For the second installment of our “Spotlight On…” column, which highlights the innovative work of organizations that make up Social Watch coalitions around the globe, this month we will put a focus on the Social Watch coalition in the host country of this year´s World Social Forum, which will take place on the shores of the Amazon River in the city of Belem do Para, Brazil.

The history of the Social Watch (SW) coalition in Brazil dates back almost as far as Social Watch itself. In 1997, just two years after the founding of the worldwide SW network in the wake of the UN Social Summit, a group of Brazilian civil society organizations interested in monitoring government efforts to end poverty and discrimination on a local level, led by the NGO Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas (Ibase), came together to publish the first Social Watch Report in Portuguese. The coalition has now evolved into the Social Watch Brazil reference group, and is currently comprised of a broad range of civil society organizations focusing on gender, race, human rights, and social justice issues, including the Centro de Estudos de Segurança e Cidadania (CESeC), Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assessoria (Cfemea), Criola, Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional (Fase), Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Inesc) and Rede Dawn.

Fortunately, this grouping has stood the test of time, as 10 subsequent Brazilian editions of the Social Watch Report have now been published, the most recent being Dignidade e direitos in 2007. The Brazilian Report is not just a translation into Portuguese of the global version – it also offers an added value for civil society, academic institutions, and governmental agencies in the country in the form of an extensive section of analyses of Brazilian social, economic, gender, and race policies in each edition. These analyses provide a comprehensive critique of Brazilian public policy in a period in which the consolidation of democratic political processes, embodied in the 1988 Constitution, have been offset by the implementation of neoliberal economic reforms, which are yet to be reversed. The member groups of the SW Brazil coalition have used these texts as tools for their advocacy work, allowing them to insert their perspectives about social topics into the public debate and thereby impact upon the actions of policymakers.

A recent example of this advocacy work was the participation of the SW Brazil coalition in the 60th Anniversary commemorations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Brasilia this past December, which was used as an opportunity to present the Spanish language version of the 2008 SW Report (as the newest Brazilian Report is yet to be released). Moreover, it should be mentioned that the Brazilian contribution to Social Watch is not limited to the production of the Report, as members of the Brazilian coalition currently serve on the SW Coordinating Committee and have played integral roles in organizing capacity-building workshops for members of the SW global network.

The organizations that comprise the SW coalition in Brazil also implement a wide range of activities to promote social rights and citizen participation in policymaking that complement their work with the network. For example, Ibase is currently involved in a program to promote debates among civil society organizations in order to generate alternative solutions to the problems of urban violence and human security, and Inesc is implementing a project to analyse public budgets as an advocacy tool to push for increased social spending.

In addition, SW member groups in Brazil are linked to other regional and international initiatives to promote social justice and human rights, such as the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, International Budget Project, Red Puentes, and the World Social Forum (WSF), with Ibase serving as part of the WSF International Council and Inesc participating in the WSF Cultural Committee. Representatives of the SW Brazilian Coalition will take part in Social Watch activities and in self-organized events at the ninth edition of the World Social Forum this month in Belem do Para, for more information please see the Events Calendar in this newsletter. For electronic versions of the Brazilian SW Reports, see: