Establishment and functioning of the Economic and Social Development Council (CDES - Brazil)
Economic and Social Development Council

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Since re-democratization in the 1980s, demand for transparency and accountability in public policy-making has been on the rise in Brazil, with calls for initiatives linking public institutions to social actors and movements at all levels of government. The Brazilian government has advanced significantly in creating institutionalized forums for social participation and dialogue, with the promotion of national conferences that gather society in local, state and federal levels. Sectorial chambers have been created, connecting key players. All those initiatives present the public sector with innovative solutions to major problems, bringing high level inputs to the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies. Despite such progresses in promoting participation, those government-led channels were limited to specific thematic agendas, involving specialized actors from both the public administration and society. They presented a circumscribed mandate, and were linked to a specific public institution that could be either dedicated to health, education, food and nutrition, culture, human rights or other sector agendas. The country was still lacking a forum with a more comprehensive scope on economic and social development, composed of a more diverse mix of high level councilors, coming from different segments of the business, labor and social realms. Furthermore, the Brazilian government lacked an institutionalized locus based in the center of the Executive Branch for discussing paths for development with civil society. Economic and social councils (ESCs) and similar institutions were created in many countries in the past century. More than 60 nations, in all continents, have established and empowered such forums, which gather prestigious social and government actors to debate strategic agendas and deliver recommendations to high level public officials. France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands and many others in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas created national and subnational economic and social councils which inspired the Brazilian government to launch its own, the Economic and Social Development Council (CDES).

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The establishment of CDES in 2003, by Law 10.683, has enormously contributed to strengthen dialogue among leading actors in society and government on the paths for the country´s development. CDES is one of the most significant contemporary instruments of social participation in Brazil and it was created as a collegial body made up of around 90 representatives from civil society. Its tasks include direct assistance to the President of the Republic in all areas of activities involving the Federal Executive Branch - a characteristic that distinguishes it from other councils in the government.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Recommendations presented by the CDES can impact the lives of millions of Brazilian citizens when adopted by government. CDES members can advise the President on the creation of specific policies and governmental programs, evaluate existing public policies and propose structural and economic reforms as well as actions that contribute to the nation´s social development. Through dialogue, the Council seeks to encompass different visions and build consensus around Brazil’s development. The Brazilian President chooses the members of CDES according to their professional career, capacity to influence public opinion and willingness in making relevant contributions to Brazil's development agenda. Council members include researchers, entrepreneurs, labor union leaders, artists and other professionals from a variety of fields and who place their experience and public spirit at the service of the country. They constitute a qualified forum for the discussion of public policies and the proposition of measures that stimulate economic growth, development and social equity. The diversity of CDES members drives the social dialogue by conveying various types of information and points of view. This wealth of perspectives, coupled with the shared purpose of reflecting on the development of the country, helps the Council overcome differences and build consensus that leads to improvements on the social and economic conditions of the Brazilian people. Dialogue between councilors and the President usually takes place in plenary meetings, where all members of the Council are present. Since its creation 14 years ago, 46 plenary sessions coordinated by the President of the Republic were held in the nation´s capital, gathering councilors and governmental representatives such as ministers and heads of other major national public agencies. But there are also other opportunities, such as in working groups, for councilors to debate proposals that will be taken to the President. These working groups are composed of councilors with knowledge or interest in a specific topic, and they gather between plenary meetings. The CDES also organizes workshops, seminars and other dialogue opportunities.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
