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In addition to the traditional political structures, many non-governmental organizations in Brazil dedicate themselves to issues such as the environment and human rights.


The Organization of the Society

In addition to its political organization, the Brazilian society has also other kinds of organized activities. Among them are those which involve community organizations, trade unions and non-governmental organizations. The community organizations are usually made up of inhabitants of a certain area who decide to join forces for a common claim, which may range from their right to housing to better living conditions in urban areas. There is demand for transportation, water, sanitary conditions and community policing. The organization of community groups is a usual and widespread way of organizing urban population. It represents the struggle to strengthen the civil rights, bearing individual and collective rights guaranteed by the Constitution in mind. Trade Unions defend the interests of professional classes in pay negotiations and before the Government. The structure of the Brazilian trade unions is based on the Consolidated Labour Law (CLT) which was passed in 1943. It is formally even-handed for workers and employers with a vertical connection between trade unions organized in towns, state federations and national confederations. According to the 1990 census taken by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), there are 10.075 trade unions in the country. 56,3% of them are urban and 43,7% are rural. Among the urban ones, 1.566 (27,5%) represent employers and 3.367 (59,3%) represent employees. The others are made up of freelance and self-employed workers. There are four trade union associations in the country. The Trade Union Congress (CUT) is the one with most member organizations. According to the trade union associations themselves and their rolls of membership fees, CUT has 2.041 affiliated unions; the Trade Union Force, the country's second largest trade union association, has a total of 978 member unions. The Worker's General Conference has 811 affiliated unions and The Worker's General Confederation has 128 member unions all over the country. The organization of trade union associations is not provided for in the CLT.

Actually, they have become a complement of the existing structure of labour unions since the transition to democracy initiated in the late 70's. In Brazil labour unions are not required by law to affiliate with larger associations. However, affiliation to provincial federations and to national confederations is obligatory. Non-governmental organizations started emerging in the 1980's and became more important in the country throughout the 1990's. They are non-profit-making organizations regulated by civil law. They are independent of trade unions, political parties and governments, though they can receive governmental funding and financial support from Brazilian and foreign organizations. Although the NGOs are neither affiliation-oriented nor representation-minded, they are engaged in the struggle for people's specific rights. An estimate shows that there are around three thousand of them in Brazil employing around eighty thousand people. A survey carried out by the Religious Institute of High Studies (ISER) with 132 Brazilian NGOs shows that 40% of those institutions are engaged in the environmental cause, though many of them dedicate themselves to specific issues concerning the rights of women and needy children. They also deal with racial issues.