Brazil: New bill threatens the environment and the right to social participation

Brazil’s National Congress may soon be voting on a bill which proposes to amend the Constitution and relax the environmental licensing process for public construction works in Brazil. The new bill, PEC 65, would allow the authorisation of the progress of works with only the presentation of initial studies. This would remove a number of important stages of application that protect a number of basic rights such as the right to social participation.

Currently, the environmental licensing process in Brazil consists of three stages: the first involves conducting social-environment impact studies and the request of an environmental license to public authorities. Then, the contractor needs to obtain a license to effectively start the work. Finally, a third license will liberate the use or operation of a construction project, be it a road or a power plant, for example.

PEC 65 aims to reduce the requirement for the last two stages, making it unnecessary to comply with a number of requirements for environmental preservation and respect for rights. Among the requirements which may be removed is public hearings (open to participation from any individual) to discuss potential social impacts related to a construction project .

The bill thus goes against not only the good practices related to environmental protection, but also against those aimed at promoting transparency and social participation.

For over three years, ARTICLE 19 has been participating in the debate around an agreement between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean around Principle 10 – a guideline approved by UN regarding to social participation and access to information issues related to the environment. Brazil is one of the countries participating in the negotiations and, of course, must work to adhere to Principle 10.

If PEC 65 is approved in National Congress, it could have drastic implications for the environment and for social participation.

ARTICLE 19 calls on Brazilian civil society to mobilize against this bill.