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National Pact reaffirms Brazil’s commitment to 13 million children in impoverished areas

© UNICEF Brazil/2007/ Bezerra
Children from Apuiarés in Ceará State celebrate receiving the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval, an award affiliated with Brazil's National Pact.

BRASILIA, Brazil, 27 June 2007 – The lives of 13 million children living in Brazil’s impoverished semi-arid region were the focus yesterday during the signing of the second National Pact entitled, ‘A world fit for children and adolescents in the Brazilian semi-arid’.

The National Pact, which was originally launched in 2004, combines the efforts of both governmental and civil organizations in order to have a positive impact on the lives of children.

“Our aim is to create a joint effort to transform the lives of children and their families in the semi-arid region,” said UNICEF Representative in Brazil Marie-Pierre Poirier. “We are working together with our partners to address the social inequalities that exist in Brazil.”

Combining political and social mobilization

The National Pact ceremony, which received wide media coverage, was held at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia on 26 June. In addition to the presence of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the First Lady, there were over 350 participants at the ceremony. Also in attendance were Co-Chairman of the media conglomerate Organizações Globo Jose Roberto Marinho and Representative from the Semi-Arid Articulation Initiative (a group comprised of more than 700 civil society organizations in Brazil) Maria Eunice de Jesus.

© UNICEF/BRZ/Roberto Jayme
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signing the National Pact.

Municipal Seal of Approval

Along with the National Pact, the second edition of the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval was also launched. A municipality is awarded the UNICEF Seal if it meets certain goals related to increasing the quality of life for children.

“We are here because we want change,” said Ms. De Jesus. “Civil society is prepared to ensure that children are the priority.”

A large banner representing the pact was signed by all participants in bold, colourful letters as a symbol of their ongoing commitment to ensuring the rights of children. Brazil’s semi-arid region is home to more than 26 million people, and nearly 75 per cent of the youths here live in poverty. Improving the lives of children in the region is an essential strategy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Brazil and ultimately, in Latin America as a whole.

"It is very exciting to know that a pact like this keeps to its promises and has achieved direct results in the lives of children,” said Mr. Marinho. “The commitment of the private sector to the pact is fundamental.”

© UNICEF Brazil/2007/ Cavadas
Children standing near a cistern in the municipality of Retirolândia where access to safe water is still insufficient.

During the past two years, 1,179 municipalities involved in the Seal programme managed to achieve sustainable results for thousands of children. Child mortality rates fell 3.7 per cent, while there was a decrease in malnutrition rates and an increase in proper pre-natal care.

In this new edition of the Seal, UNICEF aims to involve every municipality in the semi-arid region.

Challenges ahead

Nevertheless, Brazil still faces challenges to ensuring children’s rights in the semi-arid region. Social indicators show that infant mortality rates are higher than the rest of the country and 60 per cent of municipalities with low levels of education are situated here.

Despite these disparities, the Brazilian semi-arid region is rich in resources and culture. By combining the efforts of government and civil society, the National Pact hopes to bring to these qualities to the forefront.

“Consolidating partnerships is the best way to find solutions,” said President Silva. “It is not possible for a government to solve all the problems alone. Nor can civil society solve all the problems by themselves. But by working together we will be able to accomplish what was not able to be done separately.”



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