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Moving away from liberal democracy: Participation, representation, and political experimentalism in Brazil.

Authors:

Abstract

The national public policy conferences are arguably the largest and most innovative participatory experience currently being held in Brazil. Summoned by the Executive branch, and organized at the national level along with civil society, the policy conferences have been proving themselves successful enough to affect the policies drafted by the administration, and to influence the legislation enacted by the Congress. While redesigning the policy-making process, and changing the pattern of the State and civil society relationship, the national policy conferences are perhaps the best example of Brazil's pragmatic democracy: a strong commitment to political experimentalism, in which the false contradictions between representation and participation, and State and civil society, are dialectically superseded through a process of institutional redesign that moves the country away from liberal democracy. This seminar will discuss the national policy conferences as a case of constitutive political representation, that is, an interplay between participatory experiments and representative institutions that allow civil society to act within the state therefore promoting a cooperative policy making process.
Thamy Pogrebinschi
Professor of Political Science
Institute of Social and Political Studies
State University of Rio de Janeiro
thamy@iesp.uerj.br
thamypog@gmail.com
Moving away from liberal democracy:
Participation, representation, and political experimentalism in Brazil
Abstract: The national public policy conferences are arguably the largest and most innovative
participatory experience currently being held in Brazil. Summoned by the Executive branch,
and organized at the national level along with civil society, the policy conferences have been
proving themselves successful enough to affect the policies drafted by the administration, and
to influence the legislation enacted by the Congress. While redesigning the policy-making
process, and changing the pattern of the State and civil society relationship, the national policy
conferences are perhaps the best example of Brazil’s pragmatic democracy: a strong
commitment to political experimentalism, in which the false contradictions between
representation and participation, and State and civil society, are dialectically superseded
through a process of institutional redesign that moves the country away from liberal
democracy. This seminar will discuss the national policy conferences as a case of constitutive
political representation, that is, an interplay between participatory experiments and
representative institutions that allow civil society to act within the state therefore promoting a
cooperative policy making process.
Paper prepared to be delivered at the Ash Center Democracy Seminar, Harvard Kennedy
School, on September 8, 2010.
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Moving away from liberal democracy:
Participation, representation, and political experimentalism in Brazil
Thamy Pogrebinschi
That political representation is presently in a state of crisis has become an old and
worn-out discourse. Yet it refuses to leave the stage, there is always a voice willing to come to
its defense. This discourse is arguably as old as political representation itself, given that the
guiding principles of representative government have been translated into the institutional
mechanisms which remain in place almost intact since the eighteenth century (Manin, 1996;
Urbinati, 2006). If the structure of representative governments has not been significantly
modified since its inception, perhaps the assumptions justifying its crisis are unfounded. The
signs of what some call a crisis can therefore simply be indicative of a transformation
concerning how political representation manifests itself.
At this point in history, we are certainly in the face of one such transformation. In the
last years, we have increasingly observed the emergence of concurrent models of governance.
Participative and deliberative designs of democracy have been several times proposed as
alternatives capable of correcting the purported flaws of representative government and its
institutions. Strong engagement to participative and deliberative proposals of democracy has
become an observable trend within academia, as suggested by the massive adhesion of
democratic theory scholars, but it has extended itself beyond the campus and reached other
spheres as governments institutionalizes new participatory practices and deliberative
experiences.
Brazil has always followed in step with this trend, especially since 1989, when the
participatory budget was first implemented in Porto Alegre and became a standard case study
on this topic and was replicated by other cities in Brazil and abroad. Since then, several
participatory practices, propelled by the 1988 Constitution and by the democratic
governments which followed it notably Lula’s Presidency have been increasingly
institutionalized. Such practices range from the more traditional (referendums and plebiscites)
to the less well-known, such as the public policy conferences, the restructuring and expansion
of previously existing experiences, such as the national policy councils, public hearings and
local administration councils, and the rehabilitation of less famed practices, such as audit
offices and discussion and negotiation roundtables.
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In observing these new democratic practices, one quickly notes the common purpose
of expanding the participation of citizens beyond the right to vote. The main underlying
assumption of these experiences is thus to allow citizens to become more directly involved in
the administration of all things public, particularly the design, implementation, and control
over public policy. The expected effect of these practices on its turn consists of allowing that
the exercise of democracy is not restricted to suffrage and elections, enabling citizens to
express their preferences in a manner that is not mediated by political parties and professional
politicians and by means other than casting a vote.
This is all true. Yet there are other truths which must be uncovered. If the new
democratic practices expand the direct participation of the citizens, this does not mean that
traditional political institutions have become less apt to represent them. Participative practices
strengthen democracy by broadening the role of citizens. However, this does not occur at the
cost of diminishing the importance of political representation and its institutions. The
strengthening of supposedly non-representative forms of democracy does not correspond to
the undermining of representative government.
The relationship between, on one hand, representative democracy, and, on the other
one, participatory experiences is not trivial. Its elucidation is necessary in order to avoid
academic opportunism, prejudicial as it is to ideas, or political opportunism, harmful as it is to
institutions. Those who endorse the discourse of crisis of political representation eventually
become engaged in the defense of participative and deliberative models of democracy as a
means of delegitimizing the Legislative branch, jeopardizing its true capacity to express
popular sovereignty. However, the emergence of new democratic spaces, as well as of new
actors involved in the administration of public goods, can, on the other hand, be perceived as a
form of strengthening political representation rather than a sign of its weakening.
This is certainly the case of the national public policy conferences (conferências
nacionais de políticas blicas), arguably the largest and most innovative participatory
experience currently being held in Brazil. The national conferences consist of spheres of
deliberation and participation designed to provide guidelines for the formulation of public
policy at the federal level. They are summoned to convene by the Executive branch through its
ministries and secretariats, are organized according to policy areas and issues, and involve the
equal participation of representatives from the government and civil society. The national
conferences are as a rule preceded by rounds at the municipal, state or regional levels, and the
aggregate results of the deliberations occurring during those stages are the object of
deliberation in the national conference, attended by the delegates from the previous rounds.
At the end a final document containing the guidelines for the design of public policy is
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produced, as the result of a long process of deliberation and consensus formation between
government and civil society.
The first time the national conferences were held dates back to 1941, which means
this is not an entire novelty in Brazilian political history, although it has only recently acquired
clearer deliberative and participative contours, especially after the 1988 Constitution. They
became particularly broader, wide-ranging, inclusive and frequent after 2003, when Lula took
office as president. They became broader due to the fact they have involved a progressively
larger number of people, either directly participating as delegates in the national stage of
deliberation, or indirectly in the preceding state, municipal or regional levels, or in parallel in
the so-called free conferences, or virtually in the so-called virtual conferences. They have
become wider-ranging, since they encompass an increasingly greater number of issues, no
longer being restricted to health-related issues, from which the conferences originated from in
the 1940s and to the human rights and social assistance issues, which have become
increasingly institutionalized since the latter half of the 1990s. The conferences now cover a
vast plurality of new areas of public policy the discussion of which have been divided into over
thirty issues, separated based on peculiarities and united by the cross-cutting character of
some. They have also become more inclusive as a result of the increase in their range and
breadth, since they progressively assemble more diverse and heterogeneous social groups,
especially representatives of civil society originating from NGOs, social movements, labor
unions, business associations and other miscellaneous entities, professional or not. Lastly,
national conferences have become more frequent as they have incorporated to their own
guidelines demands for periodic reproduction, being sustained by the policies of ministries,
secretariats, and national councils involved in its convening and organization and in some
cases in legislation which establish that some must be held biannually.
Also starting in 2003, after Lula took office, the participative conference process,
notwithstanding its non-binding character, can be said to have undergone a deliberative and
normative turn. Deliberative in the sense that the national conferences have been oriented
towards consensus formation based on intercommunicative processes aimed at opinion and
will formation in the public sphere, involving representatives from civil society and from the
government in a process of public justification of rationally motivated arguments. Normative in
the sense that the deliberations of the national conferences have been culminating
conclusively in the drafting of a final document, which is submitted to debate, voting and
approval based on different strategies and methods of preference aggregation, and as a result
gains credentials to generate expectations that are not only cognitive but also normative for
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those involved in the process and for those who, despite non-participation, are indirectly
affected by its eventual consequences.
The participative format of composition and organization of national conferences, the
deliberative dimension of its working groups, panels and final assembly sessions, and the
normative character of the final reports, which condense the resolutions, guidelines and
motions debated and approved by majorities after the compliance of a set of rules structured
as a procedure which seeks to ensure the legitimacy of the outcome, regardless of its content:
all of these factors reinforce a strictly representative dimension, inherent to the national
conferences as instances of participation and deliberation. Whether by the implied delegation
of the Executive, which summons the conference, or by delegation derived from the
Legislative, which harbor them, the national conferences certainly are an addition to the
ensemble of practices that constitute the so-called “new ecology of representation,”
embodying a mode of “informal representation” (Castiglione and Warren, 2006), or
“gyroscopic representation” or “surrogate representation” (Mansbridge, 2003).
