve past expansions and show some resilience in face of exogenous changes. Consequently, the country’s diplomatic presence cannot be reviewed wholesale via a single decision and there must be accommodation between new orientations and accumulated developments.

The debate about the polarity of the international system is central to international politics. In the article, we can see this centrality in the Brazilian case, which makes it relevant to understand the profile of Brazil’s diplomatic presence in the current context of international relations. Considering the reconfigurations of power on the international scene mentioned in the article, the even more traditional bureaucratic profile of MRE employees when choosing jobs has not adequately responded to incentives to adapt diplomatic presence to a scenario of increasing multipolarity? Is it necessary to discuss further revisions in Decree No. 5,979 of December 6, 2006 or even a new Decree?

One of the main contributions we hoped to achieve is to observe multipolarity happening “on the ground”. It is of little use arguing that Itamaraty is adapting to a multipolar order without going down to the level of the bureaucrats themselves and seeing whether or not such shift is taking place. Our results show that indeed Brazil’s engagement with the new poles goes beyond rhetoric, with BRICS partners matching many G7 countries in terms of diplomatic presence. Yet, the data also reveal that diplomats still overwhelmingly value stations in the developed world. In answering your question, we believe Itamaraty’s normative framework must be duly responsive to shifts in the national interest, but, as our data show, passing new rules is not enough in itself: there is the element of organizational culture and tradition which must be factored in too.

Read the article

Mesquita, Rafael, Medeiros, Marcelo de Almeida, & Amelotti, Luiza Vilela. (2019). Diplomats, Quo Vadis? The determinants of Brazilian diplomatic presence. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 62(1), e014. Epub November 25, 2019.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201900114

About the authors

Rafael Mesquita, Federal University of Pernambuco, Political Science Department, Recife, Brazil.

Marcelo de Almeida Medeiros, Federal University of Pernambuco, Political Science Department, Recife, Brazil.

Luiza Vilela Amelotti, Federal University of Pernambuco, Political Science Department, Recife, Brazil.

Maurício Kenyatta Barros – University of Brasilia – Institute of International Relations. Brasília, Brazil

How to cite this interview

Cite this article as: Editoria, "“Diplomats, Quo Vadis? The determinants of Brazilian diplomatic presence”, an interview with authors by Mauricio Kenyatta Barros," in Revista Mundorama, 27/01/2020, https://mundorama.net/?p=26774.