Latin America and the Caribbean can and should participate in the design of a new era in international relations, since it has a long tradition in its efforts to contribute to peace and security, not only at a regional level, but for the whole world, writes Ambassador Lila Roldán Vázquez, Advisory Member and Director of Eurasian Contemporary Studies at the Argentine Council for Foreign Affairs (CARI). The publication of this article continues online collaboration between Valdai Club as part of its Think Tank project and CARI.
The world needs an urgent reset. It has been continuously changing in volume and configuration, with an increasing shift of power from the center to the periphery. We are no longer in a unipolar world, not even in a bipolar one: the scenery is rapidly changing into a multipolar distribution of power and capabilities among several national and multinational powers, with a decreasing influence of multilateral organizations on matters of global interest.
Unfortunately, the changes we presently witness are not for the better. There is an increasing deterioration in terms of democracy, freedom and social equality at a planetary level.
Degradation of democracy is a worldwide phenomenon. More and more elected leaders have gradually eroded democracies from within. Politicians who initially came to power via democratic elections, have turned to authoritarian policies and practices.
As for relations in the Western and Eastern Hemispheres, the transatlantic relationship between the United States and Europe had already suffered some strains during the presidency of George W. Bush. The Obama Administration recognized the importance of the relationship, but it didn’t always make it an urgent priority of it. Over the last four years, President Trump has put even more stress on the relation with the European Union, and has called NATO “obsolete”.
Joe Biden, now President-elect, has vowed to take immediate steps to reinforce US democracy and to renew its traditional alliances.
Regarding relations among the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean, they have also suffered from a growing indifference and some major misunderstandings during the last several years.
Expectations are that there will be an amelioration when the next Administration takes office, since President-elect Biden has repeatedly declared that the United States should deepen its engagement with the most dynamic regions of the world by seizing possibilities on both sides of the Pacific, starting in the Western Hemisphere and enhancing (quote) “the outsize impact on our domestic security and prosperity of Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean”.
In the Eastern Hemisphere, China has expanded its power not only from the economic point of view, but also from the geopolitical standpoint, and other countries have shown up as new contenders for power, while old and new conflicts blur the whole scene.
We are on our way to a multipolar world, which is turning the more and more complex every day, with the growing influence of state actors like Turkey, Iran or India, which, together with Russia or China, belong to the Eurasian space – even the Great Eurasia as we may call it – or they are, in some cases, in its immediate vicinity.
Nevertheless, as we recognize the importance of multilateralism to address global challenges, such as climate change, terrorism, better rules for world trade or social development, we must consider ways of redesigning more effective and better endowed mechanisms of global governance.
We should work on a progressive renovation of multilateralism, through more informal venues such as the G7, the G20 or the BRICS, and consider the participation of multiple state and non-state actors, as well as civil society, all of which can contribute and influence decisions on matters of global interest, such as climate, trade, human rights or security.
Also, a greater inter-regional relationship among blocs of countries, just like Eurasia and Latin America and the Caribbean, for instance, could be another way of achieving that urgently needed connectivity.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently warned that the COVID-19 pandemic poses a significant threat to international peace and security.
The pandemic has shown us that conflicts do not disappear as a result of such a shock; on the contrary, they persist and, in some cases, they deteriorate, expressing themselves in more acute tensions, both internal and external, even in armed conflicts, taking advantage of the lack of attention or the absence of sanctions that they could eventually deserve in normal times.
COVID-19 has also increased the risk of violence and instability within states, especially for regimes that are neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, particularly when they succeed to obtain or consolidate emergency powers.
Our two regions, Eurasia and Latin America and the Caribbean, have not been an exception. In Latin America, the crisis has had severe economic, social and political consequences. The political impact has been extremely powerful, provoking sensible modifications in the internal landscape: a delay in electoral processes like in Bolivia or in popular consultations as in Chile, popular protests in some countries and a negative impact on the balance of powers in others, have affected the institutional framework in many countries of the region.
Also in Eurasia, we have been witnesses to the political impact on the internal order of some countries, like the prolonged crisis in Belarus or the revival of conflicts such as the one in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The negative economic impact in both regions is consequential: according to recent IMF reports, there will be significant reductions in the per capita indexes, both in Eurasia and Latin America. These circumstances show the convenience for both regions to converge on economic and commercial exchanges that could contribute to the recovery of regional and national economies.
Fortunately, we have already initiated actions of inter-regional cooperation, which are nowadays not only limited to Russia, with which we have a historical and deep relationship, but comprise other Eurasian countries as well.