More than practices pertaining to “informal representation” which, in the condition of
participative and deliberative instances, engender and reproduce the logic of representation, I
am interested in viewing the national conferences on public policy as exclusively participative
and deliberative experiences that nonetheless strengthen formal political representation and
reinforce the functions and activities of traditional political institutions. In this sense, national
conferences allow a new form of expression of participative and deliberative elements which
constitute the concept and practice of political representation, as testified by the genesis of
the former and the history of the latter.
Participation has long been a component of the grammar of representation, whether
through universal suffrage, proportionality in electoral systems, mass political parties or even
in the activity of lobby and interest groups. Deliberation too, on its turn, has long been part of
the repertoire of political representation, whether in the procedures adopted for the
formation of public opinion which characterize political campaigns and party mobilization
preceding elections, in the identification and stabilization of preferences set in motion by
voting systems during elections, or, finally, in parliamentary deliberation per se, both in the
more restricted realm of commissions or in the broader context of the congress floor
deliberation in inter-electoral periods. Hence, participation and deliberation can be
understood as constitutive elements of political representation; not as an attempt to add new
semantic content, but rather as a distinct form of putting political representation into practice.
As the widely propagated crisis of political representation means nothing but another
one of its metamorphoses in history, the practices of participation and deliberation which have
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evolved expressively in civil society in the last two decades are nothing but expressions of a
shift concerning the nature of representative democracy, in that the extent of its legitimacy
increases as it deepens, and its institutions are consolidated by redesign.
The national conferences on public policy consist of a participative practice marked by
peculiarities which further contribute to its comprehension as an instance which strengthen
political representation within the formal institutions of the state. First, they are summoned,
organized and held by the Executive. Second, they are jointly organized by the state and civil
society, as the latter is already active in different national policy councils or in the several
working groups established by ministries and secretariats.
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Third, they are summoned by the
Executive with the manifest intent of providing guidelines for the formulation of public policy,
with a particular focus on the elaboration or revision of national policy plans concerning
several fields, sectors, and groups of civil society. Fourth, they consist of participatory
experiences that are national in its scope and range, which ensures the universal validity of the
definition of the policies deliberated and the reconfiguration of the proportionality of any
party interests eventually present.
For as much as the holding of national policy conferences and the implementation of
its results are not, save for a few exceptions, sustained by laws and that are thus dependant on
the political will of federal governments, institutionalization has been achieved so as to ensure
some autonomy within the State. Since they became institutionalized as part of the process of
1
The national policy counsels have also been highly institutionalized during Lula’s government and are
often confused with the national policy conferences, although both participative experiences work in
different ways. While the conferences are summoned to convene and are held in a determinate period
of time through several stages until it scales up to the national level, the national policy counsels are
permanent institutions that work within the structure of the federal Executive branch, usually housed at
ministries, special secretariats, or the Presidency itself. As it happens with most of the conferences, the
counsels are composed half by representatives from government and half from civil society. While
participation in the conferences is entirely open and free in the local level when the delegates that will
attend the coming stages are elected or appointed, participation in the counsels depend on a public
process of selection of national level representative entities from civil society that will have a seat on it
for a (on average) two years mandate. While certain conferences have engaged over 500.000 people
from the local to the national level, the counsels count with a permanent body of up to 60 members. As
for the aims and purposes, the conferences are summoned with the aim to deliberate and provide
guidelines for policymaking in certain predefined areas and issues, while the national counsels ordinarily
meet every two months (and extraordinarily whenever there is need to) and deliberate on issues
brought up by their members or eventually by external demands of either government or civil society.
As for the nature of the deliberations, although the national conferences’ final reports are normative in
the above explained way and are seriously taken into consideration policymakers, they are not binding;
the counsels for instance have competence to issue normative acts called resolutions, which as well as
other administrative acts may contain policies. The counsels take an active part in the organization of
several conferences, and they also implement and especially monitor some of their deliberations making
sure the approved policy guidelines are followed. Brazil has currently around 33 operating national
policy counsels, 18 of them created between 2003 and 2010, and 15 significantly reformulated in the
same period so as to contemplate civil society’s demands and further its inclusion and participation.
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formulation and oversight of Executive public policy and, therefore, as part of its structure, the
national conferences generate consequences that impact on the agenda of the Legislative,
which can choose to use them as informational support, as mechanisms of legitimization
through participation, or as deliberative input for its representative activity.
The national conferences are thus certainly an example of a “participative institution”
(Avritzer, 2009) alongside other participative practices and deliberative experiences that have
been undergoing institutionalization in Brazil, from participatory budgets, at the local level, to
policy councils, at the national level. Yet, more than this, I believe the national conferences
should be taken as representative institutions – not because they simply internally engender
the representative logic (by means of election of delegates and majority voting, among other
features) and sustain some “informal” mode of representation. Rather, more sophisticatedly,
they consist of a more complex structure of political representation within the State and its
institutions which include the participation and deliberation of civil society in a more direct
and less mediated fashion compared to traditional mechanisms of accountability, as the
elections, and of the preferences it expresses, such as political parties.
Despite the suspicion raised by the assumption of the eventual formation of consensus
in civil society, the extent of its autonomy when acting within the State, the disputes for
hegemony in different political projects and social movements which characterize it, among
other factors, the fact is that the national conferences on public policy consist of very effective
forms of political mediation and are therefore apt to redefine the liberal democracy model by
redefining the relationship between civil society and the State. Brazil puts into practice what
scholars of democracy and democratic policy-making process attempt to do by creating
theoretical models and producing hypothetical simulations: amplifying the extent of
participation and deliberation in political decisions via an approximation between the State
and civil society.
Such approximation is verified not only when the State brings in civil society to its
inside, employing the national conferences as a participative component of governmental
policymaking process in all spheres of the federal Executive branch and the public
administration, but also when it is receptive and responsive to their demands by converting
them into legislative proposals and legal propositions, thus conceiving the national
conferences as a deliberative component of political representation as it is exercised in the
Legislature. The interplay of participation/deliberation and representation, and the dynamics
between civil society and the State thereby put in motion, reveal the national policy
conferences as new forms of political mediation which can potentially deepen democracy in
Brazil. Far from replacing political representation or menacing established representative
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institutions, the national policy conferences may strengthen both, and allow for a more
democratic and stable government.
Experimenting with Politics: Participation as Representation
The greater the extent of institutionalization of participative and deliberative practices
the greater the stability of institutions of political representation. Brazil’s national policy
conferences are arguably a case that supports this proposition. Since the adoption of the new
Constitution in 1988, Brazilian political institutions are increasingly turning stable and solid:
these include a very competitive multi party system, periodic and universal elections, an active
and plural Congress, a strongly accepted and highly approved Presidency, an increasingly
respected Supreme Court, a fair system of judicial review, a legitimate legal order, a quite
comprehensive system of rights, a free and open media, not to mention the massive turnout in
elections due to the pedagogic experience of compulsory voting, and the always clear electoral
processes.
Besides all that, particularly from 2003 onwards one can observe in Brazil a surprising
proliferation and empowerment of social movements, the flourishing of a vivid public sphere,
and a breakthrough of participative and deliberative practices increasingly institutionalized
and supported by the State, from the local to the national level. As has been recently stated by
the Minister of the General-Secretary of the Presidency, since Lula took office “social
participation has been adopted as a democratic method of public administration”. He went
further, and declared that neglecting the national policy conferences implies “neglecting the
struggles and accomplishments of Brazilian civil society, as well as its contribution to the
enrichment of representative democracy”.
2
Participation has therefore become a democratic method of governance in Brazil. As a
method, participation enriches representative democracy. While turning political institutions
more representative, participation accommodates civil society within the State, and impels the
redesign of both policymaking and lawmaking processes. Such institutional changes have for
their turn proven themselves to produce not only more legitimate political decisions, but also
more effective social outcomes. If the notable poverty reduction is due to income transfer and
other successful redistributive policies adopted by Lula’s government, the political
representation of social minorities (especially the culturally-defined groups) is an achievement
2
This statement was made on August 20th, 2010, in an official address from Minister Luiz Dulci to the
press. The full address is available at:
http://www.secretariageral.gov.br/noticias/ultimas_noticias/2010/08/20-08-2010-nota-a-imprensa-
resposta-do-ministro-luiz-dulci-as-declaracoes-de-jose-serra
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of the institutionalization of participatory experiences such as the national policy conferences.
At this point, I cannot help but recall Dewey: “there is nothing more radical than insistence
upon democratic methods as the means by which radical social changes be effected. (Dewey,
1937: 339).
