Building on the B in BRIC
Nov 19th 2008
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil, sees a growing global role for big emerging economies
Upon first taking office in 2003, I pledged to end hunger in my country. Under the “Zero Hunger” banner, I put poverty-eradication and the alleviation of inequality at the forefront of government action. I was convinced that without dealing squarely with these two evils, it would be impossible to overcome centuries of economic backwardness and political unrest.
After nearly six years, much progress has been made. The number of very poor in Brazil has been slashed in half. The middle class is now in a majority, 52% of the population.
There is no cause for complacency. Many Brazilians are still unable to support themselves with dignity. Yet Brazilian society's response to eliminating social and economic deprivation is an indication of the profound changes the country is undergoing. Brazil has never been in a better position to meet the challenges ahead and is fully aware of its growing global responsibilities.
Brazil’s ethanol and biodiesel programmes are a benchmark for alternative and renewable fuel sources. Partnerships are being established with developing countries seeking to follow Brazil’s achievements—a 675m-tonne reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, a million new jobs and a drastic reduction in dependence on imported fossil fuels coming from a dangerously small number of producer countries. All of this has been accomplished without compromising food security, which, on the contrary, has benefited from rising agricultural output.
Food scarcity threatens to undermine our achievements in reducing world poverty. Brazil is expanding agricultural production, reinforcing the country’s position as the world’s second-largest food exporter. At the same time, the pace of deforestation in the Amazon has been reduced by half, an indication that Brazil’s modern agro-industry poses no threat to the rainforest. We are setting up offices in developing countries interested in benefiting from Brazilian know-how in this field.
The replication in Latin America and Africa of many Brazilian social initiatives, including the Zero Hunger and HIV-AIDS programmes, is proof that the Millennium Development Goals are attainable at a relatively low cost. The antiretroviral manufacturing plant Brazil is set to open in Mozambique in 2009, for example, will help Africa to fight the HIV-AIDS epidemic.
In tackling climate change, collective action is the only way forward. The question-mark around the relevance of the G8 and the unreformed Security Council—not to mention the Bretton Woods institutions—highlights that it is no longer possible to exclude major emerging economies from the debate on issues of paramount importance to the global agenda. Greater democracy in international decision-making is essential if truly effective answers to global challenges are to be found. The magnitude of the current financial crisis, for instance, requires a vigorous response from the multilateral institutions.
Brazil remains committed to the successful conclusion of the Doha round. We wish to eliminate all barriers to international trade that strangle the productive potential of countless countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. I have been in direct contact with leaders from some of the main players—the United States, India, China, Indonesia, Britain—and believe we still have a real chance to achieve a breakthrough on the relatively minor outstanding issues.
The industrialised world should take the lead in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and provide support for developing nations to follow, but without having to compromise on domestic growth. Similarly, intellectual-property protection cannot take precedence over the ethical imperative of ensuring that poor populations have access to life-saving drugs.
Implementing this agenda requires a new, more transparent and rule-based international system. To this end, Brazil has joined India and South Africa in establishing IBSA, an association of the three major democracies of the global South focusing on co-operation and development issues. Within the framework of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and of the expanded G8, Brazil seeks to help identify the role of these emerging players in the unfolding multipolar order.
We have also joined our neighbours in setting up the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL), which aims to enhance regional integration and to ensure a stronger international presence for our block. UNASUL is setting up an energy plan, a defence council and a development bank.
Through such initiatives we will enhance dialogue and improve the mechanisms required to reinvigorate multilateralism. Most of all, we will strengthen our capacity to join hands in building a more peaceful, just and prosperous future for all.