Brazil. The Construction of a World Power

Why does Brazil qualify to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council with regards to its commitment undertook in international peacekeeping efforts?

Essay, 2016

11 Pages, Grade: 8.0


It was in 2013, when the now impeached president of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff stated ‘É preocupante a limitada representação do Conselho face os novos desafios do século XXI’ (Estadão, September 24, 2013). Referring to the Security Council of the UN she expressed her concern about the legitimacy deficit of the Council and its necessary reconfiguration in the 21th century. A permanent seat in the UN Security Council is not only associated with political power, but also international prestige, for which reasons being a member has been one of Brazil’s foreign policy goals since its creation. One way to attain this objective has been through engagement in UN peacekeeping operations (Bracey 2011, 315-316). In Article 23 of Chapter V in the UN Charta some criteria of eligibility for a membership in the Council are specified, among which the engagement in maintenance of international peace and security is particularly highlighted (UN Charter art. XXIII, para. I.). Contemplating both, Brazil’s aim of being a permanent member in the Council, and a country’s efforts international peacekeeping missions rendering it eligible for the attainment of such a position, reveal the importance of examining Brazil’s past peacekeeping missions. For this purpose, first there shall be outlined the academic debate on various types of peacekeeping, considering most notable the articles VI and VII of the UN Charta. Incidences of Brazilian peacekeeping efforts are then embedded in the debate in chronological order. First, the period before the military regime (1964-1985) is being discussed, focusing on the important figure of Rui Barbosa. Second, peacekeeping missions from after the dictatorship are enumerated, among which there shall be examined two in particular, being the mission in East Timor under Fernando Cardoso and the mission in Haiti under Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva. This analysis will allow for a better understanding of the nature of Brazilian peacekeeping which is imperative for becoming a permanent member.

Before discussing the case of Brazil, it seems relevant to define several conceptions of peacekeeping missions and their underlying principle that is acting in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In one of its publications the OHCHR1 aims to define the notion of protection. It admits that the Security Council’s definition is vague, since the actions to be taken depend on the circumstances and stages of a particular conflict. These activities could range from delivering humanitarian assistance to deploying peacekeeping troops. Other institutions and organs with differing conceptions of protections are OCHA2 and IASC3. The former giving a narrower definition of protection, including only civilians and not all individuals (as the one by OHCHR). The latter emphasizing that all activities for the sake of protection shall be conducted in an impartial manner, with regards to race, national or ethnic origin, language or gender (OHCHR Staff 2006, 121-122). Unlike the OCHA or the IASC, Ramcharan equally emphasized the promotion of Human Rights next their protection. He cites nine points that enhance promoting those, among them being the advocacy of the rule of law, education on human rights issues and the collaboration of human rights institutions (Ramcharan 2006, 31-33). The general conceptions and opinions about the protection and promotion of Human Rights help to set the framework for understanding the objectives of peacekeeping missions.

In order to concretize the discussion on how Human Rights ought to be protected and promoted, approaches to implement them in UN peacekeeping missions are cited. In her publication UN Peacekeeping in Civil Wars Howard specifies about UN peacekeeping missions that they function the most effectively if the peacekeepers attach the same value to the leads and advices by the local population as those coming from the UN head offices. She terms this approach multidimensional peacekeeping (Gammer 2009, 273-274). With regards to the question where UN peacekeeping mission should operate, V. P. Fortna holds the same opinion as Howard, arguing that such a mission can hardly ever be successful without the consent of the country in which the operation is to take place (Gammer 2009, 276-277). In the specific situation of deploying UN troops in a post civil war situation it has been argued that a mission’s success depends on the number and type of the peacekeeping personnel. According to the authors assigning more people to a certain mission rises the likelihood of its success. Also, it is important to assign the tasks to the right type of personnel. First, armed troops can separate the combatants to reinstate a temporary balance between the parties involved in the civil war. Second, armed police units do not fight in the combat zone, but help protecting the civil population from attacks or train the local police. And third, the observer personnel is responsible for compiling and making public information about the status quo of the UN mission (Hultman, Kathman and Shannon 2016, 235-238). All authors mentioned within the context of approaches to implementing UN peacekeeping missions have highlighted different aspects while adhering to the common goal of protecting and promoting Human Rights.

For an analysis of Brazilian peacekeeping involvement, it seems particularly important to examine closer the passages within the UN Charta that explicitly refer to actively securing Human Rights through organizing missions. The relevant chapter hereto are number VI4 and VII5. As its title already suggests, chapter VI focuses on the peaceful resolution of disputes, through deliberation and negotiation. Chapter VII differs from the previous one in the sense that it allows for a military operation if this is found necessary by the Security Council and even so if the country, in which the peace threatening circumstances have occurred, does not consent to this (UN Charter art. XXXIII-LIII; Mares and Trinkunas 2016; 99-100). These two chapters mark a distinction in the nature of peacekeeping missions, that in a broader sense constitutes a reason for which Brazilian peacekeeping missions have come under criticism. In article four of the Brazilian Constitution it is codified that the country aims for a peaceful resolution of conflicts, with respect for self-determination and without intervention (Kenkel 2010, 653). Therefore, Brazilian authorities regard chapter VII missions as contradictory to article IV of the country’s constitution, including the principle of non-intervention. With the exceptions of the mission to Sinai, Angola, East Timor and Haiti, Brazil’s mission have not exceeded the scope of chapter VI (Kenkel 2013, 279-279). In the spirit of chapter VI, Brasília prefers to tackle the root causes that can lead to war, such as poverty, social and economic inequality or underdevelopment over military action (Bracey 2011, 317). In sum it can be said that that both UN chapters lay the foundations for any peacekeeping mission and are the first point of reference for organizing them. Brazil has actively participated in chapter VI missions, and less so by contributing armed troops.