As I have argued elsewhere (Pogrebinschi, 2010b), the experimentalism, praticalism,
and reflexivity that can be observed in Brazilian politics allow one to describe it as a pragmatic
democracy: a dialectical overcoming of the false contradictions between representation and
participation, and State and civil society, through a process of experimental institutional
redesign. The interplay between the national policy conferences and the Congress
(Pogrebinschi and Santos, 2010), as well as between the former and the Executive branch, is
perhaps one of the best examples of Brazil’s commitment to political experimentalism, and the
process of institutional redesign that slowly moves the country away from liberal democracy.
The impact of the national policy conferences in the Legislature is a growing reality.
The final report containing policy guidelines approved by the conferences activate and impel
the legal activity of the Congress, and its effect on the lawmaking can be measured by the
number of bills proposed and statutes enacted, as well as by the content addressed in them.
As shown by a research I have recently coordinated, from 1988 to 2009 about 19.8% of all bills
proposed in the Congress were substantively convergent with the national conferences policy
guidelines, and the same is true for about 48.5% of the constitutional bills. As for the approved
legislation, 7.2% of all statutes and 15.8% of all constitutional amendments enacted by the
Parliament can be said to deal with specific issues deliberated by the national conferences
(Pogrebinschi and Santos, 2010). More than setting the Congress’s agenda and influencing
congressmen preferences and choices, one can note that the national conferences also
improves and increases the deliberative component of lawmaking since they have a larger
effect on bills proposed rather on statutes approved, and this points mostly to a qualitative
(increasing on variety) rather than quantitative (timing of consent achievement) impact on the
Legislature. Moreover, the significant number of constitutional amendments whose content
coincide with the guidelines of the national conferences points to their unanticipated
legitimatory role and unforeseen potential for institutional redesign.
Given the entire sample of legislative activity whose content is substantively
convergent with the national conferences guidelines in a twenty years time frame (1988-
2008), 85.2% of the bills, 91.6% of the constitutional bills, 69.2% of the enacted statutes, and
66.6% of the amendments to the constitution came to light in the first six years of Lula’s
government (2003-2008). Even though the impact on the Legislature is expected to grow
correspondingly to the increase on the quantity and frequency of the national conferences
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during Lula’s mandates, and even though bills and constitutional bills become inactive if not
voted nor reintroduced in a new legislative season, one cannot deny that both participation
increase and representation impact are facts that become politically relevant after Lula took
office. Since the above numbers serve as indicators of the influence and civil society has on the
State, one can realize that policy-making and decision-making have been significantly altered
in Brazil over the last few years.
The impact of the national conferences on the Legislature presents them as an
effective political mediation that run parallel to (and in a way cooperate with) the political
parties. Since the normative policy guidelines arisen in the national conferences are apparently
randomly supported by political parties (that propose bills which are coincident with their
contents), one can say that such participatory experience point to a way of overcoming the
traditional ideological channeling of interests and the party-structure that typically retains
them. The support of policies addressing social minorities’ interests and cultural groups’ rights
is a good example of how that happens, as I will argue later.
Through the national conferences, civil society has an important share on public policy
design, and plays a fundamental role in the process through which political decisions are
taken. While transforming liberal democracy from the inside, Brazilian pragmatic democracy
allows for a dialectical relation among State and civil society, whose supposed contradiction
might be overcome by the increase of mediations such as the participatory experiences that
take place along with representative institutions. The national policy conferences enlarge
citizens’ direct participation, but that does not imply that the traditional political institutions
have become less able to represent them.
Official data estimates that about five million people have participated in the 73
national policy conferences that took place since 2003. These people are distributed in all
levels comprised by the conference process. By conference process I mean the deliberation
that starts in the local (municipal) or regional (aggregation of municipalities) levels, continues
in all the 27 states, and is concluded in the national conference that is usually held in Brasília,
the country’s capitol. Some national conferences also preview upon convocation the
undertaking of ‘free conferences’ that may be organized by any groups in civil society, and of
‘virtual conferences’ that reunites contributions submitted over the internet. Once a formal
procedure is followed, the results of the free and virtual conferences are taken into
consideration in the basis-document that will be deliberated in the national level, along with
the results from the local, regional and state conferences.
Although the national conferences usually last three or four days, the entire process
takes over a year to be completed. Every national conference begins to be prepared by the
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moment the executive act that summons it to convene is enacted, and the commission that
will coordinate it is installed. This commission is constituted by members of the government
and of civil society, just like happens on most of the conferences themselves in all levels (some
have a three-part composition, being the third constituted by representatives of the
workers/professional associations involved on the policy area under discussion). A very
planned and detailed agenda follows the enactment of the internal rules that will organize the
process, as well as the methodology that will be used to aggregate the deliberations from all
levels to the last, national one.
There is not a single methodology that is applied to all conferences, and some of them
involve very complex systems of preference prioritization (instead of simple preference
aggregation) which are applied both in the several stages of a single conference (from working
groups deliberations to the final plenary) and in the several stages that precedes the national
one. No guideline approved in the local, regional or state levels are excluded from the
deliberation that takes place in the national conference, and even conflicting guidelines
approved in the different levels are resubmitted to deliberation in the national stage. Even
when the deliberation ends on voting, as it happens to be true in the final plenary that
concludes the national conferences, majority is not the rule: an equal proportion of votes
among State and civil society delegates must be achieved in order to form a consensus and
have a policy guideline included in the final report.
As for the level of participation, picking the I National Conference on Public Security
held in 2009 as an example one reaches the total amount of 524.461 people involved in the
entire process. In all stages, direct participation engaged 225.395 persons in face-to-face
deliberation, while 256.598 took part indirectly through the web. In the entire country, 514
municipalities were involved in 266 municipal conferences, reaching an amount of 44.651
participants. All the 27 states hold its conferences, and 17.439 representatives deliberated in
those stages the policy guidelines that followed to the national level. Besides all that, 1140 free
conferences were organized by different sectors of civil society, agglutinating 66.847 people
that have not taken part in the other stages. Lastly, the national conference was held gathering
together 3.060 representatives.
I was at that national conference on public security, and I am not counted among
those 3.060 people. That is so because I was not a representative, but a participant. The way
language is ordinarily employed in the conferences process is meaningful, and it is worth
analyzing that. The local level conferences are entirely open to participation, and there have
been over the past few year strong advertising calling up people to come and engage. In this
stage one main purpose is electing the delegates that will take part into the following levels.
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Among the elected delegates, there are those representatives that are appointed, both by
government and civil society institutions. In the state and national levels, elected and
appointed representatives get together along with the other participants. All of them take part
into the deliberation, and may raise opinions, make points and claims, and present arguments,
but not all of them can prioritize guidelines in the working groups, nor vote in the final plenary:
those tasks are reserved to the representatives no matter they were elected in the local level
or appointed at any previous stage. Participants and representatives have an equal share of
isegoria, the right to have a voice, and thus deliberate. Representatives, though, are those
participants that may not only deliberate, but also vote.
The active role that civil society organizations have been playing in the national
conferences shall not be understood as a form of cooptation that undermine social
movements or that empowers only few of them. Conversely, what is a stake is a cooperation
among social and political actors that go beyond electoral bounds and party compromises
allowing for a unprecedented closeness of State and civil society. The latter has been effective
in proposing new areas of policies to be approached by national conferences. Once the
Executive accept and supports those proposals, it is not only responsive to social demands, but
also allows the policy agenda (and not only the content of a given policy agenda) itself to be
defined by civil society.
The national conferences on public policy shall therefore not be understood as a
simple legitimatory device that allows the Brazilian government to implement its predefined
policies. Conversely, through the national conferences civil society has been enlarging policy
areas and bringing up new issues to policymaking. The conferences have been decisive to
increase the (participative and deliberative) design and implementation of national level public
policies in general, and, in particular, in areas where there were yet no national policies
implemented by the Executive. Recent examples of the latter fact would include the
conferences on food and nutritional security, which brought to light the first national policy in
this area enacted in August 2010, the national conference on youth which decisively
contributed to the drafting of the first national policy on youth which is currently under
appreciation of the Congress, the national conferences on culture that helped to design the
national policy of culture that is presently in its last stages of deliberation in the Congress, and
the national conference on public security which was convened with the precise purpose of
providing guidelines to the drafting of the first national policy of public security.
Some of the newest and most innovative policy areas and issues brought up by civil
society through the national conferences are however concerned with interests and rights of
social and cultural minorities. From 2003 onwards were held national conferences on policies
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for women, elderly people, indigenous people, racial equality, people with disabilities, and
gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and transvestites. Minorities groups take advantage of
the conferences to shape their concerns and frame their identities, turning participation into
representation while being successful a) in having their demands translated into public policies
implemented by the Executive despite the resource to lobby or advocacy, and b) in having
them converted into law despite their previous engagement with any political parties.
