Former Brazilian Leader Says Democracy Is Ongoing Process
“The international community is too diverse to be straight-jacketed into a particular set of values,” he said.
Speaking before a packed forum, Cardoso discussed the future of democracy in an age of globalization.
Cardoso, who served as president of Brazil from 1995 to 2003, said that there is no universal form of democracy—each nation develops its own brand.
“[Democracy] locally or at a world level is a ‘cosa da fare’ or in other words an ongoing process,” he said.
He added, however, that all democracies are legitimized by citizen participation.
“It is not only important to have legitimacy by votes, but to have legitimacy by participation in deliberation. Otherwise people lose interest,” he said.
Cardoso also stressed the need for increased global cooperation among governments, turning a critical eye to the current organizations that are supposed to do this job.
“The economy has turned global, but politics has not,” he said, asserting that terrorism and public health issues require a “global response.”
He specifically criticized the U.N. Security Council as “obsolete” and in need of reform and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its unequal distribution of voting power.
“Why not update the voting system of the IMF to reflect today’s world?” he said.
When asked by a student if there is ever an appropriate time for unilateralism in the global community, Cardoso said that this type of action can only be understood when the global community fails to act.
“The price to pay for those who advocate multilateralism is to show results and be more active,” he said. “Take the case of Iraq. Over years and years, no action was taken, and it is [then] easier to justify unilateralism.”
Cardoso, who spoke last night in the 2003 Fisher Family Distinguished International Fellow Lecture, is credited with successfully controlling Brazil’s inflation and helping revive the country’s domestic economy.
He is also a leading Latin American sociologist and a professor-at-large at the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies at Brown University.