In order to give an overview of the extent to which Brazil has been taking part at securing peace in the world community through involvement in peacekeeping missions or other notable activities, some incidences of the country’s engagement are cited chronologically. This examination is split in two parts, the first one dealing with peacekeeping efforts before the military regime and the second part with those after. It seems reasonable to do so since under the military regime peacekeeping missions came close to a halt (Mares and Trinkunas 2016; 100). One of the country’s first appearances as a preserver of global peace was through the participation of Rui Barbosa’s in the Peace Conference in The Hague in 1907. As the head of the Brazilian delegation the intellectual advocated equal treatment among all states in the realm of international relations (Amorim 2007, 5-6). The conference laid the foundation for the creation of the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague (Zimmermann 2007, 25-27). Brazil’s first involvement in a UN mission before the military regime was in the course of the UN’s first peacekeeping mission in 1965 on the Sinai Peninsula, with a contribution of 600 men in the infantry battalion (Kenkel 2010, 655; Mares and Trinkunas 2016, 100). For Brazil these two incidences seem to be the most relevant experiences in the realm of peacekeeping before the military dictatorship. Next to the mission in Sinai Brazil had engaged in two more operations before 1964, totaling to a sum of three mission before the military years, which is the same amount of mission that took place during the military years (Viera Brigido 2010, 106-107). Therefore, the degree of engagement during the dictatorship might not seem low, as in comparison to the number in the years preceding it. However, this number is by far exceeded in the governments to follow after its fall. Altogether, before 1986 Brazil does not seem to be extraordinarily prominent on the world stage for its involvement in peacekeeping missions.

Brazil’s profile changes under the governments of Itamar Franco, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In Itamar Franco’s term Brazil was involved in six peacekeeping missions to which it mostly contributed with medical teams and electoral and military observers (Viera Brigido 2010, 120-123). Two of these six countries, namely Angola and Mozambique, being lusophone countries, has brought Brazilian peacekeeping mission under criticism considering the criterion of impartiality. It has been argued that Brazil’s motivation for involvement is rooted in national interests (Kenkel 2013, 282).

In the two terms of Fernando Henrique Cardoso Brazil took part in twelve peacekeeping operations. This increase, comparing to the term of the former president, has to be seen relation to their respective years in office. In the course of UNAVEM III6 that started in 1995, Brazil was in fourth position worldwide as major contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping missions (Viera Brigido 2010, 154-159). In total numbers Brazil sent 4174 soldiers and 48 police officers to Angola (Bracey 2011, 320). This third mission to Angola seemed necessary as a result of signing the Lusaka protocol that was aimed to end the Angolan civil war between the government and the UNITA7, to monitor the starting peace process, to help managing the disarmament of UNITA and to offer mediation between the parties (Department of Public Information, UN, June 30, 1997).

A second case that shall be analyzed is East Timor, where Brazil was involved in both missions, the first one starting in 1999, when the country was in the process of becoming independent from Indonesia. The mission UNAMET8 aimed to help organizing a referendum deciding upon the country’s independence. After the vote for independence its task was most importantly rebuilding the Timorese state (Blanco 2015, 46-47). This case is particularly interesting for Brazil since it was contributing to the mission under the principles of chapter VII, 91 soldiers being deployed on the ground (Bracey 2011, 318-322). Cardoso justified this involvement on the basis of cultural and linguistic similarities between Brazil and East Timor and the consent of all parties in East Timor to a UN mission (Santos and Cravo 2014, 2). As Fortna and Howard have argued, the consent of the country to intervene is a precondition for an effective peacekeeping mission. Even though the UN portrays its missions in East Timor as successful, Blanco questions this when he enumerates several shortcomings along the axes of structural limitations and the negligence of fundamental elements of the Timorese reality. As to structural shortcomings he states that during the process of state building, very few legal documents were being translated into Tetum, which is the lingua franca in East Timor. The upheavals in 2006 after seven years of UN missions on the ground are a proof of having neglected the deep political hostilities in East Timor (Blanco 2015, 50-52). A criticism particularly concerning involvement from a Brazilian perspective is, as it has been argued likewise for the involvement in Angola, that there was an economic motivation for Brazil, next to assisting the process of independence. Cardoso sought to strengthen his country’s economic exchange with the former Portuguese colony. Also, by embracing human rights Cardoso could make the political statement that Brazil has completed its transition to being a democracy (Bracey 2011, 318-322). In sum it can be said that in the period after the military regime and before Lula’s term Brazil’s peacekeeping missions do increase under the terms of Itamar Franco and Fernando Cardoso, however they remain mostly within the scope of chapter VI. The missions in Angola and East Timor were two examples of mission within the period 1985-2003. Both were realized under chapter VII and confirm the criticism of Brazil focusing its missions on former Portuguese colonies.


1 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

2 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

3 Inter-Agency Standing Committee

4 Chapter VI: Pacific Settlement of Disputes

5 Chapter VII: Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression

6 United Nations Angola Verification Mission III

7 União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola

8 United Nations Mission in East Timor

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Brazil. The Construction of a World Power
Why does Brazil qualify to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council with regards to its commitment undertook in international peacekeeping efforts?
Leiden University
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Brazil, Security Council, Peacekeeping, United Nations
Quote paper
Amadia Kilic (Author), 2016, Brazil. The Construction of a World Power, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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