Brazil, September 15th, 2022 – With Brazil’s review approaching in the 4th Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) promoted a series of meetings, in July and August, along with civil society organizations that work on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation in Brazil, including Embassies in Brasília and their respective Permanent Missions, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism developed by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to assess the human rights situation in each of the UN member countries.
The meetings in Geneva took place between August 29 and September 2, and the following organizations participated: Grupo Conexão G de Cidadania LGBT de Favelas (RJ), represented by the current Director General Gilmara Cunha, a trans woman, community leader, and activist of human rights; NGO Criola (RJ), with the presence of Mônica Sacramento, the Institution’s Project Coordinator; Marielle Franco Institute (RJ) with its Executive Director Anielle Franco; Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra, represented by Nilza Iraci, Coordinator of Political Incidence. On behalf of Race and Equality, the Executive Director, Carlos Quesada; David Veloso, Human Rights Consortium Coordinator; Gaia Hefti, Advocacy Officer in Geneva; and Leilane Reis, Race and Gender Officer of Brazil all took part in the meetings.
Due to the importance of demonstrating at the regional and international level the current framework of human rights violations in the country, in addition to seeking to raise awareness around the need for more targeted recommendations for the black population, LGBTI+, and indigenous peoples, this delegation has actively participated in human rights mechanisms by sending reports. The agenda in Geneva represented a continuity of the work of political incidence in Brasilia. There were five days of meetings focusing on the visibility of the current situation of racial discrimination in Brazil, leading to the Permanent Missions, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and Independent Experts’ specific recommendations on the subject.
On August 30, several Brazilian organizations were selected by the UN Human Rights Council to speak on the situation in the country during the pre-session of the UPR, and propose the recommendations to the Brazilian State, who was also present at the event, with its Permanent Mission. It should be noted that the Report of the Brazilian State for the evaluation of the IV cycle of the UPR was only published on the eve of the pre-session of the UPR, leaving civil society in the dark regarding what information was published. Representing the Brazilian delegation, Anielle Franco was invited by the organizer of the pre-sessions, the NGO UPR Info, to speak on the intersections of police brutality and racism in Brazil. The activist brought to light the recent massacres in Rio de Janeiro and the murder of the young black, pregnant woman, Kathlen Romeo.
“These are cases that indicate that the death of the black population in Brazil is a systemic issue, promoted by the Brazilian authorities and covered up by the police forces. Instead of investigating the massacres and discriminatory violence against the Afro-Brazilian population, the Brazilian government and police try to legitimize these police operations and attack Brazilian human rights organizations, such as the Marielle Franco Institute.”
On August 31, the International Day of People of African Descent, Race and Equality held a hybrid event entitled, “Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Violence against the Black Population and Indigenous Peoples.” The event was attended by the delegation present in Geneva and aimed to make the recommendations made by these organizations for the 4th cycle of the UPR visible to the general public, expanding beyond closed meetings with Embassies and Permanent Missions. In addition, the event was also an important tool of international political advocacy for the construction of networks and partnerships between Brazilian and international organizations.
The Brazilian delegation had the opportunity to take the recommendations to the Ambassador of Chile in Geneva, Claudia Fuentes Julio. They also met with the Embassies of Canada, Australia and Argentina, the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, France, Germany and Colombia, and with Gay McDougall, Rapporteur of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which is responsible for monitoring the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Faced with the current picture of violations presented, a review that will take place in November this year, charging the Brazilian State for covering up the racial issues in the country.
It is important to highlight that the delegation provided ample space for listening and dialogue in meetings with experts from UN treaty bodies, experts on afro-descendant peoples, and experts from the mechanism on police violence created by the UN in 2021. In addition, the Brazilian delegation was received by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) who is charging the Brazilian State for neglecting the well-being of the black, indigenous, and LGBTI+ populations.
International Incidence: The Paths to Geneva
The task of illuminating the ongoing human rights violations in the country for international mechanisms and their support is a major commitment for Race and Equality with civil society organizations in Brazil. For this, technical training work and support to these institutions are necessary so that their complaints and demands arrive instrumentalized to the Experts and Rapporteurs of each international body; this work is called advocacy and/ or political incidence. During the Race and Equality event in Geneva, the Executive Director, Carlos Quesada, stressed the importance of the daily construction of advocacy strategies in Brazil, “to train grassroots organizations to promote political actors through a technical training methodology so that these organizations can generate sustainable structural changes.”
