New working paper: Brazilian foreign policy and international human rights promotion – existing tensions and future prospects

From before the World Cup….

Abstract below, full paper here.

Brazilian foreign policy and international human rights promotion: existing tensions and future prospects

Brazil is important for the present and future development of international human rights. Yet, any immediate expectations that the country will emerge as an active promoter of human rights internationally are likely to remain unfulfilled.

Indeed, Brazil’s distinctiveness, both in terms of its domestic human rights record, and in terms of its historical relationship with the international human rights regime, means that the country is likely to impact on debates on the meaning and nature of human rights in the decades to come. From its membership in the so-called BRICS to its leadership role in the exclusive club of G20 countries, Brazil has indeed emerged as a pivotal player in global governance. There are also a host of domestic processes of change that have projected Brazil abroad. From Brazilian companies with mining interests in Africa, increased diplomatic activities and collaborations through various country constellations (IBSA, BRICS), through to its significant soft power projection, Brazil’s international profile is more varied and extensive than ever before.

Much of the international interest in Brazil in recent years reflects a widespread view that the country matters for the outside world. The very active foreign policy agenda pursued by former president Lula da Silva raised Brazil’s international profile. And, although current president Dilma Rousseff has increasingly turned inward over the course of her administration the image of a ‘rising’ Brazil remains prevalent. It is of course not the first time that outside observers have had high expectations on Brazil. But what may be most striking in the current conjuncture is that these are increasingly matched by domestic expectations in Brazil that the country should take its rightful place in elite international fora. Whether these expectations are likely to be fulfilled is a matter of dispute. For many international observers, particularly in the financial press, the recent sluggish performance of the Brazilian economy raises significant doubts. For other even more hardnosed observers, Brazil’s limited military might, its hard power, seriously questions the capacity of Brazil to play any influential role on the global scene. Brazil remains a moderate military power, and will do so for the foreseeable future.

Still, whether Brazil is actually rising – however one may measure it – is at least partly distinct from the international perceptions of and expectations on the country’s rise.  It may not be quite as simple as this, but as long as these perceptions and expectations persist, Brazil will continue its ascent. Important questions remain unanswered however, regarding Brazil, the character, meaning and direction of its rise. In this short article the aim is to assess, on the one hand, the considerable hopes that many have invested in Brazil, but also, on the other hand, to illustrate the many uncertainties that accompany Brazil’s foreign policy in general and with regards to the promotion of human rights abroad in particular.

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