Political Impressions about the 1st Participatory Youth Conference for Public Policies in Brazil

São Paulo, 06/June/2008 | By Rui Mesquita Cordeiro
|rui.mesquita@wkkf.org |rui@cidadania.org.br  |
Counselor in the Second Youth National Counsel (CONJUVE), representing the Youth Affinity Group of GIFE (
Grupo de Institutos, Fundações e Empresas Group of Institutes, Foundations and Company ) / Program Associate of W.K. Kellogg Foundation for the Latin America   and the Caribbean

Versão em Português: https://ruimesquita.wordpress.com/2008/06/06/juventude-primeiras-impressoes-politicas/

1 st Youth National Conference
Brasília, April 27 to 30, 2008

The responsibility of having been recently – April 23, 2008 – chosen to represent the group de Afinidade de Juventude (Youth Affinity Group) (GAJ) of the group de Institutos, Fundações e Empresas (Group of Institutes, Foundations and Company) (GIFE), at Conselho Nacional de Juventude (Counselor in the Second Youth National Counsel) (CONJUVE) is with no doubt a major challenge, given the diversity of this Group and to the terrific work accomplished by our previous representative and Counselor, Neylar Lins (AVINA). The continuity of the work initially developed by Neylar inside the Counsel will be another major challenge, which is entitled not only to me, as the current Counselor, but also to all members of the GAJ/GIFE through different means of participation and strategic actions. The first challenges of CONJUVE were focuses on the construction and legitimacy before the government and the society. At this moment, with the recent accomplishments of the National Conference de Juventude – April/2008 – and of the internal election process now made democratic (December/2007), the new challenges of the Counsel start to be a lot more related to its consolidation and to the democratic strength of their capacity to actually exercise a social quality control as to the expectations of the youth and the capacities of the Brazilian state, in a bridge relationship between the civil society, other youth Counsels (state and municipal) and the federal government. 

Officially launched in September, 2007, the organization process of the 1 stNational Conference de Juventude proved what many already suspected: that the youth actually wants to take more part in the discussion spaces and political debate in Brazil, and moreover, wants to discuss public policy not only for the youth, but also to the Brazilian society as a whole. The first stage of this process was the accomplishment of Local Youth Conferences (organized by the municipalities/city halls), as well as the Free Youth Conferences (organized by the civil society). The second stage was the accomplishment of the State Youth Conferences, and finally the third stage was the holding, in the end of April 2008, the 1 stNational Youth Conference, in Brasília. The numbers of this process impress: the national stage in Brasília gathered 1800 delegates and 200 guests; 841 municipalities held Local Conferences; all the 27 federative held state Conferences; 882 Free Conferences were held by around 400 organizations from the civil society; in the total, more than 400 thousand people took part of the different stages to discuss the youth public policies. Each stage elected delegates and priorities for the National Conference, which was in charge of electing the 21 public policy priorities originated from several segments of Brazilian youth. Over this entire process, the role of demanding and participation of the youth and supporting organizations to the youth was essential, however, it was up to the federal government, in partnership with state and local governments call and lead this entire endeavor[1]. Now, it is up to this same government taking even more accountability already in this period after the conference: to put into practice whatever possible, in terms of public policies, of what was defined as priority during this whole process of the Conferences (finally, they amounted to 22, and not 21, the priorities elected). 

Those present in the national stage and interacted with the nearly 2000 participants, including delegates and guests, could perceive the immense diversity of young people presents. Apparently, and it could no be any different, the amount of young people and groups of young people quite above that amount of participants who are not young people and non-juvenile organization of support the youth. In this group (not-young), a large variety of participants was present: from unions of socially responsible companies, from NGOs to State representatives, from Brazilian activists to representatives of the international cooperation (with emphasis to representatives of the Mercosur, of the OIJ[2] and of the CPLP[3]), and so forth. The intergenerational interaction caused by this diversity allowed intergenerational conflicts and solutions to also become subject of debate, of dissension and consensus during the whole National Conference, bring the right amount of interaction among the different generations present.  Several times, one could hear comparisons among the juvenile political participation in the decades of 1960 and 1970 and the current one in the years 2000. For me it was clear that the youth remains as active today as in the previous decades, however, such as very different challenges and with no need to have one single common “enemy” (in the past the military dictatorship). Likewise, what has radically changed is the means and ways by which the youths start to organize themselves and act politically in the society. It is only in timed of democracy, like now, that we could see the huge amount of groups and organizations created and led by the very youth, in action, in the most different theme areas of the society, almost all represented here in this conference. Derived from one intense and spontaneous juvenile associativism, the conference had the presence of traditional segments of student youths, belonging to political and unions, as well as the current number of cultural groups including religious youths, rural and urban youths, Hip-Hop groups, feminist youngsters, GLBTTT[4]groups, black, indigenous, quilombo people, representatives of traditional communities, from forests, communicating young people, as well as several chains, forums and movements of young people present. The only juvenile segment which really did not find in the conference is one still small, but evolving, which is that of foreign migrant young people, who, by means of migration processes start to live in Brazil (especially coming from other South-American countries, as well as some from Africa and Middle East). This segment is still very under protected because of its “natural” lack of citizenship (for they are not Brazilian) and problems such as language, and unfortunately, many times they are still a little invisible and little organized in out current society! 

