Bras. Political Sci. Rev.2013;7(2):171-4.

The New Actors of Brazilian Foreign Policy

Sean W. Burges

DOI: 10.1590/1981-382172201300171

Brazilian foreign policy has reached a very interesting inflection point. The bureaucratic walls of the Itamaraty Palace so stoutly erected by the Baron of Rio Branco in 1902 are cracking. Where foreign policy used to be neatly circumscribed by the world of ‘high politics’ and external interaction by Brazilians limited to a small group of clearly defined actors, the situation today is very different. Itamaraty retains pride of place for the grand geopolitical thinking that often preoccupies the study of foreign policy, but the aspects of international affairs touching the lives of citizens everywhere are increasingly becoming the concern of line ministries, subnational governments, state agencies and private actors.

This is a bold claim with respect to Brazilian foreign policy, but one which accurately reflects the extent to which the technocratic minutia of specialist policy areas have not only internationalized, but increasingly interact with other areas of ‘low’ and ‘high’ politics. The immediate value of the individual chapters in this book is that they highlight the absurdity of any attempt to claim that Brazil’s international affairs should remain the sole preserve of Itamaraty. Each of the five diverse sections of the book – human rights, culture, education, health, and paradiplomacy – immediately suggest that it is unreasonable to expect any relatively small organization, no matter how brilliant its staff, to retain mastery across such a wide range of sometimes highly technical specialties. Indeed, this is the very challenge with which Itamaraty is currently grappling. A more subtle approach is needed, one which involves complex bureaucratic positioning and intra-departmental coordination by Itamaraty to retain influence while also allowing Brazilian interests in these diverse areas to be advanced by the experts. Each of the chapters in this volume does an excellent job of describing what has happened.


The New Actors of Brazilian Foreign Policy