The national public policy conferences have established themselves as spaces in which
social and cultural minorities are able to eventually yet successfully convert themselves into
political majorities. Of the 80 national conferences held from 1988 to 2009, 20 specifically
involved deliberation concerning cultural groups – and of this total, 17 took place more
recently, between 2003 and 2009. There have been an additional 11 conferences on human
rights which always host discussions on policies for women, the handicapped, the elderly,
indigenous peoples, children and adolescents, ethnic and racial minorities, as well as gays,
lesbians, transvestites, bisexuals, and transsexuals. In fact many of the demands initially
presented by minority groups in national conferences on human rights are taken up by the
specific national conferences for each of those minorities while, inversely, several demands
presented by minority groups in specific national conferences for minorities are presented
once again in the national human rights conferences. Furthermore, since many of the policies
demanded by minority groups, in spite of their often very specific character, demand actions
that span across different fields of action and issues, these groups are also present – through
civil society representatives – in national conferences in which various other issues such as
healthcare, education, and social assistance are discussed. At any rate, by summing together
the 20 specific minority conferences and the 11 human rights conferences, 31 of the 80
national conferences (38.8%) held between 1988 and 2009 constitute spaces devoted
primarily to the participation of minority groups and to the deliberation of public policies
which interest them.
As I have argued elsewhere (Pogrebinschi, 2010a), cultural minorities not only are able
to rely on a significant number of national conferences in which public policies targeting them
are the specific object of deliberation, they have also succeeded in advancing a considerable
number of normative guidelines in their final resolutions: in addition to the fact that 18% of
the guidelines originated from the national conferences between 1988 and 2009 dealt
exclusively with demands by minority groups, it is also possible to reasonably assume that a
significant portion of the 26.7% of the guidelines of the total sample which originated from the
national human rights conferences take into account the demands of cultural groups which
actively participate and are represented by NGOs and social movements that are traditionally
13
active in the debate on these issues. In other words, since it is reasonable to suppose that
those guidelines that come out of the national conferences inform parliamentary activity, a
high percentage of the information passed on to Congress deal with demands made by
minority groups. The concrete impact of such legal activity in the actual inclusion of the social
and cultural minorities is however an issue yet to be addressed, as well as it is the
redistributive effects of the policies designed accordingly to the demands brought up by those
groups in the national policy conferences.
The national public policy conferences are participative and deliberative experiences
which not only give minority groups a voice but also make them heard in Congress. Even if
these groups are not able to elect their candidates, national conferences provide them with an
opportunity to have their interests represented in the Legislative branch. The legitimizing force
of a bill strongly supported by the national conferences can function as what Mansbridge
(2003) called “retrospective representation,” – this concept aptly applies to situations in which
congressmen may be presented with strong incentives (which eventually transcend party
agendas or the priorities of traditional constituencies) to come to the defense of demands
presented in national conferences and thereby gain new electors or reestablish severed ties
with former ones. National conferences are thus capable of achieving political representation
for political minorities which would otherwise not be able to construct party majorities.
The national public policy conferences therefore serve as a form of political mediation
which runs parallel to elections and party politics which is nonetheless, not unlike them,
capable of converging to achieve democracy through representative institutions. The
participation of civil society and the deliberation they engage in with the government in the
national conferences produce more representative institutions (insofar as they are able to
appreciate with greater emphasis broader and more inclusive interests) and bolster political
representation by creating new incentives for congressmen to conduct legislating activities in a
certain, more representative, direction.
Participative democratic practices such as the national policy conferences make it
therefore possible to represent the interests of minorities groups in the Legislative even when
they are not being defended in traditional party platforms. The guidelines for public policies
contained in the final resolutions produced by the national conferences initiate legislative
activity in the Congress, offering congressmen a broad menu of demands directly formatted
according to the preferences of civil society in a non-electoral setting – one that is therefore
free from party influences, the need to appeal to the media or any other form of interference
in the formation of citizen opinion and will. The policy guidelines originating from the national
conferences are imbued with a strong assumption of popular legitimacy with allows them to
14
overcome the traditional logic of interest distribution. This is what can eventually enable a
major party to decide to represent a previously unrepresented interest, one hitherto not
represented by any other party or perhaps supported by a minor party. The way national
policy conferences have been serving the interests of minority groups proves how democracy
is able to expresses itself as representation in yet another way through participation and
deliberation.
Constitutive Representation and Pragmatic Democracy
For a long time it has been stated that political representation is in crisis, and that the
Legislative has become incapable of expressing the much sought after and idealized general
will, which, according to Rousseau, is ultimately and by nature unrepresentable. Many are the
arguments employed in defense of this discourse: decreasing electoral participation, surging
political apathy, discredit in (and of) institutions, party inability to mobilize its electorate, the
loss of the ideological and representative character of parties, the pernicious influence of the
media, etc. As I have made clear earlier, I do agree with Manin (1996) when he says that there
is historically no crisis, but a metamorphosis of representative government. However, despite
his description of the mocratie du public (based on communicative expertise) as its last
stage, I believe it is time to go further and recognize another transition not only in the meaning
of political representation (as have been successfully done by several political theorists) but
also in the kind of government it implies.
I have argued throughout this paper that Brazil’s national conferences on public policy
are participative practices that strengthen political representation. First, they do not present
themselves as an alternative aside of representative institutions since they are engendered
within them: it is the Executive branch that summon, convene, and organize the national
conferences together with civil society organizations involved and affected by the policy area
to be deliberated in the conferential process. Second, they do not compete against
representative institutions since they act in cooperation with them: the Legislative branch has
been quite responsive to the demands brought up by civil society in the national conferences,
and the Executive has been consistently turning the guidelines deliberated in those
participatory practices into policies to be applied in national scale (and this is precisely its
purpose when it summons the conferences to convene). Third, they do not imply a parallel
type of representation since they do not engender simply ‘informal’ or ‘social’ types of
representation: through the national policy conferences, social and cultural minorities have
been successful in having their interests politically represented through representatives in both
15
the Legislative and Executive branches that have not been elected by them nor have been
elected to represent the type of interests favored by them.
The national policy conferences are thus a case that empirically supports an argument I
have been making in the theoretical level (Pogrebinschi, 2008, 2010a and 2010b): participation
and deliberation should be taken as constitutive parts of representation. In fact, as I have
argued earlier in this paper, they have always been so – elections, lobby and interests groups
are certainly forms of participation, as well as parliamentary commissions and floor activities
have always involved deliberation. In the past few years, however, new forms of participation
through deliberation have arisen, and although they consistently require the intervention of
representative institutions in order to be conclusive, decisional and binding, they are often
thought of as pointing to a different (because non - or less - representative) form of
democracy.
Such participative and deliberative practices certainly avoid the electoral side of
representative democracy when they are implemented in civil society, as have been correctly
pointed out by several political theorists. However, such practices can only be considered
politically representative when they are conclusive, and thus produce decisions on political
issues which impact on the political system even if they are not binding. There is yet no other
way to do so then through representative institutions and elected representatives. Those, for
their turn, have been showing themselves over the last few years more and more open and
responsive to the participative and deliberative practices. The most known, successful and
replicated case of participation, the participatory budgeting, was after all the product of a
specific government, and its implementation and success have been proven to be dependent
on the election of certain political parties (Avritzer, 2009).
Participative and deliberative practices of democracy are also often linked with civil
society’s ability to associate, mobilize and coordinate social groups and institutions, as if it
were able to govern itself through its own self-empowerment, regardless of the State.
However, the political and redistributive effects of such practices can only be undertaken by
the State, and it is certainly partly the awareness of this fact that has been giving rise to the
process of their increasing institutionalization. In Latin America, where participative
experiences proliferate and scale up as to reach the national level, institutionalization seems to
be the rule. And this rule is in most of the cases designed and applied by the State, which
houses civil society’s initiatives and propose new ones along with it. Institutionalized
participation is thus something that goes together with the State.
As participative and deliberative practices become political in their scope and
institutionalized in their form one moves towards constitutive representation. Such kind of
16
representation takes institutionalized political participation and deliberation as its constitutive
parts. And it is constitutive representation that lies at the basis of the most recent
transformation of representative government, one in which the mediations between State and
civil society have been changing so as to also transforms the relationship between those that
have at least since the foundation of political modernity been seen as separate spheres.
Brazil’s national policy conferences, as I have argued earlier in this paper, are one of
such new mediations between State and civil society, and one in which participation and
deliberation come true as representation. If the so propelled crisis of political representation is
not extensive to Brazil, perhaps this is so because the country has been successful in
institutionalizing participation and deliberation, as well as turning them political in their scope
as they deal with essential political issues and impact on the policymaking. Instead of a crisis,
the country faces a transformation on its representative government, one that moves it away
from liberal democracy dualisms (such as State versus civil society, political versus social,
universal versus particular, individuals versus groups, representation versus participation), and
brings it closer to a pragmatic governance in which such false contradictions might be
dialectically overcome through political experimentalism.
