participatory policies

Clara Figueiredo, untitled, essay Films Overdue, Digitalized analog photography, Mexico, 2019
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By LEONARDO AVRITZER & WAGNER ROMÃO*

For the reconstruction of the social participation policy in the Lula government: arguments and proposals

The reorganization of participatory policies in President Lula's third term is not just a need related to the political orientation of the Workers' Party. It is a political requirement considering the non-public and anti-citizen ways of organizing the public budget in recent times. The government of Jair Bolsonaro (and Michel Temer, to a lesser extent) interrupted a gradual process of recognition of social participation as a strategic element of the Brazilian State's role in its relationship with society.

We saw the national councils being mischaracterized and extinguished and the public policy conferences – which brought together millions of people during the Lula and Dilma period – being discontinued. The “secret budget” is the culmination of the anti-republican maneuvers of the Brazilian parliament. Jair Bolsonaro only spoke to the sectors of society that agreed with him, especially in the business and religious world.

Sensitive to the need to resume a democratic and popular government, President Lula addressed participation and dialogue with society on several occasions during his victorious electoral campaign: a national participatory budget as opposed to the “secret budget”; the resumption of national conferences on public policies, the greatest mark of social participation of his government; the construction of a broad government, in dialogue with the entire Brazilian society.

We understand that the moment of transition must be one of reflection and preparation for the tasks that we have in the next four years. In this contribution to the renewal of the social participation policy in the Lula government, we will address six points: (i) the creation of a secretariat within the political articulation body of the Federal Government that structures social participation, the relationship with social movements and the different forms participatory policies; (ii) the recomposition of the national public policy councils, after the earthquake that hit them with decree 9.759/2019; (iii) the resumption of national public policy conferences, most of which were deactivated in the current period; (iv) the debate on the national Participatory Budget, proposed by Lula as an opposition to the “secret budget”; (v) the inclusion of social movements in the formulation and implementation of public policies, as a mobilizing and articulating element of a democratic and popular society project; and (vi) the importance that participatory actions constitute a principle of open government in all secretariats and ministries, in a continuous co-creation work between civil society and government, for more democratic public policies.

Next, we will detail our points.

 

A structure for participation in the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic

The first relevant issue to be discussed in a reorganization of participatory processes is the creation of a place in the Federal Government that can actually coordinate the different actions related to the reorganization of national councils, the relationship with social movements, the formation of a bureaucracy capable of to effectively deal with participation, in addition to building a proposal for a national participatory budget. In our opinion, this place of administrative structuring of participatory actions should be in the General Secretariat of the Presidency with the reorganization of a National Secretariat for Social Participation.

The first Lula government did this on its first day in office with Provisional Measure No. 103, of January 1, 2003, which was responsible, among other attributions, “to directly and immediately assist the President of the Republic in the performance of his attributions, especially in the relationship and articulation with civil society entities and in the creation and implementation of instruments for consultation and popular participation in the interest of the Executive Branch”.

Provisional Measure 103 promoted much more than a government reorganization: it forged a government concept that placed the organization of participatory processes in the field of its main management structures, located directly in the Planalto Palace. In this case, our proposal is that the General Secretariat of the Presidency has an expanded role.

In addition to the central role of articulation with civil society and social movements – carried out in PT governments by the National Secretariat for Social Articulation – and the new tasks that we will propose below, it is urgent to recompose the national councils and make them perennial as a deliberative locus of the administration federal, and also the resumption of national conferences. It is important that the General Secretariat of the Presidency assumes this coordinating role, in dialogue with the respective secretariats and ministries, still in the early days of 2023.

Proposal 1: resume the role of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic as articulator of the relationship with civil society and social movements, participation under the terms of Provisional Measure 103/2003, adding to it the task of reorganizing national public policy councils and conferences.

 

The recomposition of national public policy councils

National councils are an essential part of the relationship between participation and public policy-making in Brazil, instituted by the 1988 Constitution. Although the Constitution established a participatory dynamic in all areas of public policy, it also determined key areas that would stand out in the organization of public policies during the period of the New Republic. Among these areas, it is worth mentioning the three in which national councils were immediately implemented: Health, Social Assistance and Children and Adolescents.

As of 1994, the FHC and Lula governments instituted a policy to expand national councils, in the most different areas of public policy. There were 19 councils created by FHC and 41 created by Lula. With this new policy, of expanding participation and incorporating actors from civil society or professionals from these areas, in the process of elaborating public policies, there was an enormous advance in the relationship with civil society in government. This relationship, which later ended up expanding the national conferences themselves, was fundamental for the new pact around social policies that existed in the first decade of this century.

