The White Paper, a public document containing the principles, priorities and outlines of Brazilian foreign policy, will be published before the end of the year, said Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo at a hearing held on Wednesday (November 19) in the Foreign Relations Commission of the lower house of Congress.
The document is an important demand by society and it was the most mentioned topic in the online public consultation organized by the lower house in the weeks leading up to the hearing. Figueiredo, however, did not answer Congressman Florisvaldo Fier, who asked whether a preliminary version of the White Paper would be debated by society before the definitive release.
“This will be the overview of the activities of the Ministry and the outlines of the country’s foreign policy. We intend to step up the public debate and contribute to the discussion of foreign policy in Brazil,” said the minister.
According to Camila Asano, coordinator of Foreign Policy at Conectas, “before publishing the definitive version, the Foreign Ministry should first release and debate with society a preliminary document, as was the case with the bill that created the Civil Framework for the Internet. This would help prevent the White Paper being an innocuous document from the outset.”
The hearing this Wednesday was considered an important forum for dialogue between members of Congress and the Foreign Ministry. “It was an exercise in democracy, since under democratic rule of law all policies, including foreign policy, ought to be debated and rulers need to be accountable,” said Asano.
“Members of Congress, as representatives of the people, need to be increasingly more open to listening to the concerns of the population and then posing the questions that need to be asked to public officials,” she added. It was with this in mind that Conectas asked the members of the lower house commission about the questions they would put to the Foreign Minister before the hearing. Regrettably, none of the members responded directly to the questions submitted by email and Twitter.
On the subject of human rights, the main question posed by the commission members was whether “Brazil’s preference for its partners is based on the trade balance or on human rights?”.
The question was asked by Congressman Ronaldo Caiado, the leader of the rural caucus and one of the 29 members who voted against the constitutional amendment on slave labor.
In response, the minister said “there is no doubt that we have a fundamental interest in stability, democracy and prosperity, and it is fundamental for us that there is respect for human rights, since it is a constitutional principle”.
“The prevalence of human rights in Brazil’s international relations is indeed a constitutional obligation (Article 4, II) and it should effectively exist. It shouldn’t just feature in speeches, much less be used as bargaining by either the opposition or the incumbency in political conflicts,” said Asano.
Figueiredo addressed the controversial visit to Brazil by the Venezuelan minister Elías Jaua and his meeting with the MST (Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers Movement), which polarized much of the debate between the commission members.
He also emphasized the Foreign Ministry’s support for the creation of the multilateral bank for the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
“It is an important instrument that helps with the soundness of the reserves of its members and also helps promote international financial stability to the extent that it complements the current financial protection network,” explained the minister. The new bank will be established to invest in infrastructure and development projects in emerging countries and to diversify the lines of credit beyond those offered by existing institutions, namely the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
One topic that was not discussed at the hearing was the definition of human rights standards to govern the granting of credit by the recently created BRICS Bank.