Thus, in order for the Brazilian delegation to be received with its recommendations in Geneva, it was necessary to hold a meeting in Brasilia, with the Embassies of the countries that will review Brazil in the 4th cycle of the UPR, and the other Embassies present at the UPR Human Rights Council. The meetings in Brasilia took place from July 27 to July 29, and were attended by: Gilmara Cunha, General Director of the Grupo Conexão G de Cidadania LGBT de Favelas (RJ); Marina Fonseca, Anthropologist and Political Advisor at the NGO Criola (RJ); Fabiana Pinto, Sanitarian and Coordinator of Incidence and Research at the Marielle Franco Institute (RJ); and Rodnei Jericó, lawyer and Coordinator of SOS Racism of Geledés (SP). Representing Race and Equality were present: Leilane Reis, Officer of the Race and Gender Program and, Adriana Avelar, Incidence Officer in Brazil.
The meetings in Brasilia were with the Permanent Missions that evaluated Brazil in previous periods in themes of interest to the group that are connected with the current and fragile Brazilian democratic system: European Union, United States, Norway, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Australia, Argentina, UK, Colombia and Chile.
The organizations sought to make visible the current regulatory frameworks that have exacerbated the vulnerability of black, indigenous and LGBTI+ populations in Brazil since the last review of the UPR, taking into account the precariousness of life due to the effects of the pandemic. Based on the recommendations made by the Embassies visited, the following themes were discussed: violence against the LGBTI+ population, police violence against the black population, black women’s health, closure of civic spaces, and indigenous peoples’ rights. The intention was to establish a dialogue with recommendations for the next cycle, to point out the social markers in force in Brazilian society and to be able to highlight the real situation of human rights violation in Brazil.
The work of political incidence is actively built-in partnership with Brazilian organizations, it’s necessary to be connected with the political and legislative proposals of the Brazilian Government so that effective action can be taken to ensure the construction and implementation of international treaties and agreements. The purpose of the route from Brasilia to the pre-sessions of the UPR in Geneva is to welcome the recommendations of the Brazilian delegation during the review of Brazil at the UPR session, which will take place on November 14, at 2:30 pm (Geneva time), and at 9:30 am (Brasília time).
What are the next steps?
The UPR is a UN mechanism in which State Parties evaluate State Parties. Therefore, UPR, along with civil society can impactfully highlight the human rights violations in Brazil and influence the evaluating states to accept its recommendations in the assessment process. As mentioned earlier, Brazil also delivered its report, in which it said it had consulted civil society on the human rights situation in the country. With this, an analysis based on advances, setbacks, and good practices is performed from all information received and, finally, the evaluated State must apply the recommendations of its peers.
If the recommendations of the Brazilian delegation are accepted and promoted by the State Parties during the UPR, the next task is to present them to the new Government that will take office in 2023, so that it becomes aware of the work of political incidence of civil society organizations. From there, the recommendations should be ratified and implemented in Brazil’s four-year public policies. Thus, civil society carries the responsibility to monitor compliance with the agenda in combating racial discrimination granted in the UN Universal Periodic Review. Race and Equality follows alongside these organizations to monitor and pressure the government in applying the international agreement.
Finally, to collaborate with the United Nations Universal Periodic Review mechanism, Brazilian organizations supported by Race and Equality propose, among others, the following recommendations addressed to the Brazilian State:
I) Ensure the occurrence of investigations into crimes committed against LGBTI persons in favela territory, enabling the collection of public data on such crimes.
II) Take urgent measures to curb and eradicate police violence at any stage of action by civil police, military, and armed forces in carrying out missions on Brazilian soil.
III) Recreate participatory councils and collegiate groups that allow participation and indigenous social control in the formulation, monitoring, implementation, and evaluation of indigenous policies of the Brazilian State in the areas of territorial management, education, health and culture, alongside the establishment of programs and measures to prevent and punish racism, discrimination, and violence against indigenous peoples, and to promote ethnic and racial equality, autonomy, and the right of peoples to be different.
IV) Conduct the implementation of the National Plan for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and institutionalizing the Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, Communicators and Environmentalists (PPDDH) by expanding its structure in the 26 states of the country and DF, establishing budgets, regulations and specific strategies for the reception and follow-up of cases of black, trans, and transvestite women human rights defenders, representatives of traditional peoples and communities; create indicators for monitoring and judicial mechanisms for the accountability of their main violators, highlighting the use of police brutality and militarized groups employed to suppress rights and freedoms of expression, association, belief, assembly, and political participation in Brazilian civic space.
V) Ensure access to reproductive health services, including ensuring that abortions are carried out under the conditions provided for in current legislation, without bureaucratic obstacles or embarrassment to people who are pregnant and seek care, giving special attention to the situation of black pregnant and parturient women who suffer from the impact of institutional racism on maternal health.