Since 2016, with Michel Temer, and more strongly since 2019, with Jair Bolsonaro, changes have been carried out that have strongly reduced the participation of civil society actors in the elaboration of public policies in Brazil. Carla Bezerra, Maira Rodrigues and Wagner Romão (2022) showed that there were few councils whose structure remained unchanged. In most of them, especially those of great relevance, such as the National Council for the Environment and the National Council for Social Assistance, strong interventions were made in order to reduce the participation of civil society actors in the elaboration of these public policies.

Participatory politics in the new Lula government should strongly review the limitations imposed by Bolsonaro, either through decree 9759/2019, or through specific policies for certain areas, such as the environment. It will be necessary to establish a strong legislative action for the approval of laws that guarantee the democratic representation in the councils.

Proposal 2: review, within the first 90 days of the government, legislation that prevents or reduces civil society participation in national public policy councils. Immediately resume the National Food Security Council and the National Council of Indigenous Peoples. Restoring the original composition of the National Council for the Environment.

 

Retaking and strengthening of national conferences

Most conferences were deactivated by the Jair Bolsonaro government, but in some more institutionalized areas, such as health, they survived, due to the strength of the participatory legislation approved during redemocratization. National conferences represented the most important participatory politics of the first decade of this century. The conferences have characteristics that express participatory policies with greater participation intensity, since they have stages at the local, state and national level.

They fulfill very important roles that must be quickly recovered by the next government. Firstly, mobilization of the population at the local level around relevant public policies that are capable of effectively mobilizing the population around their preferences. On the other hand, the most important stage of the national conferences has been the state stages. This is the stage in which the different decisions that were taken at the local level are agreed upon or reversed and prepares the delegates for the national stage.

The national stage of the conferences is extremely relevant because, at the same time, in which it brings social actors to Brasília and agrees on preferences in the area of ​​public policies between government and civil society, it also points out the government's preferences to the Legislative power itself, creating conditions for submitting new proposals. The national conferences of the Lula government had the great virtue of allowing the participation of more than six million people, in the different stages of national conferences and bringing social actors to Brasilia with the objective of agreeing on these proposals.

For the rapid resumption of national conferences, greater standardization by the General Secretariat of the Presidency of its objectives is necessary. That is, the national conferences must have very clear priorities, as occurred in some conferences and not in others, and at the same time, they must indicate commitments and point out to the government what are the priorities of a certain legislative agenda, in each of the areas of social policies. It is important that they also move forward in terms of monitoring their guidelines within the federal government itself, something very important for strengthening their legitimacy and credibility.

Proposal 3: The General Secretariat should organize itself to resume the national conferences from the month of June with greater standardization of priorities in their format, in dialogue and articulation with the specific secretariats and ministries of each sector of public policy.

 

The budget debateparticipatory action national

The Participatory Budget (PB) was the most important participatory policy in Brazil between the years 2000 and 2012. It was basically a municipal policy that gradually expanded from 13 cities to 103, then to more than 200, reaching almost 400 cities. However, the dynamics of the PB made it difficult for it to extend to the national level for two main reasons: first, the lack of legal institutionalization, and second, a strong dependence on the guidance of the local executive branch. It happened, therefore, that the most relevant participatory policy in terms of the PT governments at the federal level between 2003 and 2016 were the national conferences.

The secret budget, that is, the rapporteur's amendments that transfer resources to the base of deputies without any publicity and that break with a pattern of citizenship in the distribution of public resources, opens the opportunity for an attempt at a national participatory budget. Even so, we have to ask ourselves in more depth what are the perspectives of a national Participatory Budget, or if in fact what it is about is a local Participatory Budget policy based on federal resources. We understand that the national Participatory Budget has a chance of becoming effective if in fact it is a substitute for the secret budget, or at least a way of publicizing this budget, as proposed by the Democracy and Participation Network.

In this sense, the national Participatory Budget proposal appears to be closer to the Peruvian experience, among the few international experiences of participatory budgeting at the national level. The national Participatory Budget in Peru was implemented, after the Fujimori government, based on federal transfers to municipalities that had as counterpart the elaboration of a participatory process.

Some elements can also boost this participatory budget at the local level, transforming it into both a local and state experience. In this case, we could think of a process very similar to that of national conferences, where after a set of municipal meetings, there would be state meetings that decided priorities for some major state works. In this sense, we think that this proposal seems to be the most viable in a situation in which the Workers' Party does not hold a majority in the National Congress and does not have the capacity to generate a broad enough coalition to approve this policy.

We also consider that the proposal for a national Participatory Budget cannot repeat the mistakes of the attempt to implement the National Social Participation Policy, which in 2014 expressed strong conflicts between the Executive and the National Congress, and generated a legislative decree that revoked it in the Chamber and in the Senate. It is essential that a participatory policy of this magnitude emerge from the negotiation of the budget piece with Congress, especially with the Chamber of Deputies.