While European, African and Asian nations had already Councils producing qualified analysis and recommendations or opinions to government, Brazil created its own in 2003. It was the first national Council of such model in South America, a region currently with many other municipal and state level ESCs. In Brazil, around 30 councils inspired by CDES were created by city mayors and state governors after 2003. Such efforts demonstrate the acceptance of the innovative dialogue method promoted by CDES. Furthermore, Brazil was invited several times by Latin American nations to present its experience in establishing such unique forum within the Presidency. Besides presenting recommendations to government, CDES is also seen as a creative forum where distinct interests are debated, and where potential conflicts can be processed. By seeking consensus on various agendas at CDES, government gains legitimacy in public-policy decisions, bringing allies and consequently favoring the implementation of governmental actions. Such characteristics make CDES a unique institution in the Brazilian government. Its broad and plural composition is innovative in public service and allows a systemic view on the issues at hand. This feature expresses the understanding that development involves multiple and necessary aspects such as economic, social, political, cultural, and environmental.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Due to the broader scope of CDES mission, the whole society could be affected by an adopted recommendation. Size of population affected can vary according to the very nature of a specific recommendation. Recommendations produced can be implemented by one or more governmental agencies. A recommendation on primary education, for instance, is usually forwarded for analysis by the Ministry of Education. Public officials are often invited to follow up and even interact with councilors during the design and consensus building process. Certain recommendations can demand, for implementation purposes, coordination between different public institutions. In such situations, the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Presidency is often called to mediate and coordinate such process. The CDES Steering Committee plays a relevant role in both planning and implementing the Council´s agenda. This Committee acts as representative for the group of councilors, and it is composed of five members elected among their peers. This smaller and more dynamic group facilitates frequent and direct dialogue between councilors and the President, including at the intervals between plenary meetings. Members of the Steering Committee must interact with other councilors, conveying their concerns and proposals to the government, and vice versa. In addition, the Committee contributes to the organization of the Council's work by proposing guidelines for activities and recommending the creation of working groups and evaluating the work plan. CDES Secretariat (Sedes) is linked to the Office of the Chief of Staff. It is a technical structure composed of around 30 public servants, responsible for implementing CDES agenda and also providing organizational support. It plays an important role in coordinating the debates, analyses and proposals designed by councilors. Sedes is headed by a Secretary designated by the Minister of the Office of the Chief of Staff, who also serves as CDES Executive Secretary.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
In its 14 years, the CDES has mobilized various and different actors and has adopted different strategies to reach its distinct objectives. What links all the strategies is dialogue as a method for building consensus. In order to accomplish its mission, CDES Secretariat provides human, financial and technical assistance to make it possible to gather councilors and specialists in debates and the various Council´s activities. CDES annual activities are financed from a public budget submitted by the Government and approved by Congress. Besides the plenary sessions and the working groups, it is part of the CDES strategy the organization of seminars, colloquiums, roundtables and other national and international activities. They provide data, information and analyses useful to expand the dialogue involving governmental bodies, universities and research institutions, social organizations and ESCs from other countries. Activities can involve councilors and government only or, occasionally, other civil society partners, as illustrated below. In 2011, previous to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20, the CDES mobilized its councilors and launched an interinstitutional dialogue with 76 partners to discuss a joint Brazilian civil society proposal on sustainable development. The strategy included various meetings and debates with high level authorities and experts on the subject, and the final result of such effort was named Agreement for Sustainable Development: Contributions to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20. In 2016, with the deepening of the economic crisis in the country, the President demanded the newly recomposed CDES an agenda and proposals that could favor the regaining of growth. The President and councilors have decided then to establish 5 working groups within CDES on the following themes: business environment, primary education, agribusiness, productivity and competitiveness, and bureaucracy reduction and modernization of the State. These working groups gathered and, after intense debate, produced 15 recommendations to be presented to the President in the upcoming CDES plenary session. At this time, the strategy used to favor implementation of such recommendations was to engage government authorities since the beginning of working group debates, bringing their perspectives into consideration by inviting them to comment draft CDES recommendations. CDES’ strategy involves, therefore, the design and dissemination of its dialogue products, including motions and recommendations to the President. Considering it has a consultative role rather than a deliberative one within public administration, implementation of recommendations depends on the endorsement of governmental institutions, and is subject to the decision of the President. Many of those recommendations are incorporated to the suite of public policies. CDES, therefore, is not responsible for implementing sectorial governmental programs and actions, but documents produced are to be taken into account by public authorities. The dialogue products by CDES are valuable resources in the formulation, implementation and monitoring / evaluation phases of the public policy-making process.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
