During this year, we have been involved in working on an application for funding for an anti-corruption project that will be implemented in north-eastern Brazil. As some of you have seen, the application was granted and the project will be able to be implemented for three years from the beginning of next year! We are so excited about this, and see that this is one of the most important things we will be working on during our time here.
Here we will explain a little about corruption in Brazil and how the project will work to fight corruption. For us it is both obvious and important to work for the children and to strengthen their rights.
WHAT IS CORRUPTION?
Corruption is when you abuse your power or resources for your own gain. This could mean, for example, abusing trusts or assignments, and can also lead to financial benefits.
WHAT CAUSES CORRUPTION?
The root of the corruption problem in Brazil was laid already during colonial times when the country was ruled by a small elite, and where the lack of punishment, (or even risk of detection) for that elite was evident. The level of corruption in Brazil is a difficult phenomenon to explain, but there are two important aspects: a lack of strong authorities/institutions and a culture in which corruption is tolerated. Corruption in Brazil is cultural, it does not mean that it is culturally accepted to practice corruption, but to tolerate it. Brazilians are not trained to confront errors, in both small and large contexts. Small acts of corruption are tolerated because of social embarrassment, it is shameful to confront someone who is doing wrong. Gross corruption, for its part, is tolerated because it is believed that there is no way of fighting it. Because of this culture of tolerance, Brazil's control institutions (e.g. systems of audit and financial control in municipalities) are weak, in a way they depend on the principles and values embedded in popular culture.
HOW DOES CORRUPTION AFFECT?
Corruption is contrary to Brazilian law and affects the Brazilian population, directly and indirectly. A common consequence is that fewer resources are spent on health, education, infrastructure, safety and housing. It also increases social and economic inequalities. It particularly affects those children who, because of corruption, do not have access to what they are entitled to (their rights). The Brazilian Children's and Youth Act states that it is the duty of the family, society and the government to ensure children's rights in terms of life, health and food, etc.'. One of the many ways to ensure this right is to ensure that children have the possibility to eat food at their school (school lunch). Because of corruption, many children miss out on the healthy meals they could have had at their school. Instead, they get something cheap, energy-poor and perhaps even unhealthy, and the official who is responsible for purchasing the food puts the money his own pocket. In the long run, this can affect both children's physical development but also their confidence in society at large. Because of corruption, resources that would be used to guarantee children's rights will not benefit them. According to federal prosecutor Paulo Roberto Galvão, who worked on Operation Lava Jato in 2017, Brazil loses about R$ 200 billion (40 billion USD) annually due to corruption! That's a huge amount! This, of course, has consequences for the people of the country, and especially for children.
THE ANTI-CORRUPTION PROJECT
Children's rights in a country can be strengthened in several ways. One is to legislate so that the laws strengthen children's rights; the other is to invest in public policy for children, so that their rights are guaranteed, so that they, for example, receive good quality education and access to health care. Today Brazil has a pretty good children's law – the so-called ECA (Brazilian children and youth law). Unfortunately, the policy and the authorities fail in two ways, on the one hand they allocate too little resources for areas concerning children, and on the other hand corruption causes resources intended for children to "disappear", which means that children do not have access to what they are entitled to by law.
FEPAS has together with EFK developed a project to combat corruption where it is most widespread, in northeastern Brazil. For three years, groups in seven different cities will be equipped with tools and fight corruption at different levels in society.
In this project, we will work together with FEPAS, involving citizens in the fight against corruption. We are convinced that everyone can have a role and make their contribution: children, teenagers, adolescents and adults. They are all victims of the consequences of corruption, but at the same time they all have the possibility to be involved in changing and influencing.
The project is based on three areas. The first is to engage and strengthen churches so that they can carry out advocacy and control of government actions. They can also promote a culture of openness in their community and thus be role models in the fight against corruption.
The second area is to influence children's and youth policy. The project will challenge the Cilvil community to monitor and control public policy, something civil society has the right to do under the Brazilian political and democratic system.
The third area is to equip children and young people in the social projects linked to FEPAS and in the schools of the seven cities the project will be implemented in, to monitor public services that affect their daily lives. The project aims to strengthen this generation of children and young people by equipping them with tools to influence and change the perception of corruption, and to pass on a new approach to corruption to the next generation.
I, (Anna), have lived in Brazil before, and seen with my own eyes how extremely vulnerable many children are, and how the corruption and injustices that come with it, affect children's lives. For us, it is obvious to work for the children. Because God loves the children. To now be part of and see how we can begin to work from the bottom up and not only with its consequences, feels both important and encouraging and something that really is on God's heart!
In the coming years we will share with you how things are going with the different parts of the project. We look forward to an exciting work against corruption in Brazil.