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Brazil Growth of Social and Environmental Movements

 
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Brazil Growth of Social and Environmental Movements



Growth of Social and Environmental Movements

In contrast to developed countries, Brazil had few organizations--interest groups, associations, leagues, clubs, and NGOs--up until the 1970s. This lack of mediation between government and society was characteristic of a paternalistic and authoritarian social structure with a small but powerful elite and a dispossessed majority. During the 1970s and early 1980s, however, in part because of the growth of the middle class, a wide variety of social movements and local and national organizations appeared and expanded. Many engaged in some kind of political activity. Women's groups also appeared. Increasingly, social and political organizations reached into the lower classes. A significant number were connected directly or indirectly to the Roman Catholic Church, which sponsored CEBs (Ecclesiastical Base Communities) as part of its "option for the poor." Independent labor movements also grew during the 1980s. People took to the streets in 1984 to press for direct elections for president, as they did in 1992 to demand the impeachment of President Collor de Mello.

Once a new constitution was written in 1988 and a president was chosen through direct elections in 1989, opposition or resistance movements were forced to redefine their roles. Many of them made a transition from protest and denunciation to providing more constructive contributions in the areas of health, education, and social services. Others organized pressure on government agencies. A 1994 study showed that some 5,000 NGOs are dedicated to: the environment (40 percent), social change (17 percent), women's causes (15 percent), and racial issues (11 percent), among other causes (17 percent). As a rule, these movements are organized around the interests of neighborhoods or broad concerns that cut across social class lines. Most are small, voluntary organizations that operate at the local level and provide assistance, but there are also large professional NGOs, such as the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (Instituto Brasileiro de Análise Social e Econômica--IBASE) and the Federation of Social and Educational Assistance Agencies (Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social). Some of the large NGOs are connected to international NGOs, and many receive donations from abroad (dues are not customary). Various associations of national and regional NGOs have also developed.

Collaboration between social and environmental movements, in what has been called "socio-environmentalism," reflects a Brazilian belief that concerns with the environment are inseparable from concerns with development, social equity, and justice. In this view, human and environmental degradation have common causes, and their solution requires the same sort of action.

Data as of April 1997



 


 



 


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