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Foreign Affairs: extend bridges or erect barriers ? Cycle of debates in the Senate

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The chairman of Brazil’s Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense, senator Fernando Collor announced at Friday’s (March 23) session that the Committee’s cycle of debates panels in the first semester of 2017 will be about ” Brazil and the international order – Extend bridges or erect barriers?”

This will be a continuation of a series of conferences promoted by Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense. Renowned experts from civil society will be invited to present their perspective and contribute to the debate in Parliament. The goal is to examine all possible scenarios. Thus, among the speakers, we will have diplomats (“we have chosen to invite those with vast experience and recognition but no longer holding positions in the Government”), academics, journalists , researchers and professionals who have in International Relations and National Defense their object of study and reflection. In this sense, we seek to establish a comprehensive theme, with the main issues of the international agenda and of Defense that we understand interesting to [discuss about] Brazil [in this age of dilemma between extending bridges or erecting barriers], said senator Collor

In what conditions is the National Defense of Brazil? What are the opportunities and challenges for the establishment of a modern, autonomous and competitive national defense industry in the international arena? What partnerships can be established for the development of our defense industry and the role of technology investments in this context? What can be brought from this industry, in technological terms, to the civil sector? Are we still languishing in terms of National Security and Defense?

In the opening remarks to announce the cycle of debates, senator Collor said:

Fundamental to the sovereign existence of any State is the knowledge of how other powers act and what are their interests in the international scenario. We need to discuss about Russia and China, as well as those who show themselves as other interesting partners of Brazil in both commercial and geopolitical terms. Highlight should be given to the so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in their international relations”.

“Among the major issues on the international agenda today is certainly the issue of migration. Europe, for example, has witnessed flows of people coming to that continent fleeing from wars, misery and violence. These immigrants have aroused both solidarity and repulsion on the part of Europeans in an atmosphere of fear, ignorance and mistrust, all culminating in conflict and an unprecedented social crisis in a unified Europe. Fear, mistrust and ignorance are also present in the way many immigrants are seen in the largest economy on the planet. The situation of foreigners, particularly of illegal immigrants, worsened in 2017 in the United States, due to stricter measures taken by the new Government of that country to address the issue”.

“The environment is another topic that should be considered when discussing international relations and sovereignty, particularly in the case of Brazil. How the international system  evolved since Brazil hosted the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, ECO-92 and, recently, Rio + 20, 25 years ago? What advances or eventual setbacks could there be in the environmental field? Are we living in a more sustainable world in 2017? And how do the great powers position themselves in this context?’ It is on this international scene of instability, insecurity and uncertainty, but also great opportunities for any country willing to play a leading role and lead other nations in this storm, which we intend to address in the panel series entitled “Brazil and International Order: Extending Bridges or Lifting Barriers? ”

At the annoucement, senador Collor said that the  post-Cold War international system has undergone significant and intense changes in recent years. The world watched astonished  the year 2017 start with the planet’s superpower under new government, with changes in the directions of both domestic public policies and foreign policy. In fact, experts still find it difficult to predict President Donald Trump’s actions in the conduct of his country’s foreign affairs”. If there is one word that could sum up this beginning of Government in Washington, it is unpredictability, added Collor.

“Europe is still surprised by the recent popular consultation that established the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Nationalism emerges with motivations related to the economic crisis, the collapse of the social democracy model and the welfare state, which were the foundations of the European unity and which guided the region’s development since the end of World War II World. Is the greatest and most successful experience of integration in the twentieth century about to sink? The fates of Europe  seem uncertain, with bridges built by supporters of integration being replaced by barriers erected by nationalist and Eurosceptic movements.  Never in its history has the European Bloc faced such major challenges to its existence”.

Other principal remarks made by senator Collor:

The crisis of the European integration model also raises questions about multilateralism in international relations and the viability of regional integration processes. Is there still room for regional alliances, such as Mercosur, the NAFTA)  and Transpacific Agreement, the last two threatened by strong criticism from the Trump Government? The Pacific Alliance, made up of Latin American countries that defied  “Bolivarian” alternatives, seems to identify opportunities for growth and new agreements with the recent changes in Washington. What is the future of these alliances?

If regionalism seems to lose strength in international relations, multilateralism is not perceived as a solution either. So prestigious organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also undergoing restructuring searching for alternatives to their decision-making models. In this context, there are many who criticize multilateral forums and defend the bilateral alternative as the best for modern states to conduct relations among themselves.

In the field of international economics, crisis is still a word found in the daily lives of many countries, including  in the most developed ones. How to deal with an international economic system in which turmoil shakes markets, protectionism gains space , regional differences widen as wekk as the gap between rich and poor, and international institutions seem fragile in their quest for joint solutions ?

In the political and social spheres, the challenges of this early twentieth century are related to unemployment in many countries, falling people’s income, ethnic conflicts and the rise of nationalism.  A direct reflection of these issues is the crisis of legitimacy of the political class in various parts of the globe, parallel to the emergence of “alternatives” perceived as radical and sometimes contestatory democracy.

Was the Western democratic model going through a moment of questioning its effectiveness as the best alternative to guide the course of citizens’ lives?
Undoubtedly, crisis creates insecurity. At the international level, the issue of security plays a prominent role on the agenda of States. And if the so-called “new threats”, such as organized crime, cyber war and terrorism, play a prominent role in the international security agenda, so do traditional threats related to states, from commercial war to armed conflict, espionage , border disputes, and the interference of some countries in the internal affairs of others.

Hence the need to address these issues and the preparation of the Security, Defense and Intelligence sectors so that Brazil can properly position itself in the concert of nations.And since security and development can not be dissociated, it is fundamental to know and discuss the opportunities and obstacles to economic, social and political growth of the country, remarked senator Collor,

 Full Text (Senate shorthand register)