2050 Vision: UK-Brazil Urban Network

Globalisation, climate change and urban governance: balancing the scales for both efficient and pro-poor urban futures – The case of Brazil and UK.

The main aim of this network is to develop research capacity and facilitate transfer of knowledge on the interface between globalisation, climate change, urban development and urban governance in Brazil and UK and how this impacts on local economies, local livelihoods and access to resources. This is achieved by addressing the following research themes around a central question of how urban governance is responding to the challenges of globalisation and climate change and whether more flexible forms of governance capable of meeting such challenges are emerging/ possible;

  • Globalisation, urban economic restructuring and urban competitiveness
  • Urban governance including administrative hierarchies, legal and regulatory frameworks, policy and decision making forums, roles and functions of key actors and resultant power networks, partnerships and interactions
  • Climate change, environmental planning/governance and their implications for social and economic development of cities
  • Emerging patterns of agglomeration and local economies including asset protection and livelihoods of local inhabitants and small firms
  • The interface of globalisation and urban governance and understanding whether and how more flexible and multilayered governance structures are emerging in response to globalisation particularly in terms of; mediating conflicting demands of global and local circuits of development, supporting more environmentally sustainable local development patterns in response to climate change, managing access to land, infrastructure and urban services and determining, mediating between and implementing alternative scenarios for urban futures

Why it is necessary?

It is already possible to see in the two countries emerging approaches to this governance of the future. In the UK governance has played a central role in the discourses of sustainable development. Emphasis has been placed on particular forms of governance as providing a crucial mechanism for reconciling (or 'joining up') the potentially conflicting objectives of competitiveness, cohesion and sustainability. Yet the ability of networked, multi-level governance to fulfil this expectation has been mixed as examples such as the Thames Gateway growth area show. This is leading to a fragmentation of governance arrangements and strategies ranging from top-down public/private partnerships to more community-oriented participatory forms of governance. Research in the UK is also looking at how visions for the future are articulated and implemented in urban strategies.

In Brazil, on the other hand, we can note innovative responses including that of Sao Paulo where in response to the negative consequences of the changing Brazilian macro-economic regime; local stakeholders in the 1990s collectively created and negotiated the elaboration of an inter-municipal consortium, a Regional Chamber for Participatory Strategic Planning and an Economic Development Agency. In spite of the innovative character and the entrepreneurial drive behind some of these initiatives, it should not distract attention from the fact that, at least until recently, the low financial capacity, the weak institutional recognition within Brazilian fiscal federalism and the high dependence on individual leadership has proved to be bottlenecks in increasing the scale and continuity of this informal system of regional governance, and replicating it in other metropolitan areas.

As a matter of fact, as pointed out by Rojas et al (2008), while the process of economic and productive restructuring is particularly intense in Brazilian metropolitan areas and city regions, the institutional arrangements for collaborative governance have been by and large insufficient to overcome the dilemma of collective action in these territories. Moreover, during the 1990s the federal government has withdrawn from traditional Keynesian industrial, technological and regional development policies, while sub-national governments have gained prominence in setting up alternative local development strategies. This has raised a series of debates on the supposed fragmentation and polarization of the Brazilian national space economy.

Both countries therefore provide fertile ground for exploring the themes of this research. In addition the contrasting context of the two countries can yield important opportunities for mutual learning for more just and sustainable urban futures in a context of rapid global integration and climate change. This would not be apparent in more common networks and comparative studies involving similar contexts as that of UK.

Summary of project objectives

This network aims to explore and understand the challenges posed to urban governance by contemporary processes of globalization and to share knowledge and expertise about how to meet these. The network focuses on governance for sustainable futures and within this, the need to address climate change and promote pro-poor/socially inclusive strategies in an era of competitiveness as a key areas for attention. This is achieved by addressing the following research themes:

  • Globalisation, urban economic restructuring and urban competitiveness.
  • Urban governance including frameworks for decision making, development and implementation.
  • Climate change and environmental planning.
  • Emerging patterns of agglomeration and local economies.
  • Understanding whether and how more flexible and multilayered governance structures are emerging in terms of mediating between and implementing alternative scenarios for urban futures.

Summary of impacts

We expect that the work will contribute to a better understanding of pro-poor and more sustainable urban governance both in terms of basic concepts and theories and policy and best practice, particularly in Brazil and UK but with more generic implications. The outcomes and outputs would be of interest to researchers in a range of disciplines not directly involved in urban governance/development. These include urban economy, geography, urban sociology, area studies and development studies. Similarly we expect the research would be useful to a range of national and city level policy makers and consultancy firms particularly those involved in social policy, urban planning and economic development. The results will also be of use to NGOs and CBOs involved in urban and community development in cities in both UK and Brazil.

Expected outputs

The expected outputs for the project are as follows:

  1. Expert workshop reports (from workshops in each participating city)
  2. Producing a special issue of the International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development that can bring together the discussions and papers on different themes and participants.
  3. Presentation of a number of papers on Brazil, UK and comparative analysis in international conferences.
  4. A clearly defined research agenda for continuing the work in the future.
  5. Detailed research proposals for submission to the ESRC (particularly the upcoming Rising Powers Call) and other local and international sources in each Brazil and UK (E.g., DFID, EU) for follow up research and PhD scholarships.
  6. Teaching materials for Masters and PhD programmes in the institutions of the co-investigators and other academic participants in this network.
  7. An E-platform for continuing the network beyond the period of funding for this network.