Acting Globally: Memoirs of Brazil’s Assertive Foreign Policy; Rethinking Global Democracy in Brazil

In This Review

Acting Globally: Memoirs of Brazil’s Assertive Foreign Policy
By Celso Amorim
Hamilton Books, 2017
486 pp.
Rethinking Global Democracy in Brazil
By Markus Fraundorfer
Rowman & Littlefield, 2017
250 pp.

During the 2003–10 presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the energetic foreign minister Amorim traveled widely to expand Brazil’s global influence. In his highly intelligent and richly detailed memoir, the wily, sharp-tongued diplomat seeks to justify his controversial and ill-fated attempt to insert Brazil into negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and to explain his more sure-footed and well-informed but equally unsuccessful effort to secure a deal during the World Trade Organization’s failed Doha Round of trade negotiations. He blames others for both outcomes: France, Russia, and the United States foiled his Iranian gambit, and protectionist nations (particularly India and the United States) impeded the trade accord. Amorim sought to establish Brazil as a trusted, balanced interlocutor and as a prestigious player on the world stage. Yet in his caustic asides, Amorim reveals his own skewed sensibilities, his sensitivity to perceived slights, and his obvious receptivity to personal flattery—all of which help explain why his efforts often came up short. Lula’s Brazil sought to punch above its weight. The more recent near collapse of the country’s political system and economy has at least momentarily returned Brazil to mere middle-power status.

In Rethinking Global Democracy in Brazil, Fraundorfer finds reasons for hope that multilateral institutions will do a better and more evenhanded job at tackling pressing global problems by sharing power with civil society organizations and affected local communities. Fraundorfer closely examines four recent cases in which such interactions took place, all involving Brazil: the development of the World Health Organization–backed international drug purchase facility called Unitaid; the promulgation of rights-based doctrines by the UN’s Committee on World Food Security; the establishment of the eight-nation pro-transparency Open Government Partnership; and the NETmundial global meeting, a one-off effort to advance ethical Internet governance. During the reign of Lula’s Workers’ Party, Brazil served as a fascinating laboratory for these democracy-expanding innovations. Brazilian representatives, including Amorim, possessed the expertise and credibility to play leading roles in all four international exercises. To his credit, Fraundorfer recognizes that such experiments are extremely fragile, typically entail only voluntary commitments, produce more doctrinal posturing than policy implementation, and depend on the goodwill of progressive governments—which is currently in short supply.

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