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Encouraging public debate

Brazil Programme / Partner story

Photo by Karol Moraes / Shutterstock

Most of us have heard of or experienced the dynamics of polarisation in our lives: groups of people with similar societal views start to organise into echo chambers, and their sense of belonging grows along with their distrust and disapproval of others.

As in many countries, the effects of extreme polarisation in Brazil are felt across multiple areas of public life, undermining public debate on key societal issues. The Brazil Programme supports organisations at the cutting edge of efforts to improve the equity, transparency, and overall tenor of public discourse.

Through the media, our grantee partners have been increasing the transparency, independence, and diversity of newsrooms, while also defending human rights and the rule of law. “Nowadays, polarised outlets get more funding. We are trying to change that by strengthening networks that support quality journalism,” says Sérgio Buarque, from Marco Zero Conteúdo, an independent news outlet focused on social justice and socio-environmental issues. The outlet has done in-depth reporting on gender-based political violence, and has covered violent police crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrations. Meanwhile, independent investigative journalism outlet Agência Pública gathered data on Black people’s access to healthcare, prompting the National Health Council to publish recommendations for anti-racist practices across public medical services and Covid-19 vaccination campaigns.

A polarised political environment increases the barriers to the political participation of underrepresented and historically marginalised communities. Instituto Update works to ensure that they have a meaningful voice in democratic processes. Its web series Eleitas showcased the creativity and innovation of women in politics across Latin America, reaching nearly one million viewers. “Learning about the recent history of women in politics can reframe our perspective on democracy, ultimately strengthening political participation and trust in institutions,” says executive director Beatriz Dalla Costa.

Disinformation and misinformation about Covid-19 has caused serious risks to public safety. Quid, a digital communications and mobilisation lab, came up with a strategy: “One can chase after disinformation and try to correct it, or pressure digital platforms to change their policies,” says their director, Pedro Telles. “But there is also a third option: how about we create a web of reliable information that is just as powerful as the disinformation networks?” Instituto Tecnologia e Sociedade, an organisation that monitors the impact of technology on the future of Brazil and the world, also contributed to just that: through a chatbot, it helped deliver trusted information about the pandemic to Brazilians.

Research conducted by Centro de Estudos de Segurança e Cidadania (CESeC) showed how, in 2017 alone, the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro together spent almost USD 1 billion on combating drug trafficking and use – without a significant decrease in violence and crime rates. “This [drug prohibition] policy authorises the police to kill and the criminal justice system to incarcerate. And it has a financial cost. How much of our tax money is being channelled to this?” asks coordinator, Julita Lemgruber.

In a related development, Iniciativa Negra por uma Nova Política de Drogas monitored the 2021 state budgets in São Paulo and Bahia, uncovering disproportionate allocations for the criminal justice system and underfunding of public health, social assistance, and culture. It has denounced rights violations at the municipal, state, and federal levels and is working towards the adoption of a more evidence based, humane, and effective drug policy.

You can click on the various organisation names throughout this story to visit their websites. These grants all fall under our Brazil Programme, which strives to deepen democracy, uphold human and socio-environmental rights, and promote an inclusive, transparent public debate. To find out more, please visit the Brazil page on our website by clicking here.