Situation and cooperation

Children in a settlement by the Rio Negro in Brazil

Brazil is rich in natural resources, has a relatively well educated population and a significant industrial sector. The UNDP Human Development Index (HDI 2015) ranks Brazil 79th out of 188 countries, putting the emerging country narrowly within the group of states ranked as having "high human development". Brazil is expected to achieve all Millennium Development Goals by the end of 2015.

Brazil is a founding member of Mercosur (the South American common market) and is keen to play a leading role in this economic union. It currently holds the presidency. In the Doha development round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, Brazil is an important representative of the interests of the developing countries with regard to agricultural and trade policies. Furthermore, it is also campaigning for a reform of the United Nations system and, in particular, for the enlargement of the UN Security Council, on which Brazil would like to have a permanent seat. Together with Russia, India, China and South Africa, Brazil is part of the BRICS group of countries, which make an effort to coordinate their positions on matters relating to economic policy.

Brazil has not yet tapped its full potential in economic terms. Economic growth has slowed considerably in recent years, dwindling to a mere 0.1 per cent in 2014. The forecasts for 2015 even suggest negative growth of -1.3 per cent, and for the coming years experts expect only very slight growth. At the heart of Brazil's economic policies is a programme designed to accelerate economic growth (the "Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento", PAC). The government wants the private sector to lend a hand in implementing this programme. However, a heavy burden of taxes and social security contributions, bureaucratic red tape, a lack of transparency, and corruption are putting a damper on the sector's willingness to invest in this programme.

A successful campaign of reducing poverty

A little girl from Brazil playing with a parrot

The situation of the poor has improved markedly in the past few years thanks to the country’s economic stability and a targeted policy of poverty reduction. Some 50 million people are benefiting from the government programme to support families (Bolsa Família), making it the biggest social programme of its kind in the world. The financial support that the families receive is tied to their fulfilling certain requirements, such as sending their children to school and taking part regularly in immunisation programmes.

Another way the government has managed to fight poverty is by continually increasing the minimum wage and minimum pension. In addition, the government has introduced programmes for the construction of social housing, the expansion of the country's power supply towards full coverage and changes in the distribution of land ownership.

The governments of President Lula da Silva and President Dilma Rousseff have managed to reduce the number of Brazilians living in absolute poverty to less than five per cent of the total population. Government social policies have also helped to lessen the income gap since the year 2000. Despite these efforts, the income gap remains considerably larger here than in the OECD countries and some neighbouring Latin American countries.

Fighting corruption

View from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Justice in Brasilia, Brazil

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has introduced rigorous measures to combat corruption, in particular within government circles. According to the new anti-corruption law popularly known as "Ficha Limpa" (in English: "clean slate"), citizens who have been found guilty of bribery, corrupt business practices or electioneering forfeit the right to stand for public office.

Already numerous politicians and business managers have been found guilty of corruption in highly publicised trials – with some of them sentenced to long prison terms. However, more recently some of these cases were reviewed and some judgments reversed.

Environmental and climate protection

A boy sitting on a bench in a settlement in the Brazilian rain forest

Brazil has the world’s greatest diversity of animal and plant species; however, it has to cope with enormous environmental problems. The progressive destruction of the rainforests is a matter of global concern. The Brazilian government has recognised the importance of environmental and climate protection both as a domestic policy issue as well as a foreign policy one, and has adopted some ambitious targets. For example, Brazil's climate change plan, "Plano Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima" or PNMC, provides for the deforestation of the Amazon region to be reduced by 80 per cent and that of the Cerrado Savanna region by 40 per cent by the year 2020. The aim of these measures is also to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted as a result of deforestation.

President Rousseff has been pursuing a rigorous policy as far as forest conservation is concerned. Thus, in 2012, she introduced new legislation on forests that is supposed to strike a balance between the interests of forest and climate protection on the one hand, and the interests of the farming sector on the other hand. Amongst other things, the new law provides that private landowners must engage in afforestation.

A nationwide land register is to be set up in order to help the authorities monitor compliance with statutory land use provisions. The land register is to provide information about which privately owned plots of land may be farmed and which are protected and must therefore be reforested.

President Rousseff can cite a number of successes in terms of forest conservation. As a result of her policies, deforestation in the Amazon region declined by around 76 per cent in the period from 2005 to 2012. However, in 2013, forest loss rose significantly again – by 28 per cent in comparison with the previous year, in particular in the federal states of Pará and Mato Grosso. Non-governmental organisations put the increase at a much higher figure. In July 2015, President Rousseff announced that 120,000 square kilometres of formerly forested area in the Amazon region would be reforested by 2030.

