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Brazil World Bank – Sharing a quiet social revolution


Ministry of Social Development and Hunger Alleviation (MDS) and the World Bank

Country (ies):

The Bolsa Família Program (BFP) has been the object of multiple requests for study tours and visits. Until December 2009, this process involved visits from about 30 countries including lusophone Africa, Costa Rica, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Peru, Phillipines and Panama, among others. Representatives from MDS also participated in seminars in Morocco, India, Colombia, and Egypt.


As the largest conditional cash transfer in the world and one of the first in its kind, the BFP is unique in its institutional arrangements -especially those that favor coordination among sectors and cooperation between States- as well as its scale of operations. It is also a successful experience from a political and social perspective. This has attracted attention both in Brazil and abroad, and moved several countries in the first stages of implementation of a CCT to ask for advice from the BF team. That cooperation takes place in the form of visits to the Federal management of the program and through technical cooperation activities with MDS.


International interest in the experience of the BFP is widespread, and both the World Bank and the Brazilian Government received numerous requests for knowledge sharing and technical assistance based on the BFP's experience. This is because several key features of the program are of interest for replication or adaptation in other countries, including: the demonstrated impact on poverty and inequality reduction; the role of the BFP as a unifying force in social policy; its nature as a reform program, which consolidated four pre-reform programs into one; its size and coverage as well as the rapid expansion achieved; the impressive targeting accuracy of the program; the implementation in Brazil's decentralized context using contracts between the different government levels; its peculiar use of conditionality, which is not perceived exclusively as a punitive instrument, but as an opportunity for the identification of vulnerabilities that can be faced through services and the integration of instruments from other social spheres; and the development and use of innovative mechanisms of public management, based on performance.

From the Brazilian government perspective, the purpose of the overall knowledge sharing activities has been to provide support to other low and middle-income countries and to help replicate the successful experience of BF in reducing poverty and inequality. Brazil also tries, by means of these activities, to benefit from cooperation with other programs that face similar challenges in the expansion and consolidation of a CCT (for example, in Mexico and Colombia).

The foreign delegations visiting Brazil or receiving technical assistance from experts of BF have access to information on their design, its trajectory, as well as on the challenges in the execution of a large-scale income transfers program. These two types of activities intended to provide very useful assistance to countries with similar social problems to Brazil, especially in Africa. Many of these nations struggle with income inequality, high unemployment, and problems in the delivery of essential public services, such as health and education, in a context where governments are trying to improve its institutional capacities to deal with these problems. African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, and Guinea-Bissau are in the early stages of design or implementation of income support programs and are eager to learn from the Brazilian experience.

The Brazilian cooperation policy has undergone a paradigm change in recent years, in the sense that Brazil used to be mostly a recipient of international cooperation and has become a donor country of international technical cooperation. Such change can be clearly observed in the Ministry of Development Social and Hunger Alleviation of Brazil itself, which has received, from its creation, a growing demand for provision of technical cooperation to South countries in regard to its programs and social policies. One of the main focuses of demand for cooperation from South countries has been the Bolsa Família Program, in areas related to the design and the implementation of the Program as well as regarding the management tools used by Brazil that produced positive results.

The role that international organizations play varies from case to case. Regarding the World Bank role, it was important the credibility provided by the institution to the program since its initial phases. In the case of DFID, the institution, upon proposing triangular cooperation systematization, made possible to MDS the opportunity to develop institutional capacity to cooperate with other countries. It is important to mention the valuable technical contribution provided by the Centro Internacional de Políticas de Crescimento Inclusivo – IPC during the process of technical cooperation with African countries.

It cannot be affirmed categorically, but it is possible to imagine that the interest of other countries in the Brazil case is generated by the scale of the program, by the results achieved in poverty and inequality reduction, and by the relatively low costs of its implementation.

The strong emphasis on the social sector by the current Brazilian administration, which was highlighted during the campaign and the presidency of President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, played a key role in the dissemination of the Brazilian social policies, since from the first year of operation of MDS there was a significant demand for international cooperation in this area. In addition, the positive results obtained by the Brazilian social policies have worked as an important incentive to this type of demand, taking into account the significant expansion in coverage of the Brazilian social safety net as well as the important improvement in the quality of services provided to its population.


