Economic crisis and political unrest have threatened part of the progress Brazil has made in the last decade. We can now observe positive development trends.

Facts about Brazil

The flag for Brazil
Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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The flag for Brazil

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Earlier, rainforest covered approximately 13 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Now only about half remains. Each year sees the disappearance of an area of rainforest equivalent to 40 per cent of Norway’s land area.

The core areas for development cooperation between Norway and Brazil are natural resource management, climate and the environment.

Sixty per cent of the Amazon rainforest is situated in Brazil, and the country encompasses 30 per cent of the world’s remaining rainforest. Brazil’s efforts to reduce deforestation probably represent one of the largest single climate interventions globally in recent years.

Various estimates have been made of the volume of emissions to the atmosphere Brazil has hindered by slowing down deforestation – these vary from one to three billion tonnes of CO2 for the period from 2004 to 2014.

Deforestation in Brazil increased from August 2015 to July 2016. Since Norwegian support is results-based, disbursements to Brazil fell considerably in this year.
Preliminary figures for the period from August 2016 to July 2017 reveal, however, that deforestation is again declining, showing a reduction of twelve per cent compared with the previous period, which may lead to an increase in Norway’s support in 2018.

Weak growth in 2017

Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country in both area and population, and the eighth largest economy globally. A lengthy period of impressive growth and poverty reduction was followed by economic downturn and major political challenges.

In 2015, the country faced a deep economic and political crisis. Brazil’s economy is now picking up, and the government has succeeded in reversing the economic downturn and creating growth. The economic downturn of minus 7.2 per cent in 2015 and 2016 has been halted, and in 2017 growth amounted to 1 per cent.

Economic crisis and political unrest threaten part of the social and economic progress Brazil has made in the last decade. In addition, this has strongly affected the environmental agenda in Brazil, partly because of cuts in government spending in key environmental and indigenous institutions.

It will take time to restore the economy to its former state after a long period of reduced tax revenues and increased central government debt. Growth estimates for development going forward are subject to continual upward adjustment, and inflation was halved in the past year.

Interest groups are fighting against forest conservation

Strong interest groups are exploiting the political unrest that flares up occasionally when accusations of corruption are levelled at key politicians. One of these is the agricultural faction that consists of powerful landowners – the ruralists. This agricultural lobby has reinforced its positions significantly under President Temer, who has been in power since August 2016.

The ruralists have gained support for several measures that endanger forest and environmental protection. One example is a measure that gives rights of ownership to those who have occupied land illegally up to 2011. The measures have resulted in strong reactions among environmental activists who feel that the government is now breaking its promises to reverse the development.

Environmental activists under strong pressure

International and Brazilian experts report growing violence against indigenous people and environmental and human rights activists in Brazil. According to Global Witness, Brazil was also in 2017 the country where most environmental activists and indigenous people were killed.

The country experienced its worst year ever in 2017, with a record-high 57 people killed by the end of the year as against 49 activists in 2016. Human rights groups anticipate increased violence and pressure on indigenous people’s land rights in 2018, since agricultural and mining stakeholders know that the authorities will hesitate to crack down on assaults in an election year.

The Amazon Fund

The Amazon Fund was established in 2008 in order to support measures to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation and to promote the preservation of the Amazon region and sustainable use of forests. The Fund accepts contributions from other countries, private individuals and business actors. Disbursements to the Amazon Fund are based on deforestation figures for the Amazon region.

The Amazon Fund is administered by the Brazilian Development Bank BNDES. The board of the fund consists of representatives of the federal states in the Amazon region. Various ministries and civil society (environment, indigenous peoples, industry, agricultural workers, etc.) are also members of the board.

The donors mainly work at an overarching level, based on a high degree of beneficiary responsibility. This means that Norway’s role is limited to determining the annual allocations and monitoring compliance with donor agreements. Germany is an important donor country in addition to Norway.

Norway attempts to influence the country’s institutions to work as far as possible in a targeted and effective manner. This is accomplished through formal and informal meetings. So far, the Amazon Fund has given financial support to 100 projects – a total of USD 707 million. The Fund has received donations amounting to USD 1.2 billion, mainly from Norway and Germany.

Indigenous peoples, the environment and sustainable development

The Amazon region is the home of a large number of indigenous groups. Almost one-fourth of the Amazon rainforest encompasses indigenous territories. In these areas, deforestation is generally very low at approximately one per cent. Retaining indigenous territories and robust rights for indigenous peoples are regarded as crucial climate and development interventions.

Brazil’s Supreme Court resolved on 19 July 2017 to limit indigenous people’s land rights in certain cases, and to allow for the start-up of large infrastructure projects without consultations with the indigenous groups affected.

Overall, civil society groups report that there is growing pressure on indigenous peoples in Brazil, particularly in respect of their land rights. There has also been a growth in acts of violence and murder in Brazil targeting indigenous peoples, human rights defenders and environmentalists.

The purpose of Norway’s support to indigenous peoples is to strengthen human rights, combat poverty, develop good governance, promote political, social and economic inclusion, preserve the environment and ensure the sustainable management of natural resources.

Efforts to ensure sustainable development for indigenous areas in Brazil, particularly in the Amazon region, were strengthened by climate and forest funding from Norway in 2017, through direct support to indigenous organisations via the Indigenous People’s Programme under the auspices of the Norwegian Embassy in Brasilia.


Norwegian support to civil society in Brazil targets the combatting of forest-related crime, mapping of the rainforest and making provision for sustainable agricultural methods, among other things.

The Rainforest Fund works to strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil. The aim of the programme is to safeguard 1.2 million square kilometres of rainforest in seven designated regions. This area is populated by 385 different indigenous groups.

Sustainable Settlers in the Amazon
The farmer Paulo Evaristo belongs to one of hundreds of families in the state of Pará in the Amazon who are trained in the use of better techniques and methods to farm. It has changed the lives of Paulo and his family. The support has come from the Amazon Fund through the organization Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).
GPS Guardians of the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Fund supports the Wajapi in their efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon Fund is supported by the Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative.
Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 21.02.2019