Over the last decade, Brazil has emerged as a key player on the global stage. Its growing role in global and regional governance, cooperation and investment has both a positive and negative influence, as Brazil exports its own internal challenges regarding growth, equity and sustainability.
On the one hand, Brazil has shown great success in reducing poverty, through the implementation of social programs such as the cash transfer program Bolsa Familia, the Food Purchase Program, which buys the production of smallholder farmers and distributes it to public schools for the students’ meals, and most recently the Brazil without Extreme Poverty Plan, which aims to increase access to public services and inclusive production. These programmes have been the backbone of Brazil’s very successful anti-poverty strategy.
On the other hand, there is a new dynamic pole in the Brazilian economy, composed by agro-businesses, biofuels production, mining, construction, transports and extractive industries. These sectors are growing in a very aggressive manner, and in many cases they are creating new exclusions and destroying the environment.
If we look at Brazil’s South-South Cooperation, at the same time that Brazil is helping to implement Food Purchase Programs in 10 countries in Africa, it is supporting the agribusiness sector to expand its sugarcane biofuel production on African soil. Brazil is exporting both the positive and negative aspects of the Brazilian development model.
So, how could Brazil contribute to a more just BRICS? Over the last 10 years, 26 million Brazilians left poverty, thanks to a combination of cash transfers, support to poor farmers, employment policies and an increase of the minimum salary. These achievements happened due to decades of civil society implementing local alternatives, translating them into credible policy proposals and effectively campaigning for their implementation. As a result, social justice, participation & accountability and environmental sustainability are now at the center of public debate. Considering the new global role played by Brazil, there is a huge opportunity to bring such issues also to Brazilian foreign policy, and to the center of discussion at BRICS.
This context of Brazilian foreign policy brings opportunities and challenges for civil society organizations to further engage with the government and contribute to bring about changes in government positions and processes by increasing transparency, dialogue and social participation.
In order to guarantee full democratic participation, civil society has to be a part of this process and engage with this new global architecture.