Britain’s exit from the European Union is provoking alarm in the entire world. Does Brexit mean the beginning of regional disintegration? If the European project is failing, should Brazil reconsider its commitment to regional integration? According to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, regional integration is a priority for Brazilian diplomacy.
“Brazil encourages Regional Integration not only because of the conviction of its benefits for the insertion and projection of the country and the region in an increasingly multipolar world, but also because it is one of the objectives determined by the Federal Constitution for our foreign policy. Article 4, sole paragraph, establishes that “the Federative Republic of Brazil shall seek the economic, political, social, and cultural integration of the peoples of Latin America, to form a Latin American community of nations”.
The creation of UNASUR is part of a recent process of overcoming the mistrust that existed between South American countries since the independence movements of the 19th century. Until 2008, South America was connected with the rest of the world through an ‘archipelago’ model: each country proceeded in an isolated and disintegrated manner, mainly interacting with developed countries beyond the region. With the establishment of UNASUR, the countries of the region started articulating themselves around structuring areas, such as energy and infrastructure, and coordinating political positions. An ‘inward development’ model is privileged by UNASUR in South America, complementing the former ‘outward development’ model.
The objective of UNASUR is to build an integration space for the South American peoples. The region undergoes an important moment of democratic stability and social progress, which is a consequence, among other factors, of benefits resulting from the political coordination among the countries. The organization made it possible to strengthen integration and find consensus, respecting plurality.
UNASUR is structured by Councils formed by Heads of State, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Delegates, by a General Secretariat, which is undergoing a consolidation and strengthening phase, and by twelve Sectorial Councils, which deal with specific issues: energy, defense, health, social development, infrastructure, global drug problem, economy and finances, elections, education, culture, science, technology and innovation, citizen security, justice, and coordination of actions against transnational organized crime.
UNASUR is engaged in strengthening democracy, having achieved relevant progress in the mediation of regional tensions – e.g. the separatist crisis of Pando (Bolivia, 2008), the crisis between Colombia and Venezuela (2010), the support of the constitutional and democratic order in Equator at the National Police uprising (2010), and the elaboration of measures to promote mutual trust and security in the South American Council for Defense.
In order to discourage antidemocratic initiatives in the region, the Heads of State of UNASUR decided to create a democratic clause in the organization, which was implemented through the Additional Protocol to the Constitutive Treaty, signed in the Georgetown Summit (2010).
UNASUR played a decisive role in the crisis triggered by the deposition of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo (June, 2012), carried out without respect to democratic safeguards, such as the due process of law and the right to full defense. Paraguay was suspended from UNASUR until the complete restoration of democratic order in the country, which happened with the inauguration of the new democratically elected President (August, 2013).
During the first months of 2014, in the context of the crisis unleashed by protests in Venezuela, UNASUR again showed unity and ability to act as a stabilizing element of the political situation in the region by catalyzing the dialogue process promoted by the Venezuelan Government with the opposition in the country.
There is no regional integration without physical infrastructure integration necessary to reduce the distance among peoples and to improve the competitiveness of the economies of the region. The UNASUR Council for Infrastructure and Planning (COSIPLAN) is the main forum for conducting the integration process of South American physical infrastructure, aiming to provide high level political support for the implementation of projects. The Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) was incorporated by COSIPLAN as its ‘Technical Forum,’ making use of the collection of accumulated work between 2000 and 2010 regarding the territorial planning and the identification of the most relevant projects for the integration of the regional infrastructure. Among the progress achieved by COSIPLAN are the elaboration of a Ten-Year Strategic Action Plan (2012-2022), which establishes a group of actions for each specific objective of COSIPLAN, and the definition of a Priority Project Agenda, composed of 31 strategic projects with high impact on physical integration and regional socioeconomic development, with investments estimated at over USD 16.7 billion.
The development of a South American strategy for the exploitation of natural resources, a key comparative advantage of South America, has been discussed within UNASUR. The world largest petroleum reserves and about a third of the planet’s water resources are located in the continent. South America accounts for almost 40% of the world’s biogenetic reserve and is the third largest producer of the main agri- cultural crops (wheat, corn, soybeans, su- gar and rice). It is estimated that by 2050 South America will be responsible for 30% of world agricultural production”.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs