The Dynamics of Energy Policy Securitization in Brazil and the Consequences for Tribal Peoples

Alexandre Andrade Sampaio[1]

Matthew McEvoy[2]


“The dominant discourse, a universalist and competent discourse that excluded indigenous societies throughout history, idealized and naturalized cultural differences sometimes as barbarians and savages, sometimes as romantic and folkloric, but, always, and especially, as obstacles to the integration, unification and development of the State.” (Justice Antonio Souza Prudente in §1st Federal Regional Tribunal of Brazil, 2012)

The present article presents securitization theory and applies it to energy policy in Latin America. The article’s focus is on how the Brazilian State marginalizes tribal land claims by securitizing energy production in order to pursue so-called development projects in the energy sector. This practice occurs via the utilization of a procedural instrument known as ‘Security Suspension’, the origins and consequences of which are examined in this work. The research suggests that contrary to what is affirmed by the State, this securitization does not benefit the population at large, which raises a question as to why these projects are really being carried out. While a plethora of tribal peoples’ human rights are violated by this practice that perpetuates a policy directed at the marginalization of these minorities, the interest of the majority of the population in the preservation of the environment is sidelined.

Keywords: Securitization. Tribal Peoples. Security Suspension. Brazil. Development Projects.


O presente artigo apresenta a teoria da securitização e a aplica à política energética na América Latina. O trabalho foco em como o Estado brasileiro marginaliza reivindicações das terras tribais ao securitizar a produção energética com o objetivo de perseguir o assim chamado projeto de desenvolvimento no setor energético. Essa prática ocorre via uso de um instrumento procedimental conhecido como “Suspensão de Segurança”, cujas origens e consequências são examinadas neste trabalho. A pesquisa sugere que, ao contrário do que é afirmado pelo Estado, essa securitização não beneficia a população como um todo, o que levanta a questionamentos sobre a razão pela qual esses projetos estão realmente sendo levados a cabo. Enquanto uma miríade de direitos humanos das populações tribais sãoviolados por essa prática que perpetua uma política direcionada à marginalização dessas minorias, o interesse da maioria da população na preservação do meio-ambiente é deixado de lado.

Palavras-chave: Securitização. Populações Tribais. Suspensão de Segurança. Brasil. Projetos de Desenvolvimento.


El presente artículo presenta la teoría de la securitización y la aplica a la política energética en América Latina. El trabajo se centra en como el Estado brasileño margina reivindicaciones de las tierras tribales al promover la securitización de la producción energética con el objetivo de buscar el llamado proyecto de desarrollo en el sector energético. Esa práctica sucede a través del uso de un instrumento procedimental conocido como “Suspensão de Segurança”, cuyos orígenes y consecuencias son examinados en este trabajo. La investigación sugiere que, al contrario de aquello que el Estado afirma, esa securitización no trae beneficio a la población en la colectividad, lo que aumenta los cuestionamientos sobre la razón por la cual eses proyectos están realmente llevándose a cabo. Mientras una infinidad de derechos humanos de los pueblos tribales son violados por esa práctica que perpetua una política dirigida a la marginación de esas minorías, el interés de la mayoría de la población en la preservación del medio ambiente es dejado a un lado.

Palabras clave: Securitización. Pueblos Tribales. Suspensão de Segurança. Brasil. Proyectos de Desarrollo.


[1] Brazilian lawyer and holds an LL.M. (first class honours) in International Human Rights Law from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland – Galway and an MSc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, where he was a Chevening scholar. He is currently Policy and Programs Coordinator in the International Accountability Project. He has contributed to the work of the Special Procedures Branch of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law. He has also been a Programme Coordinator of Article 19 South America and a human rights attorney at the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense.

[2] Human rights advocate who currently works as a Research Associate in a UK-based human rights organisation, which promotes increased transparency, and accountability in the international trade of military, security and policing equipment. His work has included advocating for the protection of human rights defenders with Front Line Defenders and in the Special Procedures Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, as well as defending the economic, social and cultural rights of Mexico’s most marginalised groups with ProDESC. He holds an LLB in Law and European Studies and an LLM in International Human Rights Law.