Likewise, it is very interesting to observe the balance of strengths (and the way of making policy) among the traditional youth segments (of students, parties, unions, etc.) – and of the “non-young” society – and the numerous and several youth segments.  Youth is also renewed and clearly, there is some tension between the “new” and the “traditional” youth segments!  As I am person who has already supported and taken part of both, the “traditional” and the “newest” sides (and now I am out of both), I notice that in this conference the “newest” were already the quantitative majority!  Besides being a reflex of the present times, this fact represents a great opportunity of changing the way of making politics by part of the Brazilian youth. Even tough the “traditional” segments of the organized youth remain naturally more visible and “noisier” during the debates, at the time of voting it was the “new” youth segments that demonstrated their decision power, by means of a new means of political participation, less “noisy” and more conversational and “with more negotiation”.  Even so, some sort of political naivety still persist in part of these “new” youth segments! I believe that only through education that is more political will these “new” segments be able to lose such political naivety.   As far as the political agendas discussed by the present youth groups are concerned, an important analysis must also be made: most part of them (either in “traditional” or “new” segments) discussed more fiercely which public policies we want for Brazil, so that such youth groups, clearly showing that while they are concerned about the advances in the area of public policies for the youth, they are also aware of things, they want to boost their participation in public policies for Brazil as a whole. The reason for that is relatively simple to be understood: a new generation inherits, from the previous one, the country’s problems and policies as a whole, and not only those related to the youth. 

Getting to know the 22 top priority list 

A supplementary and important reading passage to this text is the final list of priorities elected during the 1 stYouth National Conference in Brazil.   From this reading, the reader will be able to complement the visions set forth in this article with their own interpretation and critical reading.   To do so, we present two sources with the same contents:

· Official source DOC – National Youth Secretariat, May 16, 2008:

· Alternative source HTML – made available by the text author, May 16, 2008:

Understanding the 22 top priority list 

There are several ways in which one can try to understand this list of priorities (the most voted priority; the most voted theme; the theme with the most priorities elected, etc.).   The difference between theme and priority is that thousands of priorities were put together, and divided by theme categories. The first of them, noticeably, is to understand the most voted priority. 

With 634 votes, racial equality was number 1 among all the priorities at the 2008 Youth National Conference. ENJUNE was the first Black Youth National Meeting, carried out in Lauro de Freitas/BA (Greater Salvador) in 2007. The most important discussion points in such meeting were related to the strengthening of racial justice policies for new black youth generations. Black youth, through its manifestations and political, cultural and social interaction, has been gathering more representation in various segments of Brazilian society, becoming a key social agent in Brazilian society, able to establish conversations, opportunities, achievements and political proposals.   One of the first debates at the 1 stENJUNE was on the so-called black race genocide:  “data on the homicide rate of young black people are alarming; to every 100 thousand young people killed, 39.3 are Caucasians; among young black people, this figure goes up to 68.4 per 100 thousand; that means, a rate 74% higher, which reveals how closely related racism is to violence”[5]. Brazil still suffers from a strong “blindness” as far as the racial issue is concerned. Gilberto Freire used to say that Brazilians are, by nature, a mixture of many races. If on one hand this can be seen as a strong factor of national pride, on the other it hides several racial problems in Brazil.   Between 1559[6] and 1888[7], there were 329 years of an unhidden racist regime in Brazil against African and African-Brazilian populations; from 1888 to 2008, only 120 years after the end of slavery in Brazil, few (if any) public policies to integrate African-Brazilian communities in our society were made. Historic damage caused to these populations is very serious, but not irreversible!   Now, the youth echo an alert sign stating that more advances must be made in this area. The message is clear: let us all open our eyes to the theme of Racial Justice! 

