From both shores, the 24 partner countries are seeking greater partnership South-South, but progress is slow

If NATO is in the North Atlantic, in the South Atlantic there is ZOPACAS (South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Cooperation). Without repeating the model NATO's military club, ZOPACAS has as its goal cooperation in subject security and defence, but also the partnership for the development endogenous to the region. Created in 1986, the organization is an interesting forum for addressing common problems, but it lacks mechanisms for greater engagement.

Countries that are part of the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic

▲ Countries that are part of the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic [Wikimedia]

article / Alejandro Palacios

In recent decades, the proliferation of South-South cooperation forums has highlighted the desire of many countries around the world to seek their development and the partnership without the tutelage or interference historically exercised by the most industrialized countries. The goal has been the articulation of new forms of association to guarantee the independence of the South in its relations with the North and to promote a genuine development, without incurring the old imbalances.

In this context, the South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Cooperation (ZOPACAS, also known as ZPCAS) was created in 1986 at the initiative of Brazil. It is a transcontinental consultative organization, composed of 24 countries on both sides of the Atlantic,1 and endorsed by the United Nations Assembly in resolution 41/11.

The organization was formed in the final stretch of the Cold War, a time during which some countries sought ways of cooperation outside the bipolar distribution of power between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was also born at a time when Angola and Brazil were becoming important regional players due to the high presence of hydrocarbons in their territories. Hence the need to create greater security conditions in the area so that economic operations by sea could be carried out with as little uncertainty as possible.

However, the growth and development of ZOPACAS was progressive, both in terms of the institutional aspect and in terms of the number of members. Of particular note is the case of South Africa, which did not join the organization until it put an end to its Apartheid policy. The incorporation of South Africa at the Brasilia summit in 1994 increased the prestige of the organization and marked the end of its constitution process.

Even so, ZOPACAS still lacked maturity at the institutional level. In the meeting in Montevideo in 2013, its members agreed to meet annually on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly and create a group of contact which, in addition to implementing the decisions adopted in the meetings, also coordinates issues relevant to the area related to peace and cooperation.

In the short term, ZOPACAS made significant progress towards peace and security in the South Atlantic. One of the most noteworthy concerns the signature in 1996 of the Treaty of Pelindaba (African Treaty for training of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone), which made Africa, following South Africa's accession,2 the third nuclear-free zone in the world. The move followed the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco, which made Latin America and the Caribbean the first nuclear-free region.


Despite his remarkable achievements in subject peace and security, ZOPACAS is currently in a status lack of momentum. While it is true that some analysts speak of re-emergence, others say that in order for the organization to re-emerge it must first undergo an institutional restructuring that allows it to better face the threats and challenges posed by the new geopolitical realities.

As mentioned, the aspirations for the revival of the organization are based on a greater importance of maritime trade, on the exploitation of the new oil fields under Brazil's deep waters (pre-salt layer), and on the need to protect maritime transport against piracy, among other issues. Split the director of the South American Defense School, Antonio Jorge Ramalho, all this is increasing the geopolitical importance of the South Atlantic region, which would make ZOPACAS a "tool ready to be used in case there is a perception of threat in the area" that puts at risk the extraction and trade of the region's raw materials.

However, there are also risks associated with a possible re-emergence of ZOPACAS. Paradoxically, these have to do with greater interference by countries in the Northern Hemisphere, some of which have expressed the intention of extending their area of action to the South Atlantic. France has the purpose to expand its influence from French Guiana, while Russia has already received approval from Equatorial Guinea to use the country's main port.

It is clear that the zone of peace and cooperation has the capacity to counteract that influence, primarily by increasing the partnership among the South Atlantic States. To make this happen, the area It has two defining characteristics: the fact that it is a fairly peaceful area per se and the fact that most of the countries involved have economies based on natural resources and commodity exports. These factors may encourage a cooperation that is more than necessary to fend off the alleged Western interference.

While, therefore, the ability to development of ZOPACAS is clear, it must be borne in mind that the organization does not currently have an institutional structure capable of promote synergies and cooperative practices in an effective way. In fact, some analysts argue that, contrary to what should be happening, countries are showing less and less interest in the project, as evidenced by the frequent absence of country presidents from the meetings of the Organization.

Thus, it can be concluded that both because of the lack of material resources and because of the consultative nature of the organization, ZOPACAS has not been able to project sufficient influence to become a leading organization. reference letter international. He's had more short-term success, in subject peace and security, but it is struggling to establish long-term economic cooperation. Greater commitment is therefore required on the part of the Member States in order to solidify a project necessary not only for peace and security in the region, but also for the political, economic and energy independence of the South Atlantic States.


(1) These are: Angola, Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo and Uruguay.

(2) The case of South Africa is interesting because it is the first and only country to date that, after having developed the nuclear bomb, decreed the complete dismantling of its nuclear programme after the signature of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991.

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