Date: Sun, 23 May 1999 00:30:45 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: RIGHTS-BRAZIL: Economic and Social Issues Become Human Rights
Article: 65240
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 534.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS-BRAZIL: Economic and Social Issues Become Human Rights **
** Written 9:04 PM May 19, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Economic and Social Issues Become Human Rights

By James Allen Paranayba, IPS, 19 May 1999

BRASILIA, May 19 (IPS)—Brazilian officials and non governmental organisations have agreed to a redefinition of human rights, now broadened to encompass social, economic and cultural needs in the framework of the government's National Human Rights Programme (PNDH).

But while agreeing on the basic points, both government officials and human rights activists admit that in the context of Brazil's current stringent financial problems and external pressures, the realisation of the Programme remains a distant goal.

Nonetheless, the decision—adopted during the Fourth National Human Rights Conference held last week in Brasilia—was considered a milestone in adopting comprehensive policies regarding human rights, traditionally restricted to the political sphere.

The meeting included government institutions as well as non- governmental organisations (NGOs) working on basic human rights issues. The groups discussed revisions to the PNDH, which has been in effect the last three years.

Poverty is a violation of human rights that intensifies social dissatisfaction and weakens social and political rights, said Jose Gregori, National Human Rights Secretary, at the conclusion of the conference.

Gregori targeted infant mortality rates in the country's northeast, illiteracy, unemployment and racial inequities as urgent issues to be included in the human rights debate.

The current economic crisis has revealed an enormous victory of citizenship by the Brazilians, according to Gregori.

Each citizen has decided that inflation must not return, not due to a mobilisation pushed by the authorities nor the creation of organisations to follow prices or price-freezing measures, but by each person's attitude in the supermarket, he argued.

Gregori stated that the consequences of economic globalisation must also be included in the debate on economic and social rights in Brazil. He assailed the fast movement of speculative capital around the world, which creates financial booms one day and financial turmoil the next.

In practice, he said, Brazil's the financial crisis may slow the implementation of the Conference's resolutions.

The government of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso has been harshly criticised, as much by the opposition as by the parliamentarians who back him, because of the budget cuts he made in social spending in order to comply with the financial adjustments required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The president of the Human Rights Commission in the Chamber of Deputies, Nilmario Miranda, from the opposition Workers Party (PT), applauded the inclusion of social rights in the government's policies, but recognised the obstacles to their implementation.

It is a milestone in the fight for human rights, that the Conference has decided to carry the banner of social rights, in contrast to its earlier policies, which concentrated on civil rights, said Miranda.

Miranda doubts, however, that the National Human Rights Secretary, tied to the Ministry of Justice, will be able to sufficiently influence current economic policies.

Advances made in civil and political rights, pushed by the PNDH over the last three years may be rolled back by the cuts in social investment and by unemployment, since they are likely to cause increased violence and more human rights violations, Miranda pointed out.

For this reason, the Conference also approved an alternative NGO report to be sent to the United Nations detailing Brazil's application of the International Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Act, signed in 1992.

We will take the report to Geneva, which shows that Brazil has not complied at all with the agreement it signed, indicated Miranda.

Brazil has failed to advance the population's rights to food, health services, access to land and family assistance, he said.

The Conference decided that Brazil's NGOs should prepare the alternative report, that the Chamber of Deputies Commission and the National Human Rights Movement are responsible for research, and that a seminar would serve as its base.

Another resolution of the Conference calls upon the government to approve a protocol that would allow groups or individuals to file complaints about social, economic and cultural rights violations.

The conference participants also proposed that president Cardoso take it upon himself to prohibit the cuts in social resources as they appear in the government's 1999 budget. The Conference hopes to win the support of the National Congress on the issue.