BrCidades national agenda


By Erminia Maricato*

Presentation and full text of the democratic project for Brazilian cities coordinated by the Frente Brasil Popular

André Singer called my attention to the importance of elections in Brazilian political life. He sought to bring me back to reality when I, now, in old age, returned to the utopia of seeing, as the only way out for Brazil, the capillary construction of an informed, politicized and anti-racist society.

I certainly would not live to see this utopia realized. But I saw no other way after following the history of Brazilian cities over the last 48 years, some of them spent in governments (municipal and federal), others lived as an advisor to communities on the outskirts of São Paulo and more than 40 years at the university. But, if André is right, the time has come to embrace the task. And I don't have the slightest doubt that the country's redemocratization will pass through the cities or it won't happen.

The importance of the forthcoming municipal elections is crucial. We have one year to prepare proposals and a good part of civil society is already mobilized in this regard, as is the case with the BrCidades network – A project for the cities of Brazil of the Frente Brasil Popular. It is about directing our energies towards rethinking urban life, regrouping democratic forces, betting on the protagonism of the new social movements that are multiplying in the new urban peripheries and relocating horizons aiming at fairer and more sustainable cities.

On the other hand, cities seem to constitute a separate and invisible field in the analyzes that try to explain the blatant political regression that Brazilian society has been experiencing since the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

Just to give an idea of ​​the tragedy of urban mobility among us, let's remember that in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo (RMSP) intercity travel – since 70% of the jobs are in the expanded center of the municipality of São Paulo – costs, monthly, almost half a minimum wage to the worker when the employer does not pay for transportation. Most domestic servants (black women) are not registered and it is a mystery how they pay for their transportation with the wages they receive. It is for no other reason that walking travel is growing as a mode of transport.

The transportation system in most Brazilian metropolitan regions is a “shamble” – to use the fashionable word –, whose application here is justified. There is no integrated system of mobility modes, much less an integrated tariff. Those who live on the outskirts of the RMSP, in addition to paying dearly and spending more, spend more than two and a half hours on transport to move around.

It is understandable, although there are many thinkers who do not understand, why this population does not mobilize to defend the precious national, public and social heritage that is the pre-salt layer, or against the capture of large public resources through payment of interest on the debt public, or against losing labor and social security rights, or against attacks on the environment, or against the injustices and arbitrariness of Operation Lava Jato.

Of course, the overwhelming and omnipresent domination of the pro-neoliberal media narrative is undoubtedly the main cause of this apparent passivity. The occupation of space on the outskirts by Pentecostal churches (strong presence on TV), organized crime and militias replacing the State should also be considered. The collapse of the national industry, the growing informality in employment (today marking the lives of almost half of the EAP) accompanied by the ideology of competitive individualism also has structural importance in this context.

Surviving is difficult for half of the Brazilian population – 104 million people – who live on just R$ 413,00 per capita. Practically 85% of the entire population lives in cities and faces serious mobility problems, even in small towns and especially in rural areas. Most of the working population is grappling with the difficulties of daily life. Everyday life has become an obstacle course.

And it never hurts to remember: income distribution is fundamental for the quality of life of the poorest (most of the Brazilian people), but it does not replace urban public policies, especially those related to control over land use, which implies in the social function of land and combating predatory real estate speculation that subordinated our cities and leveraged rent prices from 2009 onwards.

In 25 years of Plano Real, housing has always risen above inflation. According to the IBGE, housing was the item that most rose in the composition of the IPCA in the period. One of the major problems faced by City Councils, especially in medium-sized cities, was the expansion of the urban perimeter: including vast extensions of rural land in urban use has a strong impact on land prices.

This measure, foreseen by law (Statute of the City), could not be approved without a plan that justifies it, but most of the City Councils, following lobbies of landowners and capital linked to construction, ignored the law. There are examples across the country. This measure was in response to the large investments of the Minha Casa Minha Vida Program (PMCMV) and resulted in the location of thousands of homes and housing complexes outside consolidated urban areas, impacting and increasing the price of land and real estate.

I lived the 1970s in the metropolitan outskirts helping to build the Urban Reform proposal. Alongside the strong trade unionism, originating from the machinery and durable consumer goods industry, urban social movements emerged in the country's metropolises with unprecedented expression. Brazil became predominantly urban from the 60s onwards. Therefore, our population has been mostly urban for approximately six decades, which is very little for the history of a nation. We lived 388 years under slave labor and well over 400 years under agrarian-export hegemony.

