Peacekeeping Contributor Profile: Brazil


Kai Michael Kenkel, PUC-Rio

Updated January 2017.


Active Armed Forces[1] Helicopters Defense Budget Uniformed UN Peacekeepers UN Contribution Breakdown Other Significant Deployments

World Ranking (size): 15
Army: 198,000
Navy: 69,000
(Marine Corps 16,000)
Air Force: 67,500

Total: 249
Transport: 168
Heavy: 18 (5 Army, 6 Navy, 7 AF)
Medium: 45 (12 Army, 7 Navy, 26 AF)
Light: 105 (15 Army, 38 Navy, 52 AF)
Multirole/ISR: 49 (Army)
ASW: 22 (Navy)
Attack: 12 (AF)
2015: US$24.3bn
(1.35% of GDP)
2014: US$31.9bn (1.42% of GDP)
2013: US$31.4bn
(1.40% of GDP)
World Ranking (budget): 11
(31 Oct 2016)
(17 women)
Ranking: 21st
(2nd largest contributor from the Americas)
MINURSO 10 experts
MINUSCA 6 (4 experts, 2 troops)
MINUSTAH 986 (4 police, 982 troops)
UNFICYP 3 troops
UNIFIL 279 troops
UNISFA 2 experts
UNMIL 2 (1 expert, 1 troop)
UNMISS 11 (1 police, 5 experts, 5 troops)
UNOCI 4 (2 experts, 2 troops)
Defense Spending / Troop:[2] US$72,646, (compared to global average of approximately US$79,396 and Latin American regional average of $3 898)


Part 1: Recent Trends

Brazil has contributed to UN peace operations since 1947. Its participation can be clearly divided into two eras: before and after the MINUSTAH operation in Haiti from 2004. Prior to MINUSTAH, Brazil strictly participated only in Chapter VI missions (often not participating in more robust follow-on missions) in the Western Hemisphere and in Lusophone states. This resulted in a steady trickle of individual or small teams of soldiers—in essence token contributions—to UN missions, with four notable exceptions. A battalion-size (600-800 strong) force was integrated into UNEF I (1956-67); 200 troops deployed with ONUMOZ (1992-94); 800 infantry troops, 200 engineers and two field hospitals were sent to Angola with the UNAVEM missions; and over 50 police participated in Timor-Leste beginning with INTERFET in 1999. Overall, Brazil participated in 23 peacekeeping operations from 1957 to 1999, as well as several Organization of American States (OAS) missions and operations under the auspices of the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA).



In 2004, Brazil took on its most important and sizeable peacekeeping commitment to date: providing MINUSTAH’s largest contingent (up to c.2,200 troops following the 2011 earthquake) as well as—unusually for UN practice—an unbroken succession of generals serving as its Force Commander. Brazilian troops have participated in the full range of activities under MINUSTAH’s Chapter VII mandate. In keeping with the country’s tradition of not contributing to Chapter VII missions Brazil’s representatives have long insisted MINUSTAH does not have a peace enforcement mandate and is not a Chapter VII mission. According to this interpretation, Resolution 1542 only mentions Chapter VII in operative paragraph 7, placing only that paragraph under a peace enforcement mandate, thus allowing Brazil to participate in the mission without all of it qualifying as a Chapter VII mission.

Brazil made a relatively modest contribution at the World Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping in September 2015, pledging 800 Army troops and 200 Marines, a Level II hospital, 20 MILOBs and 20 staff officers, as well as a series of training activities to be carried out at its Peacekeeping Training Centre CCOPAB in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s original MINUSTAH contribution consisted of an Army infantry battalion, a Marine Corps operations group, and a military engineering company (1,300 troops). Following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, this was supplemented with a second Army battalion, resulting in a total contingent of ca. 2,200. This commitment has been reduced proportionally to MINUSTAH’s troop drawdown to 1,416 in June 2013 and 986 as of August 2016. Plans to end the mission, and Brazil’s contribution, by the end of 2016 have been postponed following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew in October of that year. Brazilian leaders have long voiced their preference to reduce the mission’s military aspects and enhance those related to development and a constabulary role.

Brazil has also seconded a frigate and a contingent of 260-280 (currently 279) to the maritime component of UNIFIL since late 2010 and the Maritime Task Force has been under the command of Brazilian admirals since February 2011. The UNIFIL contingent marks the first time Brazil has participated in the maritime component of a UN PKO.

