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
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