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Party Politics, Social Movements, and Local Democracy: Institutional Choices in the Brazilian Amazon

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Toni, Fabiano
Date: 2007
Agency: World Resources Institute, DC, USA
Series: Representation, Equity and Environment Working Paper, WP # 32
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3630
Sector: Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): social movements
state and local governance
citizen participatory management
Abstract: "In the Brazilian Amazon, central government and international donors have chosen to empower civil society to carry out environment and development projects, while neglecting democratically elected municipal governments. This article explores the rationale behind these choices, as well as their impacts on democratic decentralization. The article shows that the central government distrusts local governments because they can be easily captured by opposition economic elites. Further, central bureaucrats can hold civil-society organizations accountable to them and by doing so they retain their prerogatives while extending their territorial coverage. In the development and conservation areas, central bureaucrats and NGO leaders share a common organizational/cultural identity that facilitates collaboration. Further, social movements, grass-roots organizations, and local NGOs are closely associated with the ruling party (PT). Financial support comes in exchange for political support. Although in the past this close relationship between civil society organizations and the PT helped strengthen democracy in Brazil, the current government-NGO alliance runs in the opposite direction by reinforcing centralization and fomenting neo-corporatist/clientelist practices."

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