Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Durval de Noronha and I am the senior partner of Noronha-Advogados. It is my great pleasure to welcome today to the Canning House in London Ambassador Dulce Pereira, secretary-general of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), to speak on `Challenges and Opportunities of Portuguese Speaking Countries`.

I am particularly delighted that Ambassador Pereira agreed to come to London especially for this presentation and at the opportunity to introduce to Britain one of the most pre-eminent Brazilian women of our times.

As you probably know, Brazil is a country that offers a diverse ethnic, economic and social framework. The country has the largest black population outside of Africa, living with 37 million Italians and millions of descendants of Portuguese, German, Polish, Spanish and native Brazilians. Brazil has today a GDP of approximately US$ 1 trillion dollars in accordance with the purchase power parity criteria, ranking 5th in the world after the American, Japanese, German and Chinese economies. Its economy is almost as big as the Chinese and twice as big as the Russian and the Indian. Its main export products are regional jets.

However, Brazil also presents a bleak picture of social exclusion and of discrepancy of income. Forty million Brazilians live below the poverty line and the slums that plague our large cities are a national shame. The vast majority of those miserable ones are black people.

This is where I come to the role played by Ambassador Pereira in Brazil. She has been for many years a leader of the black Brazilians and has fought tirelessly for their rights, economic advancement and, more recently, towards progressive empowerment of this important segment of our population. She was the president of the Palmares Foundation, the largest think-tank and political action movement of the black people. She was a deputy senator for the State of Sao Paulo, for the Labour Party (PT). Because of her academic records, political activity, democratic credentials and otherwise exemplary life, she became a role model for millions of Brazilian people. It has been said that she influences 80% of the votes of black Brazilians.

Accordingly, she was appointed by the President of Brazil as the secretary-general of the CPLP and became not only the single Brazilian woman to occupy the direction of an international organisation, but the first black ambassador of her sex. As you are about to find out, her leadership is already felt. Ladies and Gentleman, it is my honour to present to you Ambassador Dulce Pereira.