These days all eyes are on Brazil, host of this year’s World Cup and the Rio Olympics in 2016. While both events are sure to showcase Brazil’s economic success and its lively culture, there is another area in which Brazil also deserves recognition: as a champion in slum upgrading and pro-poor urban policies.


[1 July 2014] -- These days all eyes are on Brazil, host of this year’s World Cup and the Rio Olympics coming up in 2016. While both events are sure to showcase Brazil’s economic success and its lively culture, there is another area in which Brazil also deserves recognition: as a champion in slum upgrading and pro-poor urban policies.

Since 2001, the Cities Alliance has worked very closely with city and national policymakers in Brazil on slum upgrading, social housing, and the design and implementation of urban planning and knowledge dissemination tools.

This partnership was further strengthened in 2003, when the Ministry of Cities was created and Brazil formally joined the Cities Alliance – the first developing country to do so.

Over the years, the activities undertaken through this partnership have produced valuable experiences that are highly relevant to other cities around the world. These experiences can be categorised into four main areas: national policy, inclusive development strategies, strengthening cities’ capacity to deliver services to the urban poor, and facilitating knowledge exchange.


Developing National Policy Frameworks

The Cities Alliance and its members—notably the World Bank—have supported the Ministry of Cities in developing national policymaking frameworks in key areas:

  --  National programmes for land regularisation and risk prevention. A comprehensive regularisation programme was included in the municipal urban development agenda, extending security to millions of poor Brazilians.

  --  National housing plan and programmes. The Cities Alliance supported the design and planning of the current housing policy and its main programmes, including: the massive Growth Acceleration slum upgrading initiative (PAC); the My Home, My Life housing subsidies programme; and the National Housing Plan (PLANHAB) planning process, which identified the main housing challenges and adopted a long-term outlook.

  --  A landmark involuntary resettlement policy. Enacted in 2013 by the Ministry of Cities, this policy safeguards the rights of residents who are involuntarily resettled from their homes. It is a significant development for social housing in Brazil, as it embeds the concept of social sustainability within the Ministry’s substantial investment programmes.

  --  National guidelines to improve the social component of housing and slum upgrading. Approved by the Ministry of Cities in 2014, these guidelines strengthen community participation and planning aspects of housing and slum upgrading projects— helping ensure that recipients benefit from social and economic development in addition to brick-and-mortar interventions.


Drafting and Implementing Inclusive Strategies

The Cities Alliance supported several initiatives to strengthen the institutional and implementation capacity of local authorities responsible for implementing the PAC slum upgrading and the My Home, My Life housing subsidies programmes:

  --  Institutional capacity building for slum upgrading. Over 10,000 practitioners around Brazil have benefited from distance learning courses on integrated slum upgrading actions with capacity-building on development of local housing plans, promotion of social development, and community participation.

  --  Dissemination of slum upgrading lessons learned. In partnership with the Inter- American Development Bank (IADB), the Ministry of Cities and CAIXA, the Cities Alliance conducted a survey of slum upgrading programmes in precarious settlements in Brazil to distill and disseminate lessons learned. These lessons informed recommendations for designing and managing public policy on slum upgrading and helped improve programme efficiency.

  --  The State of Cities in Brazil: 2000-2009 Report. This report provides a cross-sector analysis of urbanisation conditions in Brazil with a view to informing an urban development policy that incorporates the diversity of Brazil’s municipalities, and promotes an inclusive, democratic and sustainable model of urban development.


Strengthening Cities Capacity to Improve Service Delivery to the Urban Poor

At the city and state level, Cities Alliance’s direct partnership activities have showcased good practice models of scaling up planning and urban development through national policies and programmes. These include:

  --  Slum upgrading in Bahia. The state of Bahia partnered with the Cities Alliance, the World Bank, and the Italian government to adopt a participatory, integrated approach to slum upgrading. The methodology developed in Bahia was instrumental in preparing national guidelines and a toolkit to improve the social aspect of housing and slum upgrading projects throughout Brazil.

  --  Citywide Slum Upgrading Programme in São Paulo. The Cities Alliance has cooperated with the São Paulo Municipal Housing Secretariat (SEHAB) on two big initiatives: the Bairro Legal Programme, which provided security of tenure and improved living conditions for slum dwellers; and HABISP, an innovative information management system that has become one of the city’s most effective urban planning tools.


Facilitating Global Knowledge Exchange

Internationally, the Cities Alliance has provided innovative external cooperation and focused support to Brazil, creating valuable opportunities for learning and improvement of policies. Examples include:

  --  Slum upgrading in Mozambique. The Cities Alliance facilitated a tripartite cooperation between Brazil, Italy and the municipality of Maputo in Mozambique on upgrading efforts in the Chamanculo C neighbourhood, an initiative that builds upon the successful integrated slum upgrading methodology used in our Bahia project.

  --  Supporting the IBSA Human Settlements Group. Since 2009, the Cities Alliance and the World Bank Institute (WBI) have facilitated cooperation among members of the India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) Human Settlements Group, helping it become a unique platform for cooperation and learning as the three countries shape their human settlements strategies.


Learning from the Partnership

Arguably, one of the main reasons that the Brazil-Cities Alliance partnership has been so successful is that it has been a longstanding one—an especially important element in slum upgrading. Successful slum upgrading strategies undertaken in a sustainable manner and on a citywide scale do not happen overnight.

What is needed, among other things, is clear foresight, public policy that is committed to a longer-term view, policy stability, consistent investment and the effective participation of communities. Strategies that anticipate future growth patterns are generally far less costly, less socially disruptive, and less complex than retrofitting approaches.

A review of experiences in Brazil demonstrates the scale of the challenges but also concrete policies of upgrading neighbourhoods. A key opportunity for the Cities Alliance and its members is to facilitate sharing these experiences with other rapidly urbanising regions and cities, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. 

For more about the Cities Alliance in Brazil, download the full issue of Civis on The Cities Alliance in Brazil: A Partnership for Success






“[Brazil’s membership in the Cities Alliance] ushered in the generation of reforms that transformed access to housing and urban services for Brazil’s poor and completely transformed Brazil’s housing and urban development sector. ”  -- Ivo Imparato, Principal Regional Team Leader, Latin America and the Caribbean for the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program 



The Cities Alliance portfolio in Brazil has historically been the partnership’s biggest, with more than 30 projects totalling over USD 20 million over the past 12 years.


Related Items

Using Technology to Transform Urban Planning in São Paulo

Exploring Lessons Learned from a Decade of Slum Upgrading in Brazil

The City Statute of Brazil: A Commentary

Shared Learning, Technology Helps Brazilian City Develop Online Housing System  

News Info
News Type