If on one hand prioritizing public policies for youth racial equality was the most voted priority during the 1 stYouth National Conference, on the other hand, the most voted theme category was Education, with two elected priorities among the 22, totaling 1002 votes when adding up the two of them.   Ranking second among the most voted ones (with 547 votes) was the theme of boosting basic schooling, with special attention given to the full-time and pedagogic model of the CIEPs (Public Education Integrated Centers).   Now in eighth position (with 455) was the defense of investment increases on quality higher education for the youth. The link between basic and higher education is an interesting – and necessary – combination of integrated efforts as far as education is concerned. 

A third way in which to observe the main priorities at this conference is by noticing which theme categories with the most elected priority proposals were.   And on this 1 stYouth National Conference, it was the theme of Culture, which had more elected priority proposals, three in total (and 983 votes altogether).   In the ninth position (with 453 votes) was the priority of creating, in all municipalities, cultural public areas where young people could use culture as a youth action instrument for social transformation. Further down on the list, ranking 17, is the establishment of permanent cultural public policies geared towards the youth (with 283 votes). Last but not least, ranking 21 on the priority list (with 247 votes) is a call to prioritize Brazilian cultural production in the media, through a mechanism of quotas, which will sure be a part of a much fiercer battle that the organized Brazilian youth has been facing with the large private communication channels in the country for a long time. 

Besides these three basic pillars of Racial Equality, Education and Culture, which are clearly shown as the three focal points for the formulation of youth public policies, according young people themselves, some other themes were still given special attention, as they had more than one elected priority proposal on the final list of 22 top priorities. They are: Youth Institutional Strengthening (2 priorities adding up to 844 votes), Rural/Field Youth (2 priorities adding up to 789 votes), Policy and Youth Participation (2 priorities adding up to 788 votes) and Safety (2 priorities adding up to 642 votes). Not less importantly, but with only one elected priority, were the following themes: Environment (521 votes), Sports (520 votes), Work (471 votes), Women (378 votes), Others (end of compulsory military service, with 336 votes), People/Traditional Communities (303 votes), Disabled Youth (239 votes) and GLBTTT[8]Youth (280 votes). In total, 8,730 valid votes were accounted for, an average of 4.85 votes per delegate. 

Similarly, but not less importantly than such 22 top priorities, another cross theme that is more connected to the Legislative Power than to the Executive Power echoed unanimously in all the National Conference, and among all the different youth groups: that the National Congress should discuss and approve the Proposal for Constitutional Amendment 138/03, also known as the Youth PEC. During the Conference, a petition with over 1800 signatures of delegates from all over Brazil was handed in by a commission of Conference delegates to the President of the House of Representatives, Congressman Arlindo Chinaglia. This theme was, perhaps, the unanimous cross theme in the whole Conference, and it must not be overlooked at all!   The PEC is aimed toward inserting the term “Youth” in the Federal Constitution, in the section on Rights and Basic Guarantees. If it is approved, section VII of Heading VIII of the Constitution will be amended, and will be called “On Families, Children, Adolescents, the Youth and the Elderly”.   The importance of such PEC for young people is related to the insertion of the youth category as a target-audience of public policies before the Brazilian Government, which will surely facilitate the future voting of the National Statute for the Youth, still in progress at the National Congress.  

Recognition of the list of 22 top priorities 

By way of a process that has been much praised by many people, in spite of the various necessary criticisms, it is now up to the government and Brazilian society to publicly recognize all these 22 top priorities that have been chosen in the process of the Municipal, Free, State and National Conferences.   This recognition is an important and necessary step for everyone, as it may realign the political priorities of the governments (federal, state and municipal), as well as realign the focus of activities of the various civil society organizations that support young people.   Evidently, these 22 priorities are just a reflection of the variety of interests and needs of Brazilian youth today, and it will certainly be very interesting, in the future, to compare the results of the first Conference with the results of any future Conferences that will be held. In terms of youth movements, it is not only recognition that is needed, but also the control, inspection, enforcement and struggle to implement these priorities as a public policy of the state.   It is also important that the other active agents within society see more clearly the difference between youth policy (public policies aimed toward the young sectors of society) and youth political action (political action by young people in the various fields of interest to the society).   The old pattern of policies based on the needs of young people has gradually been shown to be parallel to the pattern of policies based on the rights of young people, since it goes beyond their needs.   What’s more, young people have been debating about (and giving priority to) their rights.   Another important aspect that has come up is a third new pattern for the young, which is one that looks for public policies based on political action by young people when faced with such a diverse society.   After all, young people do not only want to voice their opinions on public policies relating just to young people, but also on those relating to society as a whole.   And the reason for this lies precisely in the fact that the current generation of young people are not merely inheriting from the previous generation the problems and responsibilities of policies for young people, or for society as a whole, since the new generation always completely takes on the role of the previous one, and not just sections of it.       