CDES was established in 2003 in the beginning of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term. At that time, similar experiences abroad were observed in order to design a council which would suite the characteristics of the Brazilian public administration as well as complement the political agenda of the government. Many high level authorities and policy-makers contributed to both the design and implementation of CDES, created originally as a Special Secretariat with the status of a Ministry. Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer were key stakeholders and had not only continued the work of the Council but increased its composition from civil society. Another key stakeholder is the CDES Executive Secretary, the Minister of the Office of the Chief of Staff. Without the active engagement and political effort of the Executive Secretary, the Council would most probably not gain the necessary support to continue its mission and work. The Secretary for CDES Secretariat (Sedes) is also a key player in the implementation of the working plan, the coordination of actions and the agenda of activities. Many Brazilian public institutions are key actors and partners in the debates promoted and actions taken, including the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) and the National School of Public Administration (ENAP). Moreover, the councilors themselves are seen as the main stakeholders, the agenda decision-makers. They bring not only their personal expertise, but also an institutional representation from a variety of segments as business associations, labor unions, environmental organizations, universities and non-governmental organizations. The councilors present the demands and, through the Steering Committee or directly to the President, to the Executive Secretary or to the Sedes Secretary, come up with suggestions, advices or legitimate demands in order to enrich the Council´s agenda.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
As mentioned in a previous answer, in March of 2017 conclusions of five CDES working groups will be delivered to the President. Fifteen recommendations are to be presented on the following themes: business environment, primary education, agribusiness, productivity and competitiveness and bureaucracy reduction and modernization of the State. Besides these current outputs, with partial implementation by government soon to be announced, various debates promoted by CDES since its establishment produced concrete results and strategic documents synthesizing the views of civil society: The National Development Agenda was consolidated in 2004 after intense discussions and 18 months of work, counting on various contributions from nearly 50 members in a working group named “Strategic bases for development”. The document was approved on a consensual basis by the CDES plenary meeting of August 2005. In 2006, the Strategic Statements for Development was announced by CDES with guidelines meant to offer a basis for a strategic long-term development plan. It included 24 consensual statements on political reform; social policies; monetary policies; fiscal reform; science, technology and innovation; infrastructure; industrial policies; land reform; public safety; among others. The Agenda for the New Development Cycle was concluded in 2009 and refers to opportunities for carrying out the changes needed for a sustainable economic and social growth process in Brazil. From this perspective, the CDES councilors identified two fundamental strategies for the Brazilian development: i) consolidate a balanced employment and income expansion process, strengthening the internal market and creating incentives to sustainable production, consumption, distribution and expansion of investments to create innovation; and ii) further insert the country into the international economy. The Agreement for Sustainable Development: Contributions to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, delivered in 2012, is one of the main documents produced by the CDES and 76 invited partners. It is a result of civil society’s willingness to participate in the Conference, and to produce a joint proposal as a contribution to the Brazilian government.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
In almost a decade and a half of functioning as an advisory body to different Presidents and under the leadership of various Executive Secretaries, the CDES has experienced several institutional changes and difficulties in implementing its agenda. Immediately after launched, doubts emerged concerning the role CDES would play as a civil society channel for participation in public policy-making and for the delivery of proposals to government. The recently created CDES, the first of its kind in Brazil, was falsely seen as a forum that would somehow hinder the role of Congress. Distrust rapidly ceased, and the Council turned well accepted as an innovative dialogue forum on economic and social development. Some obstacles, however, had to be overcome since 2003 with regard to institutional change, leadership and team replacements that impacted the continuation of certain actions and debates. Successive political and economic crises have also impacted the work by the Council. The presidential agenda at times did not entirely support the work proposal designed for CDES. Detachment from the presidential priorities limited some of the ongoing work. Nonetheless, the solid understanding of the importance of this diverse and representative forum to gather support and legitimacy to government action increasingly raised trust on the Council, minimizing impacts of the mentioned obstacles.