This late industrialization is succeeded by an early de-industrialization, from the 1980s onwards and, again, by the agrarian-export hegemony strongly impacting the occupation of the territory, migratory flows, the environment, the urbanization process, the life of the working classes, just to mention the aspects that interest us here. While in the countries of central capitalism the pillars that built the welfare state lost strength (leftist or social democratic parties, trade unions, human rights movements), in Brazil the left rowed against the grain, gaining strength and advancing in the reconquest of democracy. To this end, the election of mayors from social movements was a decisive step.

With the (formal) end of the dictatorship, in 1985, and the achievement of direct elections for mayors in the country's capitals, a cycle of “democratic and popular city halls” began, whose innovative achievements became known throughout the world. The program with the greatest international impact in the virtuous cycle was the Participatory Budget, the most important instrument of democratic administration, replicated in more than 2.800 cities around the world.

But he wasn't the only one. The “Bus Corridor”, or BRT – Bus Rapid Transit as it was dubbed in the international consulting circles, replicated even in Oslo, Norway – was also born in this period created by engineering from Curitiba. Brazil shone at the UN Habitat II Conference, in 1996, with the deeds of democratic and participatory city halls.

Cities, or local powers, began to gain importance and in them the popular, black and peripheral neighborhoods, built without the State and without a market, began to have visibility with an unprecedented protagonism of the mothers of families. This capillary construction led the democratic and left-wing forces to win the federal elections, with the unprecedented and surprising feat for a persistently unequal country, of electing a worker for President of the Republic.

Why did this left move away from popular neighborhoods? Why were progressive parties swallowed up by institutionality? Why did local power – or cities – lose importance in the national political agenda? How to explain the regression in the conditions of urban life in the XNUMXst century: exponential increase in the price of housing and rents, the increase in the weight of the cost of transport in the family budget surpassing food expenses – exactly when the federal government resumes investment in cities, with substantial resources, following a kind of Keynesian development plan, through the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) and PMCMV? And what about the violence that is part of everyday life in popular neighborhoods? 

Understanding the importance of rethinking cities, the BrCidades network prepared, through local, regional and state workshops and meetings, in addition to two National Forums, an urban agenda that will be launched on March 9, 2020. The BrCidades network, horizontal and decentralized, it is made up of specialist professors from 23 Brazilian universities, nuclei organized in 16 states, professional and social entities, in addition to NGOs. The proposal is not finished and never will be. The 14 items in the proposal presented here represent the accumulation and agreement possible at that time, but continuity should ensure deepening and complementation.

We need to hear again the voices that come from the peripheries in order to resume the path towards building more democratic cities. There are many challenges: housing, transport, sanitation, health, education, etc. There is no shortage of adequate proposals, administrative experience and technical competence. Furthermore, it is time for leaders seniors make room for young men and women who emerged from cultural, anti-racist and gender activism. We need to stop just reverberating with so much intensity the absurdities that come from Brasilia and focus on the immediate reality. It is time to think and propose fair, economical and sustainable cities.

*Erminia Maricato is a retired professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at USP.

The agenda

This is our proposal for cities in Brazil, a collective formulation that aims to include the debate on cities in the national political agenda. Without ignoring the importance of elections and political parties, our proposal aims to go further and awaken civil society to a medium and long-term debate. We start from the premise that the redemocratization of Brazil will pass through the cities or it will not take effect. Our cities will be anti-racist and anti-patriarchal or they will not be democratic.

Our agenda is the result of a two-year construction process, with contributions from 16 state centers and accumulations generated by debates, seminars and National Forums, with the participation of social movements, technical organizations, student organizations, professionals (architects and urban planners, engineers, lawyers, social workers, geographers, doctors) as well as professors and researchers from 23 universities. The Frente Brasil Popular made a call that was heard by the militants gathered around the BrCidades network.

We started the 10th century with only 2017% of the population in cities and in 85 they were 175%, more than XNUMX million inhabitants. The world is going through profound changes and with it Brazil. Restructuring in the economy, in the correlation of forces in world geopolitics and technological advances impact labor relations, communications, the environment, subjectivity and, therefore, the lives of most of the population. Brazil, which industrialized and urbanized at high rates, ends the century in a frank process of deindustrialization and reemergence of agro-export hegemony, now accompanied by the dominance of unproductive financialization. 

But our cities are still an expression of one of the most unequal societies in the world. It is in the constructed urban space that it assumes the most dramatic forms, although it remains invisible, not only for the public authorities, but also for society in general and for the media in particular. A profound lack of knowledge hangs over urban reality. 