Priority areas of German cooperation with Brazil

German chancellor Angela Merkel and the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff at the German-Brazilian government consultations in Brasilia in August 2015

The country’s growing economic power means that Germany's programme of development cooperation with Brazil is of much greater political than financial significance. Moreover, of the development projects that it implements together with Germany, Brazil pays a considerable share of the costs itself. Depending on the sector and the region, Brazil covers between 30 and 90 per cent of the project costs.

German cooperation with Brazil is focused on political and structure-building activities in a few, clearly defined sectors. The intention is to have an impact not only in Brazil itself but also in the whole of Latin America and – in the case of climate protection – worldwide.

At the government negotiations in August 2015, Germany pledged to make available a total of 551.5 million euros in funding for Brazil. Given the strength of Brazil's economy, the majority of these funds is being provided as loans at reduced interest rates.

The following priority areas of cooperation were confirmed:

  • The conservation and sustainable use of the rainforest
  • Renewable energies and energy efficiency

In consultation with the BMZ, the German Environment Ministry is also supporting Brazil in its efforts to implement measures to protect the climate and climate-related biodiversity. It will do this via its International Climate Initiative (ICI).

The conservation and sustainable use of the rainforest

Rain forest in Brazil

The conservation of the Amazonian and coastal rainforests, which cover about 60 per cent of the entire surface of Brazil, is vital to the protection of biological diversity and the global climate. However, since Brazil is also among the world's biggest producers of coffee, sugar, meat and soya products, forest conservation does clash with economic interests. So it is that large tracts of forested land are logged – occasionally illegally – in order to turn them into new farming or grazing land. That is why Germany is active in the world's biggest programme to establish protected areas, known as ARPAs – Amazon Region Protected Areas.

Around twenty per cent of the Amazon region is officially designated as territories belonging to the indigenous population, and is legally ring-fenced. The environmental authorities at the federal and state level have been strengthened, and the Brazilian public’s awareness of the importance of protecting tropical forests has been raised. These activities have led to a variety of approaches which have been incorporated in legislation on environmental and climate protection at national, state and local government levels.

Furthermore, in August 2008, a results-based fund was set up to finance re- and afforestation measures and sustainable development in the Amazon region (Fundo Amazônia). Germany, along with Norway, is contributing 25 million euros to measures under this scheme. Extensive new commitments are being prepared.

Building on achievements and experience gained so far, Germany and Brazil are placing the focus of further collaborative activities on establishing more nature reserves and protected areas for the indigenous population of Brazil. Germany is providing support for regional planning activities that are geared to using resources sustainably, and is helping Brazil give greater weight to environmental policies and mainstream them in civil society.

Renewable energies and energy efficiency

Wind energy turbine in Brazil

Germany is assisting Brazil in implementing a climate-neutral, sustainable energy policy. In October 2010, the first official meeting of the parties to the German-Brazilian Energy Agreement took place. The meeting set the agenda for the parties’ long-term dialogue on renewable energies and energy efficiency.

Germany is providing policy advice, and using technology transfer and new financing instruments such as development and promotional loans, to help Brazil make greater use of renewable energies. Support is being provided, for example, to help with the refurbishment and maintenance of small-scale hydropower plants. Together with the Brazilian development bank BNDES, Germany's KfW Entwicklungsbank (KfW development bank) is financing the construction of wind farms.

The use of regenerative energy sources such as wind and hydropower is no longer unusual in Brazil – thanks in part to German efforts. Eighty-two per cent of electricity is generated by means of hydropower. However, this dependency on hydropower is in fact a threat to the country's energy security. That is why, in future, Brazil will need to invest a great deal more in diversifying its energy supply and in expanding that supply even further – in particular since Brazil's state planning authority, the EPE, forecasts that demand for electricity will increase by 4.3 per cent each year up to the year 2022.

More could still be done with regard to exploiting biomass and photovoltaic energy. Despite ideal climatic conditions for the use of such energy sources, so far they account for only a small proportion of the electricity generated overall. Furthermore, there have been few efforts so far to encourage consumers to save energy. That is why Germany is also supporting efforts by the state and the private sector to increase energy efficiency and so reduce pollutant emissions – for example, in urban road traffic.

New forms of cooperation

As Brazil is itself involved as a donor in development cooperation, the country is also a potential partner for triangular cooperation arrangements. Under this type of cooperation arrangement, a developing country benefits from the expertise and practical experience of both an industrialised country and an emerging economy.

In such arrangements, Brazil is in a position to provide the developing country with tried and tested solutions for problems which Brazil itself faced only a few years before. And Germany, for its part, brings to the table valuable know-how and a toolbox that has been honed over many years. By working together, Brazil and Germany can also learn a lot from each other and can coordinate their efforts more effectively.

More information

BMZ glossary

Close window


Share page