Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
Brazilian soldiers ;

The security-development nexus in Brazilian discourse: unveiling connections

Felipe Estre

PhD in International Relations, King's Brazil Institute and University of São Paulo

18 July 2023

Raymond Aron's influential work, 'Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations,' sheds light on the subordination of strategy and diplomacy to politics, particularly the national interest. Aron posits that military and diplomatic means are two sides of the same coin, both serving the pursuit of national interest. In this blog post, we delve into the concept of the security-development nexus as it is conceptualized in Brazilian defence documents and diplomatic speeches. By examining its historical evolution and its manifestation in Brazil, we gain valuable insights into the interplay between security, development, and politics.

The relationship between security and development has long been recognized as a crucial aspect of national policies. In Brazil, this nexus is consistently mentioned in both military and diplomatic documents. While the military articulates the connection through the lens of the Amazon region, diplomatic discourse highlights the trinomial of security, development, and democracy. This post explores the nuances of the security-development nexus in Brazilian discourse, shedding light on its origins, manifestations, and implications.

Tracing the emergence of the security-development nexus

Traditionally, the emergence of the security-development nexus is attributed to Harry Truman's 1949 inaugural speech. However, some scholars argue that its roots can be traced even further back. Hettne asserts that the nexus can be traced back to the 18th century, evolving over time in response to changing economic and military dynamics.

From the Enlightenment ideals of national wealth to the Industrial Revolution's emphasis on economic and military rivalry, the concept of development evolved. After World War II, the association between development and security gained prominence as the Cold War unfolded, with the United States linking underdevelopment to the threat of communism.

Shifting paradigms and the human dimension

In the late 1980s, development became closely associated with neoliberal globalization. The end of the Cold War brought about a paradigm shift in security, broadening its scope to include individuals alongside states. The 1990s witnessed a significant expansion of the security-development nexus, driven by intrastate conflicts, collapsing states, and emerging challenges to traditional notions of territorial order.

The nexus evolved to encompass ideas such as post-conflict reconstruction, poverty eradication, human security, and the responsibility to protect. Development discourse stretched to include governance and nation-building, justifying external interventions as a coercive form of international assistance.

Brazil's unique perspective

Latin America, and Brazil in particular, offers a distinctive perspective on the security-development nexus. The perception of low state capacity has been a significant driver for greater military engagement in internal roles within the region. In Brazil, civilian and military elites have played a pivotal role in promoting this perception, viewing the military as a crucial agent of development. The Brazilian Armed Forces have long associated national independence with industrialization and economic progress. Diplomatically, Brazil has consistently prioritized development as a central goal of its foreign policy.

The military's perspective

During the military regime from 1964 to 1985, initiatives were developed to economically exploit the Amazon region based on the regime's interpretation of the relationship between security and development. This pattern is reflected in Brazilian military documents, which link defence with development, thereby intertwining security and development. The National Defence Strategy (NDS) of 2008 emphasizes the inseparability of national defence and development, while the 2020 NDS introduces diplomacy as another critical element.

The Amazon: a focal point

Within the military discourse, the Amazon region takes centre stage. The armed forces are presented as the primary means of protecting the vulnerable region. The presence of the state, particularly the military, is deemed necessary for the stabilizing and integrated development of the Amazon. The military-led Northern Border Program (Programa Calha Norte), created in 1985, exemplifies this connection by promoting infrastructure and social development projects for the sustainable occupation and development of the Amazon region.

The diplomatic perspective

While the military documents emphasize the Amazon as the embodiment of the security-development nexus, the articulation differs in diplomatic discourse. However, another key component, democracy, emerges consistently in the speeches of Brazilian presidents and foreign ministers. The trinomial of security, development, and democracy is prominently mentioned, with democracy being regarded as an instrument for stability and development, as well as a means to promote human rights and social justice.

Implications and variations

The articulation of the security-development nexus varies based on the intended audience and political objectives. In the national arena, the military's historical involvement in the Amazon region justifies increased investments in defence, even without traditional interstate security threats.

By framing military actions as integral to development efforts, debates about the limits of military intervention become technical coordination challenges between military officials, civilian state agencies, and society.

The South Atlantic and international perspectives

In the South Atlantic context, the Brazilian Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf are referred to as the "Blue Amazon," creating a discursive link that justifies increased naval investments for protecting the region. This semantic approach highlights the strategic importance of the South Atlantic and aims to legitimize military involvement.

Internationally, Brazil emphasizes the need for increased financing for development. Brazilian diplomacy often attempts to connect development with other global security priorities.


The security-development nexus in Brazilian discourse showcases the interplay between security, development, and democracy. The military documents emphasize the Amazon region as the embodiment of this nexus, highlighting the role of the armed forces in protecting and developing the vulnerable region. Diplomatic discourse, on the other hand, emphasizes the trinomial of security, development, and democracy.

These variations reflect different audiences and political objectives. Understanding the articulation of the security-development nexus in Brazil sheds light on how meanings are constructed, enabling a critical analysis of governmental and societal actions influenced by these powerful political motivators.

This blog post is based on the following journal article: Estre, Felipe (2023) Two sides of a coin? The security-development nexus in Brazilian diplomacy and military, Conflict, Security & Development, 23:2, 199-218, DOI:

About the author

Felipe Estre holds a PhD in International Relations from the joint degree programme between King’s College London and the University of São Paulo.

In this story

Felipe Estre

Felipe Estre

PhD student

Latest news