Brazil criticised for NGO plan

Non-governmental organisations active in Brazil will have to re-register with the government under regulations which have drawn criticism from campaigners. Organisations will need to detail their sources of financing, list executives and provide a breakdown of their plans and locations of operations as well as a host of supporting documentation.Those failing to comply could be kicked out of the country.

The measure, announced at the end of last week, will allow the government and other public bodies to identify which NGOs are acting where and in what capacity, according to Romeu Tuma Júnior, secretary of justice.Brasília says the move is necessary to impose order in a sector in which organisations have mushroomed. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is expected to sign the decree this month.

Government reports have recently claimed that some NGOs have been engaged in bio-piracy – obtaining patents for drugs based on traditional medicines – and that others act as fronts for other illegal activities. They are also snapping up land in sensitive areas of the Amazon.

Paulo Prado, director of environmental policy for the São Paulo office of Conservation International, an environmental NGO, says the move will tie up organisations such as his in yet more bureaucracy. He believes the move is in large part motivated by the government’s enthusiasm to damp down negative publicity stemming from NGO scrutiny of issues in the Amazon, particularly deforestation and indigenous rights.

NGOs have successfully highlighted the issue of deforestation for agriculture, a sensitive issue as Brazil is a large-scale exporter of agricultural products. NGOs have also become increasingly involved in bruising conflicts between indigenous people, settlers and the army. In a recent case in the northern state of Roraima, the Rainforest Foundation lodged a complaint with the United Nations, citing racial discrimination and calling for it to affirm “that Brazil has violated the rights of the indigenous peoples”.

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