“This is not a speech. It is a life”

September 18, 2014

H.J. – The Economist, 09/18/2014

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, who is hoping to be granted a second term in next month’s elections, has claimed that only a vote for her can ensure the continuation of the country’s best-known anti-poverty programme, the Bolsa Família. Since 30m people out of an electorate of around 140m are directly or indirectly dependent on the programme’s cash handouts, this is potentially enormously damaging to her opponents, of whom Marina Silva is the best placed in the polls.

Ms Silva’s response was broadcast on television in her electoral advertising on September 16th. To feel the full force of her words, you need to know that she was born in the Seringal Bagaço, a poor, rural part of the Amazonian state of Acre, to parents who were rubber-tappers. Unlike almost anyone else in Brazilian politics, she knows how hunger feels. The video below is in Portuguese, subtitled. Our translation into English is underneath—but if you want to understand why this woman, who was not even a presidential candidate until her running mate, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash on August 13th, has a strong chance of becoming Brazil’s next president, you should watch the video with the sound turned up. It’s only two minutes long.

“Dilma! Know that I’m not going to fight you with your weapons. I’m going to fight you with our truth. With our respect. And with our policies. We are going to keep the Bolsa Família. Do you know why? Because I was born in the Seringal Bagaço, and I know what it is to go hungry. All that my mother used to have for eight children was an egg and a bit of flour and salt, and some chopped onion. I remember looking at my father and mother and asking: Are you not going to eat? And my mother answered… my mother answered: We are not hungry. And a child believed that. But afterwards, I understood that for yet another day, they had nothing to eat. Someone who has lived through that will never end the Bolsa Familia. This is not a speech. It is a life.”

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Brazil Can Put Safety and Justice at the Heart of Global Development

July 25, 2014

Robert Muggah – The Huffington Post, 7/24/2014

The future of global development policy is being hotly debated in New York over the coming months. Governments from 193 countries are negotiating the form and content of the so-called Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. These new benchmarks will replace the eight Millennium Development Goals that expire in 2015. Most diplomats agree on the importance of including core development priorities into the future SDGs including ending poverty and hunger, ensuring healthy lives and quality education, and guaranteeing access to water and energy. Many also believe that peace, security and justice, controversial and difficult to measure though they may be, must be explicitly recognized as development priorities in their own right.

The SDGs are about much more than achieving a diplomatic consensus. Starting next year, they will serve as a road-map for driving development around the world, including the world’s poorest countries. Like the remarkably successful MDGs before them, they will incentivize governments to establish forward-looking benchmarks, monitor progress, and provide critical signals about the health of our planet. They matter fundamentally. And yet the SDGs will stumble if they do not account explicitly for some of the most intractable roadblocks to development, including violence, injustice and corruption.

Most of the world’s governments are plugging for a new and improved global development agenda that puts the safety, legal entitlements and basic rights of people at its center. During discussions at the United Nations, government representatives from most member states argued in favor of including peace and justice as goals together with targets that reduce violent deaths, end abuses against children, promote access to justice, prevent corruption, and enhance transparency. They are determined to pull the billions of people trapped by warfare and criminal violence from harm, be they in rich or poor countries.

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Brazil looks outward, cautiously

February 19, 2014

Tim Ridout – The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2/18/2014

In January, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attended the World Economic Forum in Davos for the first time in her three-year presidency. The foreign and trade policy platform of her Workers’ Party (PT) has been premised on a declining West, a transformed international order favoring emerging economies, and skepticism of free trade and open markets. But Rousseff is feeling intense pressure from her people to deliver better government services and economic prospects, as evidenced by massive street protests last June.

Rousseff’s visit to Davos came as the EU and Mercosur prepare toexchange proposals in newly revived free trade negotiations. She is also heading to Brussels on February 24 for a summit with EU leaders, where they are expected to discuss the negotiations and to sign a bilateral air travel pact that will increase passenger volumes between Brazil and Europe.

After a spate of economic growth that peaked in 2010 at 7.5 percent, Brazil’s economy slowed to 2.7 percent in 2011 and 1 percent in 2012. The growth rate for 2013 is expected to be about 2.5 percent. These disappointing numbers can be attributed partly to the drop in global commodity prices, but also to Brazil’s protectionist policies, poor infrastructure, unwieldy bureaucratic red tape, and its statist approach to investment. The Brazilian economy has not proven nimble enough to adjust to changing global realities, especially as investment flows back to the United States. Rousseff may have had little choice but to reassure business leaders at Davos that Brazil is committed to fiscal responsibility, openness to investment, combating inflation, and maintaining a floating currency.

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