Campaigning with Partners for the MDGs:
a case study of Brazil
• eradicate extreme poverty and hunger • achieve universal primary education • promote gender equality and empower wome
reduce child mortality • improve maternal health • combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases • ensure environmental sustain
• develop a global partnership for development • eradicate extreme poverty and hunger • achieve universal primary education
promote gender equality and empower women • reduce child mortality • improve maternal health • combat HIV/AIDS, malaria
Part of a series to share good practices from countries successfully
promoting and advancing the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs), this case is intended to help UNDP Country Offices,
national governments and their partners to determine whether a
campaign could help to advance the MDGs in their countries, and,
if so, how Brazil’s experience can be adapted to other contexts.
The case focuses on campaign methodologies, partnerships and
products in order to provide concrete ideas to practitioners. At
the same time, it recognizes the importance of coordinated action
by the Government of Brazil, UN Country Team and partners on
implementation of policy, programme and monitoring initiatives.
1, 2, 3
3. French Guiana
Río De Janeiro
Brazil at a Glance
Location: Eastern South America,
bordering the Atlantic Ocean
Total Population: 176.3 million
Human Development Index Rank: 72
GDP per Capita (PPP US$ 2002): $7,770
Life Expectancy at Birth: 68.0 years
Poverty (% of population): 11.8%
Adult Literacy: 86.4%
How A Campaign Advanced Action Toward the MDGs
Brazil is a country of contrasts. Its flourishing culture, middle income status and leadership in the Americas is
coupled with entrenched poverty, persistent inequality and strains on its natural environment. A confluence of
events, including the election of a President with a strong social welfare agenda, created the opportunity to rein-
vigorate poverty alleviation efforts. A group of public and private partners and the UN Country Team launched
an MDG campaign that was highly creative, rooted in Brazilian culture, and complementary to national efforts to
improve public policies and service delivery. The campaign has increased awareness of the MDGs and helped to:
• form a pro-MDG movement by unifying diverse civil society organizations, private companies,
Government officials and citizens around a common goal;
• encourage national debate on the relevance of MDGs to Brazil, and spark processes to adapt
MDG targets and indicators to Brazil;
• increase attention to the large variations in development status within Brazil;
• support long-term planning and efforts to align national, state and municipal pro-poor policies;
• improve national capacity to monitor development progress, including providing additional means
by which the population can hold Government accountable for progress; and
• build new partnerships in support of development.
*Source: Human Development Report 2004. Poverty data from On Progress Toward Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Albania National Report 2004.
Socio-economic and Political Context
The deepening of democratic institutions, gains in macroeconomic stability and rapid expansion of prosperity
contribute to an overall encouraging context for sustainable development in Brazil. Yet, despite these numerous
advances, real poverty has only moderately declined, and inequality persists.
In Brazil, economic and social status tends to vary by geography, race and gender, a legacy of the country’s
history. Imposed and de facto colonial and post-colonial divisions among indigenous peoples and descendents
of Portuguese settlers, African slaves and European, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants created persistent
structures of exclusion and inequality. In the 1950s, during the military government, a strategy of import
substitution prioritized rapid industrial expansion, and helped to bring about significant, sustained economic
growth. Benefits, however, accrued disproportionately to the upper classes at the expense of workers and
unions. The industrialization contributed to the expansion of the favelas (urban slums), one of Brazil’s greatest
contemporary challenges, by promoting urban migration while infrastructure and social support did not
expand at the same pace.
Today, Brazil faces extreme income distribution: at the end of the 1990s, the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of the
population each commanded 10% of national income; 3% of Brazilians hold approximately 66% of the country’s
arable land. There is an urgent need to clarify property rights—in agricultural, the Amazon and indigenous
peoples’ areas as well as in the favelas—and to extend water and sanitation, primary education and other social
services, especially to rural areas in the north. Closely related to these issues are environmental concerns. The rain
forest is being cleared, legally and illegally, for timber and agricultural land, further threatening the diversity and
welfare of indigenous peoples, natural flora and the Amazon basin. Table 1 shows Brazil’s MDG status.
Setting the Stage: A New President Opens Political Space
Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva, a former labour leader, made the fight against hunger and poverty a national priority
when he became President in 2003. The new Government launched a ‘Zero Hunger’ campaign and social
programmes that target causes of poverty and the poorest groups. It also sought to resolve some of the land
tenure problems. The President took advantage of the meeting of the UN Millennium Project Task Force on
Urban Slums in Brasilia in July 2003 to call attention to homelessness and to distribute the first set of new land
titles to favela residents.
