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Moises Costa: The bidding process for hosting the World Cup is always accompanied by numerous promises of grandiose investments and long-term benefits for the hosting country. That also happened for Brazil, but the population soon figured out that there was a huge disconnect between the rhetoric used by public officials and the palpable outcomes Brazilians are experiencing as a result of hosting the World Cup. Having said that, I believe Brazil is getting a lot more out of the World Cup than anything that could have been promised beforehand. What I am talking about is civic consciousness and public engagement, things that public officials are not necessarily happy about and would never dream of promising, at least not until now.
All of the attention that the government brought to itself as a result of hosting the World Cup, in a way backfired. Brazilians began paying attention to areas of the public realm with which they were not very familiar. They began to see that not only the promises made were unattainable, but also that whatever was being delivered by the government was not being done according to the ethical and moral standards the population expected. Accusations of misappropriations of public funds, overspending, corruption, among other things, became abundant in the media due to the increased interest in the matter. But why is this a good thing? It is a change in the Brazilian mindset about the relationship that citizens and public officials ought to have. Up until now, since the end of the military dictatorship in the late 80’s, Brazilians had only been passively aware of public misconduct. With the spotlight on Brazil and the growing discontent with the way Brazil is being managed, I believe the country has taken a new turn toward a more responsible and responsive government. Brazil is a strong democracy and its institutions are being forced to act. A number of public officials involved in public misconduct have already being prosecuted and there are a number of other cases under review. Things are definitely changing in Brazil, and it is for the better.
Brazil has never really had big shocks that could have stirred public involvement like wars or civil unrest. Brazilians are very peaceful and agreeable, but the World Cup came as an unexpected external factor that shook thing up. As for economic gains, the World Cup has not brought all that much investment that was not already planned for the country. However, the demand for better infrastructure in order to meet the FIFA requirements may attract future investment. This will happen not because the promised investments in infrastructure are actually happening, but because with the change in mindset I talked about before, government will have no way out of actually delivering the long needed attention at the state of public infrastructure in the country. Once that process is translated into actual works, then we should see a larger increase in interest in investing in Brazil.
Moises Costa: Simulations like the Model UN or Model EU are very helpful in stirring up students’ interest in public affairs. Just like many Brazilians were passively aware of what was going on in the public sphere of the country, we are also not involved with issues that we may not fully understand how they affect us or how much interest we have for them simply due to a lack of knowledge. When we are pushed to learn about such issues during the preparatory stage of such simulations, we realize how important some of those issues are and how complicated it is for anyone to address them. The greatest benefit from a Model UN simulation is not in the substantive knowledge it gives or on the leadership skills it may help develop, but in the framing of a young mind on how to see the world.
I am not saying that the substantive things learned during the Model UN are not relevant. They are. But what will carry over will be the mindset it produces. Where the increased awareness about the world and the way you approach global matters will influence the manner in which you conduct your life endeavors. We need more people who are globally minded and who understand how to frame global issues in order to seek for ways to make our world a better place. I believe the Model UN is a great exercise for that, and you get to meet lots of interesting people along the way!
Moises Costa: I think Brazil is in a great position to continue growing. Brazil’s significance in the world stage has increased gradually, but steadily, and I think this is a good time to couple the welcome changes we are seeing in the country with sustainable growth. During my time with the Volkswagen Group I saw firsthand that Brazil needs to increase its competitiveness in order to fight for a better position in the world. Brazilians face the same challenge at the individual level. It is important to invest time and money in those things that will increase one’s competitiveness and it requires an entrepreneurial spirit to take advantage of those unexplored areas, which are still abundant in Brazil. The World Cup has definitely raised awareness regarding a number of issues and some action has already been taken to address them, but those who want to really move forward in the current scenario must act more fervently and more frequently.
MUNPlanet: What does it take to be a successful manager in an international environment? Is formal education enough?
Moises Costa: Formal education is definitely important, but also not enough. Education will help you understand facts, but life is full of uncertainty and understanding how to use those facts to address real problems cannot be simply taught in a book. Experience is essential and the skills gained in a simulation like the Model UN is a fantastic way of acquiring those abilities. In that environment you need to learn how to “read” people and negotiate and use the facts you know so well to your advantage, even if that means to hide them from everyone else until the appropriate time.
During my time as a government relations executive with the Volkswagen Group I was often faced with situations where I knew all of the facts, but the determining factor for a successful outcome was simply knowing how deal with the opposing personality. Something that was always helpful was speaking the language of those I had to work with, both in a formal and informal sense. If a meeting was conducted in Spanish, knowing Spanish allowed me to understand the underlying messages of the exchange, which would not have been true if the meeting had been done through translators. However, also speaking the “language” of those you work with also means being able to connect with them in other ways. My native language is Portuguese, which was also the same language of most of my coworkers, but if I did not understand the implicit messages that went beyond the explicit language used, I could not always help them. People are complicated, and we don’t always say what we are thinking, so learning how to decipher people’s messages is very important. That can only be learned through experiences outside of the academic part of education, and the Model UN offers a great way of developing those skills.
Moises Costa: I read a lot of books and it is really hard to point to only five, so I will do a counter-intuitive thing and talk about two. In the spirit of the World Cup, one of my favorite books is “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization” by Franklin Foer. In this book he explains facts of a globalized world through events pertaining to soccer. You do not need to know anything about soccer to enjoy this book. He connects themes like corruption, guerrilla movements, anti-Semitism, among others, to instances in soccer history and tries to explain why we got the outcomes we did get. The thing I like best about this book is that the author is able to connect two seemingly unrelated things, which is exactly what we need to do in order to address global issues. Again, having the right frame of mind is what will be most helpful going forward, and this book shows exactly how that can be done.
Secondly, I must recommend the French classic “The Little Prince” from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. As the Little Prince travels the universe he teaches us very important lessons about how we should see the differences that will invariable come our way. He also teaches us what it means to be a “global citizen” where we have to consider everyone’s needs before moving forward. Globalization without ethics will produce a hard environment for future generations. The Little Prince contains some very good lessons about how to avoid that.
Moises Costa: Definitely Brazil! That is really the only one that matters, whoever else gets to the final will lose anyway! I see Germany as the toughest opponent at this stage. I don’t think Spain will cause that much trouble.
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