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Challenges and Possibilities of Empirical International Relations Theory: Evidence From Research in Brazil  

Fernanda Barasuol and Andre Reis da Silva

Much of the debate in international relations (IR) theory in the past decades has concerned epistemological matters and the possibility of empirical research in the field. Most of this debate happened either within the United States or between Americans and Europeans, translating the general trend of keeping the theoretical core of the discipline centered around its geographical (developed) core. Brazilian international relations provides an additional peripheral view to IR theory (IRT). It is worth analyzing how theory has been used in Brazilian teaching and research, with the aim of understanding how Brazilian academics have used different theoretical approaches to understand their objects of study. With this objective, it is important to look into teaching syllabi, PhD dissertations, and articles published in academic journals in the field of international relations. There are considerable differences between teaching and research in Brazil, with the first following traditional American textbook standards. Research, however, shows considerably different theoretical and methodological bases.

Article

Growing Participation in Peace Operations and Conflict Resolution in Latin American Countries  

Kai Michael Kenkel

Latin American states have become major providers of troops for UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) since the early 2000s. MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti), the UN mission in Haiti, 55% of whose troops were from the region, was a major watershed for local security cooperation and PKO contributions. Led by Brazil, these states were able to develop a specific approach to peacebuilding that reflects regional strengths and experiences, rooted in minimizing the use of force and bringing successful domestic development policies to bear abroad. This approach also reflects the common security and intervention culture that underpins policy in the region. Two states in particular have taken on a role as major providers of peacekeeping contingents. Tiny Uruguay, with a population of 3 million people, has maintained over 2,000 troops deployed on UN PKOs (more than 10% of its armed forces) since 2005. While Uruguay’s motivations are mostly economic—UN reimbursements exceed the country’s costs—Brazil’s ascendance as a major peacekeeping provider during MINUSTAH was part of a larger emerging-power foreign policy project. Participating in peacebuilding allowed the country to provide security through actions in the development realm, bridging a key gap in many rising states’ capabilities, and to mount an incipient challenge to the Western-led peacebuilding paradigm. The remaining states of Latin America show considerable diversity in their peacekeeping engagement, with many others sending small or token contributions and some no troops at all. Latin American states’ involvement in PKOs cannot be understood without looking at their interaction with patterns of civil–military relations in the region. In the case of such states, the effect of peacekeeping participation on civil–military relations, while a key point in need of monitoring, has not been decisive, as other factors prevail. Finally, PKOs have served as the locus for a significant increase in policy coordination and cooperation in the defense arena in the region. As the UN moves toward stabilization operations which privilege counterterrorism measures over the peacebuilding paradigm that is a strength of Latin American countries, PKOs may lose attractiveness as a foreign policy avenue in the region. Additionally, the swing to the right in recent elections may serve to reduce the appeal of a practice which came to the fore under previous left-wing governments.

Article

Brazil’s Role in Latin American Regionalism  

Javier A. Vadell and Clarisa Giaccaglia

The roots of Latin American regionalism blend together with the birth of the region’s states, and despite its vicissitudes, the integrationist ideal represents the most ambitious form of regional feeling. It is an ancient process that has undergone continuous ups and downs as a result of domestic and foreign restrictions. In the early 21st century, the deterioration of the “open regionalism” strategy, along with the rise to power of diverse left governments, led to the development of a “physical-structural,” “post-liberal,” “post-neoliberal,” or “post-hegemonic” integration model. In this context, Brazil—governed by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—constituted itself as a crucial protagonist and main articulator of the South American integrationist project. From this perspective, in addition to the existing MERCOSUR, UNASUR was created, and it encompassed the whole subcontinent, thus reaffirming the formulation of regional policies regarding the concept of “South America.” At present, however, a new stage of these regionalisms has started. Today, the Latin American and Caribbean dynamics seem to bifurcate, on the one hand, into a reissue of open regionalism—through the Pacific Alliance—and, on the other hand, into a fragmentation process of South America as a geopolitical bloc and regional actor in the global system. Regarding this last point, it is unavoidable to link the regional integration crisis to the critical political and economic situation undergone by Brazil, considered as the leader of the South American process. In short, the withdrawal of the Brazilian leadership in South America, along with the shifts and disorientations that took place in UNASUR and MERCOSUR, have damaged the credibility of the region’s initiatives, as well as the possibility to identify a concerted voice in South America as a distinguishable whole. That regional reality poses an interesting challenge that implies, to a great extent, making a heuristic effort to avoid being enclosed by the concepts and assumptions of the processes of regionalism and integration that were born to explain the origin, evolution, and development of the European Union. From this perspective, the authors claim that the new phase experienced by Latin American regionalisms cannot be understood as a lack of institutionality—as it is held by those perspectives that support the explanations that they “mirror” the European process—but rather it answers chiefly to a self-redefinition process influenced by significant alterations that occurred both in global and national conjunctures and that therefore, have had an impact on the regional logic. Given the regional historical tradition marked by vicissitudes, the authors believe that they can hardly talk about a “Sudamexit” (SouthAmexit in English) process, namely, an effective abandonment of regionalisms. Recognizing the distinctive features of Latin American and Caribbean countries, rather, leads us to think of dynamics that generate a complex and disorganized netting in which the political-institutional course of development of Brazil will have relevant repercussions in the future Latin American and Caribbean process as a whole.