The BFP has been providing technical support to other governments since 2005. That year, the Brazilian government sent experts on a visit to South Africa, Nigeria and the UK with the support of the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID). A year later, representatives from Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia undertook a study tour to Brazil on Conditional Cash Transfers and on the design of the broader Social Safety Net in Brazil.

Then, in 2007, Brazil provided the government of Ghana with technical assistance in the design of a pilot social grants program entitled Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP). Experts from MDS took part in three missions to Ghana involving Bolsa Família, the Single Registry for Social Programs (CadÚnico) and the Child Labor Eradication Program (PETI).

After these experiences proved to be very positive, MDS, DFID and the International Poverty Center (IPC) launched the Africa-Brazil Cooperation Program on Social Development in March 2008. The objective of this partnership is to provide a more systematic cooperation between African countries and Brazil based in three pillars: technical cooperation, study tours, and distance learning. Conflicting agendas in the Brazilian Government impeded a faster improvement in trilateral technical cooperation. In addition, the aforementioned cooperation program was strengthened by means of the participation of representatives of MDS in two of the three encounters - Regional Meetings of Experts in Social Protection - Center-South region and Western Region of Africa, carried out respectively in Uganda and Senegal. This was organized by the African Union in order to prepare the Meeting of African Ministers of Social Development, in which these authorities established minimum standards for social policies in the African continent. The involvement of MDS in such effort was so important that the Minister of the Social Development, Patrus Ananias, participated on the meeting in October 2008 in Namibia, in the quality of guest and only non-African political authority present in the encounter.

Brazil has also participated in/organized several international events related to CCTs. In 2004, BF in a collaborative effort with the World Bank, DFID, the German Technical Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the Municipality of São Paulo, held the 2nd International Conference on Conditional Cash Transfer Programs. The objective of this workshop was to bring together practitioners and policymakers from established conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs to share their experiences with one another, as well as with policy-makers from countries currently setting up CCT programs. Over 100 people participated from 25 countries. Brazil subsequently participated in the follow-up conference in Istanbul in 2006, where more than 300 representatives from 40 countries shared their experiences and challenges. MDS also took part in the Conference on the impacts of the finance, fuel and food crisis, held on June of 2009 in Cairo.

In addition, the BFP is an active member of the CCT community discussion group in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is sponsored by the World Bank. This group, formed after the 3rd International CCT conference in 2006, is composed of high level program managers and staff from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Mexico and the Bank and Inter-American Development Bank staff working on CCT projects. The group meets bimonthly through video-conferences to discuss transversal operational issues regarding CCTs. The group has also organized in-person workshops in Mexico in 2008 and Colombia in 2009. These peer exchanges enable program staff to deepen their understanding of how different countries confront implementation issues. The discussion group was recognized as one of the LAC innovations in knowledge in 2008/9 by the World Bank.

The World Bank also supported the participation of BF representatives in a technical trip to Morocco in early 2009 and the visit of a delegation from MDS and the government of the state of Minas Gerais to India to provide advice to the New Delhi government, which is in the process of reorganizing its social sector and was looking for advice on issues such as data gathering, outreach, service provision, non-contributory benefits, etc.

Besides these activities of cooperation, which require more thorough efforts on the part of the involved institutions, MDS received the visit from delegations of several countries, from all continents, for a first approximation to the BFP, such as China, Pakistan, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, and Morocco, among other.

Technical cooperation provided by MDS always seeks to involve active participation of the demanding country, especially for the identification and refining of the demand directed to MDS. Currently, in order to turn technical cooperation provided by MDS more effective, there has been implemented a questionnaire that should be responded in advance by the demanding country providing data on the state of social protection system in the country. Each questionnaire is directed to specific technical areas and has to be responded by the homologous technical area of the demanding country.

