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Dossiê Políticas urbanas, sustentabilidade e governança

Metropolitan Regions: Challenges for Sustainability and Governance of Periurban Areas in Brazil.

Regiões metropolitanas: Desafios para a sustentabilidade e a governança em áreas peri-urbanas no Brasil.
Régions métropolitaines: Défis pour le développement durable et la gouvernance de zones périurbaines au Brésil.
Prof. Dr. Martin Coy, Dr. Simone Sandholz, Dr. Tobias Töpfer et Dr. Frank Zirkl


La métropolisation est devenue un phénomène mondial de l’urbanisation. Au Brésil, ou les taux d’urbanisation sont élevés, cette tendance est visible dans les mégalopoles comme dans les centres régionaux, conduisant à la formation de grands périmêtres urbanisés qui s’étendent des communes centrales aux villes voisines, autrefois éloignées des centres. La formation d’énormes agglomérations urbaines, comme la Macrométropole Paulista, sont le résultat d’une configuration urbaine nouvelle, associé à des défis significatifs en ce qui concerne la gouvernance de ces énormes périmètres urbanisés et fragmentés. Le développement périurbain dans les regions métropolitaines les plus peuplées est confronté à de graves problèmes, comme l’inexistence d’infrastructures, notamment de sécurité publique, en plus de nouvelles formes de fragmentation qui sont accompagnées de problèmes sociaux et environnementaux. Résoudre ces problèmes est un défi énorme, aussi bien au niveau communal que pour les niveaux regional et national. Cette contribution se propose d’analiser le développement des regions métropolitaines au Brésil sur la base d’une systématisation des différentes phases du développement périurbain, à partir des années soixante. Des formes différentes de gouvernance urbaine ainsi que des approches durables pour maîtriser les défis urbains sont évalués dans des études de cas á São Paulo, Curitiba e Recife.

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1Urbanization as one of the most significant global development processes has changed the world during the last decades. Especially in metropolitan areas and megacities a key question is under which circumstances urban agglomerations are constituted and how political, social, economic and ecological aspects characterize their development as well as how ideas about sustainable urban development influence their governance.

2Latin America is a highly urbanized sub-continent where already around 80% (CEPAL, 2018, p. 15) of the population lives in cities, comparably higher than continents like Asia and Africa. It shows remarkable signs of not only a megacity development with enormous conurbation areas like São Paulo or Mexiko City but also processes of peri-urbanization. While suburbia in more developed countries is, among other aspects, characterized by upper middle-class quarters and socio-economic progress Latin American realities of peri-urban life are quite different: illegal occupation of land, informal settlements together with a notable lack of infrastructure and public security. Especially in Brazil “suburbia” (suburban and peri-urban regions) stands very much as a synonym of poverty, unsafe living conditions and profound marginalization – only interrupted by some “islands of wealth” in gated communities. Analyzing recent urban development processes we observe that fragmentation is increasingly shaping urban periphery in Brazil.

3While in the early 1940s less than one third of the Brazilian population lived in cities, nowadays (2017) almost 85% (CEPAL, 2018, p. 15) of the country’s inhabitants are urban (around 160 million out of 207 million Brazilians). This paper will first highlight the different phases of urbanization and peri-urbanization, that Brazil has gone through since the 1960s. It will elaborate on growth, internal differentiation, housing production, and infrastructural policies and will link them to new forms of governance and self-organization that emerged under novel urban policies over the past decades. Based on analyses of the three agglomerations of São Paulo, Recife and Curitiba it will then highlight the diverse challenges of Brazilian cities before drawing conclusions on the overall state of metropolitan areas. The paper then concludes with an outlook on potential future developments under a changing government.

