The Brazilian school of diplomacy

Instituto Rio Branco

More than two hundred diplomats from around 50 countries have been trained in Brazil through the programme for foreigners, implemented by Itamaraty, through the Institute of Rio Branco. Diplomats from African countries like Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Angola are being developed in Brazil. The action forms part of an accord between the Brazilian government and the governments of the countries that recognise the Institute of Rio Branco, an institute responsible for the training of diplomats, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil — Itamaraty, with an international reference.

Since 1976, when the Rio Branco Institute moved to Brasilia, the programme for foreign scholars was offered, which offers annual scholarships for young diplomats from other countries, to complete the Training Course for Diplomats. The initiative arose from the desire of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to contribute, within its sphere of influence, to strengthen South-South cooperation in this training camp, further strengthening the ties between friendly countries.

All together, there have been approximately 230 diplomats from 50 countries trained in the programme. Of these, 18 are from the African continent. The number of scholarships offered each year depends on the number of Brazilians students who join the Rio Branco Institute. The idea is that the number of scholarships is equivalent to a quarter or fifth of the total class. In recent years, the institute has given preference to Portuguese speaking countries in Africa and East Timor, but also meets other countries that express interest. As the number of candidates is usually greater than the number of available places, the choise is made according to certain parameters such as the level of training of the candidates, degree of knowledge of the Portuguese language and reciprocal interest.

The course and living together

Foreign scholars follow the same course as Brazilian students over the year of training. The scholars follow an additional course on Portuguese for foreigners — to strengthen their command of the language — and Brazilian readings — which gives them a greater knowledge of the culture and history of brazil. For the Director-General of the Rio Branco Institute Gonçalo Mello Mourão, the links that the scholars develop with Brazil and the good impression of their countries which they leave with their Brazilian colleagues, is an element which strengthens bilateral ties between Brazil and those countries. “If on the one hand Brazil provides other countries with a high level training programme on diplomacy, on the other, Brazil builds a range of lasting contacts in the upper echelons of friendly governments that always have an interest in strengthening bilateral ties of friendship and cooperation in all fields”, he states. Besides this, there is another benefit: the number of diplomats around the world who speak Portuguese increases, assuring an opening of an opportunity to engage in dialogue at the level of global diplomacy .

The living together between students of different cultures opens the space for dialogue and possibilities for students of different cultures to see Brazil with different eyes, different from what they were used to. For Gonçalo, everything contributes to the development of international relations is key to the professional work of the diplomat. As well as this, in the particular case of Africa, this coexistence certainly develops the opportunity for Brazilian students to gain greater knowledge of various aspects of countries on the continent and the diversity in Africa, creating, naturally, a curiosity which leads many to desire closer ties with Africa.

“Rio Branco Institute has trained more than 200 foreign diplomats”

Commitment and results

By accepting the instruction of foreign governments, Itamaraty requires them to commit to the student after completing the course, to be integrated into the Foreign Service of the country. Gonçalo makes a very positive assessment of the training of foreign diplomats in Brazil. According to him, a large majority of young scholars covered by the programme since 1976 are still integrated into the foreign service of their countries and many are already Ambassadors, or senior leaders in various bodies of their governments or international organizations. Some have already been or currently are Ambassadors in Brazil.

The current Ambassador of Suriname in Brasil, Marlon Faisal Mohamed Hoesein, completed training at the Rio Branco Institute in 1986/87. Fellow scholar on the course, in 1983/84 Cheickna Keita is today the Ambassador of Mali in Brazil. “My training at the Rio Branco Institute was very instructive academically, which is a factor determining the evolution of my diplomatic career. That’s why I suggest this unique experience should become a tradition between the Itamaraty and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mali” said Keita.

Civil servant

The diplomat is, first of all, a federal public servant, and official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Itamaraty, and organ of public administration of the federation, which has the role of assisting the President of the Republic with the formulation and execution foregin policy. Throughout his career, the diplomat can work in several areas in Brazil (Brazilia or in the regional offices) or abroad (embassies, consulates and missions). To begin a career as a diplomat, through public channels, one must be a native Brazilian, be at least 18 years old, live in accordance with the political rights and in compliance with the obligations of military service and election. In terms of training, the requirement is that the candidate has a degree in any area issued by an educational institution accredited by the Ministry of Education (MEC) or revalidation of the diploma if the candidate has completed a degree in a foreign institution. The entrance exam to the Diplomatic Career has been held annually since 1946.