The Thirteen Most-Read Post-Western World Articles of 2013
More people are killed in Brazil than in any of the world's most lethal war zones. Between 2004 and 2007, almost 200,000 people died of homicide in Brazil, exceeding the 169,574 people killed in the twelve largest armed conflicts in the world during the same period. Iraq in 2006, at the height of the insurgency, saw only half as many homicides as Brazil in any given year.
Under Foreign Minister Patriota, Itamaraty has made unprecedented attempts to engage civil society, often inviting NGO representatives and academics to seminars. Patriota, who spends 40% of his time traveling abroad, frequently speaks at universities across Brazil and participates in policy discussions at think tanks, such as one about the "Responsibility While Protecting" at FGV in Rio de Janeiro last year.
With a tight election race looming next year, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff preferred not to risk being seen as weak and submissive in the face of an ongoing US spying scandal and canceled her trip to Washington, D.C. More revelations right before or during a glamorous state visit, the only formal event of its kind planned in Washington this year, the first by a Brazilian president since 1995, could have made her the laughing stock of the opposition and the public.
Yet low economic growth in the Global South cannot do away the historic advances emerging powers have made, especially during the past decade, which has seen an unprecedented degree of emancipation of the Global South – including the African continent. The lull in the emerging world does not alter long-term predictions that China will overtake the U.S. American economy. Despite current problems, India is set to become a major pillar of the world economy in the course of this century. The world economy will not return to the distribution of power of the late 20th century.
Academics in Brazil who support the BRICS concept are often accused of being 'pro-government' - a charge not to be taken lightly in a profession that is supposed to speak truth to power - in South Africa, India and China, on the other hand, speaking favorably of the idea is quite commonplace. The skepticism the BRICS idea is confronted with is particularly perplexing because Brazil is - along with Russia - probably the country that has most benefited from the grouping.
In many ways, RwP symbolized the very strategy Brazil aspired to pursue: turn into a bridge builder, mediator and consensus seeker through thought leadership. RwP, despite its flaws, was an innovative and constructive proposal to bridge the gap between an overly trigger-happy NATO and excessively resistant China and Russia. Academics in Brazil and abroad lauded Patriota's initiative. It was the Rousseff administration's finest multilateral initiative.
Itamaraty, Brazil's much-admired Foreign Ministry, is also going through one of its most difficult moments, seemingly unable to end a string of scandals that threaten to keep it from developing a coherent foreign policy discourse. After overcoming the recent diplomatic crisis over Bolivia, Itamaraty again made headlines by appointing a former congressman twice convicted of embezzlement as new Ambassador to Angola, a major element in Brazil's Africa strategy. Foreign policy thus continues to produce headaches for the President's aides who are already eyeing next year's elections.
What would Aécio Neves, candidate of Brazil's Social Democratic Party (PSDB) do were he elected President? Of all candidates, it is the former governor of Minas Gerais who has articulated the strongest criticism of the government's current foreign policy. Under both Lula and Rousseff, Aécio argues, Brazil has maintained excessively cordial ties with authoritarian regimes such as Cuba and Iran, and has done too little to promote human rights and democracy. In the same way, he argues that inviting Chavez' Venezuela to join Mercosur was a mistake. Finally, Brazil was wrong to meekly accept expropriations of Petrobras' refineries in Bolivia - hinting that Brazil's response was largely determined by the government's ideological sympathies with Bolivia's left-leaning Evo Morales.
What should Brazil's regional leadership under Marina look like? Once called "too principled for politics" by The Economist, Marina has repeatedly expressed her uneasiness with Brazil's close ties with Cuba and, to a lesser degree, Venezuela. She says Brazil should defend democracy and human rights more actively in the region, play a leading role in mediating conflicts and openly call for free and fair elections in Cuba as well as for the release of political prisoners, but also seek to integrate the country and ask the United States to end its economic embargo.
"Brazil shows the way" The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, wrote when Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff canceled her state visit to the United States in October, in what was the most explicit repudiation of U.S. spying activities. As expected, Rousseff went a step further in her speech at the 68th UN General Assembly, accusing the United States of violating international law by its massive collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted on the country's key industries.
One conversation at Pyongyang's Academy of Agricultural Science served as a particularly strong reminder of how important, and under-exploited, people-to-people exchanges with pariah states like North Korea may be. Upon introducing myself to my interlocutors, two researchers, they seemed flabbergasted to learn that I worked for an institution that was not part of the government. "It's private", I repeated several times, as they stared at me in disbelief. Putting North Korean citizens in touch with the outside world may be a small but ultimately important contribution towards helping one of the most isolated regimes in the world slowly open up.
Any reform always carries the risk of producing unintended effects. Reorienting the world's second largest economy from an investment-led one to a consumer nation is bound to transform Chinese society in ways nobody can adequately predict at this point. Mikhail Gorbachev, loved abroad but disliked at home, is a powerful example of the perils of too much reform. Xi is by definition unable to push through reforms that may threaten the Communist Party's monopoly.
Wade rightly writes that Western states have been strikingly successful in their efforts to keep control of the commanding heights. Their success owes much to institutional rules they put in place decades ago, long before talk of the rise of the South - and still, the South is partly to be blamed for not being able to unite and present more powerful ideas about why reform is necessary.
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Photo credit: https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:Itamaraty.jpg