19 Dec 2016
Maranhão state and the Port of Itaqui work to combat poverty and inequity

The north east Brazilian state of Maranhão has some of the most extreme levels of poverty in the country, affecting 20% of the population (in comparison to the 6% national average). In 2014, the state took a dramatic change in direction with the election of lawyer and former congressman, Flávio Dino Castro, to the position of Governor. This was widely recognised as a vote to end the 50 year control of Maranhão by oligarch, José Sarney, with Flavio Dino defeating Lobão Filho by a landslide 63.52%. José Sarney’s daughter, Governor Roseana was ineligible to run due to term limits.

Governor Flávio Dino brings to his new role a strong commitment to human rights and transparency and extensive judicial experience, having held a Federal Judge position for fifteen years. His more recent roles were Federal Deputy (2007-2011) and President of the Brazilian Tourist Board, Embratur (2011-2014).

He is leading a whole of government focus on poverty reduction, particularly targeting a suite of programs towards the 30 municipalities whose communities live in the most extreme poverty. Significant changes have been made to government structure and function including the establishment of a Secretary of Transparency and a Secretary of Human Rights and Public Participation.

Commitment to the United Nations Global Compact and Cities Programme participation

Governor Flávio Dino recently committed the State of Maranhão to the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact. On 1 November 2016 a large high level event was held in the Oval Room in the Government Palace, Palácio dos Leões, to mark the commitment of both the Maranhão government and the state’s port management authority EMAP – Empresa Maranhense de Administração Portuária. Francisco Gonçalves, Secretary for Human Rights and Public Participation, led the proceedings and represented the Governor. A large multi sectoral group of leaders attended; Secretaries from government and CEOs from the private sector and civil society. The UN Global Compact – Cities Programme was represented by Deputy Director, Elizabeth Ryan and Brazil Country Contact Point, Rosane de Souza.

Secretary Francisco Gonçalves spoke of the importance of the commitment to the United Nations Global Compact and his government’s priorities.

“This moment is not only a formal one, it marks a political attitude of protection of human rights, labour, citizens, and the environment – as well as the fight against corruption”.

“Governor Flávio Dino has a long history of commitment to human rights and adherence to the United Nations Global Compact represents the strengthening of our government policies”.

The Port of Itaqui and EMAP

The commitment by EMAP – Empresa Maranhense de Administração Portuária –  to the United Nations Global Compact was made by CEO, Eduardo ‘Ted’ Lago. Port Itaquí is the largest port in the north and is of critical importance to the sustainable economic development of the region.

EMAP is aware of its social role and strives to contribute towards the development of the economy of its hinterland to leverage sustainable and inclusive businesses across the region.

EMAP’s social responsibility team has been developing corporate volunteer actions in Cajual island, an African slave descendant village who live in a traditional way near the port. The company also promotes strengthening  and skill-building actions towards small community entrepreneurs who work in passenger terminals managed by EMAP.

UN Global Compact participant, Blue Corp is also working with EMAP through the Brazil ID program. The Cities Programme and EMAP are discussing the options for a broader cross-sectoral port project that drives sustainable development outcomes for capital São Luís and the state more broadly.

Ted Lago said “EMAP is committed to transparency and addressing inequality, the Port is an excellent site to bring together civil society, government and the private sector to drive social equity and sustainable urban development for the region”.

There looks set to be rich collaboration with the private sector in Maranhaõ. With EMAP, we also met Darci Fontes, Council President of ICE –  Instituto de Cidadania Empresarial (Institute of Business Citizenship) who have an extensive membership and are also committed to reducing poverty and building social inclusion in the state.

‘Mais IDH’ – addressing poverty and inequity and social inclusion

The following day National holiday November 2, a meeting was held with Secretary Francisco Gonçalves and EMAP CEO, Ted Lago and their teams to discuss Maranhão’s engagement with the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme, the State’s challenges and its ambitious initiatives to reduce poverty, ‘Mais IDH’ (More HDI).

Working with the 30 most impoverished municipalities in the state, through Mais IDH the government and partners are driving initiatives in key human rights areas such as education, health, food, housing, water and livelihoods. Mais IDH‘s actions are focused in four key areas – education; health and sanitation; agri-production and income; planning, management and social participation.

Mais IDH and its 23 specific initiatives will be linked Maranhão’s Global Compact commitment and reported on through the project facility on the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme website. The knowledge and practice  from this sizeable program will benefit other cities and states with similar agendas.

Once the first stage of Mais IDH is completed, the government plans to take the knowledge learnt from the program – its processes, challenges and achievements – and scale up the operation with the other municipalities across the state. This is much needed work with 140 of the state’s 217 municipalities classified as low or medium-low HDI.

Secretary Francisco Gonçalves said there is much to be done for these communities to achieve their fundamental human rights. He spoke of the communities’ engagement with the program.

“One of the first things they asked for was to learn to write. They want to sign their identification cards. They currently use fingerprints and they want this system changed”.

In the rural area’s of the state 40.3% of adults cannot read or write. This the highest in Brazil.

With children currently learning in mud floor huts, the private sector are being called on to contribute and fund the building of schools.

Food insecurity is very high in Maranhão (around 60 % across the state). Mais IDH is trialling an Integrated System of Social Technologies (SISTECS) which uses innovative forms of food production that will in turn earn livelihoods for residents. This includes aquaponics.

We congratulate the government and their partners on their commitment to overcoming poverty and warmly welcome both the state of Maranhaõ and EMAP to the United Nations Global Compact. We look forward to a long and productive relationship in support of a more prosperous, equitable and safe Maranhão.

See Brazil media report on the commitment

Author: Elizabeth Ryan

Connected Cities