As Brazil again assumes the presidency of UN Security Council (UNSC), it finds itself once more in the world’s spotlight. Brazil’s second presidential term this biennium began on 1 October 2023 and will continue until the end of the month; its first term was during July 2022. Brazil is one of the most active countries among non-permanent members of the UNSC and has stepped into the role during a time of war and revolution amidst increasing criticism of the UNSC as an institution. This will be a great opportunity for Brazil, which is already recognized worldwide as a mediator and for its good neighbor policies.
One of Brazil’s biggest challenges will be avoid having the Russian-Ukrainian war take center stage. Although the war affects the world’s ability to maintain a more harmonious political system, and limits commercial activity and commodity flows, Brazil would rather focus on issues that are more relevant to improving the international system and peacefully resolving international conflicts. Its strategy consists of preventing friction with commercial allies while maintaining conciliatory dialogue, and working to avoid a bipolar international order.
With that in mind, I’ll focus on the two key issues that Brazil hopes to grapple with during its current presidency term: (1) reforming the UNSC and (2) the multinational force dispatched to Haiti.
The UNSC is responsible for maintaining international peace and security. However, since the war in Iraq in 2003, the ability of this institution to prevent and resolve conflict has been under question. Above all, other countries have wondered why its permanent members—the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom—have run the Council based on their own interests, exacerbating tensions and conflicts.
Brazil is also critical of deficiencies in the Council’s procedures and has been emphatic about the need to reform this institution. One of Brazil’s proposals is to expand the number of permanent members on the council to include Brazil and other strategic countries. Furthermore, it is important that the new members have veto power, which would make peace negotiations more effective and prevent future conflicts through a fresh diplomatic approach.
At the last meeting of the UN General Assembly in September 2023, Brazilian President Lula emphasized the importance of such reform, and harshly criticized the current permanent members, whom he said "encouraged" war. The UNSC’s permanent members are the world’s largest weapons’ producers and dealers and the most involved in wars around the world. This impedes effective negotiation and conflict resolution, given that the council’s decisions necessarily follow their national political interests. The question of representation is also important to critics of the UNSC. Currently, the countries representing the council are the nations that emerged victorious from World War II, rather than various other countries that make up the current multipolar international order.
Brazil therefore presents itself as a new option and as a mediator who will defend bilateral, regional, and multilateral institutions that prevent, solve, and mediate conflicts. It proposes to encourage preventive rather than reactive action, that is, to engage more broadly with the capacities of UN instruments, countries, and international organizations to prevent conflict, instead of trying to settle disputes after they happen.
Haiti has been facing serious political, social, economic, and security crises, especially as relates to armed gangs that control extensive territory in its capital, Port-au-Prince. Political instability has worsened, first after the earthquake in 2010 and again following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. In light of these circumstances, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry called for intervention from the international community to help combat violence, poverty, and food insecurity.
The debate over sending humanitarian aid to Haiti has provoked even more political tension between the United States, China, and Russia. The United States is not only in favor of sending economic resources, but also advocates military intervention and the use of force to "reestablish" peace and security in Haiti and the region. Meanwhile, China and Russia are aware that sending US troops to Haiti would increase US influence in the region, and constrain the formers’ political and economic prospects.
At this juncture, Brazil’s challenge as UNSC president is to avoid a rupture with its commercial partners, while still working to reach peaceful solution in Haiti. It seeks a solution that does not involve military intervention or imposing any one country’s political-economic hegemony in the region. It is important to note that although Brazil has been the backbone of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti for thirteen years (2004-2017), it still opposes sending military troops. First, sending troops would mean bolstering the image of Brazil’s armed forces at unclear costs. Second, Brazil is uncertain about the legacy of the UN’s support mission in Haiti, which has failed to maintain peace or restore political stability. Sending armed troops is not the best path to ending violence; experience shows that the use of force only leads to more violence and can have other repercussions, such as authoritarian rule and or ineffective public governance.
Brazil hopes to strengthen ties with other countries willing to carry out viable measures for socioeconomic development in Haiti. It seeks to create public policies for the short, medium, and long term that will promote social inclusion and public security, allow for strong national institutions that enable the country hold new elections, and strengthen the Haitian political system as a whole.
In short, Brazil’s responsibility is not to settle all political problems in this brief period of time, but rather to leave guidelines in place that can help stabilize political, economic, and social structures in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its political strategy should promote peace in the region to ensure a balanced democratic system and economically fortify the region through sustainable economic development and investment in new technologies. Finally, Brazil should endeavor to improve political systems to be conscious and responsive in protecting citizens’ basic rights.