The Councils of Children and Adolescents in Brazil

The Councils of Children and Adolescents in Brazil

English

Note: This is the English-language translation of a case study that is also available in Portuguese  https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/a46f9a_f14f543ffca349cd99b5458a33bf78a6.pdf

Definition

In Brazil, public policy councils are administrative bodies created by law and are composed of representatives of the State and civil society with the purpose of producing deliberations on the various areas of public policy. The Child and Adolescent Rights Councils were provided for by the Child and Adolescent Statute (Federal Law 8,069 of 1990) and were given the task of formulating and monitoring the implementation of public policies aimed at Brazilian adolescents and children. Being a deliberative body, the council has the attribution to elaborate an annual planning for the public policy destined to that public, in the municipalities, in the states and federal government. The boards are now presents in virtually every Brazilians municipalities, because the current legislation requires the existence of the Council so that the federal Government can do the transfer of resources for the implementation of public policies in this area. Derived from this strategy the success in creating the councils in the country, once the municipalities intend to receive the resources of the various programs related to the area of ​​the child and the adolescent.

Problems and Purpose

The Councils have four goals:

  1. Increased civic education through the encouragment of citizen participation and democratization of public administration
  2. Improvement of dialog between the State and society
  3. Improvement of the planning and delivery of public services
  4. Monitoring the actions and services of public policies

To this end, they indicate four areas to be improved:

  1. Inequalities between the participants in relation to information, qualification and the asymmetry power
  2. Lack of participatory culture of municipalities
  3. Absence of commitment of public managers with such spaces
  4. Absence of qualification of the bureaucracy and reduced administrative capacity

History

The Constitution of 1988 was largely responsible for the widespread dissemination of the councils in the Brazilian political system. The policy aimed at children and adolescents was considered a priority and should be carried out jointly by the State and by society. Subsequently, Federal Law No. 8,069 of July 13, 1990, was published, which made it mandatory to create the Councils for the Rights of Children and Adolescents in the Federal Government, in the States and in the municipalities. The same law also created the Guardianship Councils, which are composed of individuals elected by the community to act in defence of the rights of children and adolescents provided for in the Statute of the Child and Adolescent (Federal Law No. 8,069 of July 13, 1990).

Most of the councils of the child and adolescent in Brazil were created after the year 1996. Although the law that created them was published in 1990, it took the many of municipalities a couple years to create the councils. The Councils tend to work better and produce more significant results in terms of public policies for children and adolescents in larger municipalities with an established organized civil society movement in defense of the rights of children and adolescents. However, approximately 70% of Brazilian municipalities are small towns with up to 20 thousand inhabitants. In these places, the dynamics of functioning of the Councils can be quite compromised, because the mayors tend to indicate to the composition of the Board only individuals who are strongly influenced by him. In this case, if the civil society is little participatory and does not present the organization and strength enough to oppose public power, it reduces the possibility of acting as a propositional agent of policies and actions. 

Participant Selection

The selection of the councils’ participants (counsellors) vary from one municipality to the other. In general, however, the public power representatives are appointed by the Mayor and come from different thematic areas of public policy, that is, they are representatives of the social assistance policy, health, education, sports and leisure, culture etc. The civil society representatives may be choose in their own forums, organized and conducted by the Council itself, with the purpose of conducting elections or other processes of choosing the Civil Society Organizations that will represent the society in the councils. It is important to note that the representatives are always members of Civil society organizations, that is, it is the representation of groups and not individuals. There may also be elections during public policy conferences, which are organized every two or three years so that society can deliberate on public policy guidelines for children and adolescents in the coming years. All present voted in those organizations that will represent the civil society on the councils.

A matter extreme importantance in the study of councils workings refers to the representatives actions, or rather, to the councils representativeness of the boards to take seat in the institution, to represent the State or society. In the Counselor's relationship with his entity, it can be affirmed that, the greater the bond that binds them, the greater the probability that different interests can be represented. Studies indicate that the representativeness of the governmental advisors presents problems, due to the fragile bond between the Government representatives and their organs of origin. Many cases surveyed indicate that the employee sent by government agencies do not always have the power to make commitments on behalf of the bodies that represent. Similarly, when it takes decisions at your place of work, their superiors may not abide to the decisions that were made.

