Brazil Calls For Reform of United Nations as it Starts Its G20 Presidency

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazil's foreign minister called for reforms of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions Wednesday while criticizing their inability to prevent global conflicts, as his country kicked off its presidency of the Group of 20 nations.

Mauro Vieira told fellow foreign ministers during opening remarks for a G20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro that the U.N. Security Council has been unable to prevent or halt conflicts such as those playing out in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip.

"Multilateral institutions are not adequately equipped to deal with current challenges, as demonstrated by the unacceptable paralysis of the Security Council in relation to ongoing conflicts," Vieira said.

Foreign ministers of the 20 leading rich and developing nations are gathering this week to discuss poverty, climate change and heightened global tensions, setting a roadmap for work to accomplish ahead of a Nov. 18-19 summit in Rio.

One of Brazil's key proposals, set by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is a reform of global governance institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and multilateral banks, where he wants to push for stronger representation of developing nations.

The leftist leader reiterated on Feb. 18 his interest in expanding the U.N.'s Security Council, contemplating the entry of more countries from Africa, Latin America, as well as India, Germany or Japan.

"We need to add more people and end the right of veto in the U.N., because it is not possible for a country alone to be able to veto the approval of something approved by all members," Lula said while on a state visit to Ethiopia.

Whether Lula's push will be successful remains to be seen, as permanent members of the Security Council have in the past been dismissive of attempts at reform that would result in a loss of their power.

"Currently there is no momentum to reform the U.N. The U.N. is in crisis, and maybe transforming the Security Council now is not ideal," said Lucas Pereira Rezende, a political scientist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

Vieira said Brazil was "deeply worried" by the proliferation of conflicts around the world - not just in Ukraine and Gaza, but in more than 170 locations, according to some studies, he said.

Vieira said more than $2 trillion a year is spent on military budgets globally and that more of that money should go toward development aid programs.

"If inequalities and climate change do, in fact, constitute existential threats, I cannot avoid the feeling that we lack concrete actions on these issues," Vieira said. "These are the wars we must fight in 2024."

Earlier Wednesday, Lula met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the capital, Brasilia, for about two hours to discuss global governance and other issues. Blinken, who is on a three-day trip to Brazil and Argentina, later headed to Rio for the G20 meeting.

The pair also discussed the conflict in Gaza, including working urgently to facilitate the release of all hostages and to increase humanitarian assistance and improve protections for Palestinian civilians, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of State.

They made no public comments on the diplomatic row between key U.S. ally Israel and Brazil following Lula's controversial comments comparing Israel's military offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday at the African Union summit in Ethiopia, Lula said that "what is happening in the Gaza Strip and to the Palestinian people hasn't been seen in any other moment in history. Actually, it did when Hitler decided to kill the Jews."

In response, Israel declared Lula a "persona non grata", summoned Brazil's ambassador to Israel and demanded an apology. In retaliation, Lula recalled Brazil's ambassador for consultations.

After years of diplomatic isolation under former President Jair Bolsonaro, Lula has sought to reinsert Brazil on the center stage of global diplomacy since returning to power in January of 2023.

G20 finance ministers and central bank presidents are set to meet next week in Sao Paulo, and a second meeting of foreign ministers is scheduled for September.