South-South Development Cooperation and Soft Power. The case of Brazil's foreign policy and technical cooperation

Sandra Bry

    Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

    4562 Downloads (Pure)


    The objective of this thesis is to advance scientific knowledge on South-South Development Cooperation and on the understanding of southern countries' ambitions in contributing to international development, taking Brazil as a case. The main research question addresses the reasons behind Brazil's participation in development cooperation and how these international political ambitions influence the project model of its South-South Development Cooperation, called technical cooperation. This was done by investigating the manifestations of ‘soft power’ in Brazilian development cooperation activities in three articles elaborated during the research. Considering the dearth of information about South-South Cooperation, the first article critically reviews the construction and principles of South-South Cooperation and its main instrument, South-South Development Cooperation. The need for rapid solutions to the problems caused by climate change have accelerated the debate about the effectiveness of development aid and prompted the search for alternatives to the northern aid model. By drawing a distinction with the ‘traditional’ aid approach, South-South Cooperation is gaining more and more relevance in the aid debate on the model of project implementation. Several approaches and principles such as horizontality, demand-driven or mutual benefit originate from the southern countries' claims and shape their international development narrative. The first article therefore advances the understanding of the southern countries' narrative on international development by categorising the values and approaches put forward within South-South Cooperation and South-South Development Cooperation. This categorisation provides a framework that enables further investigation on the southern participation in development cooperation. The second and third articles apply the theory of soft power to study Brazil's ambitions in participating in development cooperation. Elaborated by Joseph Nye, soft power theory asserts that a country can gain or maintain power by making its image attractive to other countries. To date, empirical research has focused on the results of a soft power strategy rather than on soft power creation, both at the agent's and the subject's end. These articles provide empirical evidence at both ends of soft power generation (the agent's actions and the subject's perception), enabling further development on the conceptualisation and implementation of South-South Development projects. Specifically, the second article investigates how the Brazilian government under President Lula (2003-2011), in this case the agent, conceptualised its 'soft empowerment' with the help of its cooperation agency by influencing its organisation, sectors and targets and by increasing its budget with the objective of constructing positive outcomes. The findings therefore support Nye's assumptions of international relations by showcasing that Brazil (the agent) relied on the suppositions that its image has a role in the achievement of its wishes. Addressing the subject's end (in this case the 'recipients''), the third article demonstrates that the perceived manifestation of South-South Cooperation principles produced a positive image of Brazil among the 'recipients', thus offering empirical support to the idea that obtaining soft power is dependent upon image and perception. It also establishes that the 'recipients' emphasize the style rather than the content or completion of the project' activities. This reveals the priority given by the 'recipients' to the respect demonstrated for the principles of South-South Cooperation in development cooperation projects. This thesis thus confirms the key element of context in soft power, i.e. that soft power was obtained not because of the resource used (development projects) but how this resource was used. Furthermore, this research underlines the importance of the subject's positive reception of the agent's attractive actions without which a country's soft power is non-existent. Therefore this thesis maintains that soft power theory should shift its current analytical focus from the agent to the subject and enhance the analysis on the role of subject's perceptions in the creation of ‘soft empowerment’.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherDTU Management Engineering
    Number of pages177
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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