Peri-Urban development in Brazil: from lonely outskirts to crowded suburbia

Until the 1960s: Emerging peri-urbanization

4Brazil’s development since World War II is characterized by modernization of the countries’ society through industrialization and an intensive urbanization process. Between 1940 and the late 1960s urban agglomerations especially in the southeast received new citizens migrating mainly from northeastern Brazil, beside a significant intraregional rural-urban migration from the mid-1960s onwards, mainly caused by the modernization of Brazilian agriculture. The majority of people leaving rural areas were poor immigrants that settled down either in degraded inner-city dwellings (cortiços) or that were absorbed in informal squatter settlements (favelas), increasingly in peripheral areas of urban agglomerations.

1960s to 1980s: Increasing peri-urban development

5Most Brazilian cities and urban agglomerations reached their immigration peak during the 1970s and 1980s. In the case of the state of Paraná for example the heavy rural exodus in the late 1960s was caused by severe climatic problems in the coffee cultivation in the northeastern part of the state and led to a tremendous immigration in Curitiba, the state capital.

6The lack of at least basic housing facilities became obvious, and the military regime tried instimplemented institutional and practical measures to solve the housing demand, especially for the urban poor (e.g. by the installation of BNH, the federal housing bank). Huge social housing projects were implemented and put into practice, in most cases far away from the city centre where land was still available and affordable. Cidade de Deus in Rio de Janeiro or Itaquera in São Paulo are two examples for social housing initiatives during that period. All together during the 1970s and 1980s the impressive number of 1.5 million units was built all over Brazil, with a concentration in the southeast, however still far from meeting the needs.

7The responsible public institutions and the contracted construction firms usually preferred the outskirts of the cities or even peri-urban municipalities to accommodate such large-scale social housing projects due to higher availability and lower prices for land. By making these location choices, the state itself proliferated the ongoing peri-urbanization. As a consequence, socio-spatial segregation grew between centers and outskirts. Peri-urban dwellers became more and more disadvantaged due to large distances between their homes and the (mainly informal) urban work places, their lack of transport and other infrastructure, and so on. Nevertheless, during this period the peri-urban population in all Brazilian agglomerations grew already faster than the population of the central cities.

1980s to 2000: From segregation to fragmentation

8The Brazilian public housing policy never met its requirements as throughout all the phases of peri-urban development the housing deficit remained high. Even with lower immigration rates from the 1980s onwards most urban and metropolitan areas in Brazil suffered from a lack of adequate housing opportunities. Economic problems that occurred during that period even worsened the precarious situation of urban shelter especially for the poor. As a consequence and in line with the conclusions of UN Habitat I conference in Vancouver (1976, Vancouver Declaration), the federal strategy to provide housing changed to a merely low-cost housing scheme. That contributed to even lower quality of social housing, losing sight of supplying adequate shelter to (less privileged) citizens and more marginalization in peri-urban regions (little work opportunities, huge distances to central work places etc.), not only in mega cities but as well in midsize urban areas. A good example for the latter is Cuiabá, the fast-growing capital of the state of Mato Grosso, where large-scale low-cost housing projects like the Morada da Serra or Pedra 90 were realized during this period in peri-urban areas (Coy 1997).

9Even more important for housing supply and resulting changes in peri-urban areas was the proliferation of illegal allotments by private land owners and real estate companies, as well as the spontaneous invasion of private and public land. Illegal allotments emerged on mostly rural land which was subdivided and sold without formal permission. The new owners started to build their houses and expanded them over time, which led to a long-lasting process of urbanization. Overall peri-urban developments in this period is largely characterized by informal developments, including self-help housing, the proliferation of favelas, and urban-peri-urban migration triggered by expulsion.

10In parallel large private developers and construction firms realized huge gated communities (condomínios fechados) with all amenities for a growing clientele of privileged people. Well known examples for that type of residency are Alphaville around 35 kilometers northwest of São Paulo or the vast gated communities in Barra da Tijuca in the west of Rio de Janeiro (Coy, Pöhler 2002).

11In the meantime all large and medium-sized agglomerations in Brazil have their own Alphaville-like areas and the gated community lifestyle has become the most important in Brazil’s high-ranking housing trends. Ongoing marginalization, increasing land appropriation by privileged actors, and the absence or at least the weaknesses of public steering are the main characteristics of this phase, Growing fragmentation is visible particularly in peri-urban areas, where the upper class prefers to settle in suburban luxurious high-rise complexes (Herzog 2013).