In an internally controversial move given Brazil’s political proclivities regarding the use of force, former MINUSTAH Force Commander Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz came out of retirement in April 2013 to become on 2 December 2015 by Force Commander of MONUSCO, whose Intervention Brigade is the UN’s most robust force to date. He was accompanied by 5 troops with no combat capabilities.  Santos Cruz was replaced in this role by Lieutenant General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi of South Africa on 2 December 2015.

Alongside these commitments, as of 31 August 2016, Brazil has individuals or small teams serving with eight other DPKO operations. Given the country’s political shifts and economic crisis, a return to focusing on domestic matters is to be expected; the end of the foreign policy project to gain global profile, which motivated much of Brazil’s role in UN PKOs, is to be expected. The country may remain in current missions, but should not be expected to take on extensive new commitments for the sake of showing global presence or responsibility.


Part 2: Decision-Making Process

Brazil’s presidential system leaves ministries significant autonomy; sustained coordination is difficult to achieve, particularly on crosscutting issues such as peacekeeping. Two actors have the greatest influence on peacekeeping policy: the Foreign (MRE) and Defence (MD) Ministries. The Foreign Ministry has long held a monopoly on issues with foreign impact; its relative isolation from the rest of government has allowed it to develop entrenched values (see below) that have guided policy for over a century and a half. Similarly, civilian control of the armed forces is still weak, having only existed institutionally since the Ministry of Defence was created in 1999. Thus, the armed forces have also been allowed to build a significant body of doctrine and traditions in isolation from civilian or democratic input. Both ministries have developed policy independently, and coordination is very limited. As a result, security (and peacekeeping) policy documents are few and vague, and do not provide clear objectives or operational guidance.[3] Policy initiatives therefore tend to depend upon (often short-term) Presidential or ministerial protagonism, with negative effects on their cohesion, rationality and sustainability.

The decision-making process itself is an ad-hoc mechanism made permanent, dating from the Brazil’s first major deployment in 1956. It is grounded in imprecise legislation and remains “byzantine and under-institutionalized.”[4] Initially, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) submits a request to the Brazilian Permanent Mission to the UN, which is forwarded together with an initial evaluation to the MRE. The MRE consults the President as to the political landscape, the MD on the availability of troops, and the Ministries of Planning and Finance regarding funding. If the response is positive DPKO is requested to formalize its request, on the basis of which the MD and the MRE draw up a Joint Exposition of Motives for the National Congress, which is accompanied by a Presidential message. If the Congress approves—by decree—the President, also by decree, authorizes deployment under the auspices of the MD. Although there is significant discontent with this process, which is beholden to personalities and unrelated external forces, several reform proposals have failed to come to a vote in the legislature. Though parliamentary participation in the decision-making process is required, its nature reflects legislators’ low levels of interest in, and competence on, defense and security issues, leading to an increased risk of personal preferences or exogenous political factors such lobbyism and corruption influencing decisions.


Part 3: Rationales for Contributing

Until the impeacehment of Rousseff in August 2016, Brazil’s foreign policy had strongly reflected the strategy of adopting diplomatic niches favored by emerging powers, i.e. areas where comparative advantages in experience and capacity allow countries to “punch above their weight.”[5]; however this policy had already lost impetus under Rousseff for both economic and political reasons. Peace operations, particularly peacebuilding missions focused on development rather than enforcement, had become a key element in Brazil’s quest for greater international influence. As such, political rationales clearly dominated Brazil’s motivations to contribute to peacekeeping, though they are tinged by normative concerns as well. As in many other states where the establishment of civilian control over the military is recent, institutional rationales play a key role. Economic and particularly security rationales play a negligible role. Some political rationales are internal: for example, the country’s participation in UNIFIL should be placed in the light of the influential presence of the over seven million Brazilians of Lebanese origin. As the post-impeachment leaders shape the country’s foreign policy, a realignment with the US and the West is to be expected, as well as austerity and a focus on the domestic economy. This is likely to increase the relative weight of institutional factors—within the Armed Forces—among remaining rationales in favor of participation.

Political Rationales: Peacekeeping has long provided a role in emerging powers’ strategies to gain international influence. Brazil’s principal foreign policy goal over the past decade has been acceptance as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which is symbolic of a broader drive for greater influence in international decision-making bodies. Demonstrating capacity and commitment through strong involvement in MINUSTAH is seen as directly contributing to this cause. The principles this embodies—commitment to collective security and multilateralism—contain a normative component as well. Prestige provides considerable motivation. Those involved in Brazil’s peacekeeping efforts are very conscious of its effects on the country’s image—attested by the effort invested in issues such as the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). Prestige is an important motivating factor for Brazil in PKOs.

