Home Activities Regional Activities Latin America Brazil Initiatives Second National Conference of Children and Adolescents for Environment
Let’s Take Care of Brazil: A Unique Educational and Social Achievement
by Edith SIZOO
Second National Children’s Conference on Responsibility for the Environment
"Yound people are not so much concerned with their destiny
During four days the 600 adolescent delegates at the National Conference discussed proposals resulting from the preceding discussions at all levels in the country. They formulated a remarkable Charter of Responsibilities setting out nine principles, actions to implement them and partners with whom to achieve them.
The Conference culminated in a march of all thousand participants at the National Conference, joined by Marina Silva, the Minister of Environment herself. They walked over the immensely wide Avenue of the Ministries in Brasilia to the Presidential Palace where Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the President of Brazil, was offered their Charter during a ceremony inside the palace itself. When two children elected by the Conference handed him the Charter, the President, in a very Brazilian way, took them in his arms and was visibly moved. In his speech he said that, yes, he was deeply touched, to the depth of his heart. During almost four years of his Presidency, he had received many delegations. And here and now, all of a sudden, he realised, that all these delegations had always come to ask something from him or to tell him to do something. This was the very first time, he said, that a delegation had come to offer him something: the commitment of the children of Brazil to assume responsibility for the country, its people and its natural environment.
People who think: I want this dream to come true….
In 2003 she engaged Rachel Trajber, a most competent, dynamic and experienced woman, whom she nominated as Coordinator of the first Children’s Conference on Environment which was held in 2003, parallel to the adult’s National Conference. This first experience inspired the then Minister for Education, Tarso Genro, to invite Rachel Trajber to come and work at his Ministry in order to set up and coordinate the Ministry’s Environmental Education Program in the framework of a much larger process jointly organized by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Environment.
It is at this point that through Rachel, being a member of the Brazilian national Committee for the Charter of Human Responsibilities, a focus on the notion of Responsibility was emphasized. This resulted in a change in the more prevailing character of discussions on environmental and social problems from providing information and defining who is guilty to the question: can we ourselves assume responsibility to address these problems, and how?
The fact that two Ministries joint hands was another positive force in the process since its execution was now secured by two top level coordinators, one from each Ministry, Rachel Trajber and Marcos Sorrentino, and strongly supported by two top civil servants, Ricardo Henriques and Armenio Bello Schmidt.
In the course of the preparatory process an impressive number of people became official participants in the various teams and commissions at local as well as national level : all in all over two hundred persons without counting the teachers and facilitators of the 12.000 schools. An important member of the group of facilitators was Isis de Palma, coordinator of the Brazilian Committee of the Charter of Human Responsibilities.
The Conferences at the level of the schools were open to students of all ages and levels as well as to the school workers and the local community. However, the choice of concentrating on children between 11 and 15 years (5th to 8th grades) to be delegated to the National Conference was inspired by the very practical idea that an age bracket with good reading and writing proficiency was needed.
An interesting decision has been to not only invite schoolchildren from 5th to 8th grades. In addition to them four other "categories" of less formally organized (and younger) children were also selected: street children (chosen through associations working in particular with them), children of ex-slave communities ("quilombolas") and of Brazilian Indigenous communities (from localities with only elementary schools), and children from Landless families living in rural settlements (through the Landless Movement, MST). All these taken together represented 216 Brazilian communities.
And finally 19 representatives selected by youth organizations in other South- and Central American countries, related to the UNEP Project Geo Youth, were invited to come and help with facilitating the Conference. And to be inspired…
The preparatory process: step by step from bottom to top
This document was sent to 46.000 schools in Brazil with an invitation to take on board this project in the school-context and thus participate in a nation-wide process. 12.000 schools took up the challenge and integrated this project in the school curriculum during a whole semester. Each participating school was asked to present the results of the school / community work in a three-fold way: 1. by formulating principles for responsibility and defining local actions, 2. by presenting one poster selected from those made in school by the children expressing their view on responsibility for the environment, and 3. by electing two children as delegates to the National Conference responding to criteria of leadership, interest in the theme and capability to defend the decisions of the school. The principle for this election was “Youth chooses youth”, with several criteria of diversity related to gender, kind of school, handicapped children, and ethnic groups.
The Conferences at the schools themselves, where all the richness of learning and dialogue was located, took place in all of the 27 states until the end of 2005. In five of the 27 States, a Conference was also organised at State level.
A Conference of serious work and lots of joy
Another dream …
Just imagine, this dream coming true…: a World Conference of Children drawing up a Charter of Responsibilities: VAMOS CUIDAR DO PLANETA! - Let’s take care of the Planet! As Pierre Calame  observed: the idea is sufficiently crazy to be perfectly realistic thanks to the manner in which the way has been paved. Thanks to Brazil.
 Director of the Foundation Charles Léopold Mayer in Paris