Fig. 1: Phases of peri-urbanization in Brazil

Fig. 1: Phases of peri-urbanization in Brazil

Since the 2000s: Alternative concepts for peri-urban development

12For about the past two decades, underprivileged groups have been increasingly organized in social urban reform movements that are rooted in the 1980s, Brazilian re-democratization process and the national urban reform movement (Coy 2010) Key concerns are the provision of urban infrastructure in poorer quarters, the construction of housing facilities, and the option to purchase parcels. The main policy result was the Estatuto da Cidade (City Statute), passed in 2001, and the establishment of the Ministry for Urban Affairs (Ministério das Cidades) in 2003. The City Statute obliges Brazilian municipalities with more than 20,000 people to issue a master plan (Plano Diretor) at least every five years. In addition, it provides legal support for municipalities to promote land tenure, and legitimatizes different new legal instruments for urban areas (Serra 2004). Although these attempts have been very promising in theory, in practice outcomes are limited. Participatory instruments, even if mandatory by law, remain unused or are treated as processes for legitimizing decisions of urban authorities (Kirsch-Soriano 2010).

13The most recent phase of urbanization and peri-urbanization is characterized above all by a general deceleration of urban growth, particularly within the main agglomerations. Yet urban poverty and socio-spatial marginalization still increased throughout the country, in parallel with a reinforcement of social and socio-spatial urban inequalities, and aggravated violence and security problems especially at the urban margins. This might be interpreted as a consequence of the neoliberal politics that shaped Brazil at different levels, among other factors.

14In urban and peri-urban areas, the opposing forces of top-down private capital interests and bottom-up civil-society driven processes continued to be the driving forces of development, exceeding capacities of public authorities to react (Maricato 2011) (see also Fig. 2).

15During the latest phase of peri-urbanization, however, the national government as well as the federal states and the municipal authorities recognized the need for change and action in the urban and peri-urban realms. As a consequence of the 1988 constitution and the accompanying national urban reform movement, several innovative elements of urban policy and governance were implemented such as the participatory budgeting (orçamento participativo), implemented by local governments under the guidance of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party, PT), with the goal to counteract old clientele politics and enabling local municipalities to engage with slum dwellers as full citizens. Strengthening of the municipal and the state level can be considered as one of the main outcomes of this process. Additionally, overall awareness for new governance schemes for major urban agglomerations became a subject of major importance.

16However, the most important impacts on recent urban and peri-urban development stem from the federal investment programs PAC 1 and PAC 2 (Growth Acceleration Programs 1 and 2), to counteract impacts of the global financial crisis 2007 and 2008. In 2007, Brazil’s housing deficit was as approximated to 7.2 million housing units. The highest deficit in absolute numbers occurred in the metropolises of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but in relative numbers the north and north-east of the country were most affected, with more than 60 percent of the shortages concerning poor households (Kirsch-Sorano 2010).

17In order to alleviate this high housing deficit, in 2009, the national government initiated the housing program Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV, My House My Life), aiming at building one million housing units in each of its two phases (2009-2011, 2012-2014). It can be considered the first significant public measure in the housing sector after a long crisis of respective public policies. However, the MCMV program dedicated only around 40 percent of its housing units to its poorest target group (“faixa 1”), although it accounted for the majority of the housing need (Marques, Rodrigues 2013). In the metropolitan region of São Paulo, the MCMV program completed almost 600 social housing projects by 2013, totaling more than 107,000 dwellings, with around one third foreseen for the poorest target group earning up to three times minimum wage, (Marques, Rodrigues 2013). In this context, it is interesting to note that those MCMV sites for the poorest strata are located in the most peripheral areas of the metropolitan region of São Paulo, whereas the sites of middle- and upper-income target groups are significantly more central (Marques, Rodrigues 2013), raising legitimate questions regarding impacts of MCMV on reversing long-lasting tendencies of socio-spatial segregation. An analysis of the program shows that the economically less privileged benefit least. MCMV-initiatives contribute to growing segregation tendencies in most suburban and periurban areas mostly worsening the anyway weak public security (e.g. crime, drug dealing). While a significant quantity of habitations was built, basic demands like urban integration and improved infrastructure,) were neglected (Rolnik et al 2015). Besides the urban and social effects MCMV is as well economically important as it contributes to some economic prosperity (jobs, better income, etc.) at the same time it can be considered as a significant support for construction companies, real estate developers and construction companies (see Gonçalves Jr. et al 2014).