The country’s military and financial involvement in MINUSTAH has been accompanied by considerable bilateral investment (see below). Haiti has become somewhat of a testing ground for a distinct Brazilian approach to peacebuilding and development aid, which to some extent mirrors its successful domestic development initiatives. This advances both political and normative objectives in Brazil’s commitment to the Caribbean nation as well as underscoring a claim to exceptionalism. In addition, with over half of MINUSTAH’s troops hailing from Central and South America, MINUSTAH is seen as affording Brazil the opportunity to exercise regional leadership; indeed coordination efforts around MINUSTAH represent the farthest advance so far for multilateralism in defense issues in the region.

Finally, Brazil has sought to play an entrepreneurial, mainly mediating, role in the debate on the normative underpinnings of military intervention for protection purposes.[6]Its “responsibility while protecting” (RwP) concept, floated in November 2011, has been well received, though the MRE later elected not to pursue a greater role in developing this concept.[7]

Economic Rationales: Economic gain does not play a role in motivating Brazilian participation in peacekeeping. Taking the Haitian case as an example, total investment there from 2004 to 2014 both within and outside of MINUSTAH was estimated by the Brazilian Defence in May 2015 at approximately BRL2.3 billion (US$1.1 billion), with reimbursements totaling approximately BRL 1 billion (US$478 million).[8] Overall, Brazilian diplomats estimate that no more than 40% of operational costs within missions are reimbursed, excluding Brazil’s assessed contributions to the UN operating and peacekeeping operations budgets. Typically, costs come out of the defense budget, while reimbursements are made to the general Treasury. Remuneration for personnel deployed on UN peacekeeping operations is generous, using a scale ranging from US$972 (for privates) to US$4,400 (general officers) added to monthly base pay.[9] Finally, with the possible exception of Mozambique and Angola—where other factors come into play—trade with states to whom Brazil deploys or has deployed peacekeepers is minimal.

Security Rationales: For political reasons, Brazil favors operations within its zones of influence—the Western Hemisphere and Lusophone countries. This is where it receives the greatest return on its investment in terms of image and prestige, due to cultural affinities and similar levels of economic development. However, this effective focus on its immediate surroundings should not be taken as motivated by security concerns. Should instability arise in South America, Brazil’s preference is to address it multilaterally through regional organizations and the UN; and it is likely that Brazil will seek a leadership role in such efforts, including in terms of troop contributions.

Institutional Rationales: The two major governmental actors in Brazilian peacekeeping policy both have, to varying degrees, institutional reasons to support involvement in peacekeeping. First, these missions benefit the armed forces in a number of ways. They provide operational experience, socialization into international professional norms, and exposure to a multinational environment. In addition, over US$100 million of the excess expenditure in Haiti has gone towards equipment and other purchases for the armed forces.[10] Involvement in peace operations, which is voluntary, has also somewhat assuaged inter-service rivalries and the Army and Marine Corps peace operations training centers were merged in June 2010. The Sergio Vieira de Mello Peace Operations Training Centre (CCOPAB) has been a major source of professionalization and socialization for Brazilian peacekeepers; there is a strong commitment to quality and training running through the country’s preparation of personnel for PKOs. Cooperation between training centers, both at the regional (ALCOPAZ) and global (IAPTC) levels has been a significant driver of military-military cooperation for the Brazilian armed forces.

Normative Rationales: Chapter VI peacekeeping shows a great deal of overlap with both longstanding Brazilian foreign policy principles such as multilateralism, pacific resolution of disputes and collective security, and more recent emerging-power priorities. Under President Lula da Silva and his Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, Brazil’s bid for global influence was couched in a claim to speak for the global South. As such, the involvement in MINUSTAH was justified using a rhetoric of a “diplomacy of solidarity,” “non-indifference,” and South-South cooperation. These justifications gained currency as the use of force by the Brazilian MINUSTAH contingent increased, creating tensions with Brasília’s official rejection of Chapter VII. It remains to be seen whether Brazilian participation in peace operations will remain at current levels under the current post-impeachment government, whose priority is realignment with the West, under conditions of austerity and privatization.


Part 4: Barriers to Contributing

Alternative political or strategic priorities: Overall, Brazil is still inwardly focused, dealing with priorities such as poverty reduction, industrial development and combatting crime. Foreign policy priorities will cease to center in the next two years on the concerns of the global South. As peace operations has predominantly served to increase the country’s global decision-making influence and cementing its standing as a voice for the global South, they are expected to decrease in terms of priority unless the institutional interests of the armed forces prevail.