In the field of non-governmental representation, it is also possible to verify the weakness of the bond between the councillor and the entities to which they belong. In this case, the problems generally mentioned relate to the preparation of the indicated representatives, since the exercise of the activity of counselor requires some preparation of the representative of the institution, but it is not convenient that only some members of the entity specialize in this function, since this Process tends to distance them from the entity's more general activities. On the other hand, no representative can be sent to the council, otherwise he will not be clear about the role he has to play. 

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

The greatest challenge presented in the councils' participatory institutions, is to build mechanisms able to reduce the effects of social inequalities within the decision-making processes, in order to allow the construction of agreements not subject to influence of factors such as power, wealth or as preexisting social inequalities.

The boards generally meet once a month to produce the decisions related to policies aimed at children and adolescentes of municipality. The meetings are public and open to the participation of the community, that have the right to make use of the voice, but cannot vote. Voting is restricted to councilors, who have equality in the decision-making process and perform an unpaid public function. Decisions are made by the collective of Councillors who interact publicly at meetings. These are driven by a agenda meeting, made previously by the counselors themselves, generally, in the previous meeting. In some councils only directors members may include topics on the agenda, but generally, all board members can suggest topics and issues to be included in the agenda that will be discussed by councils members. In the councils more institutionalized, the agenda meeting is sent in advance to the counselors, who can prepare previously for the meeting. Some counselors perform a prior consultation with the leaders of their organizations of origin, and even to the public they represent in the councils. 

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The characteristics of councils can vary widely from one municipality to another. The literature has indicated at least four elements that explain the success or the failure of Participatory Institutions. The first of these is the institutional design, which allows us to verify the degree of inclusivity of the institution, the heterogeneity of its composition, the openness for the participation of external actors to the council, among others. These elements can favor the inclusion and empowerment of the participants in that institution, that is, the counselors. The second is the local associative tradition, that is, the density of civil society associations present in the municipality and its capacity to promote mobilizations and propose actions for the improvement of actions directed at children and adolescents. The third aspect concerns the administrative and financial capacities of municipal management for the implementation of policies aimed at children and adolescents, because this characteristic is fundamental to the quality of the policies that will be formulated and implemented in the municipality. The fourth element is related to the commitment and the respects of municipal managers in relation to decisions produced by the councils. That is, it is important to know if the public managers confer power to the councils as deliberative arenas of policy related to children and adolescents in the municipality, because this empowerment is critical to the success of the Council as an arena actually deliberating in the municipality.

The results of the deliberations produced by councils can be very diverse, but are more effective when the combination of those four variables above is positive and the Council stated as an institution capable of influencing the results of public policy. 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The councils of children and adolescents has the merit of broadening the participation of actors with decision-making power over public policies aimed at children and adolescents in Brazil. However, there is a set of features that has hampered the influence of these institutions on the results of public policy. The main one, possibly, is the persistence of high standards of inequality among participants in that arena. The analysis of the profile of the councilors indicates that the directors have income and education far superior to the average of the population, what shows us that those individuals who have lower levels of education and income have trouble being included in these arenas. Such a situation can reproduce existing inequalities.

Another important issue is the lack of commitment of many public managers with decisions from these arenas. In small municipalities, mainly, it is very likely that the mayors have great influence on the choice of Councillors, what can reduce the empowerment of these arenas. The proper functioning of the councils depends very much on the infrastructure to it provided by the government, that is related to equipment and also to servers that are responsible for the institution. There are councils that don’t have an appropriate place to meet and don’t have civil servants necessary for the proper functioning of the body. These elements influence the ability of councils to produce good results on public policies. The structural question more relevant in the case of the councils of the child and adolescent is absence of representatives of the public in Council, that is, while in other policy areas (health and welfare) there are representatives of policy users on councils, this doesn’t happen in the child's councils. There are no children and adolescents acting as counselors, which means that it is always the adults who represent them. This deficiency can compromise the legitimacy of decisions made by councils.

 

Secondary Sources

 

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Case Data

Overview

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Location

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The Councils of Children and Adolescents
Brazil
BR
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History

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Ongoing: 
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Participants

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Process

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Organizers

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Resources

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