In Brazil, there are more than 6 million families without decent housing, 35 million people without access to the water supply network and 100 million - almost half of the population - do not have access to sewage collection and treatment networks whose final destination is , often rivers, streams, beaches and ponds. These goods and rights, denied to a large portion of the population, are the basics of the basics. In São Paulo, between a rich neighborhood and a poor peripheral neighborhood there can be a difference in life expectancy of more than 20 years. The concentration in real estate ownership is greater than the concentration of wealth. Almost half (45%) of all real estate in the city is owned by the top 1% of owner families. 

If we continue at the same pace, every ten years the car fleet in our country doubles and that of motorcycles more than triples. É It is literally impossible for the construction of streets and roads to keep pace with this growth. ​It is not difficult to see that we are heading towards urban chaos.

The car is the cigarette of the 8st century. Traffic is responsible for most anxiety attacks. In nine states, traffic kills more people than violent crime. In national terms, the proportion between investments to ensure the running of cars and that for public transport is 1 to 59. With regard to the emission of pollutants, 21% are emitted by cars and only XNUMX% by buses. However, individual transport makes only a third of total daily trips. Such numbers show that the car is still a priority in terms of public investment, has a greater environmental impact, but is not the most used vehicle by the general population, nor is it more efficient in terms of displacement. In this sense, the current transport policy orientation is irrational. 

Among the many drivers of this unfair construction, the centrality of disputes over land and public investments, which are appropriated by a small portion of society and located by market interests, deserves special mention. The dimension of the predominantly black peripheries remains invisible even in the dominant representation of the city.

The appropriation of public resources and the best locations in the city for business or speculative retention, on the one hand, and the abandonment of peripheries or popular central neighborhoods on the other, are causes of most of the major urban problems: the dispersion in land occupation increasing the cost of infrastructure; the multiplication of slums and precarious housing; mobility marked by long, expensive and polluting trips; floods and landslides; epidemics resulting from the proliferation of mosquitoes and insufficient garbage collection; air and water pollution; environmental degradation (with soil sealing, canalization of streams and rivers, occupation of environmentally fragile areas, etc.). 

If during the last democratic cycle we were not able to radically change this situation, the new neoliberal political/economic orientation and the attack on social rights impose a greater deepening of inequality. Deregulations in land use and occupation, in particular, the expansion of the urban perimeter impact the price of land, real estate and rents. Privatizations as a solution for public policies resulted in fallacy all over the world. Several countries are already on the path of nationalization. Unemployment, which increased instead of decreasing, as proclaimed when the 'Labour Reform' was approved, had a tragic impact on cities, greatly increasing the number of homeless people. There are entire families living on the streets. In 19 capitals, unemployment is higher than the national average, which in 2018 reached 12,3% of the economically active Brazilian population — 24 million people. This number is 12,6% in Rio de Janeiro, 14,2% in São Paulo, 16,1% in Salvador, 16,7% in Maceió and 18,1% in


Manaus. The number of workers without a formal contract increases, while their average income drops. 

The mapping of indicators such as income, education, race, homicide rate and life expectancy shows the split city between those included and those excluded. Violence – and the presence of the police – also has a cartographic expression in the city. Its action and behavior vary greatly according to income – or price per square meter in each location. 

Faced with this reality, it is a paradox that the legal framework relating to cities at different scales, including the metropolitan scale, is advanced. The 1988 Federal Constitution, the City Statute (2000), the Basic Sanitation Federal Law (2007), the Solid Waste Federal Law (2011), the Urban Mobility Federal Law (2012), the Metropolis Statute (2015 ), among others, remain without significant implementation, especially the constitutional precept of the Social Function of Property applied in only 7 cities in Brazil. The existence of Laws, Plans, Participatory Councils and technical knowledge did not guarantee the construction of less unequal cities, although they pointed to emancipatory directions.

In this sense, it is the task of the democratic forces to replace horizons and propositions that overcome existing limitations in the institutional field (especially in the executive, legislative and judiciary)[I], in the media and professionally. It is about rethinking cities and formulating proposals that ensure a socially fairer and more environmentally responsible future for everyone. 

In a moment of criminalization of NGOs, professional entities and popular organizations, our agenda reaffirms the legitimacy of the subjects who defend, on a daily basis, the expansion of the right to the city. It also considers the new characters that entered the scene and are the protagonists of a new cycle of urban social movements deeply linked to the processes of education and creation: the black movement, feminisms, different youths. 

The proposals listed below constitute the first version of a collective construction that intends to be continuous, through the deepening of the themes addressed or through complementation with new themes or sub-themes. The social, economic, environmental, cultural, historical or size diversity present in the 5.570 Brazilian cities requires diving into the local reality without losing sight of broader, national or global determinations. 