Proposal 4: link the rapporteur's amendments in the areas of public policies and infrastructure to the local participation of the population. This participation can be both a form of deliberation on priority and control of the use of resources.

 

Social movements in the formulation and implementation of public policies

One of the just demands of the social movements that were fundamental in the resistance to Bolsonaro and in the election of President Lula is effective participation in the next government. In this sense, if on the one hand we understand that the institutionalization of councils and conferences is an important participation mechanism, on the other hand we understand that social movements must also participate in what Luciana Tatagiba and Ana Cláudia Teixeira (2021) called “programs associative”.

These are actions such as the agreement with the Articulação do Semiárido Brasileiro (ASA) for the construction of hundreds of thousands of cisterns in the north of Minas Gerais and in the states of the Brazilian Northeast. Or the Solidarity Credit Program (PCS) or the Minha Casa Minha Vida Entidades (MCMV-E) that took place through civil society movements and organizations in the popular housing field, based on the appreciation of self-management models in housing developments. Also in the cultural field, with the National Living Culture Policy (PNCV), with the Culture Points and Pontoons, in the development of networks based on the empowerment of communities. Or even in the Food Acquisition Program (PAA), where rural social movements were able to articulate in cooperatives to produce and sell in their municipalities, interfering in local food distribution networks and facing the contradictions of the hunger market in Brazil.

Such experiences must be strengthened and multiplied, with a centralized and deliberate strategy of articulation between the Federal Government and social movement networks. The central idea is to promote alternative models of production and access to public goods formulated and implemented together with “collective actors with a history of direct mobilization in favor of the assertion of rights”. This type of participatory public policy should be carried out in as many government programs as possible, as a relationship strategy with a society that does not wait for the government, on the contrary, it acts as a mobilizing and articulating element of practical participation, with immediate and visible results from the community. transformation of society. There is enormous potential for these actions to combat hunger, for example.

We understand that the dynamic center of these “associative programs” should also be located in the General Secretariat, at the interface between government and social movements / civil society, with its strengthening as a principle of government. Evidently, everything must have its roots, formulation and implementation of actions in the secretariats and ministries responsible for the sectors.

Proposal 5: Establish in the General Secretariat, in addition to interlocution and articulation with social movements and civil society, a dynamic to stimulate the formulation of public policies in which they are protagonists.

 

A government open to democratic innovations

There is a strong creative effervescence in Brazilian society and in experiences of subnational governments (in Brazil and in other countries) in the field of democratic innovations that can and should be used by sectors and areas of the Federal Government. Digital platforms such as Participation they are repositories of interaction experiences between civil society and governments that can be evaluated and incorporated into various federal public administration actions.

The open government paradigm (comprised of the elements of transparency, integrity, control, participation and technology) has been important to shelter actions of co-creation and shared management of public policies. Brazil is a signatory of international agreements in this field, which has developed considerably in the Dilma Rousseff government and in subnational governments such as that of Fernando Haddad in the São Paulo City Hall.

The General Secretariat, in its next National Secretariat for Social Participation, should house a kind of “strategic-participatory nucleus” capable of absorbing demands in this sense arising from ministries and secretariats and provoking in these organisms that their policies, programs and actions are carried out with a participatory and mobilizing component of society. It is desirable that each ministry or final secretariat has a similar core within itself, which can be responsible for actions related to democratic innovations.

Proposal 6: Establish a “strategic-participatory core” in the General Secretariat, articulated with similar cores in ministries and secretariats.

 

Final considerations

Finally, it is worth a quick note on the political and evaluative elements of participation. Participatory policies have an importance that transcends the organization and effectiveness of public policies. They are related to an act of democratization of relations between state and society that help in the appreciation of democracy. In the Brazilian case, where we spent four years focusing on presidential messages on social networks or lives that focused politics on acts of ratification or opposition, it is very important to involve social actors in effective discussions about public policies. This act values ​​democracy not only as a form of government, but mainly as a form of relationship between the State and society.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).

*Wagner Romao Professor of Political Science at Unicamp and member of the Municipal Board of PT-Campinas.

References


Bezerra, Carla; Rodrigues, Maira; Romão, Wagner (2022). Public Policy Councils in the Bolsonaro government: impacts of Decree 9.759/2019 on civil society participation. In: Luciana Tatagiba, Debora Rezende de Almeida, Adrian Gurza Lavalle and Marcelo Kunrath Silva (eds.). Participation and activism: between setbacks and resistance. Porto Alegre, Editora Zouk, p. 37-64.

Tatagiba, L.; Teixeira, AC (2021). Social movements and public policies in the cycle of PT governments: the controversial novelty of associative programs. In: Luciana Tatagiba and Ana Claudia C. Teixeira (eds.). Social movements and public policies. São Paulo: Unesp, p. 23-47.

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