New and challenging roles are also the responsibility of the National Youth Council ( CONJUVE) in their 2nd Administration – the Post-Conference Administration.   These new roles will include a number of relationships that should be set up by the Council.   The first of these relationships, without any doubt, must be the CONJUVE/ Conference Priorities one. This relationship, on its own, should radically change the way in which the Council has been run internally during its 1st Administration; basically by way of theme-based commissions.   During this Post-Conference Administration, it will be imperative that CONJUVE should be organized internally by way of subject-based priorities or priority blocks, in such a say that the Counselors will be able to discuss and work on the challenge imposed upon us to defend the priorities that were voted on at the 1st Youth Conference in Brazil.   It is also, undoubtedly, up to Brazilian civil society, whether young or not, to demand this attitude and work focus from CONJUVE.   Even though CONJUVE is an instrument of social control over the actions of the federal government with relation to young people, it is also up to society to control CONJUVE itself.   Without this control, there is the risk of CONJUVE having too loose a reign or of being at the mercy of control by the government, which would be precisely the opposite of the natural, or even constitutional, role of all the councils that have been set up since 1988. This relationship of control by society over CONJUVE is the central part of another important relationship, that of CONJUVE/Civil Society. In this sense, the council itself will also have to make a huge effort to widen communication and increase talks with other active agents in Brazilian society, constantly working toward becoming aware that the counselors do not represent, and should not only be answerable to, their originating organization, but also to the whole of Brazilian society that is interested in youth policies. 

A third and crucial relationship is the CONJUVE/Government one. It is precisely in this area in which the Counselors will have to put in practice the role of social control that is constitutionally and morally theirs.   During the 1st Administration of CONJUVE, several initiatives took place so that Counselors were able to get to know and to understand what the different programs and projects were of each Federal Government Ministry for youth.   Now, in the 2nd Administration, it will be important to go beyond mere knowledge and understanding of these programs to adapting these to the 22 top priorities that have been chosen by young people.   Another relationship, which is brand new, will be the CONJUVE/State and Municipal Youth Councils one. During CONJUVE’s 1st Administration, as well as during the organization of the process of Municipal, Free, State and National Conferences, the interaction between the National Youth Counselors and the other State and Municipal Councils already set up was very weak, and this must be turned around!   Even though CONJUVE has a duty to act at the Federal level, it is impossible to deny the need for more talks among the Youth Councils in the three federal spheres of the Government.   On the one hand, it is starting to become imperative for the State and Municipal Councils to demand more talks from CONJUVE; on the other hand, it should also be in the interest of CONJUVE to democratically strengthen the Youth Councils all over Brazil, in the three federal spheres.   

Taking into consideration the new relationships that CONJUVE’s 2nd Administration will have to face, a discussion is necessary on how to reorganize CONJUVE internally in order to face its new challenges, as CONJUVE’s 2nd Administration will certainly be very different from its 1st Administration, given the contexts of both the administrations and their natural specifications, especially in this Post-Conference era.   So, let us herald in this new era and, with it, a new and renewed   CONJUVE!

[1]To find out more about “Legislação e Deliberações da Comissão Organizadora Nacional” [Legislation and Resolutions of the National Organization Comission] visit:http://www.juventude.gov.br/conferencia – 13/maio/2008
[2]OIJ:Organização Ibero-Americana da Juventude.
[3]CPLP: Portuguese Language Countries Community (Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Saint Thomas and Principe and East Timor).
[4]GLBTTT: Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transsexuals and Transgender.
[5]Source: Portalwww.joveneslac.org
[6]1559: Year in which the first slave ship arrived in Brazil.
[7]1888: Year of the Lei Áurea [Golden Law] (slavery abolishment ) –http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/Lei_%C3%81urea.jpg
[8]GLBTTT: Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transsexuals and Transgender.


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