“multiculturalism follows me throughout my career”

You finished your education at the Lycée français François Mitterrand in Brasilia. What did this get you?

It had a very big impact on my life. I started at François Mitterrand's institution when I was about seven years old, somewhat by accident. My parents are Brazilian, but my mother always liked France and the European style of education. She wanted to give me the opportunity to study abroad if I wanted to instead of staying in the Brazilian education system. As an alternative to the American school, there was a French school which at that time was very small with 300 students from Kindergarten to Terminal. Today it is much bigger. In a professional sense, it opened the doors of Europe, and even the world, for the continuation of higher education. I passed a high school diploma recognized in Europe, I could go anywhere within the European Union.

Was the French high school a springboard for opening up to the world?

French high school is very strong in languages. He not only opened the door to France for me, but also to a certain multiculturalism that follows me throughout my personal career. Through school, we are formed as citizens. I became very French-Brazilian even though I don't have a French passport. I am very French in my vision of the world – even if I am 100% Brazilian – a dual identity that is not official, let's say.

Mariana Martins during her first year at the French High School of Brasilia (2011-12)Mariana Martins during her first year of French high school in Brasilia (2012)

Are you continuing your studies in France after the French high school?

I decided to continue my studies in France at Sciences Po. I was at the Euro-American campus in Reims, the city of champagne! The Euro-American campus focuses on political science and social science, with a transatlantic aspect and a focus on the relationship between Europe and the United States. I continued my studies at Sciences Po on the Paris campus for a master's degree in English in economics and business.

Your professional career started in a flash, within several high world organizations. How is this possible?

I was attracted to international bodies very early on. I would say it started when I was 14 years old, on a field internship where we had to go to a company for a few days. I did my first internship at the Swiss Embassy, ​​a professional sector that I initially liked better. Then I did a second internship at the World Bank to have that parallel between these two environments. By continuing my studies at Sciences Po, I could have new opportunities in the international field and build a networking network with people who came from abroad. I used all these experiences to grow up in an environment I did not come from. My parents were in the army, so they are very far from the economy or international politics.

After the World Bank, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is open to you. Can you tell us a few words about it?

Just before the OECD, I worked at UNESCO at the end of my studies during a professional project with a WTO body. After that I wasn't sure if the UN was the right organization for me. I used the gap year, between obtaining my bachelor's degree and enrolling in my master's degree, to work and gain more professional experience. Then I applied to the OECD, as part of a public policy analysis mission in the team in charge of Brazil. At that time, Brazil was making great efforts to join the OECD, but it was also the beginning of Jair Bolsonaro's presidency (2019-2023). Therefore, exchanges were very active with Brasilia. The organization analyzed the economic and social situation in the country, gave them advice to improve public policies and maybe one day join the OECD.

After this job was completed, I took up a new consulting position with the World Bank in Brazil. I quickly realized that it was difficult to advance to more responsible positions. I have held a number of consulting positions. So I started to look for what I could in the private sector and find international and multicultural activities.

Mariana Martins, consultant at the World Bank in 2019Mariana Martins, consultant at the World Bank in 2019

You then move away from your first love of international bodies to focus on entrepreneurial support in terms of sustainable development. What were the reasons for this new choice?

I saw myself staying in France for a few more years. Unfortunately, due to a health crisis, I was away from my family who was in Brazil, from my boyfriend who was in Miami and I was really isolated in my apartment in Paris. When the summer of 2020 passed, life went on and I graduated from Sciences Po. I started to apply in France, but I encountered many difficulties because I was not European. After thinking about it, I went to the United States to join my boyfriend and once there, everything went very quickly. In Brazil and France, things have not moved much because of Covid-19. In the United States, it was a very different world. It had the effects of an acceleration, not a recession. There are many companies from New York and Silicon Valley in California that moved and settled in Florida not only because of its tropical climate, but because the health measures were – admittedly – less strict. With this, the world of new technologies has really developed. Miami's geographic location and its climate issues have been particularly conducive to the creation of influential startups that have embraced these environmental missions.

A career change that shouldn't have been so easy?

It was a time of transition in my life. A career change, but not only that. It was the end of studies, the beginning of a life together, a change of country… All this is important and not easy. I was interested in “tech”, where we hear a lot about companies like Google, Facebook, etc. with millennials and Gen Z working there in a relaxed atmosphere, with ping pong tables in the offices… It was something fun that I wanted to try. I also had the opportunity to strengthen my skills in economics and business creation techniques and strategy. I went there with this perspective of curiosity, an open mind. After two years, I learned a lot, but the extremely intense pace of entrepreneurial life no longer corresponded with my priorities. Personally, I almost burned out, I decided to take a break and refocus on international relations.

Workshop for discussion on sustainable waste management in LoméLomé 2024 Discussion Workshop on Sustainable Waste Management

Where are you now?

In January 2023, I am leaving the world of technology. Four months later, I joined the Center for Clean Air Policy, a Washington-based think tank started in 1980. By the early 2000s, it focused on US environmental policy and the big problem of acid rain. In the 2000s, environmental policy became more relevant in developing countries. Developed countries were also ready to financially support countries in this need. CCAP therefore refocused on emerging countries, concentrating on continental countries. It has been about five years since CCAP started reaching new continents, especially Asia and Africa. I joined the organization to work with French-speaking African countries. We are responsible for installing concrete climate transition projects within these countries. This includes bringing together actors from the respective sectors and public policies. For example, I was in Togo a few weeks ago and we helped them develop a national plan to reduce their gas and methane emissions through sustainable waste management.

With your perspective and your experience of the country, can Brazil reconcile its economic development and its sustainable development?

Above all, I think it is necessary. And Brazil has only taken climate change into account in its economic growth for a few years. At the level of the global agenda, it is increasingly becoming a priority. I would even say that economic growth can only be imagined with more sustainable solutions because our resources are limited. Developed and developing countries see this as an opportunity, not a challenge, and increasingly help each other. For a long time, we were in the North-South vision, the opposition. Now we realize that there is only one world.

For a long time, Brazil was seen as an example of a country capable of reconciling social and economic development with sustainable development. For several years, there was a radical break with the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. Since Lula's return, we have regained this position of environmental soft power thanks to our ecological resources, especially in the Amazon. Our energy matrix is ​​neither nuclear nor coal, but hydraulic, renewable energy.

Visit to a plastic recycling site in LoméVisit to a plastic recycling site in Lomé (2024)

And France in all this?

(laughs) I am very attached to France, it is a part of me. I'm not officially French, but I feel like it. I have a lot of French friends in Miami. As soon as I can reconnect with her, by going to a French bakery or something, I do that… I see myself in the States for a while to grow professionally. However, I am very French in some aspects of my personality, and above all very European in my mentality. I plan to go back there one day and I'm even going back this summer for vacation.

The month of March is the month in French-speaking countries. In Brazil, what place does it have?
There is admiration for French culture, this impression that France is a very elegant and gastronomic country. French soft power attracts Brazilians. French is preferred to be learned as a second language, or sometimes Spanish and is learned more with the desire to export to Europe. Geographically, there is also Guyana which borders.

In schools, English and Spanish are still taught in a very basic way. Unfortunately, young people cannot master languages ​​when they leave school. French is therefore the option chosen by people who are motivated on the one hand or the middle and upper class. They have this attraction to France.

Leave a Comment