Can Brazil leave no one behind?

by Mariella Di Ciommo


Brazil lifted more than 15 million people out of extreme poverty between 1999 and 2014. This is quite a remarkable achievement. But progress has been uneven across social groups and regions, and many forms of poverty remain. To fulfil the ambition of leaving no one behind, Brazil should make the best use of its data to inform decisions on how to target resources and build a shared agenda with Brazilian society.

A Portuguese-language edition of this blog is available on the Brasil na Agenda website.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is driven by the principle of leaving no one behind: all nations and all people from all social groups count, including the poorest and most marginalised. Brazilian diplomacy and civil society worked hard to keep this principle in the agenda and to set high ambitions on ending all forms of poverty, everywhere. Brazil has something to show the rest of the world, having reduced the number of extremely poor people from 23.9 million to 8.2 million in less than 15 years.

While Brazil should be very proud of this achievement, there is still work to be done. Between 1999 and 2014, progress on extreme poverty has been uneven, with large differences in the rate of progress between states. Acre (8%) and Pará (14%) reduced extreme poverty much slower that Goiás (84%) and Paraná (85%) did, for example (data from Ipea Data: www.ipeadata.gov.br; calculations by Development Initiatives). While there are 8.2 million people living in extreme poverty, other forms of poverty and deprivation persist in Brazil.

Poverty in Brazil has many faces: women, homeless people, children and young people, indigenous people, people living in urban peripheries, fishing communities and rural households. To be sure that no one is left behind, we need to know more about who these people are and what keeps them poor, and use this information to define future action. Data is a key resource to make this happen.

The Inter-agency Expert Group appointed to discuss Agenda 2030 global indicators has recognised it is important to disaggregate data to appropriately monitor implementation. But with good data and the expertise available in Brazil aspirations can be set higher. Indicators can be used to monitor Agenda 2030 but also to raise the profile of this agenda nationally and support the policies to achieve it. Indicators should be:

  • Able to monitor the dimensions of progress that matter to people who live in poverty and a good measure of the objectives they want to achieve
  • Disaggregated by race, gender, geography, income and age
  • Updated regularly and frequently
  • Accessible to the general public for free in a standardised format and on user-friendly platforms
  • Useable with raw data, methodologies and metadata available

These characteristics empower governments, civil society, academia and businesses to use the data for meaningful research, advocacy, accountability, planning, policy design and evaluation. The expertise and needs of these stakeholders complement those of statisticians and data producers. Closer collaboration could steer a shared national conversation on how data can foster the end of all forms of poverty in the country. Brazil currently chairs the UN Statistical Commission that leads work on the global Sustainable Development Goal indicators, so this vision could be represented there too.

Brazil is at a crucial moment, in which political legitimacy and national resources are scarce. The progress that Brazil has made towards ending poverty should not be put in jeopardy. Data will not solve all national woes, but can be leveraged as a powerful tool to inform the national policy debate, support evidence-based decision-making and allocate scarce resources in the best possible way.