Alternative institutional preferences for crisis management: Some authors claim that Brazil has a preference for dealing with important issues in those multilateral forums where it has the most influence; this would seem to favor regional institutions for regional crises.[11] In general, Brazilian foreign policy favors the peaceful resolution of problems and emphasizes its preference for pacifist solutions and aversion to the use of force.

Financial costs: The Brazilian government has instituted successive rounds of budget cuts since 2011, and defense has not been spared. These are expected to tighten in 2016 and 2017, though other areas are more strongly affected than defense; spending on internal security and police equipment has increased. Major purchasing programs and a focus on maritime protection of oilfields have drawn resources away from peacekeeping in relative terms. These restrictions have had an increasingly negative effect on operational capacity and especially logistics since 2014. (see below). Despite this, the considerable cost of participation in peace operations is generally seen as acceptable as long as it brings tangible results for the country’s image, albeit within the general framework of a significantly decreased diplomatic profile since 2014.

Discomfort with the expanding UN peacekeeping agenda: A strong proponent of state sovereignty defined as inviolability, Brazil is critical of the new normative underpinnings of UN peace operations. Though the R2P and PKO debates are separate, the RwP paper does underline several points of relevance to the country’s stance on peacekeeping. Brazil warmed to the “responsibility to protect” only when the inevitability of the concept’s endorsement by the UN and the benefits for its foreign policy aims became clear. The “responsibility while protecting” paper claims that “one person killed in an intervention is too many.” The country has in the past shown it will not vote in favor of, or contribute to, robust Chapter VII operations even in the face of grave human rights violations, preferring a negotiated solution (on Haiti, see below). There is deep suspicion as to the motives behind recent Western interventions.

Exceptionalism: The distinct sense of exceptionalism to that pervaded Brazil’s approach to peace operations has faded recently. As foreign policy realigns with the West and the foundations of the global liberal order, the drive to be different from the “liberal peace” will diminish, though the perception of high effectiveness will remain. This perception of difference ranges from essentialist claims about the Brazilian “national character” (gregarious, peaceful, caring, tolerant, mediator) to the idea that cultural affinities and economic similarities—which ease contact with the local population—heighten the effectiveness of the Brazilian soldier vis-à-vis other contingents. Brazil’s colonial past and Southern provenance are considered to confer heightened normative legitimacy on its participation in interventions. One specific Brazilian advantage comes to the fore in development-heavy missions: many programs, especially for agricultural development, infrastructure creation, and poverty reduction, have been successfully tested at home. However, all of these advantages only come to bear in specific contexts where similarities are significant, excluding a number of current UN peace operations.

Absence of pressure to contribute: Brazil is not a member of any alliance where its allies’ interests might drive participation. It faces no interstate instability, and its regional security culture does not motivate intervention in the name of individual rights.

Difficult domestic politics: While the armed forces have amassed considerable experience and know-how on peace operations, there is no noticeable competence on the issue in the political arena, be it in the legislative, executive or legislative branches. Academic production and civil society output on the matter is substantial.

Damage to national reputation: There is a very high degree of attention to the positive image and prestige thought generated by participation in peace operations. As such, any event detrimental to Brazil’s image is likely to lead to a sharp rise in criticism, a drop in broad support and perhaps a hastened withdrawal. Economic factors now heighten the lookout for a good reason to withdraw.

Resistance in the military: Negligible. Peace operations are seen as conducive to the military’s image and financial situation.

Lack of fit with legislative, procurement and operational timelines: These are not sufficiently consistent, stable, or institutionalized to conflict with peacekeeping necessities.

Legal obstacles: Article 4 of the Brazilian Constitution establishes guiding principles for foreign policy that have the potential to conflict in the case of modern peace operations (e.g. non-intervention and peaceful conflict resolution versus human rights, self-determination, and the defense of peace). Traditionally, state sovereignty has trumped individual rights, though this is a political choice rather than a binding legal interpretation.


Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues

Budget reductions have significantly reduced Brazil’s overall operational readiness and the scope of its strategic goals. First signs of this in the country’s peacekeeping effort had come with regard to logistical chains in late 2015, when according to private sector reports, in the absence of available ships to maintain the logistics link with Haiti, the Navy has been forced to contract commercial air services to Haiti..

Despite these challenges, the Brazilian Army has reaffirmed its investment in participating in peace operations. In late 2015, the Brazilian Army announced the creation of an Expeditionary Force, based within the Second Infantry Division in the interior of São Paulo State, destined to support participation in peace operations. Initial expectations were for it to deploy by 2022 and to evolve to brigade strength by 2030.[12] However, amidst the deep austerity measures under the new government, the Armed Forces saw their budget for maintenance and procurement reduced by 24%.[13] This, coupled with a realignment in foreign policy objectives away from the emerging power project that stimulated participation in peace operations, is expected to delay the force’s deployment and reduced overall investment in peacekeeping participation.

