Creating secure and sustainable communities

Brazil

7 August 2020

Photo (c) Amazon Frontliners

Placing the welfare of people at the centre of development and protecting the environment are key aims of our programme in Brazil. By deepening democracy and encouraging inclusive public debates, our partners are working to develop new ways to prevent violence, mediate conflict and restore justice.

This work has not been easy, as a range of challenges swept Brazil in 2018 and 2019, eroding public trust, harming the environment and people’s livelihoods, and resulting in more violence for youth in the cities. We have revised our grant-making strategy, expanding our support beyond Recife to encompass the northeastern region of Brazil. We will support our partners in their efforts to reduce violence and protect people’s rights. Activities include: producing compelling research and data; bringing the voices of the most affected by these dynamics into public debates and policy-making processes; and advocating for the implementation of people’s socio-environmental rights.

In August 2019, large fires scorched huge swathes of the Amazon, polluting cities many miles away with thick, impenetrable smoke. Many consider industrial farming and large infrastructure projects to be driving the deforestation, exacerbated by new policies that allow for the commercial exploitation of protected lands.

In response, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been mobilising across South America to defend their rightful ownership to the forestland. One example is Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB), which aims to strengthen the unity of their movement across the country. (Oak supports APIB through its grant to Instituto Makarapy.) APIB works with indigenous peoples and organisations to raise their voices about their struggles, claims and demands and to stand against threats and attacks to indigenous people’s rights.

A recent statement by APIB expresses its approach. “We don’t need to destroy to produce,” it reads. “They cannot sell our wealth; money does not pay for it. Our territory is very rich – not in money – we are rich in diversity and this whole forest depends on our culture to stand.” Social conflicts in Brazil have long been rooted in the unequal distribution and expropriation of resources, including land. People living off the land in Brazil possess socio-environmental rights, and Oak supports organisations working to implement these rights.

Meanwhile, a number of developments are making life more difficult in Brazil’s cities. In response to elevated levels of street crimes, policies to combat drugs have been implemented with a punitive effect, contributing to rising levels of violence and taking the lives of thousands of young people, mostly Afro-Brazilians, each year. While ensuring citizen security is of paramount importance, an effective policy is one that includes the voices of all those affected by violence. In pursuit of a more inclusive process, our grant-making will support the production of an evidence base to inform policy. This will help all voices be heard as critical decisions are made by policy-makers.

Every society needs a functioning public sphere that nurtures debates as to what constitutes society’s best interest, and to which everyone has access. Increasingly, in Brazil as elsewhere, there is evidence of the use of bots and algorithms to interfere in elections and political processes[1].

This threatens to erode public trust and poses challenges for civil society, whose efforts to create social change rely on the legitimacy of evidence in a range of fields.

Our support for efforts to promote more inclusive policy debates aims to encourage learning and openness, resulting in a process that can transcend political divides and in policies that serve the best interests of all Brazilians.

To learn more about our Brazil Programme’s strategy, click here.


[1] Ruediger M, et al, Bots e o direito eleitoral brasileiro: eleições 2018, https:// bibliotecadigital.fgv.br/dspace/handle/10438/26227, (Accessed 04-02-2020)

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