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Post-2015: Will Brazil make room for sustainable peace?

21 January 2014 - Larry Attree, Sunil Suri

Saferworld’s Larry Attree and Sunil Suri explore what role Brazil could play in the process to agree a post-2015 development framework that includes peace.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in September 2013, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff stated that the post-2015 development agenda “must focus on the results of Rio+20”, notably poverty eradication and sustainable development. Brazil has been a leading international champion of the sustainability agenda: hosting the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, and, through Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, pushing for recognition of sustainability challenges within the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Given the focus on environmental sustainability, other critical issues in the post-2015 debate have received comparatively little attention in Brazil – not least the challenges posed by conflict and violence globally, to the Latin America region, and indeed to Brazil.

In several debates at the UN in 2013, the Brazilian government repeated its frequent exhortation that member states embrace ‘long-term structural prevention’ in light of the ‘interdependence between peace, security and development’. It also affirmed that ‘long-lasting peace can only be achieved when the root causes of conflict are effectively considered’. Brazil’s focus on peace as an enabling condition for sustainable development has been highly influential, as evidenced by the widespread support for the Rio+20 outcome document, which affirmed “the importance of freedom, peace and security” and called for “special attention” for countries suffering from insecurity and violence.  Indeed, the Rio Principles adopted in 1992 were even more explicit in linking peace and sustainable development:

Principle 24: Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development…

Principle 25: Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

Nonetheless, Brazilian policy-makers have so far been reluctant to mention peace and the post-2015 development framework in the same breath. In part this is because consultations to develop a national position on the post-2015 agenda have yet to take place and also a fear that the inclusion of peace could dilute the post-2015 agenda’s focus on sustainable development and poverty eradication. However, like China and India, Brazilian officials appear to have other concerns about the inclusion of peace: some are sceptical about whether and how peace can be measured, others oppose the ‘securitization’ of development or are cautious about further international intrusion into countries’ sovereign affairs.

These concerns highlight the need for dialogue to address misperceptions and move the debate forward. Saferworld’s research has already identified over 160 indicators that could be used to measure progress on the peace agenda. This is not to say there are no gaps in the data, but this was no less a challenge when the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed; when providing credible measures of malaria, maternal mortality and tuberculosis, all initially were seen as problematic. 

The high levels of violence and insecurity within Brazil may also prompt it to modify its view. Official statistics show that between 2004 and 2007, almost 200,000 people died of homicide in Brazil, exceeding the 169,574 people killed in the 12 largest armed conflicts in the world during the same period. Even more damaging is evidence from the Igarape Institute highlighting the far-reaching ramifications of these high-levels of violence upon young people in Brazil.

Brazil’s neighbours all share this challenge: homicide rates among young people are over 35 per 100,000 across Latin America - more than in any other part of the world. Latin America is also the only region in the world where lethal violence increased between 2000 and 2010. And there is clear evidence that regional factors, such as drug trafficking and the widespread availability of firearms, contribute to levels of violence and insecurity in Brazil. As UNDP’s 2013-14 Regional Development Report acknowledges “a regional consensus is needed to tackle the obstacles and respond to citizen insecurity”. Tackling issues like drug trafficking effectively will not only require action regionally, but also on the part of developed countries. For example, the number of cocaine users in Europe doubled from 2 million in 1998 to 4.1 million by 2008. The inclusion of peace within the post-2015 framework could act as a catalyst for greater collaboration between different actors – at the domestic, regional and global levels – in pursuit of joint crime and violence reduction strategies.

Looking beyond the region, through its development cooperation and peacekeeping activities Brazil has been active in pursing a more comprehensive approach to development – one that includes the promotion of sustainable peace. In Haiti, Brazilian peacekeepers have demonstrated a joined-up security and development approach; while Brazilian NGO Viva Rio has transplanted community approaches that tackle violence and poverty from the favelas of Rio to the streets of Port-au-Prince. In Guinea-Bissau, the Agency for Brazilian Cooperation has been instrumental in building a new police academy and training over half of the judicial police as part of efforts to combat drug trafficking. However, since a coup in 2012, the Brazilian government has curtailed its cooperation in Guinea-Bissau recognising that instability is hampering development cooperation and that it needs a legitimate partner if it is to help build peace and sustainable development.

Through these overseas engagements, Brazil has gained further experience of how peace, security and development are intertwined. If the world is to address the extreme poverty that persists in conflict-affected contexts (and most member states have now agreed that it should) it will need the kind of ‘structural prevention’ that Brazil has been both advocating for and experimenting with in recent years. The question is whether Brazil will realise how much it has to offer the debate on peace and post-2015 soon enough to bring its vision to the fore.

Larry Attree is Head of Policy for Saferworld, Sunil Suri is Project Officer for the Post-2015 and Rising Powers project.

Over the coming months, Saferworld will continue its engagement on Brazil’s role and policy for sustainable peace within the post-2015 development framework. This is part of a broader project focusing on five key states in the Global South: Brazil, China, India, Turkey and South Africa.

To read more about Brazil and conflict-affected states and the implications for the post-2015 debate, click here.

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Brazil’s focus on peace as an enabling condition for sustainable development has been highly influential...

Larry Attree