On 23 November 2023, King’s College London (KCL) was visited by Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazilian Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
When the current Brazilian president was inaugurated, he celebrated by declaring Brazil was back in the global arena. Now, one year after his election, the Brazilian ambassador was invited to a discussion regarding Brazilian foreign affairs in the East Wing of Somerset House. The event was chaired by Dr. Vinicius de Carvalho, Vice Dean (International) of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Public Policy, with the new director of the Brazil Institute, Dr. Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos, as discussant.
Dr. Andreza de Souza Santos began the event by recognising the achievements of the Brazil Institute at King’s and explaining the importance of increased education opportunities on the topic of Brazil. She continued with a short introduction to the Ambassador’s and Dr. Vinicius de Carvalho’s careers and backgrounds.
After his introduction, Ambassador Patriota started the discussion with a reflection on the differences between working as ambassador under former President Bolsonaro and current President Lula. Ambassador Patriota claims the current political climate lends itself to more open dialogue and gives greater opportunity to have open discussion such as the ‘Brazil’s Back’ event at KCL. During the previous administration, the foreign policy strategy was less focused on maintaining diplomatic relations. This gave the Ambassador free time to join the Leaders for Peace initiative, a group of around 40 leaders interested in creating a culture for peace. He concluded his opening statement explaining that “Although what I will say, by and large, will be Brazilian official policy… I am also speaking on my own behalf which I allow myself to do in the current environment of free speech… in Brazil.”
In his address at the event, Brazil’s Ambassador to the UK underscored three primary pillars guiding the nation’s foreign policy: democracy, sustainability, and peace.
Under President Lula’s administration, Brazil is intensifying diplomatic efforts and creating new ministries for human rights and other social issues, including the ministry for racial equality, for women, for indigenous peoples, and many others. President Lula has set out 18 Sustainability and Development Goals (SDG), adding one voluntary goal to the SDG17 of attaining racial equality, signalling a renewed dedication to democratic values.
The Ambassador advocated for increased democratisation of the international system, emphasising the equal application of the rule of law to all UN members as well as increasing representation in the UN Security Council (UNSC) permanent members. Brazil, frequently elected to non-permanent UNSC membership, champions diverse representation and challenges undemocratic practices, said Ambassador Patriota.
With regards to sustainability, the Ambassador stressed the need for global cooperation, highlighting the responsibility of developed nations to contribute alongside developing countries.
In the realm of peace, Brazil’s exemplary track record was emphasised by the Ambassador, citing no regional conflicts since the Paraguayan War, the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and adherence to the UN Charter’s provisions on peace and security.
Domestically, the Ambassador acknowledged differing opinions on increased participation in security talks, proposing an investment in leveraging Brazilian ‘peace capital’ on the global stage as a mediator or intermediary in international matters. During the Q&A after his address, Dr. Andreza de Souza Santos reiterated that Brazil’s ability to leverage ‘peace capital’ was a new, refreshing perspective on the country’s role in international relations.
The Ambassador advocated for the expansion of the UN Security Council’s permanent members, describing the international order as lacking adherence to democratic values. He highlighted that Brazil aims to project these democratic ideals into the international system, focusing on rule of law and representation as the most important pillars to defend. Regarding Security Council expansion, the UK supports adding permanent members, but challenges, including China’s vetoes, persist. The Ambassador noted the Biden administration’s support as a significant development.
Brazil, under President Lula’s leadership, emerges as a proactive force on the global stage, championing democracy, sustainability, and peace. The address at KCL highlighted key initiatives and strategic priorities shaping Brazil’s foreign policy agenda.
After the discussion, there was a reception with drinks and canapés where attendees had an opportunity to speak with the Ambassador, in a social environment. The Brazil Institute also gifted the Ambassador a KCL tote bag with trinkets inside, including a pen and keychain.
In a later visit to the Brazilian Embassy coordinated by the London School of Economics’ and KCL’s respective Brazilian Societies, the Ambassador elaborated on Brazilian sustainability policy, especially with COP28 occurring on 30 November. When asked about the role of developed countries in demanding sustainable policies from the Global South without being held accountable for their own sustainability policies, the Ambassador highlighted Brazilian foreign policy of democratising the international system. Brazil will become more demanding of the Great Powers to be held accountable on the increased impact of their influence on climate, democracy, and peace, as the Ambassador mentioned in his speech on Thursday.
Opening a conversation with the Brazilian Ambassador in a less formal environment gave students and staff an opportunity to question a country’s policies directly while also hearing from parts of the world that are not always at the forefront of mainstream media.