Fig. 2: Schematic illustration of peri-urban stuctures and processes in Brazil

Fig. 2: Schematic illustration of peri-urban stuctures and processes in Brazil

Brazilian case studies: fragmented realities in São Paulo, Recife and Curitiba

18Adequate formats and rules of governance for suburban or peri-urban areas are a major challenge all over the world. In Brazil, a fast and in most cases uncontrolled urban expansion especially during the 1960s and 1970s caused many problems in housing, land regulation, and infrastructure provisioning, As these issues certainly were not able be resolved within the municipality boundaries, the Brazilian military government installed in 1973 nine metropolitan regions (Regiões Metropolitanas, RMs) around the major urban agglomerations of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, Belém, Curitiba and Porto Alegre. The central idea behind was to implement mechanisms of centralized coordination, macro-planning, monitoring and control of processes and potential conflicts in the urban and peri-urban context. But urban realities showed that such a top-down measure was everything else than successful.

19The metropolitan region never played an important role in t governance because of institutional weaknesses, a lack of clear responsibilities (municipal vs. regional), political conflicts between different levels, and, last but not least, a total lack of democratic legitimization.

20However the number of Metropolitan Areas in Brazil grew significantly under changing regimes and in parallel with overall urban growth: Meanwhile 74 metropolitan regions exist all over the country, with the highest concentration in the south and northeast. The RM São Paulo - with 19,683,975 inhabitants in thirty-nine municipalities - is the largest, and the RM Sul de Roraima with 21,633 inhabitants in three municipalities is the smallest, indicating the different spatial and socio-economic contexts and political positions among the RMs. With the new Metropolitan Statute (Estatuto da Metrópole, since 2015, equivalent to the City Statute) important issues in metropolitan area governance were addressed, resulting in new legal frameworks for inter-municipal consortia and public-private-partnerships, for example.

21However setting up adequate governance structures for the highly diverse urban agglomeration around Brazil remains challenging, as they are differing to large extents in size, number of municipalities within the RMs, socio-spatial disparities and economic development, among others.