Political experimentalism as a method of pragmatic governance implies converting
facts into norms, practices into institutions, and ends into means. It calls for the political
empowerment of social groups by furthering the institutionalization of democratic practices
conducted in, for, and through civil society. Experimentalism is the invention of the new and
the transformation of the old, the replacement of normativity with factuality. Situated
somewhere between the ideals of revolution and reform, experimentalism is politics
conjugated in the future perfect tense: contingence renders democracy at once an experience
and an experiment.
Applied at the political level, experimentalism requires the adoption of a critical stance
towards principles and a practical attitude towards facts. To critically interrogate principles
implies substituting action for speculation and contemplation. Facts shall be the driving force
behind any political action aspiring social intelligence; they aim at creative interventions into
the future through the transformation of present conditions, and that implies substituting
experimental methods of democracy for the fixity of the liberal principles that for centuries
have been shaping it. Facts revise principles, and once they are conferred normative strength
one might rely on them as sources of legitimacy for political action. In other words, taking facts
as the driving force of political action means assuming the social demands present in each and
every context as determinants of institutional choices and decisions. If facts are the bearers of
social demands, they must also be the conductors of political and institutional innovations.
17
Taking political experimentalism as a democratic method requires facts to be heard
and to be taken seriously, and such disposition to lead contingency drive political decisions
ultimately conduces to pragmatic governance. The latter can be understood as an open-ended
set of institutions, experiences and practices aiming to mediate the relationship between State
and civil society. The performance of democracy therefore varies according to the
performance of such mediation. The success of mediation, on its turn, is gauged according to
the success in overcoming the antagonism between State and civil society. The more an
institution, experience, or practice succeeds in approximating State and civil society, the
greater is its capacity to promote democracy. In other words, the narrower the structural gap
and the functional differentiation between State and civil society, the greater the degree of
democracy in a given political system.
A pragmatic democracy puts into question the principle of separation of power, just
like it happens when Brazil’s policy agenda is cooperatively defined by the Executive branch
and the Legislature by means of the national conferences. It challenges the centrality of
individual rights when social and cultural groups’ rights become a key focus of both
policymaking and lawmaking, turning particular demands into universal policies and thus
redefining the meaning of political equality. It interrogates the electoral foundation of
democracy, allowing interests to bypass the party system and achieve representation in the
Legislature through participatory institutions. It redefines representation as the main political
mediation by institutionalizing participation and deliberation. And, finally, a pragmatic
democracy redesigns institutions in such a way as to blow the separation of State and civil
society, as it happens when the latter act along with the State, and achieves that from within
it.
Once endorsing constitutive representation, a pragmatic democracy must also
experiment with forms of accountability that go beyond elections, democratic criteria other
than the majority rule, and legitimatory mechanisms able to transcend both by privileging ex
post assessments (that is, assessments based on the consequences of decisions) rather than ex
ante assessments (based on the choices of the decision maker). Political experimentalism
makes it possible to deal with the problems of justification, evaluation and legitimacy of
democracy on the basis of the consequences engendered by the actions of institutions and
political actors. The true parameters for gauging democracy become the desirability, feasibility
and acceptability of such consequences. That, in turn, brings one closer to a realistic practice of
democracy, and not an idealized version thereof.
This approach must be further developed in order to account for the fact that Brazil’s
national policy conferences allow all those citizens and groups who are affected by the design
18
of public policies and share the consequences of their implementation to have their interests
represented in political institutions despite their choices in a previous election. The conference
process has been legitimizing itself as a democratic method of governance through the positive
effects it have been producing on political institutions, and this can be especially measured by
the introduction of new areas and issues dealt with in policymaking, and by the inclusion of
new groups and demands in the lawmaking. Those are some facts we will take a look at in the
next section.
The National Conferences on Public Policy at a Glance
Given what has been said in the previous pages, the national conferences on public
policies have been contributing to a) strengthening representative institutions in Brazil, b)
bringing civil society and State closer, c) allowing for a dialectical interplay between
participation and representation; d) increasing the participation and providing the
representation of minority groups; e) allowing for a civil society’s influence on policymaking
and lawmaking, and thus f) presenting political experimentalism as a source of permanent
institutional redesign as the representative institutions themselves become more deliberative
and participative.
Let’s now take a look into some data that support some (although not all) of the above
statements. Between 1941 and 1988, twelve national public policy conferences were held in
Brazil, all of them related to the health sector, the field in which most pioneering participative
practices have occurred in the country due to the very active professional associations and
social movements that have historically engaged politically with health policy issues. Although
by that time the so-called health national conferences did not follow the same national
structure, participative composition and deliberative format practiced today, those events
cannot be dismissed when one considers the origin and the background of current national
policy conferences. Between 1988, when the new Constitution was enacted and democracy
had finally found its place after the military dictatorship, and 2009, were held in Brazil 80
national conferences concerning 33 different policy issues.
3
Table 1 below presents the sample
of national public policy conferences held in the country from 1988 to 2009, according to the
policy issue addressed, the years in which they took place, and the frequency achieved by
them.
3
In reality, and accordingly to official data, this number is a bit higher. The methodology employed in
the research I have coordinated, however, required the exclusion of some conferences from the sample,
namely those which did not classify as a) deliberative, b) normative and c) national in scope. For a
description of such methodology see Pogrebinschi and Santos, 2010.
19
Table 1: National Public Policy Conferences: issues, years in which took place and frequency
N. Conference/Policy Issues Years Total
1 Aquaculture and Fisheries 2003/2006/2009 3
2 Social Assistance 1995/1997/2001/2003/2005/2007/2009 7
3 Cities 2003/2005/2007 3
4 Science, Technology and
Innovation in Health
1994/2004 2
5 Communication 2009 1
6 Brazilian Communities
Abroad
2008/2009 2
7 Culture 2005 1
8 Sustainable and Solidary
Rural Development
2008 1
9 Children and Adolescent
Rights
1997/1999/2002/2003/2005/2007/2009 7
10 Rights of Persons with
Disabilities
2006/2008 2
11 Rights of the Elderly 2006/2009 2
12 Human Rights 1996/1997/1998/1999/2000/2001/2002/2003/2004/2006
/2008
11
13 Solidarity Economy 2006 1
14 Basic Education 2008 1
15 Indigenous Education 2009 1
16 Professional and
Technological Education
2006 1
17 Sports 2004/2006 2
18 Gays, Lesbians, Bissexuals,
Transvestites, and
Transexuals
2008 1
19 Managment of Healthcare
Work and Education
1994/2006 2
20 Youth 2008 1
21 Medications and
Pharmaceutical Care
2003 1
22 Environment 2003/2005/2008 3
23 Public Policies for Women 2004/2007 2
24 Indigenous peoples 2006 1
25 Promotion of Racial
Equality
2005/2009 2
26 Health 1992/1996/2000/2003/2008 5
27 Environmental Health 2009 1
28 Dental Health 1993/2004 2
29 Workers Health 1994/2005 2
30 Indigenous Health 1993/2001/2005 3
31 Mental Health 1992/2001 2
32 Food and Nutritional
Security
1994/2004/2007 3
33 Public Security 2009 1
Total 80
20
The above table reveals that human rights are the policy area with the largest number
of national conferences: 11 were held over a period of 12 years. Social assistance and children
and youth rights follow thereafter: there were 7 conferences for each of these policy areas. In
the case of children and youth rights, the 7 conferences occurred within a 12 year period,
whereas in the case of the social assistance conferences, the 7 of them are distributed within a
14-year time span. Health, a pioneering policy area in the history of national conferences and
the only one found in the period preceding 1988, was the object of only 5 conferences after
that year. However, it is worth noting that, starting in the 1990s, health policies become the
object of specialized conferences on different health issues, which comprise specific
conferences on ‘oral health’ (2), ‘workers health’ (2), ‘health of indigenous peoples’ (3),
‘mental health’ (2), ‘environmental health’ (1), in addition to ‘management of labor and
education in health’ (2), ‘science, technology, and innovation in health’ (2), ‘medication and
pharmaceutical care’ (1), responding altogether for 20 conferences in 17 years time.
Conferences on policy for ‘aquaculture and fishing’, ‘cities’, ‘environment’, ‘food and
nutritional safety’ come next, with 3 conferences each. There were 2 conferences held on
‘sports’, ‘rights of the persons with disabilities’, ‘rights of the elderly’, ‘Brazilian communities
abroad’, ‘promotion of racial equality’ and ‘policies for women’. All remaining policy areas
listed in the above table had only one national conference during the timeframe examined:
‘culture’, ‘solidary economy’, ‘professional and technological education’, ‘youth’, ‘solidary and
sustainable rural development’, ‘gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals’,
‘public safety’, ‘communication’, and ‘indigenous peoples’.
