The Brazilian government has made signs of progress in relation to the transparency and social participation in foreign policy. In May 2013, at a hearing in the Senate, the then Minister of Foreign Relations, Antônio Patriota, promised to increase the contact between the ministry and civil society and to improve its transparency mechanisms. The commitment was confirmed months later, at a new Senate hearing, by the current Foreign Minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo.
The promises made by the ministers involve two concrete proposals that are long-time demands of organizations working in the field of foreign relations: the preparation of a White Paper, with the guidelines of Brazil’s international action, and the creation of a National Council on Foreign Policy, a consultative body to serve as a formal communication channel between civil society and the Executive Branch.
This second proposal has now received the backing of the CBDHPE (Brazilian Human Rights and Foreign Policy Committee), of which Conectas is a founding member. The Committee, formed by NGOs and state institutions, recently announced its support for the creation of the new Council to “institutionalize the social participation of sectors interested in foreign policy, creating channels for dialogue and consultation in relation to the general guidelines of the foreign policy of the Executive”.
Through the Council, the Brazilian government would publicly report on its actions and obtain feedback for future foreign policy decisions. “Without institutionalization, there can be no real participation. And this is why the creation of the Council is so important,” said Camila Asano, coordinator of the Foreign Policy program at Conectas.
In an open letter, the members of the CBDHPE highlighted the importance of the political and financial autonomy of the future body, as well as the plurality of its composition. Another concern is for the Council, since it will be consultative, to have feedback and accountability mechanisms. The idea would be for the government to give its justifications whenever the Council’s recommendations are not accepted.
The document also states that the Council sessions should be recorded and registered in public minutes, thereby ensuring the ability to monitor its activities and to include human rights issues in its debates and deliberations.
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