Polycentric emerging Megacity: Macrometrópole Paulista

22The Metropolitan Region of São Paulo is by far the biggest urban agglomeration within South America. Questions on appropriate boundaries, or the amalgamation between different metropolitan regions are more than ever on the agenda of regional policy, planning and research (EMPLASA 2013). The core region is increasingly coalescing with its neighboring metropolitan regions and urban agglomerations of Campinas, Santos (Baixada Santista), Jundiaí and other more distantly located cities and their fringes, such as São José dos Campos, Sorocaba, and Piracicaba, forming a veritable city region called Macrometrópole Paulista (MMP). It constitutes of 173 municipalities with more than thirty million inhabitants, corresponding to 74 percent of the São Paulo State population of and 16 percent of Brazil as a whole. The Macrometrópole generates 83 percent of the gross domestic product of the state, which is 8 percent of Brazil’s GDP (IBGE 2014a, 2014b). Within the Macrometrópole some of the most dynamic and wealthiest science and technology poles, like Campinas or São José dos Campos, converge with declining industrial areas, such as parts of the ABC Paulista, agro-industrial centers like Sorocaba, or agglomerations of poverty, unemployment and marginalization like Guarulhos. Today more than 60 percent of the Macrometrópole population lives in peri-urban municipalities. Over the last years, most growth occurred in the peripheries of the core cities and the municipalities at the outskirts of the Macrometrópole, contributing to of the region’s polycentric structure. No clear "gradient" of wealthier or poorer parts of the Macrometrópole can be identified. Its socio-spatial as well as its functional and economic structure increasingly reflects a patchwork of urban/peri-urban fragments. The economic, social, and infrastructural linkages between fragments are predominantly informal, mostly unplanned, and characterized by open or implicit conflicts for the control over land. In this context of prevalence of private capital interests (at least for the case of the wealthier fragments) and/or informal rules of local governance, the strengthening of public steering at local and specifically at inter-municipal levels becomes highly relevant. This is one of the major tasks for the Macrometropolitan Action Plan (Plano de Ação da Macrometrópole, PAM, 2013-2040), which was elaborated and implemented by EMPLASA and the State Government of São Paulo in 2013 (EMPLASA 2013). Three strategic "topics" define the priorities of the PAM concerning the further development and internal structure of the MMP: first to enhance territorial connectivity and economic competitiveness; second to strengthen territorial cohesion and inclusive urbanization; and third to establish (macro) metropolitan governance. Concrete areas of future public action are more cooperation and coordination between the corresponding municipalities as well as between municipalities, the Macrometropole and the State; the creation and structuration of new centralities; the improvement and the expansion of public housing (e.g. by the Minha Casa Minha Vida program, that – according to Rolnik et al (2015) – is introduced mostly in already consolidated but still precarious sub- and periurban areas, deepening segregation and marginalization); and last but not least, in the adaptation and more coherent application of urbanistic instruments offered by the Estatuto da Cidade. Infrastructure implementation and improvement projects (mainly expansion and modernization of the highway system, railroad, airport and port infrastructures) are of central importance but also dominate politics. The official debate in the Macrometrópole Paulista is oriented towards economic development, instead of towards social, socio-ecological or participatory governance. (see Fig. 3)

Fig. 3: São Paulo – mega-urban region: functional spatial differentiation of the Macrometrópole Paulista

Fig. 3: São Paulo – mega-urban region: functional spatial differentiation of the Macrometrópole Paulista


23Despite being the fifth largest metropolitan region in the country with more than 1.6 million inhabitants in the city and almost 4 million in the metropolitan region (RMR) (IBGE 2018), Recife is still considered as Brazilian ‘periphery’. The metropolitan area in Northeast Brazil spans 14 districts and is still growing. While the region’s economic development is promising and market competitive, the city has one of the highest rates of poverty and inequality in Brazil and many of its residents still live without basic services (Furtado et al., 2014).

24Since the 1980s most of the urban growth is taking place in the peripheral districts, resulting in both, formal and informal periurban growth. Recife has a solid tradition in designing instruments for urban land tenure, since the late 1980s various projects were implemented, among them the creation of Zones of Special Social Interest (Zonas Especiais de Interesse Social, ZEIS), giving favela residents security of tenure, the right to receive government services and to participate in decision-making at the neighborhood and city levels. Also explicitly programs in peripheral areas of RMR were carried out, mostly under a larger initiative to reduce risks to urban settlements in risky areas. The most important urban development projects initiated since end of the 1990s are the PROMETRÓPOLE and the Capibaribe Melhor projects. Both projects are mainly infrastructural projects on watershed scale aiming at canalizing the rivers, improving transport and reducing flood risks, including participatory budgeting components that were introduced with the first urban government of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers’ Party) in 2001 (Vries, 2016).

25After coming to power in 2001 the PT government followed a dual planning approach, “blending neoliberalism with participatory democracy” (Vries, 2016, p. 307). Economic and cultural upgrading was promoted by a series of programs and incentives to attract technology and communication businesses to the former harbor and inner-city area, in the newly created Porto Digital. The largest dockyard in the southern hemisphere was constructed in Suape, South of RMR, as new economic hub of the region. Strong economic growth came hand in hand with urban expansion, resulting in the need to advance urban infrastructures that didn’t keep pace. As a consequence, urban accessibility and mobility have become major problems, accelerated by the increasing number of commuters from and to the fringe areas (Furtado et al., 2014, Rubens de Menezes and Figueira de Souza, 2014).