Once the national conferences are aggregated and classified in policy area sets and
one analyses their frequency distribution, it becomes clear that “health” and “minorities”
policy area sets led the field, each one with 20 occurrences, divided into 9 different policy
issues. Among the conferences within the health policy area set there have been the 5
aforementioned health conferences in addition to 15 specialized conferences in the subject,
also summing up 20 conferences. The “minorities” policy area set includes the national
conferences on the ‘rights of the elderly’, ‘rights of people with disabilities’, ‘gays, lesbians,
bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals’, ‘indigenous people’, ‘public policies for women’,
‘children and youth rights’, ‘promotion of racial equality’, ‘youth’, and ‘Brazilian communities
abroad’ - therefore 20 conferences for 9 policy areas, being that 8 of them (the exception is
only ‘children and youth rights’) have only began to be addressed on national conferences in
2003. The policy area sets “State, economy and development” and “education, culture, social
assistance and sports” come next, tied with 13 conferences apiece. The former policy area set
is further divided into 7 policy issues: ‘solidary economy’, ‘aquaculture and fishing’,
21
‘sustainable and solidary rural development’, ‘food and nutritional safety’, ‘cities’, ‘public
safety’ and ‘communications’. The latter for its turn is further divided into 6 policy issues:
‘basic education’, ‘professional and technological education’, ‘indigenous education’, ‘culture’,
‘sports’ and ‘social assistance’. The national conferences on ‘human rights’, due to its intense
and stable frequency (11 editions, most of them held every two years since 1996), the vast
number of policy guidelines produced, and the lack of a more exclusive affinity with any of the
other policy areas sets count as one in itself. The ‘environment’ also constitutes a single
separate policy area set, although only 3 conferences on this issue were held up to 2009.
Table 2: National conferences: distribution according to policy area sets
Policy area Issues Quantity
of Issues
Quantity of
Conferences
Health
Health
Oral health
Workers health
Health of indigenous peoples
Mental health
Environmental health
Science, technology, and innovation in health
Management of labor and education in health
Medication and pharmaceutical care
9 20
Minorities
Rights of the Elderly
Rights of people with disabilities
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and
transsexuals
Indigenous people
Public policies for women
Rights of children and adolescents
Youth
Promotion of Racial Equality
Brazilian Communities Abroad
9 20
Environment Environment 1 3
State, economy
and
development
Solidary Economy
Aquaculture and fishing
Sustainable and solidary rural development Food
and nutritional safety
Cities
Public Security
Comunicação
7 13
Education,
culture, social
assistance and
sports
Basic Education
Professional and Technological Education
Indigenous Education
Culture
Sports
Social Assistance
6 13
Human Rights Human Rights 1 11
After classifying the
national conferences according to
similarity of the issues
“health” and “minorities” are responsible for precisely half of the national
held thus far, with each one accounting for 25% of the total. In the first case, ther
striking about the fact that t
he pioneering policy area in national
a fourth of the total figure
professional associations and social movements conce
is not the case with the “minorities”
it comprises account for a fourth of the national conferences after 1988 given that 8 of them
only started being
dealt with in
statements previously made
: since the beg
national policy
conferences became
addressed,
and also more plural and heterogeneous accordingly to the positive response of
government to the demands of social and cultural groups that claimed to have their interests
and rights addressed in national conferences.
Graph 1: National conferences: distr
The patterns of
distribution of the nation
frequency held
become more meaningful when they are listed
Environment
State, Economy,
and Development
Education,
Culture, Social
Services and
Sports
16,3%
National conferences: distribution according to policy area sets
national conferences according to
policy area sets
dealt with, it is possible to notice
in the graph 1 below
“health” and “minorities” are responsible for precisely half of the national
policy
held thus far, with each one accounting for 25% of the total. In the first case, ther
he pioneering policy area in national
conferences is responsible for
a fourth of the total figure
, especially given the early and strong institutionalization of
professional associations and social movements conce
rned with health policies. However, t
is not the case with the “minorities”
policy area set
. It is indeed striking that the 9
it comprises account for a fourth of the national conferences after 1988 given that 8 of them
dealt with in
national
conferences in 2003. This confirms
: since the beg
inning of the first term of Lula
’s
conferences became
notably more broader-
ranging in ter
and also more plural and heterogeneous accordingly to the positive response of
government to the demands of social and cultural groups that claimed to have their interests
and rights addressed in national conferences.
Graph 1: National conferences: distr
ibution according to policy area sets
distribution of the nation
al conferences according to policy areas
become more meaningful when they are listed
in relation
to the governments
Health
25%
Minorities
25%
Environment
3,8%
State, Economy,
and Development
16,3%
Education,
Culture, Social
Services and
Sports
16,3%
Human Rights
13,8%
National conferences: distribution according to policy area sets
22
policy area sets
based on the
in the graph 1 below
that, together,
policy
conferences
held thus far, with each one accounting for 25% of the total. In the first case, ther
e is nothing
conferences is responsible for
, especially given the early and strong institutionalization of
rned with health policies. However, t
his
. It is indeed striking that the 9
policy issues
it comprises account for a fourth of the national conferences after 1988 given that 8 of them
conferences in 2003. This confirms
one of the
’s
government, the
ranging in ter
ms of policies
and also more plural and heterogeneous accordingly to the positive response of
government to the demands of social and cultural groups that claimed to have their interests
al conferences according to policy areas
and
to the governments
Minorities
25%
National conferences: distribution according to policy area sets
in which they were held. The graph
co
nferences held from 1988 to 2009
68.8% of all national policy
conferences
which means an
average of 8 conferences per year.
Cardoso government 17 conferences took place, that is, 21.3% of the total, averaging slightly
above 2 conferences per year. The Itamar Franc
held
in 2 years and 2 months
Fernando Collor de Mello
government, with only 2 conferences
month long stint in office, accounting for 2.5% of the sam
in Brazil from 1988 to 2009. One observes that, for as much as conferences entered a new
phase of institutionalization in the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government, it was not until
Lula’s first term in presidency that their frequency bec
fully institutionalized and incorporated into the Brazilian political agenda. No conferences
were held from 1988 until the beginning of the Collor
why José Sarney’s
period in office
Graph 2
: National Conferences: distribution according to government
4
In fact, official data
and historical records
per year since Lula took office, but as I have mentioned in the beginning of this section the sample
analyzed here only consider those conferences that are deliberative, normative, and national in the
sense described
throughout this paper.
Lula
68,8% (55)
National Conferences: distribution according to
in which they were held. The graph
2 below indicates that out of
the 80
nferences held from 1988 to 2009
, 55 took place during Lula’s
government. This means that
conferences
held
during 21 years occurred within a 7 year period,
average of 8 conferences per year.
4
In the 8 years of
Fernando Henrique
Cardoso government 17 conferences took place, that is, 21.3% of the total, averaging slightly
above 2 conferences per year. The Itamar Franc
o government comes next
, with 6 conferences
in 2 years and 2 months
of mandate
, comprising 7.5% of the total, followed by the
government, with only 2 conferences
held
during his 2 year and 9
month long stint in office, accounting for 2.5% of the sam
ple of national conf
erences organized
in Brazil from 1988 to 2009. One observes that, for as much as conferences entered a new
phase of institutionalization in the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government, it was not until
Lula’s first term in presidency that their frequency bec
ame more significant, thus becoming
fully institutionalized and incorporated into the Brazilian political agenda. No conferences
were held from 1988 until the beginning of the Collor
’s government
in 1990, which explains
period in office
was excluded from the statistics.
: National Conferences: distribution according to government
and historical records
would indicate an av
erage of 10 national policy conferences
per year since Lula took office, but as I have mentioned in the beginning of this section the sample
analyzed here only consider those conferences that are deliberative, normative, and national in the
throughout this paper.
Collor
2,5% (2)
Itamar
7,5% (6)
FHC
21.3% (17)
National Conferences: distribution according to
government
23
the 80
national policy
government. This means that
during 21 years occurred within a 7 year period,
Fernando Henrique
Cardoso government 17 conferences took place, that is, 21.3% of the total, averaging slightly
, with 6 conferences
, comprising 7.5% of the total, followed by the
during his 2 year and 9
erences organized
in Brazil from 1988 to 2009. One observes that, for as much as conferences entered a new
phase of institutionalization in the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government, it was not until
ame more significant, thus becoming
fully institutionalized and incorporated into the Brazilian political agenda. No conferences
in 1990, which explains
erage of 10 national policy conferences
per year since Lula took office, but as I have mentioned in the beginning of this section the sample
analyzed here only consider those conferences that are deliberative, normative, and national in the
24
Furthermore, the pattern of distribution of the national conferences according to
governments attributes greater meaningfulness to the classification of policy area sets when
the quantity of issues dealt with is analyzed. Table 3, below, reveals that of the 33 policy issues
that were object of national conferences in the last 21 years, 32 of them, that is, 97%, were
considered during Lula’s government. The only issue not dealt with during this government up
to 2009 was ‘mental health’, which had previously been the object of two conferences, one in
1999 and the other one in 2001.
