Last week, on February 21st and 22nd, Rio de Janeiro hosted the meeting of foreign ministers from the G20 countries, bringing together 45 international delegations from the richest nations in the world. In particular, the event brought together the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Serguei Lavrov, in the same room, amid the serious diplomatic crisis between the two countries in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Russia and the USA are permanent members of the UN Security Council and express antagonistic views on the future of global governance, a key theme of the Brazilian presidency of the G20.

Brazilian diplomacy established three priorities during its presidency of the G20 this year: the reform of global governance, combating climate change and the creation of a global alliance against hunger and poverty. The recent diplomatic crisis between Brazil and Israel, caused by Lula’s statements accusing Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of carrying out a genocide in Gaza, and the continuation of the Ukrainian conflict, focused attention on bilateral and multilateral negotiations.

Therefore, among the topics established on the Brazilian agenda, global governance reform had greater prominence. After all, the veto power used by the permanent members of the UN Security Council has been the cause of the organization’s impasse in the face of the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza. On the one hand, the US systematically vetoes any resolution critical of Israel. On the other hand, Russia blocks resolutions regarding the war in Ukraine.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, in his opening speech at the G20, set the tone for Brazil’s position on the need to reform the global governance system. According to the chancellor, there is an “unacceptable paralysis of the UN Security Council in relation to ongoing conflicts”.

“Our positions on the cases now under discussion in the G20, in particular the situation in Ukraine and Palestine, are well known and have been publicly presented in the appropriate fora, such as the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly”…]While the The north of the world is united around a military alliance, the countries of the south of the world are committed to establishing peace and cooperation agreements. The extraordinary situation in which the entire southern hemisphere of the planet chose to be completely denuclearized is kept out of the predominant narrative”, he highlighted.

By emphasizing the importance of the global South in the direction of international politics, Brazilian diplomacy sought consensus among ministers from the 20 largest economies in the world to promote a restructuring of the UN, as well as other governance institutions. This is what the Brazilian chancellor highlighted in his final statement at the conference:

“In today’s morning session, it was about the reform of global governance, which, for Brazil, is urgent and a priority. Everyone agreed on the fact that the main multilateral institutions – UN, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, among others – need reforms to adapt to the challenges of today’s world. […] Everyone mentioned the need to give momentum to the organization (UN), especially its Security Council, with the inclusion of new permanent and non-permanent members, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa”, he stated.

The reform of the UN Security Council was also defended by Russia, but with a more emphatic criticism of the West. In a press conference with the Russian press, at which the Brazil in fact had access, Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov said that US allies on the Security Council are “overrepresented”.

“In connection with the reform of global governance structures, many participants addressed the reform of the Security Council. We also express our position, which is that the Security Council needs to be reformed, eliminating the main injustice: the underrepresentation of developing countries. Currently, of the 15 members of the Security Council, six represent US allies, almost all of them act from positions dictated by Washington”, he argued.

In this way, the Russian minister highlighted that in the event of an expansion of the Security Council, Moscow will defend the accession exclusively of countries from the global South.

“Therefore, when we decide, on a practical level, on the issue of expanding the UN Security Council, we will exclusively support representatives from Asia, Africa and Latin America”, he added.

The discussion on UN reform, with expansion to new members of the Security Council, is part of the promotion of a multipolar world, with a more balanced distribution of power, greater inclusion of countries from the global South and less dominance of a hegemonic power.

In an interview with Brazil in fact, professor of International Relations at PUC-Rio and director of the BRICS Policy Center, Marta Fernández, stated that the defense of multipolarity links the positions of Brazil and Russia. If, on the one hand, Russia seeks to reverse its isolation from the West, claiming leadership status in a multipolar world, Brazil invests in its tradition of mediation and neutrality, as well as regional leadership, to gain greater protagonism in decision-making processes in the arena. International.

“Brazil at this moment, in this PT government, is a defender of this multipolar world, which is also something that Russia defends, that China defends, and it is something that is being put forward by Brazil. Even in Mauro Vieira’s speech he states this, that is, not a unipolar world where you have a hegemonic (country), but a world with a more equitable distribution of power”, he argues.

UN democratization

The difficulty of seeking consensus in forums such as the G20 occurs precisely because it is a platform that brings together both the richest countries, represented by the G7, and the countries of the BRICS and the global South. On the other hand, the G20 also serves as an opportunity to pressure rich countries to re-discuss the distribution of power in the international arena.

According to researcher Marta Fernández, the discourse on global governance reform opens doors so that countries that were defeated in World War II, Japan and Germany, and that are not part of the Security Council as permanent members, can have space in the Security advice.

“Much of the discourse today on global governance reform is saying: the world has changed, the world is no longer the one it was in 1945, when the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions were created, and it is necessary, let’s put it this way, to adapt the Council of Security to the new configuration of global power, to the new configuration of economic and political power”, he states.

On the other hand, the International Relations professor points out that this reform of the UN must be accompanied by an idea of ​​redemocratizing the distribution of power in the international system. In this sense, Russia and Brazil converge.

“The other point is the following: in addition to adapting the new powers, the Security Council has to democratize, and in this sense it makes much more sense to include countries in the global South and have a distribution of power, which does not necessarily correspond exactly to the international correlation of forces, but that actually manages to block some of this Western power within the Security Council”, adds Fernández.

With the positions well defined at the meeting of foreign ministers, the expectation is that the UN reform agenda will return with more weight at the G20 presidential summit, which will be held in November, also in Rio de Janeiro.

Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho


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