26Large-scale traffic projects were planned to link Suape with the north and east of the RMR and to provide road access to new suburbs and in particular trade and industry (Furtado et al., 2014). The expansion of the road network includes the ‘Via Mangue’, a new north-south shortcut leading partly through former protected mangrove area. In addition to the road network, another major undertaking is the navigability of the Capibaribe River where public transportation boats on the river are foreseen to disburden the almost collapsing public transportation. However, despite extensive planning and massive financial investments the project somehow fizzled out and has not yet been concluded. Different projects were planned to improve public transport in the course of making Recife a 2014 FIFA World Cup host city, however with rather limited impacts, making the remote stadium, its vicinity and connectivity one of the white elephants built for the event.

27Despite massive public investments urban public infrastructure remains weak in Recife. Particularly sanitation and solid waste management systems are largely unsuccessful, with poor coordination within highly fragmented actor networks between municipalities among the key hindrances (Petelet-Giraud et al., 2018; Paz et al., 2018). Public transportation on the other hand managed to found an RMR wide consortium in 2008, the first of its kind in Brazil, showcasing the potentials of metropolitan planning.

28One result of the ongoing suburbanization and expansion into socially and environmentally vulnerable areas is environmental degradation, exacerbated by lack of suitable counteraction strategies (dos Santos, 2013; Furtado et al., 2014). Many popular urban quarters – whether their origins are formal planning or occupation – are located in environmentally fragile areas. Overall, the urbanization processes in the RMR “imposes environmental losses and negative externalities on the whole city” (Anjos and Lacerda 2015, p. 53).


29Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná, is a well-known example for innovative urban planning, alternative solutions in urban transport, basic sanitation, and ecological sound development patterns. Compared to the early 1970s its metropolitan population grew tremendously: nowadays (2017) the municipality of Curitiba holds about 1.9 million inhabitants (1970: only 600.000) and the whole conurbation area (Região Metropolitana de Curitiba, RMC) is the home for about 3.7 million people (1970: 875.000) (IBGE 2018b, Zirkl 2008).

30Between the establishment of the RMC in 1973 and today its number of municipalities more than doubled from 14 to 29 and the metropolitan area grew. Beside the demographic growth the built-up area has changed significantly as well, the urbanized area has spread and all municipalities around the core city do show an elevated (and still growing) degree of urbanization.

31Urban planning, mobility (public transport), infrastructure and social as well as ecological aspects are the most important development topics in Curitiba. The Curitiba master plan, first released in 1964, is the basis for planning on municipal governmental level and is since then put into practice together with the urban zoning plan. As a result linear development axes with elevated population density and public transport facilities were implanted and municipal green areas extend all over the city. Sanitation become an important issue, and the Curitiban way of waste treatment including recycling programs like câmbio verde became well known. (Zirkl 2008)

32Municipal housing programs in suburban areas (e.g. Bairro Novo) as well as the establishment of social and other infrastructure changed Curitiba’s fast-growing outskirts from the 1980s onwards, since 2008 the national program MCMV provided as well affordable housing for the less privileged in Curitiba. All these efforts were – for a long time – only relevant the core city, but population and spatial growth in the agglomeration area – especially in adjacent towns like São José dos Pinhais or Fazenda Rio Grande – made new forms of regional governance necessary. With the installation of the Metropolitan Area in the 1970s COMEC (Coordenação da Região Metropolitana de Curitiba) was later on founded as a metropolitan platform to monitor the agglomeration development. But as municipal demands were dominant, particularly those of the Curitiba Municipality, COMEC never gained significant importance for regional planning processes. As a consequence the metropolitan region’s development is driven merely by individual municipal decisions (Firkowski, Moura 2014). Nevertheless some significant changes within the regional economic development occurred. During the last three decades international automobile companies settled around Curitiba (VW / Audi, Renault, Chrysler), causing a tremendous change in some peri-urban sectors to the south, southeast and east, mostly by the installation of car producing factories together with supply companies, subcontractors and other infrastructure. New housing areas emerged, public transport, housing, social and other infrastructure had to be installed. All these activities led to a tremendous land use in peri-urban areas and to conflicts between economic development and ecological preservation, for example of industrial areas installed in water protection zones. Another example for “exporting” environmental problems into peri-urban areas of Curitiba is the localization of the new landfill for the agglomeration: while the previous one was located inside the Curitiba municipality, nowadays the landfill is located in the peri-urban area south of the core city (in Fazenda Rio Grande), posing questions on decision-making processes with metropolitan areas with their nucleus usually being the most powerful municipality.