President Lula also reaffirmed Brazil’s commitment to the MDGs. In mid-2003, the President established an
inter-Ministerial Task Force led by the Chief-Minister to define and monitor national policies, annual targets and
programmes for the MDGs. Concurrently, President Lula made global eradication of poverty and hunger a foreign
policy concern. Together with India and South Africa, Brazil called for the establishment of an international MDG
fund. The President’s speeches at the UN in 2003 and 2004 generated global attention1 and increased space for
dialogue on the MDGs within Brazil.
1 In 2004, following a meeting organized by President Lula, representatives of more than 100 countries signed the New York Declaration on Action
against Hunger and Poverty.
Table 1: Brazil’s MDG Status–Select Indicators
The national MDG Report relied on the minimum wage to estimate the percent of Brazilians living in poverty and extreme poverty.
Source: Brazilian Monitoring Report on the Millennium Development Goals, September 2004. Notes: data from: a) 1990 b) 1997 c) 1998 d) 2001
Select MDG Indicators
poverty (% of population living on a monthly family income of less than
half a minimum wage per capita)
extreme poverty (% of population living on a monthly family income of up
to one quarter of a minimum wage per capita)
participation poorest 20% in national income or consumption (% total
income of families)
primary school attendance
participation in labor force – women
participation in labor force – men
Child mortality (deaths per 1,000 births)
% of live births whose mothers had at least seven prenatal appointments
HIV/AIDS incidence (per 100,000 people)
orphans due to AIDS (estimated new cases annually)
Residents in permanent private housing with no sanitary sewer
(% in relation to total population)
urban permanent private housing units with adequate conditions
Initiation of an MDG Campaign with One Common Message
President Lula’s leadership, however, would not automatically translate into effective local action; it would require
much advocacy and support. First among practical challenges was Brazil’s political structure. As a Federation with
27 states and 5,562 municipalities, many with strong leaders, aligning federal, state, and municipal policies is a
challenge. Federal positions do not always trickle down quickly. Moreover, debt burdens limit public social
spending at the federal, state and municipal levels.
A second need and opportunity lay in using the MDGs as a framework to channel philanthropy and social
responsibility practices toward a unified, sustainable goal. To align efforts around MDGs, it would be necessary
to show how the MDGs apply to Brazil and that their outcome depends on local, not international, action.
The UNDP Country Office also saw that an MDG campaign could help it to meet its own mandates. Campaigning
is one of four reinforcing pillars of the UN strategy to advance the MDGs.2 UNDP Brazil felt it could use its years of
experience advancing human development to support national action toward the MDGs.
The UNDP Country Office designed an MDG campaign to achieve six objectives:
1. to raise national awareness of the utility of using the MDGs as a framework to address
Brazil’s development concerns;
2. to galvanize public opinion in favour of MDG policy-making;
3. to ‘Brazilianize’ the MDGs by adapting the targets and indicators, thereby also helping to instil
a sense of ownership;
4. to increase space for debate on how to align the federal, state and municipal development policies;
5. to improve national capacity to monitor development progress, especially at state and local levels; and
6. to mobilize private and public resources to support implementation of pro-MDG activities.
The UNDP Country Office envisioned a two-phase campaign: first, outreach to raise awareness
and to educate; and then advocacy to leverage awareness into action.
The campaign sought to raise nation-wide awareness
because ultimate success depends on action by many
and diverse people. A single overarching message
was chosen to unite the campaign. It is simple, yet
empowering, resonates with many audiences and
combines education with a call to action: ‘8 ways to
change the world. Yes we can.’ The campaign became
known by its Portuguese tagline, Nós Podemos.
Transforming Challenges Into Opportunities
Time was of the essence. UNDP Brazil and its partners wanted the campaign to make an impact within a year in
order to take advantage of momentum around the new Government and municipal elections in October 2004.
Aligning federal and municipal policies around the MDGs would require putting the MDGs on political agendas.
A second challenge related to meaningful involvement of Brazilian society, including the private sector. The
UNDP Country Office’s closest relationship, however, was with the Federal and State Governments. To meet this
challenge, the UNDP Country Office first tapped Brazilian signatories of the Global Compact, a UN-led initiative
to engage businesses in support of development. UNDP staff also relied on personal networks. Moreover, some
of Brazil’s extensive civil society were critical of the MDGs, which they saw as a diminished agenda (for example,
to halve rather than to eradicate poverty). Others were critical of the UN for its perceived ownership of the MDGs
and of private sector involvement in development. The UNDP Country Office’s tactics included first engaging
large and influential Brazilian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that had pertinent mandates and impec-
cable credentials. It encouraged these partners to reach out to other parts of civil society using their own names,
and sought dialogue in order to share perspectives and identify common interests.
