Spring 2012 students in the Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development program visited Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, where they met with representatives from the UN Development Agency, the Brazilian government, and two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The visit provided deeper insight into the multifaceted dynamics shaping development patterns in Brazil.
Meetings and lecture topics at a glance:
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Brazil
- Maria Celina Arraes, Director of Strategic Planning and Capacity Development. Arraes presented on current UNDP programs in Brazil focused on building capacities to implement policies of social change surrounding poverty eradication, integration, and expansion of democratic institutions and citizen participation.
- Ieva Lazarevicute, Project Director of Strategic Planning and Capacity Development. Lazarevicute discussed the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, focusing on the work of UNDP in Brazil in meeting these goals. She also discussed distinguishing between actual improvements and statistical projections that give a false impression of progress.
General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Brazil
- Juliana Miranda, Assistant Secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Policy Coordination. Miranda spoke on efforts to increase citizen participation in government policy and decision making at all levels. She also highlighted specific efforts by the federal government to address issues faced by ethnic minorities historically excluded from political participation.
- Wagner Caetano, National Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Social Relations. Caetano discussed sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.
- Efraim Batista Neto, National Secretary of the Presidential Office for International Affairs. Neto spoke on the Rio+20 global conference with an emphasis on the environmental policies the Brazilian government plans to present to the international community during this conference.
- Dr. Bruno Vanhoni, representing the National Youth Secretary, Severine Macedo. Vanhoni spoke about youth programs in Brazil.
- Dr. Eduardo Weaver, President of EcoSintonia. Weaver delivered a lecture on the principles of sustainability. He also led students on a day-long tour and hike of the nature reserve Paraiso na Terra (Paradise on Earth).According to their website, EcoSintonia seeks to improve the mental and physical well-being of corporate employees and promote a greater balance between corporate necessity and environmental responsibility.
Dr. Ulysses Riedel, President of União Planetária. Riedel presented on civil society, sustainability, and social transformation. SIT students participated in a music performance by a group of local youth who are part of an União Planetária program that helps youth from one of the poorest communities in Brasilia develop musical and artistic skills.
According to their website, União Planetária’s main objective is to promote the United Nations ideals of world peace and social justice by developing social, educational, environmental, and media projects throughout Brazil.
The excursion resulted in exceptional learning opportunities and shed new light and perspectives on the human and environmental challenges confronting Brazil’s populations and the impact of social inequities on the country’s economic growth.
According to Bill Calhoun—the SIT program’s academic director—the social policies implemented in Brazil in recent years demonstrate Brazil’s aggressive attempts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which include ending poverty, providing universal education, promoting gender equality, and improving health.
Brazil’s federal, state, and municipal governments have been working with local communities to build their capacity in resolving social problems, improve decision making, and implementing social programs.
Calhoun believes this model of government can serve as an example to societies all over the world as they attempt to tackle the problems associated with poverty, discrimination, and social exclusion.