By Arab News
By Sanjay Kumar and Natalia Laskowska
One of the world’s fastest growing economies, celebrated for its vibrant culture, sporting prowess, spectacular biodiversity and immense resource wealth, Brazil is a nation that many expect to define the century ahead.
Despite these many strengths, however, Brazil is also a country on the front line of the climate crisis, fighting deforestation in the Amazon Basin. It is also a nation that is home to communities riven by hunger and poverty.
With both of these aspects in mind, the Latin American giant is an ideal choice to take on the G20 presidency for 2024 and host the next leaders’ summit, when representatives of the world’s biggest economies come together to address the shared challenges of the day.
Marking the conclusion of the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi on Sunday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially handed over the ceremonial gavel to Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who thanked India for giving voice to the concerns of emerging economies throughout the year.
“I thank India for its efforts,” Lula told assembled delegates. “We want greater participation of the emerging countries in the decision-making process of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The unbearable foreign debt of the poorest countries needs to be addressed.”
This year’s summit saw the addition of a new permanent member — the 55-member African Union. Leaders also reached agreements around global debt, reforms to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, climate financing and the adoption of a global “green development pact,” with the latter two expected to be key features of the G20 presidency in 2024.
In a world where sustainable development is threatened and millions of people still go hungry, Lula said that the international community looked to the G20 with “hope” and a desire for leadership.
Indeed, the bloc accounts for 85 percent of global economic output, 75 percent of international trade and about 60 percent of the world’s population.
“Therefore, the Brazilian presidency of the G20 has three priorities,” Lula told delegates. “The first one is social inclusion and the fight against hunger, energy transition and sustainable development … and thirdly the reform of global governance institutions.
“All these priorities are part of the Brazilian presidency motto, which says: ‘Building a fair world and a sustainable planet.’ Two task forces will be created — the Global Alliance Against Hunger and Poverty and the Global Mobilization Against Climate Change.”
Known for his programs designed to eradicate hunger in Brazil and significantly reduce extreme poverty, the Brazilian president, who returned to office in January this year, also has ambitious climate action goals.
“For example, he reversed (former-president) Jair Bolsonaro’s massive Amazon-deforestation policies and now deforestation is 50 percent lower in Brazil than last year,” Dr. Agus Sari, CEO of environmental advisory Landscape Indonesia and a former senior adviser to the UN Development Program, told Arab News.
“Deforestation is the most strategic sector in Brazil’s climate and emissions profile, and it affects the world. The Amazon is ‘the lung of the world,’ and after having been destroyed by Bolsonaro, Lula had the responsibility, but also the willingness, to fix it. And he is doing it.”
Sari expects that under Brazil’s presidency, pressure on rich countries to step up climate action and commitments will be stronger.
“Brazil is also a respected country in the world of climate diplomacy. In some ways, they are a balancing voice against the western countries, especially the US,” he said.
“The Amazon will be the key factor in the world’s fight against climate change, and cooperation between forested countries — especially Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo Basin — will be stronger.”
Brazil’s G20 presidency is likely to see a continuation of the priorities defined by India in 2023 and by Indonesia in 2022.
“Brazil’s presidency is important because it will continue the commitment of the G20 members in overcoming crucial issues, particularly health, climate change and sustainable development,” Dr. Luthfi Assyaukanie, an international relations lecturer at Paramadina University in Jakarta, told Arab News.
“I think the next G20’s agenda will be not much different from the last two venues held in Indonesia and India. It will revolve around global health, digital transformation and sustainable energy.”
Like India and Indonesia, Brazil is also one of the most important emerging economies of the Global South, a term that broadly refers to low-income nations in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and developing nations in Asia and Oceania.
“Brazil is one of the world’s largest economies and a rising power in the Global South. It has a strong track record of leadership on global issues,” Assyaukanie said. “I believe the country will make a significant contribution to the G20’s work next year.”
During the New Delhi summit, delegates also agreed to soften their language on Russia’s war in Ukraine, acknowledging that the G20 was not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues.
“We cannot let geopolitical issues sequester the G20 agenda of discussions,” Lula said after accepting the presidency. “We have no interest in a divided G20. We need peace and cooperation instead of conflict.”
Earlier, Lula told Indian news media that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who skipped the New Delhi summit, would be free to attend the leaders’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro next year.
This is despite Brazil being a signatory to the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for the Russian leader’s arrest for war crimes.
“If I’m the president of Brazil and if he comes to Brazil, there’s no way that he will be arrested,” he said.