Our next steps are aimed at deepening the following themes: income generation, employment and combating inequality in cities; for an anti-racist urban agenda (from the protagonism of the entities that militate in the area); a special agenda for small and medium-sized cities; global warming and the urban agenda; food security; among other themes brought up by the dynamics of contributions from partnerships. With this, we intend to include cities in the national political agenda. 

The social function of land as a common good: the city is not a business

  • Fight against urban interventions that do not fulfill the social function of the city: mega-events, spectacular architecture, so-called strategic plans, urban intervention plans; Public-Private Partnerships; urban operations that prioritize private interest.
  • Ensure the existence of conflict mediation spheres in areas occupied by poor populations, avoiding forced removals and combining the observance of human rights with environmental preservation and fulfillment of the city's social function. Facilitate the access of popular layers to the justice system with a view to realizing their right to the city, seeking to improve the mechanisms that allow social needs to be adequately considered in judicial processes.  
  • Implement the social function of the land through the application of the Statute of Cities, with the inclusion of Land Subdivision, Building and Compulsory Building in the Master Plan and immediate notification of all abandoned properties.
  • Defend the permanence, effectiveness and expansion of Special Social Interest Zones, seeking to ensure their inclusion in central and urbanized areas.
  • Require the allocation of land and empty buildings of the Union, States and Municipalities for the production of social housing and public equipment, combating the privatization of public properties.

Public investments in peripheries and favelas: against abandonment and invisibility

  • Break with the stigmatization of peripheries and favelas as non-city, recognizing and valuing their sociability and centrality, defending the full land tenure regularization of popular territories.
  • Develop Employment and Income Generation programs and promote neighborhood centralities, supporting local development actions and popular initiatives of solidary and creative economy. 
  • Implement technical assistance with integrated advisory programs – technical, legal, architectural and social in support of local priorities.
  • Guarantee popular communities' access to public policies and urban goods, guaranteeing investments in sanitation, mobility, housing, collective equipment and public spaces.  

Control over the budget: democratize information about the city and public management

  • Defend the wide, effective and deliberative participation of the population in the formulation, planning and control of the execution of the budget and public investments and social policies, seeking to facilitate the assistance to the regions of greatest need, taking into account social indicators of each territory.
  • Claim the dissemination of data and information on the values ​​and location of public expenditures (including budget, funds and public service contracts) together with georeferenced information on urban space through the creation of free access computing platforms.  
  • Promote the creation and consolidation of independent laboratories, institutes and observatories aimed at monitoring the actions of the executive and legislative mandates.
  • Develop decentralization processes in the management of local governments, through intersectoral public offices in popular territories, developing neighborhood plans, newsletters, itinerant meetings, and also making use of listening and interaction technologies.  

anti-racist city

Brcidades joins initiatives with the black population as protagonists and, in this sense, supports:  

  • The land tenure regularization of indigenous territories, quilombolas and other traditional communities.
  • Combating the control of bodies and state action against life in public security policies that impose themselves on black, indigenous, traditional populations, periphery and slum territories.  
  • The defense of religions of African origin.
  • The effective participation of blacks and traditional populations in planning, control and management of urban policy, combating all forms of ethnic and racial segregation.  

Urban mobility: for a life without turnstiles

 Combating the hegemony of the automobile, defending an equitable, efficient and environmentally balanced sharing of road space, with the implementation of corridors and exclusive lanes for public transport, and intermodal integration; valuing accessible bike lanes and sidewalks throughout the city.  

  • Foster the use of non-polluting energy matrices as a way to mitigate environmental degradation;  
  • Universalize access to public transport, defending the single metropolitan ticket and zero tariff for the low-income population, students and the unemployed.  
  • Requiring public disclosure of data and information relating to the operation of public transport services, allowing citizen auditing of concession contracts. 
  • Support public policies that encourage affordable housing along transportation hubs and the decentralization of economic activity and public services, as a way to reduce the number and duration of daily trips. 

Decent housing and the right to the city

  • Defend the production of housing in the urbanized city with mechanisms for the permanence of the population.
  • Restrain large housing complexes inside and outside the city: ensure that production takes place in areas consolidated in infrastructure and with public facilities.  
  • Ensuring housing for all with diversification of housing services and forms of access to housing.
  • Support self-management for production, reform, housing improvements, urbanization and land tenure regularization of low-income housing and territories, requiring the implementation of Technical Assistance for Social Interest Housing (Law 11.888/08).
  • Defend the allocation of abandoned buildings, public or private, for the implementation of housing services for the low-income population, with condominium administration, maintenance and renovation services developed through self-management, in central areas and in neighborhoods equipped with infrastructure, services and job.
  • Prioritize full urbanization and land regularization of subdivisions and slums.
  • Support public housing and assistance programs for homeless people.