Finally, UNDP Brazil challenged itself to keep its campaign budget small so that most of its funds would continue to
support programmes for human development. This forced creative approaches to partnerships and activities. A
marketing firm estimated that the resulting outreach would have cost US $30 million through conventional means.
Building Partnerships for a Brazilian Campaign
The UNDP Country Office recognized that partnerships would be the lynch-pin to a successful campaign. It sought
to recruit organizations with good reputations, that were recognized as Brazilian, and whose participation would
likely generate further interest. The UNDP Country Office recruited its first partners in December 2003. Grupo Pão de
Açúcar owns the largest supermarket chain in Latin America, and has 564 stores in 12 of Brazil’s 27 states, in rich and
poor urban areas. The two partners agreed to put the MDGs on supermarket shopping bags, a step that would be of
no additional cost to either party. Since May 2004, the supermarkets have placed more than 1.8 billion MDG bags in
the hands of their customers. This approach proved so successful that a market has developed for ads on shopping
bags. For its part, Grupo Pão de Açúcar was attracted to displaying the UN logos next to its own, and actively promoted
both the MDGs and the partnership, for example by publishing ads in leading Brazilian newspapers.3 (See Figure 2.)
In April 2004, four organizations joined together to spearhead an MDG campaign: the Committee of Entities
Against Hunger and For Life (COEP), a Brazilian network of 700 civil society and public sector organizations
dedicated to poverty alleviation and social development; Instituto Ethos (The Ethos Institute of Business and
Social Responsibility); McCann Erickson, a global advertising firm; and, the UNDP
Country Office. The campaign committee soon grew to more than twenty members.4
The committee resolved to give the campaign an identifiable, professional look. It
also resolved to nurture a sustained social movement.
2 The UN Secretary General charged the UNDP Administrator, in his capacity as Chair of the UN Development
Group, to lead MDG campaigning and to assist in monitoring of country progress. The pillars of the common
UN Core Strategy on the MDGs are research and analysis, monitoring, campaigning and operations.
3 Folha de São Paulo, Estado de São Paulo, and Balanço Social da Gazeta Mercantil, August 2004.
4 As of May 2005, the MDG campaign committee members include: Banco ABN-AMRO Real, BankBoston, Boxnet, Casper &
Associados, COEP, Faça Parte, Federação das Indústrias de Minas Gerais (FIEMG), Federação das Indústrias do Paraná (FIEP),
Federação das Indústrias de São Paulo (FIESP), Formosa, Fundação Casper Líbero, Grupo de Institutos Fundações e
Empresas (GIFE), Grupo Pão de Açúcar, Grupo Santander Banespa, Hewlett-Packard, Instituto Ayrton Senna, Instituto Ethos,
Interamerican Development Bank, Kraft, Maxpress, McCann-Erickson, Nestlé, PATRI, Telefônica, UNDP, Universidade da
Mata Atlântica (UMA) and World Watch Institute.
Branded Campaign Products for Outreach
The committee began by visually branding the Nós Podemos campaign. Given the diverse target audiences,
visuals needed to be easily recognized and remembered as well as striking. McCann Erickson, a committee
member, created the Brazil MDG logos pro bono, as depicted in Figure 3. Bold and colourful, the logos are simple
enough to be understood by young, old and illiterates, yet not too simplistic to be dismissed by the educated or
elites. Even without the associated words, they relate the essence of each MDG through symbols that have
meaning to most Brazilians.
Figure 1: Brazil’s Nós Podemos Campaign
Slogan and Logo
Nós Podemos (Yes we can!) sets a positive, can-do tone, while
‘8 ways to change the world’ suggests there are actions to be
taken and prompts one to ask ‘how?’—without referencing
‘MDGs,’ an unfamiliar term to many early in the campaign.
Figure 2: MDG Shopping Bags
UNDP Brazil and Grupo Pão de Açúcar set the tone for Brazil’s
MDG campaign by placing the MDG logos on supermarket
bags, an item seen by millions of Brazilians.
Figure 3: MDG Logos
Brazil’s MDG logos were designed to be recognizable from
afar and to convey the issue wordlessly.
Figure 4: Nós Podemos Campaign Website
Released under the Nós Podemos brand, the campaign
website, www.nospodemos.org.br, is a portal to materials,
ways to get involved and information on the MDGs.