Article

Religious Regulation in Brazil  

Claudia Cerqueira and Guadalupe Tuñón

During the past three decades, the tide in religious affiliation has rapidly shifted in Latin America. The predominance of Catholicism in the region has been challenged by the expansion of Evangelicalism and the number of individuals with no religious affiliation. Changes in Brazil’s religious landscape are explained in part by the opportunities and restrictions that government regulations place on religious organizations. Regulation shapes religious competition by changing the incentives and opportunities for religious producers (churches, preachers, revivalists, etc.) and the viable options available to religious consumers (church members). Importantly, as our description of Brazilian regulations shows, the incentives defined by regulation affect religious denominations differently, creating winners and losers. Moreover, established religious groups are often able to reshape religious regulation, reinforcing the degree to which it favors them.

Article

The BRICS Countries and the European Union  

Bas Hooijmaaijers and Stephan Keukeleire

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) have, since the beginning of the 21st century, gained greater influence in global political and economic affairs and, since 2006, also steadily developed and increased their political dialogue and cooperation. South Africa joining the BRICS political grouping in 2011 was matched by a strengthening of the BRICS dialogue. This was reflected in the broadening range of issues covered, the increasing level of specificity of the BRICS joint declarations and cooperation, and the institutionalization of BRICS cooperation in various policy fields, including the creation of the New Development Bank (NDB). Notwithstanding the increased interaction between the BRICS states on the various political, economic, and diplomatic levels, the countries differ considerably in their political, economic, military, and demographic weight and interests and in their regional and global aspirations. China particularly stands out among the BRICS due to its political and economic weight. There are sufficient reasons to question the significance and impact of the BRICS format. Still, the BRICS countries have found each other in their commitment to counter the “unjust” Western-dominated multilateral world in which they are generally underrepresented. The EU did not develop a “BRICS policy” as such, which is understandable given the major differences between the BRICS countries and the ambiguous nature of the BRICS format. To deal with the various emerging powers and complement its predominantly regional partnerships, the EU instead institutionalized and deepened the political and economic bilateral relations with each of the BRICS countries, including through the objective of establishing a bilateral “strategic partnership” with each of these countries. However, the analysis of the EU’s relationship with the BRICS countries indicates that the label “strategic partnerships” mainly served as a rhetorical façade which belied that the EU failed to turn these relationships into real strategic partnerships and to behave strategically toward the BRICS countries. Another challenge for the EU appears when analyzing the BRICS within the broader context of various emerging power constellations and multilateral frameworks, including variations of the BRICS format (such as BRICS Plus, BASIC, and IBSA), multilateral frameworks with one or more BRICS countries at their center (such as the SCO, EAEU, and BRI), and regional forums launched by China. Taken together, they point to an increasingly dense set of partially overlapping formal and informal networks on all political, diplomatic, and administrative levels, covering an ever-wider scope of policy areas and providing opportunities for debate, consultation, and coordination. Whereas most of these forums are in and of themselves not very influential, taken together they have an impact on the EU and its traditional view on multilateralism in several ways. Seen from this perspective, the BRICS and other multilateral forums pose major challenges for both European diplomats and European scholars. They will have to make considerable efforts to understand and engage with these various forums, which are manifestations of an increasingly influential and powerful non-Western world wherein the role of Europe is much more limited.