Brazil is about to start an "internationalism revolution"

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Brazil is about to start an ‘internationalism revolution’

by Adriana De Queiroz


Many young people in Brazil are coming together to fight about problems like the money spent on the World Cup: they are already embracing internationalist thinking. (Apenas Images under a Creative Commons Licence)

In Brazil, in the past, international problems were just for diplomats. Heads of state and the rest of society did not have much interest in international issues. But in the last 20 years, this has changed: Brazilian society, politicians and a lot of different Brazilian institutions have moved in the direction of internationalism and international relations. It started during the presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (from 1995 to 2003), and developed during the second half of the presidency of the next leader, President Lula da Silva (2003-11). Lula led this, and many more people got involved in international issues and diplomatic relations.

After the first ‘oil shock’ in 1973, and then the end of 20 years of dictatorship in 1985, Brazil had almost 20 difficult years of high inflation. Several governments paid little attention to Brazil’s foreign policy. They had to work on domestic problems. Then, because the economy became more stable, they had new, successful social policies and Brazil became more important as a global food provider, the country was able to look at other countries. Also, a number of Brazilian companies have become very successful in the world; all of this made it perfect for President Lula to draw the world’s attention to the increasing global importance of his country.

I am not going to discuss if what Lula did was right or wrong. But everyone understood what he did quickly, and this gave Brazil a greater international role: Brazil was the leader of groups of countries working together in Latin America and Africa, they were the host for international meetings, they participated more in international forums, and other countries’ newspapers wrote about them more.

The power of Lula’s speech also helped the Brazilian people a little to believe that their cultural values, life experiences and ability to keep going were things to be proud of. They could also help other countries and people who had similar problems in similar situations. Brazilians started to sharing more information and knowledge with other countries (but most of this was after requests from countries that President Lula visited, not because they offered this help).

Since 2011 (when Lula was no longer President), civil society, academia and government institutions have continued to be actively working together with other countries. Also, communication technology is now cheaper, so ordinary Brazilians can get much more global information than before. So people are paying more attention to international as well as Brazilian problems and they know a lot more about them than 10 years ago. Twice as many houses have internet than five years ago – one third of all homes in Brazil (according to an Anatel report). Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal said Brazil is the ‘social media capital of the universe’. Brazil has amazing growth rates of numbers of users and time spent using social media. Social media has been bringing together rich and poor in Brazil.

Brazilians are still learning about democracy, their rights and the political system. But as populations become better connected and learn more about the reality of others, they start to realize that solutions to many domestic problems must be found in a global framework – not necessarily a formal one – and/or in a collaborative way. So solidarity is important; like in the saying, ‘best friends are people who make your problems their problems, so you don’t have to go through them alone’. The big revolution in internationalism will be in the future.

But there is still resistance to internationalism. In Brazil, as in any other country, there are groups of people who have individualistic and nationalistic views, which are not good for internationalism and social justice.

In the Brazilian government, and in particular in the Ministry of External Relations, many people still do not want to adapt to democracy and pluralism. Brazilian foreign policy must become more modern if it is to work for today’s internationalism. It should work with other governments and the private sector, and also support and work with civil society dialogues.

It is very important to educate the very youngest generations to have a real internationalist perspective: we have more global and systemic problems all the time. These problems will decide their future, including climate change, limited natural resources and transnational crimes. Educational exchange programmes may also play an important role in helping people understand each other and work together. If people know more about other cultures and make interpersonal connections, this will help internationalism. Hard power is not effective any more – and has been losing the support of people all over the world. Internationalism can become even more effective –when we make connections that transform things.

Adriana De Queiroz is the Executive Coordinator at the Brazilian Center for International Relations (CEBRI). She is responsible for projects on issues such as international trade, development and the environment.

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