5
However, looking at the policy guidelines that resulted from
the national policy conferences one can realize that mental health was approached by several
other national conferences held from 2003 to 2009, as in the case of the conferences of
‘medication and pharmaceutical care’ (2003), ‘human rights’ (2003), ‘workers health’ (2005),
‘rights of people with disabilities’ (2006), and ‘gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, and
transvestites’ (2008). It can therefore be stated (and this is entirely true if one takes 2010 into
consideration) that Lula’s government approached the entire range of policy areas and issues
dealt with in the history of national policy conferences in Brazil.
Other Presidencies account for varying proportions of policy issues appreciated in
national conferences out of the remaining 33 which constitute the sample under analyzes. Two
issues were appreciated by the Fernando Collor government, each one in a separate national
conference, which corresponds to 6% of the total sample of issues. The Itamar Franco
government, on its turn, appreciated 6 issues in 6 separate conferences, thus accounting for
18.2% of the total amount of issues in the sample. The data shows that these two
governments, however, held national conferences that were almost exclusively dedicated to
issues within the “health” policy area set. The national conferences held during the two
presidential terms of Fernando Henrique Cardoso account for 7 issues, which make up for
21.2% of the sample. Of these 7 issues, 3 belong to the “health” policy area set, 1 to the
“minorities” policy area set, 1 to the “human rights” policy area set, 1 to the “State, economy,
and development” policy area set, and finally 1 to the “education, culture, social assistance,
and sports” policy area set. Table 3 below displays these data.
5
Although the sample under analyzes considers only the national policy conferences held until the end
of 2009, it is worth mentioning that the third national conference on mental health was held in 2010, in
the last year of Lula’s second mandate.
25
Table 3: National conferences distribution of policy issues by government
Presidency
Quantity of
Conferences
(%)
Quantity
of Issues
(%)
Policy Issues
Fernando Collor 2 (2,5%) 2 (6%) Health (1992)
Mental health (1992)
Itamar Franco 6 (7,5 %) 6 (18,2%)
Oral health (1993)
Indigenous health (1993)
Workers health (1994)
Management of labor and education in health (1994)
Science, technology, and innovation in health (1994)
Food and nutritional safety (1994)
Fernando Henrique
Cardoso 17 (21,3%) 7 (21,2%)
Social assistance (1995, 1997, 2001)
Rights of children and adolescents (1997, 1999, 2001)
Human rights (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001,2002)
Health (1996, 2000)
Indigenous health (2001)
Mental health (2001)
Food and nutritional safety (1994)
Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva
(até 2009)
55 (68,8%) 32 (97%)
Health (2003, 2008)
Oral health (2004)
Workers health (2006)
Health of indigenous peoples (2005)
Environmental health (2009)
Science, technology, and innovation in health (2004)
Management of labor and education in health (2006)
Medication and pharmaceutical care (2003)
Rights of the Elderly (2006, 2009)
Rights of people with disabilities (2006, 2008)
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals (2008)
Indigenous people (2006)
Public policies for women (2004, 2007)
Rights of children and adolescents (2003, 2005, 2007,2009)
Youth (2008)
Promotion of Racial Equality (2005, 2009)
Brazilian Communities Abroad (2008, 2009)
Environment (2003, 2005, 2008)
Solidary Economy (2006)
Aquaculture and fishing (2003, 2006, 2009)
Sustainable and solidary rural development (2008)
Food and nutritional safety (2004, 2007)
Cities (2003, 2005, 2007)
Public Security (2009)
Comunicação (2009)
Basic Education (2008)
Professional and Technological Education (2006)
Indigenous Education (2009)
Culture (2005)
Sports (2004, 2006)
Social Assistance (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009)
Human Rights (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008)
Total
80
3
3
26
The table above indicates that considering the 8 issues appreciated by national policy
conferences held during the governments of Fernando Collor (‘heath’ and ‘mental health’) and
Itamar Franco (‘oral health’, ‘indigenous health’, ‘workers health’, ‘management of education
and labor in health’, ‘science, technology and innovation in health’, and ‘food and nutritional
safety’), the Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s government makes up for only 3 policy issues
addressed (‘social assistance’, ‘children and youth rights’, and ‘human rights’). This means that
22 out of 33 policy issues appreciated by national conferences in 21 years were introduced
during the first 7 years of Lula’s government. Based on the previous classification of policy area
sets, it is possible to notice that almost all national policy conferences classified under
“minorities” (except for ‘children and youth rights’, “education, culture, social assistance and
sports” (except for ‘food and nutritional health’) and “environment” sets took place during
Lula’s government. As to the 8 policy issues which make up the “minorities” policy area set,
only one was appreciated by governments preceding Lula’s. With respect to the 8 policy issues
included in the health policy area set, 2 became the object of conferences for the first time
after 2003, despite the fact this is the area in which the first conferences have occurred.
It is worth underlying that, in the period preceding 1988, 12 national conferences were
held in Brazil, in which 5 issues were appreciated (‘health’, ‘oral health’, ‘workers health’,
‘indigenous health’ and ‘mental health’), all of which are part of the health policy area set. If
one is to consider the fact that, out of the 8 policy issues appreciated by the governments of
Fernando Collor de Mello and Itamar Franco, 5 had already been the object of national policy
conferences before 1988, Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s governments have in reality only
introduced 3 new policy issues to the entire range of 33 dealt with in national public policy
conferences in Brazil. Lula’s government was therefore responsible for introducing 66.7% of
the policy issues which have been object of national public policy conferences in Brazil,
considering its entire history, both before and after 1988. This data is conveyed by the graph 3
below. As discussed earlier in this paper, the policy innovation and group inclusion revealed by
such data derives from the close and strong relationship Lula’s government has been
maintaining with civil society over the years, allowing a considerable amount of professional
and workers associations, as well as NGOs and social movements, to have a set on the national
policy counsels and take an active part in the national public policy conferences.
27
Graph 3: National Conferences: distribution according to the introduction of new issues by
governments
Of the 22 new policy issues that began being addressed in national conferences in the
course of the first seven years of Lula’s presidency, the fact that 8 issues, that is 36.4% of the
total, is concerned with minority groups is rather remarkable. Those 8 policy issues are
distributed within 13 conferences, namely: the National Conference for the Promotion of
Racial Equality (2005 and 2009), the National Conference for the Rights of the Elderly (2006
and 2009), the National Conference for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transsexuals and
Transvestites (2008), the National Conference for the Indigenous (2006), the National
Conference for Women Public Policy (2004 and 2007) and the Conference for Brazilian
Communities Abroad (2008 and 2009).
This figure is particularly relevant considering some of the questions discussed in the
previous pages. Participative practices such as the national policy conferences are capable of
strengthening political representation. This is so because they establish the Executive,
responsible for summoning and organizing the national conferences, and the Legislative,
responsible for converting demands originating in the conferences into legislative proposals, as
spheres of representation not only for political minorities, but also for social and cultural
minorities – or, more to the point, minorities whose interests are eventually not directly taken
into account in party politics. The participative processes such as the national conferences are
considered privileged spaces in which those interests can be defined (assuming a less abstract
Pré-1988
15,2%
Collor
0,0%
Itamar
9,1%
FHC
9,1%
Lula
66,7%
Introduction of new issues by governments
28
and more concrete character in the form of specific sectoral policies demands) and thereafter
reach the Legislative through other channels, ultimately being able to reconfigure how political
parties mediate interests.
This piece of information also supports another claim made earlier: the national public
policy conferences have become not only broader and more frequent, but also more wide-
ranging and inclusive after 2003 with the beginning of the Lula’s government. Since then,
national conferences have comprised an increasing number of themes and have covered a vast
plurality of new issues for public policy design, several of them social and cultural policies
targeted at minorities. The contours of these policy areas are defined to a large extent by the
particular nature of the social groups contemplated by the national conferences and yet, at the
same time, exhibit features that cross-cut and cross over to different policy issues dealt with in
different conferences.
The policy guidelines presented in the national conferences under the “minority” policy
area set, aimed at responding to the demands of the women (in the national conference of
public policies for women), the indigenous people (in the conference for indigenous peoples),
the elderly (in the conferences for the rights of the elderly), the people with disabilities (in the
conferences for the rights of persons with disabilities), gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites
and transsexuals (in the conference named so), of children and youth (in the conference on
children and youth rights) of different races and ethnicities (in the conferences for the
promotion of racial equality), and of Brazilian communities abroad (in the conferences on
Brazilian communities abroad), necessarily touch other public policy areas, such as health,
education, social assistance and culture. Hence, starting in 2003, national policy conferences
have become not only more wider-ranging, but more inclusive as well, since, in addition to
including increasingly more diverse and heterogeneous social groups traditionally represented
by civil society (distributed among NGOs, social movements, worker unions, business entities
and other professional or non-professional entities), they have began functioning as spaces in
which social and cultural minorities can represent their hitherto fragmented and scattered
interests which had not been channeled into other forms of political participation and
representation.
