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brazil mapPopulation: 198,656,019

HDI ranking: 85/187

HDI score: 0.730

Brazil has long been considered a leader in the region for democratic practices, implementing successful participatory budgeting projects and incorporating local government rights into the 1988 constitution (IDB, 2005). Over the past decade, Brazil’s economic growth and social programs, such as Bolsa Familia, helped enable more than 22 million people to emerge from poverty. The country has a goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2014 (World Bank, 2013).

Local governance at a glance

  • Brazil is made up of 26 states, which are divided into 5,560 municipalities and one Federal District, the capital city Brasilia (Government of Brazil website).
  • A directly elected mayor and municipal council govern each of the autonomous municipalities (World Bank, 2002).

Civil society actors include

  • Pólis is a non-profit research organization specializing in citizen participation and urban governance.
  • Participate is a Brasilian assocation that promotes citizen participation through informational exchange and trainings.

Capacity building institutions

  • The Brazilian Institute of Municipal Administration (IBAM) addresses local issues through working groups and local networks. IBAM trains community leaders, policy-makers and public officials to strengthen their capacity to lead and develop successful development projects as well as solid political structures.

Fiscal control

  • Local government expenditures are reportedly around 26 percent of total government expenditure, or roughly 8 percent of GDP (UCLG, 2010).
  • Participatory budgeting (PB) processes began in Brazil in the late 1980s, and due to the successful initiatives lead by Brazilian municipalities, the country has paved the way for citizen involvement in budget processes around the world. PB incorporates the voices of the people and ensures that citizens and elected officials work together to decide how to spend the money within local areas (IDB, 2005).
  • The Ministry of Cities is responsible for housing, sanitation and transportation as well as supporting citizen participation. Since over 80 percent of the population in Brazil lives in a city, this ministry is important for promoting public policies that better the lives of the people.

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • Brazil adopted a new constitution in 1988, which directly stated that municipal, state and federal governments must commit to a set of social rights surrounding health care, housing and education. The constitution also addressed direct participation of citizens in local governments and moved the decentralization process forward (PSA, 2012).
  • As mentioned in the Fiscal control section, Brazil has been a key leader in participatory budgeting, and citizens across the country are mobilized by initiatives to engage them in active budgeting processes (IDB, 2005).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Social and regional inequality is prevalent in Brazil and negatively impacts the municipalities’ ability to implement policies and distribute resources (World Bank, 2002).
  • Though poverty rates have fallen throughout the country, extreme regional disparities remain. The South and Southeast tend to be wealthier and feature more favorable social indicators compared to the North and Northeast (World Bank, 2013).

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources (in order of citation):

UN Human Development Index, 2012: “Brazil”

Inter American Development Bank (IDB), 2005: “Assessment of Participatory Budgeting in Brazil”

World Bank, 2013: “Brazil Overview”

World Bank, 2002: “Brazil’s System of Local Government, Local Finance and Intergovernmental Relations”

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), 2010: “Gold II Report”

Government of Brazil, 2013: “States and Municipalities”

Political Studies Association (PSA), 2012: “Entering the State: Civil Society Activism and Participatory Governance in Brazil”