Munich Security Conference: Brazil’s No-Show

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Of the world's top ten economies, Brazil is the only country without a single participant at this year's Munich Security Conference. Brazil's absence sends a message to the international community that it no longer seeks a place at the table when the world's most complex security challenges are debated.

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The yearly Munich Security Conference is known as a venue for backroom diplomacy and negotiations, with several international crises in the spotlight. Like every year, leading diplomats and defense officials have come to Germany from all over the world. U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi (who came straight from the latest round of Syrian peace talks), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are among the participants.

The world's major security threats are discussed with those involved at the highest level. Kerry will meet Ukrainian opposition leaders and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Germany's new (and old) Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Henry Kissinger, among many others, share their views.

This year, the conference participants focus on issues such as security of the Euro-Atlantic region, the crisis in Ukraine, Russia-NATO ties, the regulation of cyberspace, the civil war in Syria, the future of Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear program, the global financial downturn's influence on global security and stability, Japan-China ties and energy security.

Conferences like these matter because they offer platforms to create narratives (which, if crafted successfully, gain global traction) as well as spaces to create networks and obtain important information about trends and current ideas.

Brazil's glaring absence from the conference is notable and may suggest that its current government regards international security challenges as secondary. While the conference's focus is certainly NATO-centric, high-ranking officials from other regions of the world were present, such as Japan, Iran, Russia, Nigeria and Afghanistan. The 350 senior figures come from more than 70 countries. Of the world's top ten economies, Brazil was the only country without a single participant.

A Brazilian participant such as Defense Minister Celso Amorim, Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Special Advisor Marco Aurélio Garcia or Ambassador Antonio Patriota (who was there last year as Foreign Minister) could have provided a valuable perspective on security challenges from the Global South. Yet more worryingly, Brazil's absence sends a clear message to the other participants that it does not seek a place at the table when the world's most complex security challenges are debated. This undermines Brazil's campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council: Brazil was the only G4 member that lacked any representation.

Brazil's current economic crisis cannot justify this step. After all, what is the use of a country that is only ready to help address global challenges when its economy is going well? 

If continued, Brazil's current passive international strategy risks eliminating the important gains achieved during the Lula years.

Read also:

The Case against Brazil’s Retrenchment

Brazilian foreign policy: Game over?

South-South cooperation: Does the IBSA Fund matter?

Photo credit: Lukas Barth/Reuters