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Brazil and R2P: Does Taking Responsibility Mean Using Force?

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This article traces the reaction of the Brazilian government to the emergence of the R2P norm. After an initial period of rejection, followed by a period of absence from UN debates, Brazil has recently engaged cautiously with R2P. The article gives a detailed analysis of the origins of the Latin American system of legal protections that resulted in an interpretation in the region that reduces sovereignty almost exclusively to the inviolability of borders. This interpretation is at the heart of Brazil’s rejection of R2P’s tenets regarding the use of force. It does not stand in the way, however, of its contributing decisively to the other two pillars identified in the Secretary General’s Implementation Report. The paper identifies two main factors that motivated the gradual opening of the Brazilian foreign policy establishment to R2P, one external and one internal. Externally, the strong endorsement of R2P in the World Summit Outcome Document did much to facilitate Brazil’s rapprochement with the concept. Concomitantly, Brazil’s rise as an emerging power has increasingly created tensions between regional traditions and still-dominant Northern views of the responsibilities that accompany Brazil’s global aspirations. Brazil is in the process of developing an approach to peace operations and intervention that defines responsibility separately from the use of force, obviating the effects of this perceived tension. As a result, Brazil has become an important peacekeeping troop contributor and is no longer a vocal detractor of R2P. It has begun adapting the non-military elements of the principle to its policy goals and looks set to be an active and important participant in the concept’s further implementation.


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