Atlas Network’s Brazil-based partner Livres was named the winner of the 2022 Latin America Liberty Award at Latin America Liberty Forum in Mexico City. Each year, Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award Prize Program, generously sponsored by the Templeton Religion Trust, honors and rewards outstanding projects by our partners across the world through both the flagship Templeton Freedom Award and five Regional Liberty Awards. The latter each offer a prize of up to US$10,000 and recognition on stage at the applicable Regional Liberty Forum. Livres was chosen for their efforts to reform the regulatory structure in Brazil to enable private investment in water and sanitation services.
Until 2019, Brazil’s regulatory policies created a near government monopoly on water and sanitation services. Many Brazilians were forced to use unsafe water and live in close proximity to untreated sewage. State-owned enterprises were simply unable to reach enough people with the services they were intended to provide. Livres spearheaded the introduction of the New Sanitation Framework Bill in 2019. This bill aimed to overhaul the framework of state-owned sewage and water-treatment companies in favor of competition and market-informed private investment. The organization worked to educate lawmakers and refute illiberal arguments against the reform while reaching out to the public to get them involved in advocating for the bill. Parliamentarians ultimately agreed with Livres, and the New Sanitation Framework became law in July 2021.
The law removes the obstacles presented by bureaucracy and special interests and allows private firms to compete with state-owned enterprises. The new regulatory framework allowing such private investment makes it possible for Brazil to reach its goals of providing access to drinking water and sewage collection and treatment to over 90% of its population by 2033. In just one year, the New Sanitation Framework Bill increased the value of projects under contract by tenfold, which demonstrates just how much latent potential was held back by the old rules. This expansion of public-private partnerships is a boon for the economic and social freedom of Brazil.