Brazilian Ouvidorias: Searching for the Public Use of Reason

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Seminarsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Fernando LIMA NETO, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 spread and reinforced several experiences of participation that formerly had a disjointed existence. This was the case for public ouvidorias (ombuds offices), one of the several participatory institutions (such as councils and conferences) which were empowered in the context of redemocratization. At that time, the focus on participation as an input for developing democratic political representation created highly enthusiastic expectations concerning the future of democracy in Brazil.  The ouvidorias are concerned with the promotion of the public use of reason within state organizations. Currently, they are fully institutionalized. There are over 1.000 ouvidorias at the federal, state and municipal levels. Although they are institutionally consolidated, little is known about these institutions. Whether in the academic field or in State statistics, there are few studies and information on this wide universe.  In this research, I took into account the regulations of 93 ouvidorias at the federal level in order to analyze the conditions of political autonomy that they are granted. The research results reveal precarious conditions for the achievement of their democratic potentials. The main problem concerns the mechanisms of choice of the highest authority of an ouvidoria. Often the person who fills this position is chosen by the highest authority of the organization that should be socially controlled. The current way that the chiefs of ouvidorias are nominated, the lack of time delimitation for the duration of their terms, the reduced influence on the decision-making process of governmental organizations and the absence of accountability practices aimed at the broader society are the main obstacles that threaten social control and participation within these institutions, as well as reinforce the patrimonialist features they were supposed to counter.