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Brazil's SIVAM: As It Monitors the Amazon, Will It Fulfill its Human Security Promise?

Brazil's SIVAM: As It Monitors the Amazon, Will It Fulfill its Human Security Promise?

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Published by The Wilson Center
As Brazil implements its System for Vigilance of the Amazon (SIVAM), the country's leadership continues to tout the system as a major effort towards achieving its national security objectives--especially (a) preserving the country's sovereignty over its territories in that tropical forest region; (b) assisting in Amazon law enforcement, particularly in deterring illegal flights associated with contraband and narco-trafficking; and (c) providing environmental information aimed at promoting sustainable development and the preservation of natural habitats in the Amazon. But while official arguments promise SIVAM will contribute to all three objectives, the lack of: (a) transparency in the program's development and implementation; and (b) greater participation by non-official organizations in how SIVAM will gather, process, and disseminate information threatens the environmental and human security value of the system.
As Brazil implements its System for Vigilance of the Amazon (SIVAM), the country's leadership continues to tout the system as a major effort towards achieving its national security objectives--especially (a) preserving the country's sovereignty over its territories in that tropical forest region; (b) assisting in Amazon law enforcement, particularly in deterring illegal flights associated with contraband and narco-trafficking; and (c) providing environmental information aimed at promoting sustainable development and the preservation of natural habitats in the Amazon. But while official arguments promise SIVAM will contribute to all three objectives, the lack of: (a) transparency in the program's development and implementation; and (b) greater participation by non-official organizations in how SIVAM will gather, process, and disseminate information threatens the environmental and human security value of the system.

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Published by: The Wilson Center on Sep 05, 2012
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or at least the past decade, significant politicalactors, opinion-makers, and the general public(both in Brazil and overseas) have paidunprecedented attention to the Amazon region. Theyare primarily concerned with: (a) environmentalprotection of the area (as it becomes the backdrop foraccelerated social and economic development); (b)exploration of natural resources; and (c) criminalactivities with transnational implications. Reacting tointernal and external calls for more efficientgovernance of the region, the Brazilian governmentargues that the country’s new System for Vigilance of the Amazon (SIVAM) will, when fully implemented,play a key role in supporting the coordination of Brazilian federal policies in the region. Specifically,SIVAM is expected: (a) to help ensure Brazil’ssovereignty over its portion of the Amazon; and (b)to provide greater means to generate geophysical,biological, and social data about the region as well asto improve the quality of sustainable developmentdecision-making there.Since 1985, the Brazilian government has beenrepeatedly shaken by contraband and securityproblems in the region and on its borders with otherAmazonian countries such as Colombia andVenezuela. As a result, Brazilian authorities havewished to expand the country’s national air trafficcontrol system (SINDACTA) into its Amazonianregion. But a lack of investment funds and thedauntingly large area that would have to be coveredby radar (equal to that of Western Europe) delayedsuch an expansion.Finally, a series of factors spurred the political willto launch SIVAM. First, as Brazil’s developmentalpolicies in the Amazon became the object of increasingforeign criticism and as the carbon dioxide cycle waslinked to global warming, Brazil’s federal authoritiesproposed a System for the Protection of the Amazon(SIPAM) at the 1992 Rio Conference. SIPAM beganwith a drive to map the region precisely as the firststep towards establishing the Amazon as a zone inwhich economics and ecology would be balanced.Simultaneously, Brazilian law-enforcement authoritiesdemanded greater control of the region’s air trafficbecause of the growth of illegal drug-trafficking andcross-border smuggling fights in the early 1990s. Butthe decisive factor in the acceleration of SIVAM’sdevelopment was the United States’ intensified pushto curb drug production and smuggling fromColombia, Peru, and Bolivia by air detection andinterception of suspect aircraft. As an immediateconsequence of such operations conducted by the
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By Thomaz Guedes da Costa 
 As Brazil implements its System for Vigilance of the Amazon (SIVAM), the country’s leadership continuesto tout the system as a major effort towards achieving its national security objectives—especially (a) preserving the country’s sovereignty over its territories in that tropical forest region; (b) assisting in Amazon law enforcement, particularly in deterring illegal flights associated with contraband annarco-trafficking; and (c) providing environmental information aimed at promoting sustainabledevelopment and the preservation of natural habitats in the Amazon. But while official arguments promise SIVAM will contribute to all three objectives, the lack of: (a) transparency in the programsdevelopment and implementation; and (b) greater participation by non-official organizations in howSIVAM will gather, process, and disseminate information threatens the environmental and humansecurity value of the system.
Abstract
Thomaz Guedes da Costa is an associate-researcher with the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development, Tefé, Amazonas, Brazil. Dr. Costa is also a professor at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies of National Defense University, Washington, DC, where he directs the Defense Planningand Resource Management course of study.
 
