Brazilian Foreign Aid: Emerging Foreign Aid Policy

Brazilian foreign aid and cooperation is very much needed and thus it constitutes a significant area of Brazilian foreign policy. Brazilian Cooperation Agency is deployed in many parts of the world, notably in Africa where it helps to improve the African agriculture sector.

Interview with Marco Farani, Director of Brazilian Cooperation Agency

Marco Farani, Director of Brazilian Cooperation Agency

How do you transfer the know-how to other countries?

Brazilian technical cooperation is focused on capacity building and institutional strengthening. Brazil is a developing country but it has the seventh largest economy in the world in terms of gross national product and a strong, stable and democratic state. So what we do is to transfer our successful experiences in policy-making as well as the know-how in many sectors which is available in Brazilian institutions.

What is the character of Brazilian foreign aid compared to the other nations?

The main difference between Brazilian development foreign aid (and cooperation) and traditional aid is that developed countries provide foreign aid in large part by donating money, such as through budget support or by financing infrastructure. On the other hand, Brazilian foreign aid is focused mainly on technical cooperation. We send experts from our Brazilian institutions. Today, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (Agencia Brasileira de Cooperação, in Portuguese) works together with 75 institutions in Brazil, many of them in the Federal government which are responsible for the technical implementation of our projects. Brazilian Cooperation: Brazilian Cooperation AgencyTheir service is free of charge because they are public organisations.
As their contribution is in kind, our projects do not need large budgets, making our technical cooperation cost-efficient. Another difference is that we do not provide assistance. Brazilian foreign aid and technical cooperation is horizontal in character.

Brazilian foreign aid is special because you don’t have expectations in return for money and because it is oriented towards social programs more than infrastructure programs.

Infrastructure programs demand large financial commitments. Instead of donating money, we prefer to offer the know-how and the social technologies that we have successfully developed and implemented over the past decades, especially in regard to poverty reduction and social inclusion. These experiences have been attracting a lot of attention, like the Zero Hunger program, for example, and there are many developing countries interested in cooperating with us in these areas.

What are you future expectations? What is the Brazilian ambition?

Our foreign aid and cooperation is demand driven. Brazilian institutions are ready to offer foreign aid and technical cooperation to countries which express an interest in sharing Brazilian experiences. We have been receiving a lot of requests from Latin America and Africa. Because Brazil has a lot of things to share, we could still be sharing more. What we have to do is to extend what we are doing to another, larger dimension. We can still continue working as a public service. The understanding from the Brazilian government is that Brazil has to be more active and take on more responsibilities in foreign affairs through cooperation because it is constructive and such aid and cooperation encourages a positive point of view. There is a margin for growth inside the civil service in these operations. This way, the trend of growth in technical cooperation should continue.

Letting people die of starvation in order to be competitive is not what we should do.

Do you think you have lessons to give? What it is the philosophy behind this foreign aid and cooperation?

Brazilian aid is unconditional. What we do is mainly based on the principle of solidarity among people and on moral responsibility. Our foreign aid and cooperation is not used for commercial goals; it is not aimed at opening markets for Brazilian companies. Brazilian cooperation projects do not have contact with the private sector in our partner countries. It is a government to government program. Of course, there are some political dividends which naturally follow because when you are cooperative with other countries, you strengthen the relations.

What are the key projects at present and for the rest of 2012?

We have a lot of projects under execution. One major project is with Japan (JICA) and Mozambique in the field of agriculture. It is a technical cooperation initiative with a larger dimension; it is a development project which concerns the whole region. The Brazilian government is deeply involved with experts and researchers from Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Institute. The Japanese agency is financing the infrastructure in the region, like roads and railways, and the renovation of the port. The project needs twenty years to really make a breakthrough in the agriculture sector in Africa. This has a very symbolic effect for the other African countries. It might prove to these countries as well as to the world that Africa is viable in terms of agriculture and that it can be a power house in agriculture.Brazilian Cooperation: Brazilian Cooperation Agency

In our world, the population is constantly growing and we already reached the level of 7 billion. If this trend continues, we will have 10 billion by 2050, and then the population will stabilize. As the population grows, another 3 billion people will need food, water, and major commodities. What we are doing now in Mozambique will represent a lot for the world community of the future. We are very optimistic about this project. In fact, Bill Gates mentioned this project in the last G20 meeting in Cannes as one that should be replicated by other countries. We just signed an agreement with the Bill Gates Foundation to cooperate and work together in Africa. We are now focusing on projects with larger-scale, aimed at structural impacts for the whole region in order to bring sustainable change.

As you transfer the know-how, you transfer knowledge. The Brazilian agriculture is now globally competitive. If these countries develop their own capacities, it can put an end to the Brazilian success story. Is it an object of concern to you that you are giving up for free something that you worked hard for?

Not at all. We think we have a moral obligation to share this knowledge. Letting people die of starvation in order to be competitive is not what we should do. Besides, we learn from this aid and cooperation. As they participate in technical cooperation projects, our institutions have the opportunity to revisit their experiences and further develop them in view of what they learn applying them to different realities. By developing others, you develop yourself. 

You are now under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; do you have an ambition to be an independent entity? How do you see yourself in five years?

In developed countries, there are ministries of cooperation or big agencies with Brazilian Cooperation: Brazilian Cooperation Agencybudgets many times bigger than the Brazilian foreign ministry itself. In the case of Brazil, this will happen eventually. Our work of foreign aid and cooperation will grow. Brazil will be more and more present. ABC will also grow and it will probably become autonomous yet still under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil. We have to work as an instrument of foreign policy but our work has to be also based on solidarity. We are moved by principles other than politics, like humanistic principles.

What is the future foreign policy of Brazil?

Brazilian foreign aid and cooperation policy will grow and become more strategic; not only in technical terms but also politically speaking. This will reflect the presence of Brazil in the world and its responsibility. Brazilian foreign policy has a tradition of non-intervention and peaceful solutions and this policy helps our work in terms of foreign aid and cooperation. It will also help Brazil address problems from bigger perspectives.

Scroll to top