When bringing under closer analysis the policy guidelines which are produced at the
end of deliberation procedures in national public policy conferences, it is possible to notice
how these participative institutions in fact present themselves as spaces which favor the
formulation of legislative expectations for the social and cultural minorities. The policy area set
classified as “minorities”, which comprises, as demonstrated earlier, 9 issues which are further
subdivided into 20 conferences (17 of them on 8 issues, taking place after 2003), responds
29
alone for 18% of policy guidelines which claimed for incisive legislative intervention. This
number is quite significant for at least two reasons.
First, because those groups have become during the same period being analyzed the
objects of new secretariats and national councils created with the goal of bringing them closer
to the government and designing public policies according to their interests and demands. This
is the case, for example, of the Special Secretariat for Public Policies for Women and the
Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality, which have been very active alongside
national policy councils dedicated to these same issues. One can thus assume that the
demands of those groups have been highly contemplated by specific administrative measures,
which actually seem naturally more suited to the task of designing specific social and cultural
policies. It is thus it significant that there is a large amount of minorities groups’ demands still
requiring legislative activity – in other words, a large amount of demands requiring equal
treatment, a strong indication that there is a persistent need in Brazil to formally include those
groups.
Second, the demands of those minority cultural and social groups are often and by
nature rather particular and require actions that are somewhat more sector-specific. This is
another reason which would explain the need to contemplate these demands through
administrative, and not legislative, measures. The fact that the number of policy guidelines
classified as part of the “minorities” policy area set is almost as large as those relative to the
“health” one indicates a tendency towards the dissemination of the demands presented by
minority groups. Health is certainly one of the areas which, given the universal nature of
policies in this area, requires its demands to be appreciated in the legislative sphere. This
explains why a larger number of policy guidelines have been identified for this policy area set,
reaching 21% of the total. This, although the “minority” and “health” policy area sets account
for the same number of issues (9) and conferences (20), the distinct nature of the policies
involved explains why the number of policy guidelines presented by the first group is
significantly greater. The graph 4 below presents this data.
Graph 4: Distribution of
policy
The precise role both State and civil society have been playing in the national policy
conferences’
institutionalization has been shaped throughout the process, and it is
permanently open to redefinitions. Even though all conferences are summoned to convene by
a normative act issued by the Executive branch, some of them clearly result from civil society’
demands which are almost always promptly responded
result from conjoint deliberations of
national policy counsels. This cooperative undertake is ultimately what defines which policy
areas and issues will be prioritized, and
programs to be implemented in
Such coop
eration among State and civil society, representative institutions and
participatory practices, presents
governance, one
in which social ends might be successfully realized through democratic
experimental means.
By bringing civil society
conferences
shall be taken as both a form of deepening
policymaking; and not as
signs of neither centralization or leftist
populism.
The national level pract
where the germination of participation can lead to the blossoming of representation. Let the
contingency of contemporary world tell u
decisively challenged by
such
teaching us lessons on that.
15,8%
9,2%
26,7%
Distribution of guidelines according to thematic group
policy
guidelines according to policy area sets
The precise role both State and civil society have been playing in the national policy
institutionalization has been shaped throughout the process, and it is
permanently open to redefinitions. Even though all conferences are summoned to convene by
a normative act issued by the Executive branch, some of them clearly result from civil society’
demands which are almost always promptly responded
by the government
result from conjoint deliberations of
the latter and of civil society’s
representatives in the
national policy counsels. This cooperative undertake is ultimately what defines which policy
areas and issues will be prioritized, and
will
thus become object of the national plans and
programs to be implemented in
Brazil.
eration among State and civil society, representative institutions and
participatory practices, presents
the national policy conferences as a democratic method of
in which social ends might be successfully realized through democratic
By bringing civil society
within
the State, the national public policy
shall be taken as both a form of deepening
democracy and democratizing
signs of neither centralization or leftist
-
authoritarianism,
The national level pract
ices of participation in Brazil seem to
be
where the germination of participation can lead to the blossoming of representation. Let the
contingency of contemporary world tell u
s how liberal democracy can
be definitely and
such
experimental way of doing politics. And let Brazilian reality keeps
21%
18%
9,2%
Distribution of guidelines according to thematic group
Health
Minorities
Environment
State, Economy, and
Development
Education, Culture, Social
Service, and Sports
Human Rights
30
The precise role both State and civil society have been playing in the national policy
institutionalization has been shaped throughout the process, and it is
permanently open to redefinitions. Even though all conferences are summoned to convene by
a normative act issued by the Executive branch, some of them clearly result from civil society’
s
by the government
, and some other
representatives in the
national policy counsels. This cooperative undertake is ultimately what defines which policy
thus become object of the national plans and
eration among State and civil society, representative institutions and
the national policy conferences as a democratic method of
in which social ends might be successfully realized through democratic
the State, the national public policy
democracy and democratizing
authoritarianism,
nor even
be
a very fertile soil
where the germination of participation can lead to the blossoming of representation. Let the
be definitely and
experimental way of doing politics. And let Brazilian reality keeps
Distribution of guidelines according to thematic group
Minorities
Environment
State, Economy, and
Development
Education, Culture, Social
Service, and Sports
Human Rights
31
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CASTIGLIONE, Dario e WARREN, Mark. (2006). “Rethinking Democratic Representation: Eight
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DEWEY, John. (1937) [1998]. “Democracy is Radical”. In: The Essential Dewey. Volume I:
Pragmatism, Education, Democracy. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
MANIN, Bernard. (1996). Principes du Gouvernement Représentatif. Paris: Calmann-Levy.
MANSBRIDGE, Jane. (2003). “Rethinking Representation”. In: American Political Science
Review, vol. 97, n.4.
POGREBINSCHI, Thamy. (2008). Democracia Pragmática: pressupostos de uma teoria
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Representação: as conferências nacionais e o experimentalismo democrático brasileiro”.
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Sociais, Volume 53, número 3.
__________________. and SANTOS, Fabiano. (2010). Participation as Representation: The
Impact of National Public Policy Conferences on the Brazilian Congress (2010). APSA 2010
Annual Meeting Paper.
URBINATI, Nadia. (2006). Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy. Chicago:
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... The material that follows relies on Pogrebinschi (2010a),Pogrebinschi (2010b),Pogrebinschi and Santos (2010), Santos (2011), Pogrebinschi (2012a) andPogrebinschi (2012b). ...
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2%) Oral health (1993) Indigenous health (1993) Workers health (1994) Management of labor and education in health
Itamar Franco 6 (7,5 %) 6 (18,2%) Oral health (1993) Indigenous health (1993) Workers health (1994) Management of labor and education in health (1994) Science, technology, and innovation in health (1994) Food and nutritional safety (1994)
) Rights of children and adolescents Human rights
Fernando Henrique Cardoso 17 (21,3%) 7 (21,2%) Social assistance (1995, 1997, 2001) Rights of children and adolescents (1997, 1999, 2001) Human rights (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001,2002) Health (1996, 2000) Indigenous health (2001) Mental health (2001) Food and nutritional safety (1994)
Oral health Workers health (2006) Health of indigenous peoples Environmental health (2009) Science, technology, and innovation in health (2004) Management of labor and education in health
  • Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (até 2009) 55 (68,8%) 32 (97%) Health (2003, 2008) Oral health (2004) Workers health (2006) Health of indigenous peoples (2005) Environmental health (2009) Science, technology, and innovation in health (2004) Management of labor and education in health (2006) Medication and pharmaceutical care (2003) Rights of the Elderly (2006, 2009) Rights of people with disabilities (2006, 2008)
Indigenous people Public policies for women Promotion of Racial Equality) Sustainable and solidary rural development (2008) Food and nutritional safety
  • Gays
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals (2008) Indigenous people (2006) Public policies for women (2004, 2007) Rights of children and adolescents (2003, 2005, 2007,2009) Youth (2008) Promotion of Racial Equality (2005, 2009) Brazilian Communities Abroad (2008, 2009) Environment (2003, 2005, 2008) Solidary Economy (2006) Aquaculture and fishing (2003, 2006, 2009) Sustainable and solidary rural development (2008) Food and nutritional safety (2004, 2007) Cities (2003, 2005, 2007) Public Security (2009) Comunicação (2009) Basic Education (2008) Professional and Technological Education (2006) Indigenous Education (2009) Culture (2005) Sports (2004, 2006) Social Assistance (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) Human Rights (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008) Total 80 33
Relatório Final da Pesquisa
_________________. (2010a). Relatório Final da Pesquisa " Entre Participação e