MDS currently has more than 23 technical cooperation projects, and more than 50 countries with whom it carries out some specific activity. These numbers reflect the level of technical cooperation requested to MDS. The Ministry looks to respond to all inquiries. However, taking into account that MDS has a limited technical team, there is currently an effort to filter the demands on the base on the capacity of the demanding institution and the detail of the demand presented, in order to ensure a significant impact of cooperation provided by MDS on the recipient countries.


International technical cooperation provided by MDS specifically within the framework of the Bolsa Família Program expanded as the program consolidated and presented its first positive results. Such expansion translated into 14 cooperation projects that take into account the experience of the Bolsa Família Program.

One of the most interesting results obtained by the South-South Cooperation activities carried out by MDS is the Trilateral cooperation project between Brazil-DFID-Africa. For instance, Ghana and Kenya have started a common social agenda after they jointly visited Brazil in 2008 on a study mission within the framework of this project. Both countries are experiencing similar challenges in the area of social protection. Two subjects where they started supporting each other are the registration process of beneficiaries, and the monitoring and evaluation of programs.

Also, as a result of recent cooperation, MDS and countries such as Ghana and Mozambique are working on a long-term partnership. A team from MDS recently spent three weeks in Ghana helping on the design of a new social policy plan. The team was composed of three experts in targeting of social programs who had worked on the Brazilian single registry (Cadastro Unico), one specialist in conditionality management, one expert in child labor eradication, and one in monitoring and evaluation (M&E). The African governments have asked for further assistance from the Brazilians.

The sustainability of the results obtained by cooperation provided by MDS is currently a major institutional concern. In this regard, MDS has been implementing a growing effort for the identification and study of the institutional capacity of the institution in the demanding country, prior to cooperation. Such concern tries to solve previously identified problems in cooperation with countries whose demanding organs had limited institutional capacity for the attainment and implementation of the experience learned through the cooperation provided by MDS.

Technical cooperation provided by MDS has been reaching a state of growing maturity, since it has begun to identify the main fragilities and inefficiencies of the process initiated in 2004. MDS is currently trying to adapt specific components of its policies and programs that can be adapted, in accordance with previous studies of the political, social and institutional situation of the demanding country, as well as the specific technical area for which cooperation is requested. Such initiative is the result of unsatisfactory results obtained previously with the attempt to uniform transfers of the Brazilian experience.

Aid Effectiveness:

The path of cooperation followed by the BFP and Brazil's social policy is part of the broader international strategy of the government of President Lula Da Silva. Lula has become one of the most important leaders and advocates of knowledge and expertise sharing among Southern countries. In recent years Brazil signed agreements with countries such as India, China and South Africa in order to explore trade and investment opportunities, agree on common positions on global issues, and to share information, skills and technologies. Brazil has also been the leading voice for the interests of developing nations in different multilateral negotiations.

Capacity Development:

MDS's institutional structure was established in 2004. From the outset five secretaries were created to implement and manage policies and social programs from MDS. Also in the Internal Rules from 2004 it was anticipated the creation of an International Unit responsible for the monitoring and coordination of the international activities of MDS.

Many of the demands received refer to the institutional design of MDS, as well as its policies at the macro level, and are not restricted to specific programs. Trying to respond to these demands, cooperation projects normally have a component of "strengthening of institutional capacity" of the demanding country. By doing this MDS seeks to share its experience in regard to the process of structuring and construction of its legal/institutional outline.

The contact between technicians of MDS responsible for the implementation and management of the BFP with technicians from other countries that demand cooperation in this area generates a major motivation and incentive in them, mainly when the results of the Program and the management tools successfully developed and implemented are exposed by MDS. The foreign technicians normally return to their countries with major expectations concerning the implementation or improvement of already existing programs of this nature.


South-South Cooperation between the BF team and the African countries started in 2005 and has increased year after year. The Brazilian government is improving the channels by which cooperation takes place and is now working on projects with more specific timelines along with its partners.

Name of Primary Contact Person:

Francisco Ochoa

Title of Primary Contact Person:

Consultant, Social Protection Unit, Human Development Department, World Bank


Washington, DC