Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP): Forging Cultural Unity in Economic Diversity

Published on 20th July 2021

The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) was established to promote sustainable development, scale-up social standards and preserve the unique language culture among the Portuguese-speaking countries. The CPLP’s nine member states are Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe.

In a review of 25 years of the CPLP, Fernando Jorge Cardoso, Researcher at the Centre for International Studies at Lisbon’s ISCTE University Institute, argues that the CPLP is far from being an economic organization as most of its members have stronger economic relations with countries outside the CPLP.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah in early July, Fernando Jorge Cardoso, among many other significant questions, underscores the fact that a country belonging to multilateral groupings is very beneficial, but each  CPLP member state has other stronger relationships while defending the common heritage of the Portuguese language and culture.

What would you say about the Community of Portuguese Language Countries – its achievements to date, and existing challenges?

There are so many aspects of the CPLP, but considering that in its statutes the community has the objective to increase diplomatic collaboration in multilateral fora, to encourage the relationship among entities of the civil society of the CPLP members and to re-enforce the use of Portuguese language, my assessment is positive. On challenges, all countries have budget constraints.

What issues do you think are the most paramount for discussion in the member states? Are there any deficiencies in the approach to good governance and democracy in these countries?

Most members of the CPLP are young countries with lots of troubles on creating sound states, having a clear division of powers and an innocuous accomplishment of democracy and human rights. There is a lot yet to be done, but the process is on track, in spite of problems of bad governance and systems inefficiencies in almost all the countries of the community.

The dynamics of economic growth are different among members of the group, the resources and levels of sustainable development vary widely. What are the best and the worst development scenarios?

Countries belonging to CPLP are not countries with common borders. They belong to diverse economic and geopolitical spaces. Therefore, CPLP differently from Francophonie or commonwealth is not a "natural" group of countries sharing common problems, other than those that are established in the objectives. The question here is not to have grandiose expectations. Therefore, confronted by  diverse scenarios it is natural for the development of each country to follow diverse paces. This is a cooperation space, not a kind of economic organization or political integration project.

In addition to theoretical targets, there must be considerable impact on the basic needs of the population: health, education and employment-creating sectors. Do leaders of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries think the same way as expected by the ordinary people?

Each country has its own reality and governments follow diverse strategies. There is not the will or the capacity of Portugal or any other country to influence the development of the community members.

Do you think culture and social traditions have united these countries over the years? What should be the way forward for the organization or group?

There are some problems here. Some people, mostly in Portugal and Brazil refer to the CPLP as a "Lusophone Community" while others look at it from different perspectives. This is far from reality. There is a diversity of languages inside the other CPLP countries, the Portuguese functions as an official language that helps to create a sense of national unity and regional differentiation, but it does not substitute for the reality of diverse cultural settings among and within the countries. This is not a Lusophone community, it is Portuguese official language group of countries that share some cultural elements due to history – to make it clearer, on subjects such as gastronomy, music, literature (or even soccer), for example. Cultural diversity is the name of the game, any intention of trying to build a Lusophone community for Portuguese language speaking community is bound for failure and conflict.

On external relations – to what extent foreign states influence the group members? Despite the fact that Portuguese is widely and commonly spoken, they look up to the United States, Europe and Asia, not only to Portugal?

Each country looks for diverse ways of international integration and collaboration. CPLP is and should continue to be a loose organization. The more loose it is, the more effective it will be, avoiding interference on domestic matters and, therefore, increasing the space for mutual collaboration in multilateral fora and among the community members. Summing up, CPLP is not a Lusophone space and, for sure, cannot be equalized to Francophone or Commonwealth. This is the only way to move forward.

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

The author writes widely on Africa, Russia and the BRICS.


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