Discussion: Changing development opportunities of Brazilian Suburbs?

33The new Brazilian constitution (1988) and significant initiatives promoted by progressive governments since 2003 made urban policies in Brazil more democratic and transparent. The participation of local stakeholders gained importance. Instruments like participative budgeting were developed and since then put into practice in agglomerations like Porto Alegre, becoming role models for cities worldwide.

34Brazil’s peri-urban areas do face diverse challenges. Growth dynamics are decreasing, while peri-urban areas, that are still facing pressure to accommodate new residential areas as well as industries and services, often neglecting environmental concerns. Infrastructures often remain comparably weak, weak transportation systems result in a growing number of commuters. Overall lacking or inadequate governance arrangements continue to weaken outputs of regional metropolitan administrative tasks. Only a few urban agglomerations do show at least some advances in developing novel strategies to face deal with major challenges. Among the major shortcomings are the consideration of environmental concerns, the construction of adequate infrastructures and balanced approaches between rich and poor, formal and informal.

35A main feature of metropolitan areas has been the testing and establishment of urban participation processes since the end of the 1980s. The most popular one is relatively successful participatory budgeting implemented in several urban agglomerations (Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Belém, Recife etc.) that contributed to strengthening local communities (including peri-urban ones) in urban policies.

36Today, the cities of Curitiba and Porto Alegre are considered as two of the most innovative urban conglomerations and serve as good practices for sustainable urban development even on a global scale.

37However, ongoing political uncertainties that culminated in the political changes in 2016 when the presidency changed from Dilma Rousseff to Michel Temer led to changing perspectives on urban affairs. Apparently social aspects are losing importance compared to economic concerns and security discourses. It is rather likely that the development of urban agglomerations with the new Brazilian government under President Jair Bolsonaro, elected on oct. 28th, will continue in this line. Campaign promises already raised attention regarding a possible shut down of the Ministry for Urban Affairs – somehow strange in a country where 85% of the population live in cities.


38The history of Brazilian cities and the development of metropolitan regions is showing their innovative potential to overcome marginality and disparity not only in the core city, but in the agglomeration. Although by far not each initiative in every metropolitan region was successful Brazilian policies and cities have become global role models. It remains to be seen how much of these progressive and alternative urban policies launched over the past decades will be maintained in the years to come.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Phases of peri-urbanization in Brazil
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Titre Fig. 2: Schematic illustration of peri-urban stuctures and processes in Brazil
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Titre Fig. 3: São Paulo – mega-urban region: functional spatial differentiation of the Macrometrópole Paulista
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Prof. Dr. Martin Coy, Dr. Simone Sandholz, Dr. Tobias Töpfer et Dr. Frank Zirkl, « Metropolitan Regions: Challenges for Sustainability and Governance of Periurban Areas in Brazil. »Confins [En ligne], 38 | 2018, mis en ligne le 16 février 2019, consulté le 16 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Prof. Dr. Martin Coy

Univ.-Prof., Director, Institut für Geographie, Universität Innsbruck,

Dr. Simone Sandholz

Post Doc, United Nations University (Bonn),

Dr. Tobias Töpfer

Senior Lecturer, Institut für Geographie, Universität Innsbruck,

Dr. Frank Zirkl

Post Doc, Institut für Geographie, Universität Innsbruck,

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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