Visioning Brasil 2020, October 2003

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© Hazel Henderson, October 2003
(word count 1,052)

by Hazel Henderson, author
evolutionary economist

Brasil’s leadership in forming the Group of 21 (now 22) developing nations opened a new era in world trade at the Cancun WTO meeting.   No longer will narrowly-calculated trade rules and negotiations trump fairness and higher human values and goals.  Brasil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da (Silva) has emerged as a world leader in alternative paths toward sustainable economies.  Also articulated at Cancun by Ricardo Young (Silva) of the Instituto Ethos de Empresas e Responsabilidade Social, was a new model of socially-responsible business management.  He called for these higher standards of social and economic performance to be incorporated, along with full cost prices and life-cycle costing into WTO rules and accounting practices.

The new indicators of sustainable human development and quality-of-life call into question the traditional GNP-growth model.  The social costs, waste and ecological destruction of this obsolete model are now self-evident. The first international conference of world-class statistical experts on these expanded national accounts, ICONS, will convene with Brasil’s leaders in these new statistics of sustainability in Curitiba, October 26-29, The United Nations Human Development Map shows that from 1991-2000 quality of life has increased in most Brasilian cities.

The obsolete neoliberal model applied to world trade, also drove World Bank advice, which led developing countries to focus on short-term export-led growth – and resulted in many of today’s glutted markets in commodities: from coffee to computer chips.  Such short-term strategies, often with tax-holidays, export platforms and reliance on cheap labor, minimum regulations and all the other Washington Consensus policies have led to today’s global “race to the bottom.”

The new Group of 22 has opened the door to a necessary struggle between powerful countries, corporations and financial interests versus more numerous, weaker developing countries, corporations, smaller and medium-sized enterprises, labor unions and civil society worldwide.  These new global dynamics will be driven by electronic networks and mass media and the world’s newest superpower: global public opinion.  Brasil led in founding the World Social Forum of alternative global thinking to rival the Davos-based World Economic Forum.

The WTO has been weakened, the IMF discredited as too aligned with global creditors and banks and the World Bank is still in the messy process of trying to change its paradigms. Awareness is growing about how the neoliberal world trade paradigm increases the power and wealth of powerful countries and corporations.  Regional integration strategies, including MERCOSUR become more attractive to developing countries – including eventually, a common currency to increase Latin-American trade – independent of US dollar, euro and sterling reserves.

Such strategies could advance entrepreneurship, new businesses based on local currency loans and venture capital for more robust, homegrown consumer-driven economies.  Leaders envisioned Brasil’s future in a recent 2-day retreat in Belo Horizonte of the Economic and Social Council, chaired by Federal Minister Tarso Genro. The some 200 participants from business, labor and civil society developed scenarios around the shared goal of sustainable development:  “VISION BRASIL 2020” looking back from the year 2020:

We are a nation of 210 million people reigned by peace and wide access to work. In the last 16 years we have presented significant improvements in  income distribution, the rich and poor gap, in balanced geographical occupation and access to education, culture and health.

We are a nation without misery in which education is a priority. A country in which there is a high life expectancy, oriented by sustainable development. We are a country which is able to develop widely accessible technologies.  We are a nation with more safety, more justice and with an increasing feeling of social responsibility.

Today, our human relations are based onrespect of the elderly and children; we have more time with our families, we are guided by confidence and ethics in our commitments. Equal opportunities are provided and we are recognized in the world by our culture of peace, as a country that has taken a leadership role in the Latin American continent, due to solidarity, full and sovereign international integration.

We are the biggest  world production of food, based on a sustainable agriculture that conciliates different forms of production organization. There are no land conflicts. 20 to 30 million people live in “rural towns” producing with more added value.

We utilize our environment assets with preserving actions. Alternative energies are applied. Our cities are clean, non polliuted, with more green spaces accessble to the whole population.  Science & Technology research efforts interrelate the private and the public sectors. Small businesses have assured access to the most advanced technologies.

Our participatory and collaborative culture has favored innovation and competitiviness of our products, as well as a Brasilian management style. Every Brasilian is a citizen. The public interest prevails over private interests. The State is controlled by society. Political representation is legitimate and the public administration is guided by morality and effectiveness.

  • The participants also articulated the goals and values behind the vision, including:
  • Education as value: priority in the government budget
  • Commitment with a healthy, joyful, happy life
  • Democracy, solidarity, national unity, effective participation of citizens
  • Self-esteem and pride in being Brasilian
  • Miscigenation, large ethnical and cultural diversity and ability to live with differences
  • Creativity, flexibility and intelligence
  • Entrepreneurship, assurance of opportunities, cooperative, compromises and solidarity spirit

The challenges included:

  • Paradigm shifts in the economy
  • Full employment policies and incentives to micro and small business
  • Political, agriculture, administrative, judicial, labor and tax reforms
  • Eradication of child and slave labor and illiteracy
  • Rational  utilization of natural resources
  • Development of citizenship and fight against corruption
  • Dissemination of good news to the whole society, by reducing the dark side of the media
  • Acceptance and assumption that Brasilian act with their hearts
  • Incentive to youth to embrace public missions

I would add challenges to reduce interest rates (over 20%) and greed of banks – with  large profits and excessive lending spreads on personal loans.  More effective ways of curbing inflation include raising bank reserve requirements and margins for stock purchase, and mandating more community credit unions to compete with banks.  Many of the necessary policies to create this prosperous, globally-competitive, educated, equitable, healthy Brasil – leading the world in international cooperation and peaceful sustainable development – require paradigm shifts now widely-acknowledged. Brasil’s influence in global affairs is growing.  Brasil should become a permanent member of an enlarged United Nations Security Council.


Hazel Henderson, author of Beyond Globalization and other books, is partner with the Calvert Group of socially responsible mutual funds in the USA in creating the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators (updates at She participated in the Brasil 2020 conference.