Since 2000, a number of “rising powers” have sought a more active global role commensurate with their economic status and regional positions of influence. Brazil, in particular, has followed a high-profile path in seeking to enhance its strategic profile and influence on the international order, even as it faces internal constraints on its capacity to project influence abroad. “Peacebuilding” is one area where Brazil has sought to exercise global leadership, championing the U.N. Peacebuilding Commission and chairing it in 2015. Brazil’s foreign development cooperation funding almost tripled between 2006 and 2010, and its official technical cooperation with numerous countries of Africa and Latin America—including some conflict-affected states—was promoted as advancing peace as well as development.
Drawing on interviews with Brazilian diplomats and official documents, this paper examines the context, key principles, and main mechanisms of Brazilian peacebuilding. It identifies major patterns and trends, including important challenges and contradictions. In particular, we examine whether there is a “Brazilian” approach to peacebuilding and how that approach differs from dominant or Western principles and practices.
Although the concept of “peacebuilding” is not defined in any official documents, Brazilian diplomats use it in a way that encompasses a wider array of activities than the conventional Western usage of post-conflict state-building and reconstruction. The term extends to Brazil’s role in mediating international conflicts in places like Iran, its technical advice and development packages in unstable and post-conflict societies like Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, and even to its peacekeeping activities in Haiti. The common threads running through these activities are the value that Brazil places upon the “peacebuilding” concept as uniting security and development, and its tendency to elevate issues of poverty, jobs, and equality in security debates and policies, especially in multilateral settings.