Environment as a common good

 Combat water, land and air pollution by investing in universal sanitation, reducing car traffic, using clean energy sources by public transport and controlling polluting industrial and agricultural activities.

  • Prepare cities for climate change, supporting the management of risks associated with landslides, floods, maritime erosion and other phenomena exacerbated by global warming.  
  • Invest in expanding the collective environmental heritage represented by the network of parks, green areas and trees in the road system.  
  • Defend the protection of springs, springs, remaining forests and environmentally fragile areas, through the implementation of conservation units and the increase of inspection power.
  • Protect and guarantee the demarcation of indigenous lands, quilombolas and traditional communities, recognizing their importance for environmental preservation. 
  • Stop mining activities that impact urban areas.  

Sanitation as a human right

  • Defend the public character and municipal competence of basic sanitation services, in order to guarantee that profits are reinvested in the expansion of the system. Combat the privatization of sanitation, supporting the provision of the service through public consortia. 
  • Make waste-producing companies responsible for the proper disposal of their product packaging 
  • Defend the expansion of selective collection and the development of composting solutions for organic waste. 
  • Support the structuring of municipal stormwater management services, promoting solutions that increase infiltration and retention before release into watercourses. 
  • Defend the priority action of municipal services and concessionaire companies – public and private – of sanitation in the environmental recovery of urban springs, as a way to contribute to the increase of water security. 
  • Defend the social tariff and the maintenance of the minimum supply of water in the impossibility of payment for low-income families registered in the Cadastro Único.  
  • Advocate for investments in water security in urban and rural areas

For the life and rights of women in cities

  • Reaffirm gender equality policies and repudiate any changes to the constitutional principles that support them.
  • Support the participation of women in all instances of formulation, planning and execution of urban policy.
  • Invest in universal access to day care, guaranteeing vacancies in facilities close to home or work for working women.
  • Combat all forms of violence against women, at home, on the streets and on public transport.
  • Defend the expansion of the number of police stations and special courts for women.
  • Support the implementation of women's care and shelter houses, integrating housing, health, assistance and income generation.

For access to urban culture.

  • Recognition of cultural workers in peripheral territories, in order to provide conditions for them to be protagonists of popular cultural production.
  • Promote popular education projects linked to the reality of urban territories. 
  • Expansion of access to culture as a tool for reversing inequalities, through public policies that represent the best distribution of resources throughout the urban territory.  
  • Ensure access for young, black, indigenous, LGBTQIA+, unemployed and residents of popular neighborhoods to goods, public spaces and resources for culture, sport and leisure.
  • Invest in the implementation of a system of popular culture equipment, capable of promoting cultural activity in the peripheries and other popular territories. 
  • Support the democratization of the media and the promotion of popular communication.
  • Financing to protect material heritage and support for maintaining the intangible heritage formed by popular culture. 

 citizen security  

  • Prioritize the implementation of quality public equipment aimed at the dissemination of social, cultural, health and education activities in the most vulnerable regions and in territorial areas with the highest incidence of homicides. 
  • Combating militias and organized crime 
  • Fight against the criminalization of poverty and popular organizations
  • Support disarmament and arms control policies.
  • Implement harm reduction, public health and job offer policies aimed at problematic drug use situations.  
  • Combat violence against women, blacks, indigenous peoples, homosexuals, transsexuals and all other groups that are victims of prejudice and segregation.

Public and universal health

  • Invest in improving the standard of urbanization, contemplating the universalization of sanitation, the reduction of polluting car traffic, the improvement of housing conditions and the reduction of traffic accidents.
  • Ensuring vacancies in quality day care centers for all children, guaranteeing attention to physical and emotional health in early childhood.
  • Defend the maintenance of rural areas complementary to urban areas and the promotion of agroecology and pesticide-free production of family farming and agrarian reform settlers focused on food security and the consumption of the school and hospital network.
  • Defend the right of all to the public health system, strengthening the Unified Health System to guarantee primary care and home family care, with actions integrated with specialized outpatient and hospital services. Combat the privatization of public health.

[I] See IBGE. “Unemployment is the highest of the last seven years in 13 capitals of the country”. Consulted on 15/08/2019

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