Brazil's engagement in international development cooperation
In keeping with the BRICS Initiative, which examines the role of the BRICS countries as actors in international development cooperation, Minister Farani discussed the theme of 'Brazil’s engagement in international development cooperation: towards a new paradigm?', at a public seminar attended by over 100 people including IDS members, researchers and students from the IDS/University of Sussex Brazil Group and colleagues from other UK think-tanks.
BRICS matter for development
The economic and political influence of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and since 2011, South Africa – is rapidly increasing. Until recently most of these Rising Powers were recipients of aid, but they are now becoming more active as donors in their own right, raising important challenges for debates on international development cooperation. Minster Farani pointed out that there has been little collaboration between the BRICS countries on development cooperation policy, but that a changing world order calls for greater collaboration between them. Will the BRICS challenge the current ways of 'doing' development?
Brazil and the changing model of development
Low inflation, economic growth, and strong socially inclusive policies have changed Brazil radically in the last decade. The country's rise, economically and politically, has brought increased global attention to its growing role as an actor in development cooperation. The Brazilian experience is much sought-after, with other developing countries in the Global South eager to learn from Brazilian experts on tropical agriculture (especially those based at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, EMBRAPA, or social protection experts working on the Brazilian conditional cash transfer programme: Bolsa Família.
The Minister described Brazil as a developing country (it still receives overseas development aid from Japan and Germany) which is also 'Western' and as such uniquely placed to act as a bridge between the 'West' and the 'developing world'.
Minister Farani reflected on the 'what' and the 'why' of Brazil's development cooperation, where its strengths lie and how it fits into the global aid architecture. One of his closing remarks brought much laughter to the room, but it is an apt description: 'We are brand-new, we are a new product in the market and people want to try us!'
Changing the rules of the game?
Minister Farani argued it may be time to rethink the concept of South-South cooperation and focus on technical solutions to developmental problems. He described Brazil's development cooperation as being wholly demand-driven, delivered by seconded civil servants who respond to specific needs via projects. According to the Minister, Brazil engages in technical development cooperation – not aid – which is pragmatic and underpinned by solidarity, not ideology or commerce.
Whilst the emphasis is on Brazil's cooperation programme being demand-driven, it is also clearly a foreign-policy instrument, and as such it is likely that there is some alignment between public and private sector interests, although the Minister was clear on this articulation not being institutionalised as yet. Minister Farani thought Brazil's cooperation would come to specialise in environment, agriculture and social protection, but without the burden of wanting to become a world leader in these areas.
'Brazilians are different, we don’t have a past'
Minister Farani was positive about the path ahead for Brazil, bolstered by its lack of a colonial past, and shared identity with Africa, particularly Portuguese-speaking Africa. President Lula's administration marked the opening of 17 new embassies in Africa and trade flows between Africa and Brazil grew four-fold in the past 10 years. Brazil now has cooperation agreements with 30 African countries.
The Minister insisted that Brazil's development cooperation will follow an unorthodox path, very much revelling in its difference. In discussing ABC's position on the forthcoming Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Minister Farani stated Brazil does not have any plans to become a member of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD DAC).
However, there is a clear need to manage expectations – Brazil's domestic success in development will not necessarily mean it has the answers for other countries.
Putting research and knowledge centre stage
Both Minister Farani and Professor Haddad reflected on the importance of ensuring research and knowledge are central to any new development cooperation programme.
The IDS BRICS Initiative team works with a range of research, civil society and government partners in the BRICS countries and in the UK to explore the changing face of development cooperation and what this means for existing models of international development.
With thanks to the UK Department for International Development for sponsoring Minister Farani's visit to the UK.
Photo: IDS BRICS Initiative Convenors, Alex Shankland and Lizbeth Navas-Aleman with Brazillian Minister Marco Farani. (IDS)
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