National Conferences in Brazil: giving the power back to the people

published 24 September 2012 updated 5 February 2016
written by:

Extra: National LGBT Conferences


First National LGBT Conference. It recommends implementation of the National Plan for Human Rights and Promotion of the LGBT Community.


President Lula sets up the National Anti-discrimination Council. The Council is made up of 15 Ministries and 15 citizen organisations, including the CNTE.

Brazil grants pension payments to lesbian and homosexual couples.

Second National LGBT Conference of Public Policy and Human Rights:

  • It recommends homophobia be made illegal.
  • CNTE lobbies to challenge homophobia on two fronts:
  1. Curricular content and activities in Primary Education.
  2. National educational campaigns against homophobia and bullying in schools.

What are the main challenges facing the country today?

Corruption is still embedded in the powers of the state and in the private sector. For this reason, the work of the unions has been to secure citizen participation on supervisory boards of public policy.

For instance, in education there are budget control boards in every administrative area in the country. The real challenge lies in eliminating patronage and the power of local political groups who are unwilling to cede control to the people.

In parallel, Brazil is going through a bitter dispute over the control of its judiciary, stemming from another democratic reform introduced by Lula’s administration. The newly created National Justice Council, made up of members of the judiciary as well as peoplecivilians, has been attacked by the leadership of the judiciary, refusing to co-operate with investigations carried out by the Council.

In the Executive Branch, President Dilma has shown no hesitation when it comes to replacing ministers involved in practices that may compromise their responsibilities to the people.

Clearly, all these are crucial and pedagogical measures aiming at advancing democracy in our country.

We interviewed Fatima Aparecida, International Secretary of Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educação (CNTE), to learn more about successful participatory experiences in public policy development.

The National Public Policy Conferences are open spaces of debate between the State and its citizens about matters directly affecting them. What can you tell us about them?

National Conferences help both to strengthen state institutions and demand their accountability. The conferences bring together unions and social movements with elected representatives at different levels of government – district, municipal and provincial – until you get to the federal government. At present, Brazil has over a dozen established conferences connected with ministries and secretaries of the federal government.

How has this been applied to education?

The first National Conference of Education took place in 2010. Prior to this, there had already been conferences in specific fields: primary education, professional and technical education and indigenous education.

The main objective of the National Conference was to draft the new National Plan of Education (PNE), which is currently making its way through National Congress. Many resolutions from the Conference were incorporated in the PNE bill sent to National Congress, and others were attached to the bill through parliamentary amendments.

Thanks to the acknowledgment of its legitimacy in the decision making process, the ideas from the Conference of Education became a vital point of reference for public policy proposals.