105 specialists from the Civil Society Working Group for the 2030 Agenda contributed to the latest Spotlight Report on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Brazil, which monitors the implementation of the SDGs in Brazil.
Among the report's findings, there has been no progress on 88% of the environmental targets.
The authors also report there is no recent data on subsidies for fossil fuels, internal consumption of solid materials, or the amount of hazardous waste generated or disposed of.
The authors conclude that losing Brazil on the path to sustainable development and environmental responsibility is a risk neither Latin America nor the world can afford.
By Alessandra Nilo and Claudio Fernandes
COVID-19 found a perfect storm in Brazil, which has the sixth-largest population in the world and the seventh-highest level of inequality.
The health and economic crises triggered by the pandemic have exposed our multiple inequalities. While Brazil’s population is now paying the high price of pandemic unpreparedness and government irresponsibility, the planet is bound to pay an even longer-lasting price for environmental recklessness and devastation.
This warning comes from 105 specialists from the Civil Society Working Group for the 2030 Agenda in the latest Spotlight Report on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Brazil, which monitors the implementation of the SDGs. This fourth edition is based on the analysis of 145 of the 169 global SDG targets. The report shows that there is no progress in 88% of the environmental targets – only two out of 91 show progress. In addition, more than a third show regression, another third is either threatened or stagnant, and 17.6% of them have no data available.
Environmental Issues: Worsening Statistics, Shrinking Resources
Deforestation hit a record level this year, increasing by 35% in the Amazon (between June 2019 and June 2020) and 30% in the tropical Atlantic Forest, which had already lost 75% of its area throughout history. While 43 million people were hit by droughts, the 2019 budget on disaster prevention was the lowest in 11 years, and less than a third of it was disbursed.
The report shows also an increase in pollution, land grabbing conflicts, and violence against indigenous people and human rights defenders. In this context, it must take a great deal of disregard for governing for the current administration to cut bodies of democratic governance, keep civil society out of discussions, and lose international partners in the Amazonian Protection Fund, which resulted in stopping disbursement for projects led by CSOs.
Moreover, due to the administration’s lack of transparency, we do not have recent data on subsidies for fossil fuels, internal consumption of solid materials, or the amount of hazardous waste generated or disposed.
Economic and Social Issues: Less Public Money, More Inequality
The pandemic is highlighting the consequences of fiscal austerity policies. As those policies were implemented, legislation that increases inequality was simultaneously reinforced. A 2016 constitutional amendment established a cap on public investment in health, education, science and technology, and social assistance, effectively transferring wealth from the bottom to financial investors for the resources cut from the programmes used to pay off debt interests. It is not surprising that, of the 85 SDG targets linked to the social dimension analyzed in the report, 68% show no advancement whatsoever in the last two years (2018-2019).
In 2019, when 77 million people (37% of the population) lacked access to basic sanitation and unemployment, and job informality rose sharply, only 1.26% of Brazil’s federal budget targeted poverty reduction programmes, the same ratio since 2016. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) will have to update its hunger map because, according to our National Statistical and Geographic Institute (IBGE), hunger in Brazil reached more than 5% of the population for the first time since 2013.
Other social indicators are also worrying, including:
- Brazil is the fourth, in absolute numbers, in child marriage and sexual abuse cases against children and adolescents. In 2019, these were the highest since 2011.
- Violence against women and LGBTI+ population increased, while the budget for the VAW Program decreased 75% in the past five years.
- HIV infections have increased in the North and Northeast regions (the poorest ones) and follow a pattern that points to structural racism: black people make up 60% of the deaths associated with HIV in these regions.
Governance Issues: Perceptions, Rights, and Regulations
Corruption in Brazil has worsened for three years in a row, based on citizens’ perceptions. In 2019, out of 180 countries, Brazil occupied the 106th position in the Corruption Perception Index, and saw a 20.1% increase in deaths from police intervention alongside the dismantling of the social participation policy: the National SDG Commission created in 2016 was dissolved by Presidential Decree 9.759 in April 2019. This decree also affected approximately 500 commissions and councils that had the participation of civil society representatives.
The Brazilian federal administration is openly opposed to the 2030 Agenda, as evidenced by its deregulating policies, weakening environmental protection agencies, and denying science and the climate emergency. The latest attack on the SDGs was published on 26 October 2020: Presidential Decree 10.531/2020 replaces the 2030 Agenda with the Federal Strategic Development Plan 2031. The plan seeks to justify a proposed regressive tax reform, policies of privatization for health and education, and social exclusion by reinforcing the traditional binary family arrangement, among other things.
It is symptomatic that while we are experiencing an extraordinary public health event, specialists are being replaced by unqualified military personnel. The current Minister of Health – Brazil’s third since February – is an Army General ready to follow the science-denying orders from the President.
Many of the rights-based accords currently in the multilateral arena were negotiated with leadership and participation of the Brazilian diplomatic corps. These same agreements are under threat at the national level, a situation that affects people and planet beyond our own borders. Losing Brazil on the path to sustainable development and environmental responsibility is a risk neither Latin America nor the world can afford, especially in this accelerated Decade of Action.
The authors of this guest article are Alessandra Nilo, General Coordinator of Gestos and Co-Facilitator of Civil Society Working Group for the 2030 Agenda, and Claudio Fernandes, Economist at Gestos and the Civil Society Working Group for the 2030 Agenda.
 Civil Society Working Group for the 2030 Agenda. IV Spotlight Report. Recife e São Paulo: 2020. (P. 72)
 Civil Society Working Group for the 2030 Agenda. IV Spotlight Report. Recife, São Paulo: 2020. (P. 29-30)