Debate about current rights reversals marks launch of Civil Society Project -Constructing Democratic Resistance, with support from the European Union

The Civil Society Project – Constructing Resistance to Democracy was launched on 27 June. The initiative, which will be run by the Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (Associação Brasileira de Organizações Não-Governamentais: ABONG) and its associates, the Multi-professional Advisory Centre (Centro de Assessoria Multiprofissional: CAMP), the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE) and the Centre for Feminist Studies and Advisory Services (Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assessoria: CFEMEA),
Is emerging at a time in which the country is experiencing serious institutional and political crises. The aim is to support processes for organization and networking in Brazilian civil society in defence of rights and democracy.

With support from the European Union, the launch included a debate on the theme “Brazilian civil society in the context of the withdrawal of rights”, mediated by one of ABONG’s Executive Directors, Eleutéria Amora and with participation from Eduardo Tadeu, President of the Brazilian Association of Municipalities (Associação Brasileira de Municípios: ABM), Natalia Szermeta, Coordinator of the Homeless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto: MTST), and Rita Freire, member of the International Ciranda of Shared Communication (Ciranda Internacional de Comunicação Compartilhada) and the World Forum of Free Media, and ex-President of the Brazil Communication Company’s (Empresa Brasil de Comunicação: EBC) Board of Trustees.

“The national budget freeze is impossible to understand outside Brazil,” asserted Eduardo Tadeu, referring to Proposed Constitutional Amendment (Proposta de Emenda à Constituição: PEC) 241 – or 55 – regarding the expenditure ceiling which, following approval in the national Congress and Michel Temer’s (PMDB) Presidential Sanction, became Constitutional Amendment 95/2016. The Amendment envisages the freezing of expenditure on social care, education, and health for 20 years. He also criticized PEC 287, the Social Security Reform, and said that, if approved, it will have repercussions for the municipalities. “The cuts and the reform will make retirement difficult. People will go after the municipalities,” he warned.

Natalia Szermeta reminded those present that Brazil is undergoing a moment of the criminalization and judicialization of politics and that rights depend on unity. “These reforms are an affront to human rights and the left needs to reinvent ways to confront them. One part of [the left] did not understand that we have lost the game. We need to recover hope,” stressed the MTST Coordinator. “Being radical in Brazil today means being against privilege,” she joked, referring to the conservative view of those who fight for the defence of rights.

“We need to perceive how the mass media is organized for strategic confrontation”, noted Rita Freire. In her view, the power of TV is what determines the success of the other powers, such as the economic, the political and others. She noted the importance of public communication and its absence since the current government took over. Following the round table debates, the Civil Society Project – Constructing Resistance to Democracy was presented to the audience by another ABONG Executive Director, Mauri Cruz. “The idea is that the entire project is jointly constructed and run by the four organizations (ABONG, CAMP, CESE and CFEMEA)”, he stressed in the midst of talking about the aim, target audience and principal activities to be developed within the project.

José Carlos Zanetti, CESE’s Projects and Training Advisor, discussed one of the activity strands: the Fund to Support Small Projects, which recently analysed 15 proposals from a public call for proposals. “We were able to select very good projects, from more than 140, and these provide a very interesting combination: 8 projects came from social movements, 4 from networks and forums, 3 from advisory services, 6 from women’s movements, 3 from black women and 2 for youth empowerment,” he noted.

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