We have established some inter-regional agreements, such as the Free Trade Agreement between the Eurasian Economic Community and the Mercosur, and other bilateral agreements.
So, how can Latin America contribute to a better future, to this reset in international relations and to the objective of security and stability in the whole world?
Latin America and the Caribbean have been pioneers in regional agreements to preserve peace, security and denuclearization in our area of the world.
For a long period of time, there have been no armed conflicts between countries in the region. Setting aside a few punctual border disputes, most of them were successfully solved through peaceful negotiations, our region is a peaceful one, and there are no frozen conflicts or displaced populations in it. Lately, though, we have assisted to a significant migration of citizens from Venezuela, due to the internal political and humanitarian crisis in that country.
The region has put in place several initiatives to maintain peace and security, such as the Inter-American Treaty for Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL) and the Declaration of the South Atlantic Peace and Security Zone, as well as sub-regional ones like the MERCOSUR Peace Zone and the MERCOSUR Democratic Commitment.
In the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS), its Member States – which include all of the Americas – have signed, as early as 1947, the Reciprocal Assistance Inter-American Treaty (TIAR), whose purpose is cooperation in security and defense matters. The Treaty establishes two main principles: it condemns the use of force as a means of solving conflicts among the member countries and it assures mutual defense in case one of the Member States is the subject of an aggression.
In 1967, we signed the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, best known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, ratified by all 33 countries of the region, which established the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone of Latin America and the Caribbean, the first such zone in the world, and one of the Five Nuclear Weapons Free Zones in the world.
The Treaty of Tlatelolco prohibits “the testing, use, manufacture, production or acquisition by any means whatsoever of any nuclear weapons, by the Parties themselves, directly or indirectly, on behalf of anyone else or in any other way, as well as the receipt, storage, installation, deployment and any form of possession of any nuclear weapons, directly or indirectly, by the Parties themselves, by anyone on their behalf or in any other way.”
The Contracting Parties commit themselves to use nuclear material and facilities exclusively for peaceful purposes.
In October, 1986, the South American and African countries with coasts on the Atlantic Sea, convened on a South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, reaffirming that the questions of peace and security and those of development are interrelated and inseparable.
The South Atlantic is currently a nuclear-weapon-free zone, given that all its Member States are signatories of international treaties that prohibit nuclear weapons, namely the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty and the Tlatelolco Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In July 1999, in Ushuaia, Argentina, the four Member States of MERCOSUR at the time, plus Bolivia and Chile, issued a Political Declaration of the region as a Peace Zone. They expressed that peace is the basis for the development of Humanity and an essential condition to the existence of MERCOSUR, and they declared a Peace Zone, free of weapons of mass destruction, as well as an antipersonnel-land-mine-free zone, endeavoring to spread this to include the entire Western Hemisphere. They also engaged on promoting cooperation among their members for exclusively peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy, science, and space technology.
A year before, in July 1998, in Ushuaia, Argentina, the four MERCOSUR Member States, plus the Republic of Bolivia and the Republic of Chile, adopted the Ushuaia Protocol on Democratic Commitment In Mercosur. Perú, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela have also adhered to the Protocol.
According to this Protocol, the full compliance of democratic institutions is an essential condition for the development of integration processes among the Parties of the Protocol.
In December 2011, in the MERCOSUR summit held at Montevideo (Uruguay) it was signed the Ushuaia Protocol II, which states the sanctions to be applied in case of a break of or a threat to democratic order in one of its members.
Argentina, an active Party of all these treaties and protocols, has concluded agreements to maintain peace and security not only at the regional or subregional level, but also at the bilateral level, as with Brazil. Thus, the two major powers in the subregion, both with an advanced development of nuclear power, are engaged in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and in their joint contribution to the world peace and security.
The Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) was established under an agreement between Argentina and Brazil signed at Guadalajara, Mexico, on 18 July 1991, which provides for the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy.
ABACC is responsible for the administration and application of a full-scope safeguards system applied to all nuclear activities covering all nuclear materials in both countries. The bilateral agreement gives the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the responsibility of applying full safeguards in both countries.
Latin America and the Caribbean can and should participate in the design of a new era in international relations, since it has a long tradition in its efforts to contribute to peace and security, not only at a regional level, but for the whole world.
In this resetting of the world, the region should aim at a really horizontal cooperation with all the countries in the world, regardless of their ideological or religious belonging. A cooperation based on mutual benefits, with the aim of achieving better standards of life for every individual on earth, in an environment of freedom, democracy and the respect for human rights.