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Feature Articles
United States and other countries in the arch fromVenezuela to Bolivia, Brazilian President FernandoCardoso issued a directive in 1996 to impede access of non-authorized flights across Brazil’s northwesternborder and to articulate the defense of its portion of the Amazon in reaction to strategies observed inneighboring countries (Presidential Directive, 23February 1996).
SIVAM: Components, Goals, and Development
SIVAM is a complex combination of: (a) fixed,mobile, and airborne radar; (b) ground sensors; (c)telecommunication networks; and (d) computerizeddata collection and information managementstructures.
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Accusations by opposition parties and thepress of fraud and legal mismanagement in the initialcontract bid process for SIVAM caused delays andprotracted political difficulties for the program. Butthe first contract was finally launched in March of 1997, and first operations are estimated to begin inlate 2002. Raytheon is the prime contractor for theground technical segment, which will include up to13 air traffic control sites and six mobile radars. Theaerial portion is supplied by Embraer, a Brazilianaircraft manufacturer. It includes: five Embraer ERJ-145SA planes equipped with Ericsson’s Erieye phased-array radar; three ERJ-145RS planes for monitoringnatural resources exploitation and environmentalmissions; eight to 12 weather radar stations; and avariety of water and ground sensors and stations aswell as communication facilities and three regionalinformation processing centers (at Belém, Manaus, andPorto Velho). Air patrol in the region will beconducted mainly by Tucanos ALXs procured fromEmbraer.Authorities—particularly in the Brazilian defensesector—are promising to use SIVAM to provide Brazilwith the overall means: (a) to monitor humanmovements and activities and their impact on theAmazon; (b) to increase knowledge about the region’senvironment, biodiversity, climate, and geophysicalfeatures; and (c) to protect the Amazon’s environmentwhile promoting local economic development there.The first sketchy conclusions about SIVAM’seffectiveness will be drawn as parts of the systembecome operational, are tested, and acquire fullcapability.
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The SIVAM program was born in a politicallypowerful crib in the mid-1990s, as issues of economicdevelopment in the Amazon region clashed withenvironmental concerns. Despite the existence of SIPAM, there was no clear national strategy in Brazilto protect the Amazon. The general perception wasthat market forces would continue to sustain thoselarge agricultural projects and migratory movementsthat were putting at risk the ecology of the regionwithout providing even remedial assistance to localcommunities and their traditional development (Silva,1999).
 
While a large number of Brazilian congressionalrepresentatives from the Amazon states were optimisticabout SIVAM and its possibilities to bring investmentsto their region, the program’s early history saw manycontroversies and much ambiguity—harsh battles overcontracts, accusations of kickbacks and insideinformation, and bureaucratic disputes that marredits technical conception and purposes. The results of a Brazilian Senate investigation of irregularities in theearly stages of purchases by SIVAM’s contractors didnot dispel the cloud of “shady deals” hanging over theprogram (Zaverucha, 1995). Additionally, asconstruction of the program’s radar stations andsensors has moved ahead, cost overrun and conflict of interests have come under investigation by Brazil’sUnion Accounting Court (Fortes & Krieger, 2000).Tangled by accusations of managementwrongdoing, the program has thus far shown little toconfirm its promise to provide useful environmentalinformation to the scientific research community.Indeed, from SIVAM’s inception, national securityconcerns of the Brazilian executive branch (first at thedefunct Secretariat for Strategic Affairs and later theMinistry of Defense) have politically controlled theinitiative.
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This control has created a contradictoryimage. The most visual elements of SIVAM thus farbelong to the Air Force air defense project.Nevertheless, SIVAM’s proponents have accentuatedits environmental protection capabilities in order tosecure loans (particularly from within Brazil and from
 Authors Note: This article responds to comments made during a seminar entitled “Brazil’s SIVAProject: Implications for Security and Environmental Policies in the Amazon Basin,” which was helat the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC on 14 June 2000. Theviews expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.
 
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international “green money” lenders) and to justifyexpenses for the project. Of the total twenty-yearSIVAM budget of US $1.395 billion, the Export-Import Bank of the United States is financing 73.3percent through the Bank of Brazil. Raytheon isfinancing 17.1 percent, and the Swedish Export CreditsGuarantee Board (EKN) is providing Ericsson theother 6.1 percent. This is an interesting combinationof funding partners for a program that has promisedto prioritize environmental monitoring along withconventional air defense and law enforcement needs.Although future analysts will be able to assess theprogram and review the issues surrounding its politicalinstallation, this article aims to raise awareness of the
need 
for evaluation of the objectives andimplementation of SIVAM in its human securityaspects. In particular need of evaluation are theprogram’s promises to increase scientific knowledgeabout the regional environment in order to informsustainable development policies. Due to the absenceof open sources regarding how SIVAM will gather,process, and analyze data, it is very difficult for anoutside observer to elaborate extensively on theprogram. Current public information about SIVAM’sprogress is limited. But one ought to at least start askingquestions both about the transparency of the programand the criteria for evaluating the Braziliangovernment’s commitment to using SIVAM for notonly national security but also for environmental data-gathering and social objectives.This article relates each of the initial stated aimsfor the program and then attempts to sketch out howSIVAM is or is not addressing these aims. First, thearticle addresses the issue of the program as
aninstrument for Brazilian national defense
. SIVAM isprimarily an air traffic control system to support airreconnaissance and interdiction; yet its formulationdiffers remarkably from the approach adopted byproponents of the Integrated System for Air TrafficControl and Air Defense (SISDACTA).
4
Second, thearticle then (a) examines the “green” (environmental)arguments that authorities continuously use to justifythe program, and (b) comments on the uncertainprospects for SIVAM
 
as
a knowledge generatingmechanism for both economic development and environmental preservation of the Amazon region in
Brazil and Neighboring States
Source: National Geographic Society

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