An international organization from the Global South

Just like in other Latin American countries, shaking off military authoritarianism in Brazil required steps to combat institutional violence, disrespect for the rights of minorities and inequality in access to justice. And more importantly, to contribute to the strengthening of institutions and the construction of public policies.

The climate situation called for new strategies, particularly in institutions not regularly accessed by civil society actors, like the Supreme Court, and on the international level, the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

This was the context in which Conectas was born, the result of a joint effort by human rights professionals, academics and activists. Although the human rights situation in the Global South had long been discussed by organizations from the North, Conectas was a counterbalance showing that there was a critical mass in this part of the world that could make its own assessments and propose its own solutions. An organization founded and based in Brazil to address the major global issues from a Global South perspective.

Over the past 15 years, Conectas has contributed to the protection of guaranteed rights and the enhancement of others that will help build a fair, free and democratic society.


Oscar Vilhena Vieira

Founding member, former director and current board member


Malak El-Chichini Poppovic

Founding member, former director and current board member


Andre Raichelis Degenszajn

Founding member, former coordinator and current board member


Jessica Carvalho Morris

Executive director


Juana Kweitel

Program director


Marcos Fuchs

Associate director


Camila Asano

Coordinator of the Foreign Policy program


Fernanda Mioto

Manager of the Financial and Administrative department


Rafael Custódio

Coordinator of the Justice program

Local voices

Ana Cernov

Coordinator of the South-South program


Lucia Nader

Former executive director


Eloísa Machado

Former coordinator of Article 1 (Justice program)


Julia Neiva

Former coordinator of Article 1 (Justice program)

Actions and Achievements


Just as the name suggests, Conectas was created to make connections and bring people together around a common goal: the promotion and realization of human rights. By adopting a compass as its logo with the needle pointing south, the organization made it clear on which region of the world its sights were set.

This “South-South” cooperation was never intended to exclude the North, but instead to bring new marginalized voices to the international debate. Conectas started its work with the goal of creating an enabling environment to strengthen a new generation of human rights defenders through dialogue with academics, experts and social leaders.

The main forum for this goal, which preceded even the organization’s own creation, was the International Human Rights Colloquium, a conference geared towards the training and sharing of experiences between activists from countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

One of the editions of the Colloquium expressed the desire to produce and share knowledge. This wasthe inspiration behind the creation of a communication channel between academics and activists committed to the promotion and defense of human rights: the Sur International Journal on Human Rights

Since then, the publication has addressed the most relevant topics in the field of human rights and violations. Its three most recent issues discuss contemporary topics for both Brazil and the world: drugs, in issue 21 (August 2015); the use and sale of arms, in issue 22 (December 2015); and migration,in the current issue 23 (July 2016).

The journal has built up a loyal readership. It is supported by numerous reputable organizations and is cited in scientific papers.


In 2003, Conectas began using litigation as a strategy to combat violations committed by the Brazilian State. This was the origin of the Justice Program, at the time called “Article 1”, which initially focused on the youth detention system.

Between 2003 and 2008, the organization conducted visits and inspections to approximately 70% of the Fundação Casa youth reform centers (previously called Febem) to obtain information on the violations committed in these facilities, and it filed nearly 100 lawsuits on behalf of detained adolescents who were victims of violence.

On a number of occasions, working together with other organizations, Conectas managed to raise the political cost to leaders of these violations, bring about reforms in the youth detention system and improve oversight and transparency mechanisms in these facilities.

Drawing on this experience, the organization started to work on combating violations and protecting the rights of people incarcerated in the adult prison system. The country was already rising rapidly in the ranking of nations with the largest prison populations. Besides failing to provide adequate access to justice, as required by law, the Brazilian prison system became a ticking time bomb: the poor prison conditions, the lack of medical care and adequate food, and routine torture created the conditions for frequent and violent riots.

On account of the growing prominence of the Supreme Court in the debate on fundamental rights, Conectas saw the need to work in this arena to promote human rights, particularly for more vulnerable groups.

The approval of laws 9,868 and 9,882, in 1999 permitted civil society representatives to contribute to the decision-making process in the Supreme Court, by submitting amicus curiae briefs – documents with independent technical arguments on the case being heard. Conectas is one of the organizations that has filed the most briefs in the court.

It was by using this strategy in June 2016 that, in partnership with other organizations, Conectas successfully changed the minds of court justices on the classification of “privileged trafficking” – which is when the defendant is a first-time offender, has no criminal record and is not a member of a criminal gang – as a serious crime carrying harsher penalties.


Starting in 2005, Conectas began systematically monitoring the positions taken by Brazil on the international level. Until then, foreign policy decisions were almost always taken by the Ministry of Foreign Relations with very little oversight or accountability to the Judicial or Legislative branches. Much less so to civil society.

After the creation of the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, Conectas concentrated its efforts on working strategically in this forum, whichwas created to promote universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The votes of Brazil in the Council were monitored and whenever they conflicted with human rights, Conectas firmly challenged them.

Since acquiring consultative status at the UN, Conectas has been one of the few Brazilian organizations that uses the United Nations as a forum for reporting violations committed by the Brazilian State, embarrassing it in the presence of other countries and forcing it to give explanations to the international community on these abuses. The same strategy is applied in the mechanism known as UPR (Universal Periodic Review), a session of the UN in which all member states have their human rights situation reviewed.

Understanding the need for democratization and social participation in foreign policy on the national level, Conectas and other civil society organizations also created the Brazilian Human Rights and Foreign Policy Committee, formed by government bodies – such as the Federal Attorney General’s Office for the Rights of the Citizen – and civil society organizations. Its purpose is to monitor the compliance of Brazilian foreign policy decisions with international human rights treaties.



The private sector can also be a source of serious human rights violations. As such, civil society has a key role to play in strengthening accountability mechanisms and holding offending companies responsible. It was based on this assessment that Conectas created the Business and Human Rights project in 2012.

Conducting research and denouncing violations in international forums have been some of the strategies used to regulate the impact of business activities on human rights, vulnerable populations and communities.

These strategies were extended to state-owned banks, such as the BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank), the country’s leading development and infrastructure financing institution. Conectas has been pressuring for the establishment of social and environmental safeguards, standards of transparency and accountability, and impact assessment mechanisms for the financed projects.

The same pressure was repeated during the creation of the BRICS Bank (by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), when Conectas called on the bank to set standards underpinned by respect for human rights when issuing loans.

Also on the international level, Conectas has challenged the bilateral agreements signed by Brazil with Mozambique and Angola that, despite introducing innovations that will promote investments between the countries, do not guarantee the protection of human rights.


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