Participatory Democracy in Brazil: constitutional guarantees, innovations and challenges

Participatory governance is characterzed by efforts that make democratic institutions more inclusive, breaking with minimalist visions of participation that restrict political action to voting and treat democracy as merely a method for forming governments. In this context, it is worthwhile to consider how Brazil´s trajectory of expanding social participation, initiated by the constitutional guarantee of liberties and rights, stimulated the creation of institutional participatory mechanisms.

In Brazil, social pressures to expand participation did not limit democratic expansion to merely the electoral process. Experiences with participatory governance, triggered by the 1988 Constitution, enabled the creation of public spaces and forced the reconfiguration of relations between the state and society. This phenomenon arose from a historical context in which social demands were not met by state action and created opportunities for democratic innovations.

This article aims to present the evolution of social participation in Brazil through a historical overview of constitutional guarantees, since these comprise the foundation of the institutional structures necessary for participatory governance. The role of social movements in Brazilian democratization is also emphasized, recognizing the innovations and challenges (generated by the diffusion of public spaces) that accompany new social and political practices.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.