Social Assistance Policies in Brazil: The Role of a Policy Community Defending the Rights of the Citizens

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Soraya CORTES, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
The institutional history of a policy area, the macro politics and the actions of sectorial policy communities can promote shifts in policies that go beyond incremental changes. Communities refer to a limited and relatively stable number of members who share beliefs, values and a view about what should be the outcomes of policy (Baumgartner, 2013). The paper focuses on strategies of a policy community defending social assistance as a right of the citizen. Such strategies have led to structuring the Social Assistance Unified System (Sistema Único de Assistência Social - SUAS), set up in 2005, and to an impressive expansion of the social protection offered to Brazilian citizens. The research analyses: (1) interviews with decision makers in this policy area and members of the community, (2) documents and (3) the literature. It concludes that by 2005, social assistance ceased to aggregate a set of relatively disorganised actions promoted by ‘charitable’ individuals or organisations to become one of the most important areas of public policy in the country. It was the social area that expanded the most between 1995 and 2010 when one takes as an indicator federal government spending as a percentage of GDP. The growing importance of the area is partly due to strategic actions developed by a policy community that took advantage of windows of opportunity to advance institutional and policy changes that created a national system of social assistance and ensure the right to assistance for those in need.

Baumgartner FR. (2013) Ideas and Policy Change Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 26 (2): 239–258.