Brasilia – Brazil’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Award, announced Wednesday, recognized 20 innovative initiatives led by municipalities and civil society organizations across the country that are helping improve lives of some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities.
In a ceremony with hundreds of government representatives, civil society organizations, and ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark joined Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in launching the fourth edition of the prize.
“By recognising and rewarding the initiative and creativity of those making a difference at the local level, awards like these can spur innovation, shift attitudes, engage citizens, and establish new partnerships,” Clark said. “At the forthcoming Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development here in Brazil, all who convene here can be inspired by the achievement of so many communities and nations which are not only lifting human development, but also are determined to do so within planetary boundaries.”
"In granting this award we are recognizing the efforts of each organization and municipality to truly transform the lives of people and help their achievements in gaining rights, voice and citizenship," Rousseff said. "This award means a lot [to us] because it reaffirms the cause of social justice, combating exclusion and the drive to build a country without poverty—and this needs everyone’s involvement, no exceptions."
Rousseff also stressed that the number of participants - 1,638 in this edition - represents the commitment and participation of the bulk of society and local governments. She said that Brazil’s advances in achieving the MDGs, owes a great deal to the more than 5,000 registered projects since the MDG Award’s first edition.
Initiatives ranged from empowering women in one of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest communities (Complexo da Mare) to helping low-income communities improve sustainable practices of Brazil nut extraction in the country’s tropical savannah, an area that has undergone tremendous deforestation in the past.
Clark, who also took part in the Fifth Forum for Development with social development ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa this week, said that Brazil is a pioneer in its work towards achieving the MDGs through social policies and therefore a source of inspiration in South-South Co-operation.
During the ceremony, Clark also launched the Portuguese version of UNDP’s publication, Triple Wins for Sustainable Development. The document showcases eight examples that highlight the scope and importance of the three key dimensions of sustainable development: social, environmental and economic.
The UNDP report notes some of Brazil’s innovative policies such as Bolsa Familia (Family Grant), Bolsa Verde (Green Grant) and Luz para Todos (Light for All)—linked to a programme called Brazil sem Miseria (Brazil without Misery) which seeks to target 16 million people living under extreme poverty across the country. They include a range of initiatives from granting direct financial aid and to low-income populations, to supporting subsistence, boosting energy access and creating water cisterns in semi-arid areas.
Brazil is undergoing a transformation which has already brought better lives and opportunity to millions of people. Such social programmes have helped lift millions out of poverty in less than a decade, bringing a mass of citizens into the middle class, which also helped spur the country’s economy.
In the past two decades, GDP per capita in Brazil almost doubled, while the numbers of people living in poverty almost halved. Extreme poverty (people living on less than US$1.25 a day) declined abruptly from 14 percent in 2001 to less than five percent in 2009. Ten million formal jobs were created between 2004 and 2010.