President Lula during the Summit of the New Global Financing Pact, in Paris, France. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert/Presidency of the Republic

Brazil is preparing for a significant milestone in its diplomatic history, with the responsibility of assuming the presidency of the G20 in 2024. The Lula Government will be responsible for organizing the next summit, scheduled for November 2024, in Rio de Janeiro. President Lula will travel next week to the meeting, which will take place in New Delhi, India, on September 9th and 10th.

With this, the country will become the third major developing country to lead the group, after Indonesia and India, and before the presidency of South Africa in 2025. The last speech at the summit, on September 10, will be by Lula, after receiving — in a symbolic way — the Presidency, which will be delivered by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.

This global leadership position will bring unique opportunities and challenges to the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has outlined a series of priorities for his presidency, reflecting pressing global issues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already anticipated some of Lula’s priority themes for the meetings: combating inequalities, not only in the social area, but inequality between countries, access to resources, and above all in areas such as combating hunger, combating poverty and the social agenda in general

Brazil’s presidency of the G20 is a crucial opportunity for the country to demonstrate global leadership and influence important issues. However, the challenges are substantial, with divisions in the G20 and diplomatic concerns related to the war in Ukraine and the possible presence of Vladimir Putin at the event. In India, he has already announced that he will not go, but it is not known what may happen until the summit in Rio de Janeiro.

How Brazil addresses these challenges and seeks to build consensus on critical global issues will be critical to the success of its G20 presidency. Brazil has a chance to position itself as a leader committed to multilateral issues and global justice, but this will require diplomatic skill and pragmatism in dealing with sensitive issues.

The G20, until 2008, was practically just a meeting between finance leaders from their respective countries. But, with the crisis that ensued with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other banks that year, the bloc became the main stage for formulating responses to international crises.

Priorities of the Brazilian Presidency in the G20

  • Reform of the International System: One of Brazil’s main priorities at the G20 will be to advocate for a profound reform of the global governance system. The country will seek the inclusion of new permanent members in the UN Security Council, an old demand of Brazilian diplomacy. This reform is seen as crucial to reflect the new global power dynamic. Lula insists that he does not want the world to be divided into antagonistic blocs, but warns that the UN will still survive if it is the target of a reform. The center of the Brazilian proposal is the inclusion of new permanent members of the Security Council, composed since 1945 by only five countries.
  • Climate Change and Environment: Brazil intends to assume a leading role in combating climate change and protecting the environment. Despite internal challenges, such as deforestation in the Amazon, the country will seek to stand out as a defender of the environment and will pressure rich nations to fulfill their promise to allocate US$ 100 billion a year to environmental protection actions in developing countries.
  • Reducing Inequalities: Brazil will emphasize the importance of tackling all forms of inequality, including social, income and gender inequality. Poverty reduction will be highlighted as a global priority, as this can create a larger consumer market and reduce migratory pressure towards richer countries.

Tensions at the G20

Although Brazil has clearly defined its priorities for the presidency of the G20, the meeting of leaders in New Delhi in September 2023 already points to significant challenges and tensions. The Brazilian government is aware of the challenges it will face during its presidency at the G20. The need to balance the conflicting interests of the great powers and build consensus around pressing global issues is a significant test for Brazilian diplomacy.

The group is currently divided, with issues such as the war in Ukraine causing tensions between the countries, which will make it difficult to reach consensus on a Final Declaration. Disagreements between Russia and China on the one hand, and western countries, including the United States, on the other, are an obstacle to reaching a consensus.

Russians and Chinese oppose any statement condemning Moscow for the war. The G7, for its part, advocates the exact opposite, demanding that virtually every summit document, including the final declaration, condemn Russia in the harshest terms.

Furthermore, the possible presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2024 could create a dilemma, as he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, of which Brazil is a party. There are still pressures for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to attend Rio. This will require a delicate balance between international obligations and Brazilian diplomacy. At the recent BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Putin participated remotely. By then, the war may be over.

However, with a clear agenda and a focus on pressing global issues, Brazil has the opportunity to positively influence discussions at the G20 and position itself as a global leader committed to multilateralism and global justice. The Brazilian presidency at the G20 promises to be a time of challenges, but also of unique opportunities for the country’s diplomacy.

The war in Ukraine is a significant sticking point in the G20 discussions. Russia opposes any statement condemning Moscow for the war, while Western countries, led by the G7, demand strong condemnations of Russia.

US President Joe Biden also has a specific agenda, focused on the war in Ukraine and its aftermath, such as the food crisis and inflation in developing nations. Developing nations may be skeptical of the US position.


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