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Sustainable Barcarena Initiative

Picture: Elias Thiago

A platform for citizen action, conflict resolution and projects development in the Brazilian legal Amazon region.

In August 2018, I was invited to join the team that would implement the Sustainable Barcarena Initiative in the city of Barcarena, in the state of Pará, in the northern region of Brazil.


Barcarena is a city located in the Brazilian legal Amazon, an area whose soil is rich in minerals such as bauxite, which is required to produce aluminium. It is also a strategically positioned city for exporting minerals extracted in the Amazon Forest. Home to major industries, such as Albrás and Alunorte, today belonging to the Norwegian group Norsk Hydro, despite being a place of economic importance, the city has high rates of violence; a history of environmental contamination; low educational performance and conflicts over land distribution and other issues.


Our approach was based on the following theory of change, designed by the consultant, professor and researcher at the Centre for Conflict Resolution at Stellenbosch University (Cape Town, South Africa) Brian Ganson:

If an independent facilitation team undertakes deliberate efforts to progressively cultivate, develop and institutionalise more rigorous collaborative practice and the infrastructure for effective collective action – in ways adapted to and building from the strengths, needs and aspirations of individuals and institutions in Barcarena – than more and more effective coalitions for positive social change will emerge and be sustained.

Our work consisted in mobilising the local people to participate in dialogue and coordination spaces for joint actions between different Barcarena stakeholders - residents of rural communities, industry employees located in the territory, representatives of public authorities and local social organisations. Together, they worked in solving challenges in employment and income, education, culture, environment and conflict resolution. We also create learning and capacity-building spaces for dialogue, collaboration and project planning.

Among my responsibilities were mobilising and articulating local actors; preparing, facilitating and systematising meetings and workshops; strategic planning of SBI activities; and designing the project's internal governance structure.

Over a year, we mapped the most relevant local actors for coordinating sustainable development actions, mobilised and created trust-based relationships with different actors and organisations, engaged hundreds of people in meetings to investigate their reality and co-create solutions. The project was made possible by Norsk Hydro. It had initially been designed for our interim team to make a gradual transition to a local team, so that people would take ownership and be able to manage this platform for citizen action and conflict resolution. After the first year, however, the company decided to refocus the project on developing projects for funding.


2018 and 2019


Anna Romanelli

Barbara Oliveira

Bruna Viana

Emi Tanaka

Enrico Rocha

Flavia Bueno

Lígia Ramos

Márcia Thomazinho

Marina Minari

Pedro Limeira

Picture 1: Elias Thiago - Pictures 2 and 3: Marina Minari


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