Used constantly, the logos attracted much attention and contributed to a self-perpetuating cycle of expanding
publicity and new partnerships. The campaign received so many requests to use the logos that it made them
widely available and translated them into English and Spanish. The MDG campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
for example, was so inspired that it adapted the logos to Bosnian sensibilities.
The campaign committee posted a website in July 2004 as a widely and easily accessible platform. Designed around
the slogan and logos, the site deepened the campaign’s identity. (Supporters of the campaign are listed only within
one section on the Solidarity Movement, ‘O Movimento – Parceiros’.) The website explains the MDGs, suggests
actions that individuals can take to contribute to the MDGs, lists upcoming events and includes radio and TV clips,
and press statements. It also provides the logos for anyone to use. Most members of the campaign committee
contribute as much as US $8-10,000 annually to support the site, its staff and related materials. (See Figure 4.)
Expanding Partnerships through Targeted Outreach to Reach Diverse Audiences
While the Nós Podemos primary message was effective for all groups, outreach means and supporting secondary
messages needed to be tailored in order to reach specific audiences. The committee grouped the target
audiences into two categories: decision makers, including policy makers, prominent journalists and company
executives; and, the general public. To reach decision makers, the campaign emphasized outreach through
conversation, seminars, reports, presentations and on-going collaboration. Reaching audiences in the second
category required more creativity and partnerships with organizations that had access to discrete segments of
the population, as illustrated in Table 2. General coverage in the press helped to reach all audiences.
Identification of these communication avenues helped to give the campaign a life of its own. The bulk of the
campaign’s key partnerships and products were established within the first nine months of 2004. President Lula
officially launched the Nós Podemos campaign during the first annual National Citizenship and Solidarity Week,
August 9-15, 2004. Thereafter, widespread press coverage and recognition of the MDGs by senior Government
officials directed new partners to the campaign. Some of the many partnerships and activities are:
• the Brazilian stock exchange posted a 257 square metre MDG banner over its façade;
• the Mayor of São Paulo posted an MDG banner on the Government office;
• Banco do Brasil, present in all 5,562 municipalities, displayed the Nós Podemos slogans and logos on all its 80,000
employee desktops for three days in August 2004, and on all 38,500 ATM machines for two days in each October
and December 2004;
• the civil society network COEP collaborated with INFRAERO, the company that administers all 66 major airports in
Brazil, to post MDG banners in airports;
• Grupo Pão de Açúcar sold at cost 300,000 school notebooks with the MDG logos on the cover in January and
• the NGO Faça Parte and UN Volunteers sent MDG posters, booklets and teacher guides to 25,000 primary and
Table 2: Examples of Differentiated Communication Avenues
While the Nós Podemos message was addressed to all Brazilians, it required differentiated and targeted communication means
to reach particular audiences.
Outreach and distribution of materials at volunteer primary and secondary schools,
in a partnership with UN Volunteers and Faça Parte, an NGO.
MTV Brazil, youth magazines
Mailing MDG posters and booklets to schools
MDG themes included in university entrance exams
Catalogues of Natura, a cosmetics company
Bank statements, energy bills, ATM machines, supermarket shopping bags, banners,
outdoors, magazine ads, etc.
Initiatives by COEP, a coalition of 700 Brazilian organizations concerned
with poverty and development, and presentations by campaign core members
Capacity building and training in partnership with the National Confederation of
Municipalities and Inter-American Development Bank
Presentations by Ethos Institute of Business and Social Responsibility and other
partners of the National Movement for Citizenship and Solidarity
• MTV Brazil published a feature on the MDGs in its magazine in September 2004, has been running nine
public service announcements since October 2004 and is incorporating the MDGs into its talk show programming;
• Executives of the largest Brazilian savings bank, CAIXA, conducted a two-day national seminar with 500 people,
including six Ministers and the UN Resident Coordinator, to discuss support for the MDGs;
• Zero Hunger Support (an NGO), the Presidency of Brazil, the Federation of Industries of Bahia State, the UNDP
Country Team and private companies initiated a programme to construct and repair schools, create health
facilities, and generate sustainable employment in communities with low human development indicators in
12 municipalities in Bahia State. Similar partnerships are expected to begin in two more states;
• Indústrias Tevah, a textile producer, dedicated a day of its production to charity, donating 11,000 pillows,
blankets, clothes, and pyjamas to orphanages and hospitals. Tevah also placed the MDGs outdoors in every
municipality of Rio Grande do Sul State;