After over a decade of MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti, the need for a proximate exit strategy has become apparent. Brazil has invested in efforts to shift the UN mandate from a military to a civilian development-based approach. Several key government officials have stated that in the wake of MINUSTAH Brazil is not likely to maintain current troop contribution levels simply for the sake of doing so, and this has been borne out in the wake of significant reductions in resources.


Part 6: Key Champions and Opponents

There is little public debate on security issues in Brazil, isolating decision-making from public pressure to a certain extent. Coverage of the country’s efforts in Haiti has tended to portray peace operations as a worthwhile investment of resources, portraying a positive and responsible image of Brazil in the world. Key proponents include the armed forces, which possess strong institutional motivations for participation, and the Foreign Ministry, which stands to gain from the increased influence putatively accruing to major troop contributors. While foreign policy-focused actors tend to support peacekeeping, those focused on internal problems such as poverty reduction (rural areas) and combating crime (urban favelas) question the need to invest extensive resources abroad. This category includes some parliamentary representatives of these areas. In addition, some academics and other leftist civil society movements are critical of the use of force by Brazilian forces abroad in what they see as a neocolonial, neoliberal and Western-dominated practice.


Part 7: Capabilities and Caveats

Though it has been able to maintain solid logistical links with the relatively proximate contingent in Haiti, the Brazilian military does not possess the same maritime or airlift capacity to maintain a battalion-size contingent further from home for an extended period. Indeed, as seen above, the ability to do so even in Haiti has become increasingly fragile. In addition, several political factors limit the country’s ability and/or propensity to contribute large contingents to the major UN peacekeeping operations: the aversion to Chapter VII and missions associated with a Western agenda; the restriction to areas of policy priority and cultural affinity; and an image-conscious approach that is highly sensitive to potential scandals and political ambiguity and has yet to face any combat deaths of peacekeepers. Nevertheless, Brazilian troops are trained to high professional standards and have shown themselves to be very effective in contexts such as Haiti, Timor-Leste and Lebanon.


Part 8: Further Reading

Hamann, Eduarda Passarelli, A Força de Uma Trajetoria. Nota Estratégica 19 (Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Igarapé, 2015),ções-de-paz-da-ONU-web.pdf.

Kenkel, Kai Michael, “Brazil and R2P: Does taking responsibility mean using force?” Global Responsibility to Protect, Vol.4, No.1 (2012): 3-29.

Kenkel, Kai Michael, “Brazil” in Alex J. Bellamy and Paul D. Williams (eds.) Providing Peacekeepers: The Politics, Challenges, and Future of United Nations Peacekeeping Contributions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 335-354.

Kenkel, Kai Michael, “Out of South America to the globe: Brazil’s growing stake in peace operations” in Kai Michael Kenkel (ed.) South America and Peace Operations: Coming of Age (London: Routledge, 2013); pp. 85-110.


[1] Unless otherwise stated, data is drawn from IISS, The Military Balance 2016 (London: IISS/ Routledge, 2015).

[2] Armed Forces Spending is a country’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces. Figures from IISS, The Military Balance 2016.

[3] See Kenkel, “Brazil” in Bellamy & Williams (eds.), Providing Peacekeepers.

[4] Ibid, p.338.

[5] See Kenkel, “Out of South America” in Kenkel (ed.), South America and Peace Operations.

[6] Kenkel, “Brazil and R2P,” Global Responsibility to Protect, 4:1 (2012).

[7] Statement by H.E. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Minister of External Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Open Debate of the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”. 9 November 2011.

[8] Exchange rate is average of 2004-2014 yearly rates given at Valor. “Tropas do Brasil sairão do Haiti até o fim do ano que vem,” 21 May 2015,

[9] Brazil. Presidency, Lei No 10.937, de 12 de agosto de 2004.

[10] Folha de São Paulo, “Brasil ja gastou quase R$2 bilhoes no Haiti,” June 11, 2012.

[11] S. Burges and J. Daudelin, “Brazil: How Realists Defend Democracy” in T. Legler, D. Boniface & S. F. Lean (eds.), Promoting Democracy in the Americas (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), pp.107-132.

[12]Patricia Comunello, “Brazil Creates Expeditionary Force to Serve in International Missions

“, 6 October 2015,

[13] IISS, The Military Balance 2016.