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Firstly, it is important to mention that measuring effectiveness of Economic and Social Councils (ESCs) and similar dialogue institutions is a very complex task. The dialogue product is not easily measurable because it does not offer always a tangible or immediate result. Adding to this understanding is the fact that councils such as CDES are advisory forums only, and do not implement public programs and actions. The promotion of dialogue itself is a Brazilian government policy guideline. Like CDES, there are various other civil society dialogue channels in the Brazilian public administration that, besides specificities and sectorial purposes, contribute to place citizens nearer the government. Having said that, it is relevant to approach other perspectives that help us understanding the significance CDES has gained since 2003. The Council has always drawn attention of media and raised high expectations. Because the President heads the plenary sessions, which are almost always enriched by speeches of State Ministers, media keeps focus on possible policy announcements, especially when urgent economic measures are expected or long-term or structural reforms are in the public agenda. They could immediately impact the lives of people and business activities. In this context, and as mentioned already, in February 2017 councilors concluded 15 recommendations to the President which can impact people if implemented. For instance, the purpose of one of such recommendations is to implement a program of bureaucracy reduction and digital government including the launch of a civilian identity registry and the creation of online service portals for citizens and businesses. Another recommendation recently adopted deals with primary education and social inclusion, specifically digital inclusion that would benefit the poorest and more vulnerable: to ensure the implementation of connectivity infrastructure through open WiFi and broadband internet in the classrooms, complemented by the development of a digital culture, including: skills, content, tools and platforms, for students’ capacity building. Another CDES initiative that also intended to benefit the poorest and more vulnerable is the Equity Observatory. Established in 2006, its goals were mobilizing councilors and other social and governmental actors to produce and make knowledge available on the dimensions of development, focusing on social inequalities. Based on the analyses and information, the Observatory follows up on the social results of the implementation of public policies, and, through its indicators, demonstrates the problems that affect the lives of the Brazilians and lead to inequalities.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Although CDES was not specifically designed to this purpose, its activities have fostered accountability, contributing to promote the prevention of and the fight against corruption. Since its inauguration, the institutional arrangement of CDES has allowed an intense participation of civil society through its representatives, and an extensive oversight of governmental activities. This open access to government, a feature of the Council, has served as a two-way communication tool that provides citizens a voice in public policy making, but also enables members, who come from multiple sectors of society, to learn the way bureaucracy operates. On the other hand, the open public dialogue of government authorities with members of social groups, citizens’ and businesses’ associations denotes the consultative feature of the Council, allowing an enhancement in the relationship between society, state authorities and the civil service, improving trust in the public sector. The work of the Council has also benefited from a great effort of the Brazilian government in raising the standards of transparency. Being an integral part of the government, the Council´s Secretariat (Sedes) follows its guidelines and maintains online tools that provide access to information on all of CDES activities, profiles of members, main documents produced by counselors and the appropriate legislation. Moreover, since its creation, but especially in its more recent composition since 2016, CDES has dramatically increased its presence in social medias, establishing permanent channels of dialogue with citizens and improving integrity in the public service.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The Council, which is steered by the government but composed of different representatives of civil society, has acted with freedom to comment on different issues and, more often than not, demonstrated criticism to policies that did not sufficiently focus on especial groups and on the most vulnerable of the Brazilian population. Analyzing the outcomes of the Council along its experience, one can observe a special attention to the production of recommendations that attempt to strike a balance between economic and social development in Brazil. Even in successive periods of activities, going through different governments and member compositions, it is possible to note that women and the poorest have regularly been the target of the CDES propositions. For instance, in 2005, CDES coordinated, together with the Women´s Policies Secretariat, the Racial Equity Policies Secretariat and the Labor and Employment Ministry, a dialogue focused on mobilizing social actors for building local gender and race policies. It is important to note that the current CDES female participation has increased almost 70% in comparison to the previous 2016 composition. Women´s view and perspective on development have therefore been strengthened.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Economic and Social Development Council
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Patricia Costa
Title:   Deputy Secretary  
Telephone/ Fax:   +556134112199
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Palacio do Planalto - Anexo I - Sala 202
Postal Code:   70150900
City:   Brasilia
State/Province:   Distrito Federal

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