Urban Brazil: Recurring Challenges and Changing Perspectives

Please note: This page refers to an event that has already taken place.

Time: Monday, 21 January 2013 10:00-12:00
Place: PRIO, Hausmanns gate 7, Oslo

​In the past decade, Brazil has undergone a period of enormous change both domestically and internationally. As a growing BRICS economy and South-South actor, Brazil is extending it's influence and reach both within the Latin American region and more broadly in international affairs. In light of the country's 'emergence', and in the lead up to events such as this years Rio+20 summit, the Football World Cup in 2014, and Summer Olympics in 2016, Brazil and it's cities have garnered significant attention in public and academic circles, particularly regarding issues of insecurity and violence.

Although there have been significant successes in addressing poverty in the past decade - particularly the expansion of social welfare programs under the progressive Lula and Dilma governments - urban centres in Brazil continue to be a places characterised by violence and inequality. While certain cities have seen sizeable reductions in urban violence, the scale of violence in many urban areas remains comparable with that in conflict zones, and addressing this challenge is increasingly being reconceptualised in humanitarian terms.

In addition to how violence is perceived, there are changes in how Brazil engages with these domestic challenges, and this is particularly important given Brazil's emergence as an international peacekeeping actor. While previous strategies largely favoured ignoring or excluding peripheral urban areas, renewed attempts to address these 'problems at home' increasingly favour muscular engagement by the police and armed forces to address violence and organised crime. While such attempts to 'pacify' favela areas have increased state presence in marginal urban areas, there are questions over the long term efficacy of such solutions, and how increasing militarisation of law enforcement may affect an already violent society.

Given this background, this seminar addresses certain key issues and paradoxes of Brazil's growing international engagement on one hand and domestic urban challenges on the other.


Einar Braathen (NIBR) will discuss the current and past patterns of urban policy-making, poverty and inequality in the urban context in Brazil, and indicate how these are being affected by current international attention on Brazilian cities and mega-events in major cities (especially in Rio de Janeiro).

Ole Jacob Sending/Simon Reid-Henry (NUPI/PRIO) will discuss how urban violence has previously been addressed by policymakers and NGOs, how engagement in violent urban contexts/communities is being influenced by humanitarian approaches to violence, what has promoted/caused this change, and what the implications are for NGOs and policymakers. 

Per Martin Norheim-Martinsen (FAFO) will discuss how approaches to addressing urban violence by police and military have changed with favela pacification programs and community policing policies; how the Brazilian military engagement abroad has affected domestic urban peacekeeping operations, and what the implications of this are for addressing violence in urban Brazil. 

Benedicte Bull (SUM) will provide comments.

Kristian Hoelscher (UiO/PRIO) will chair.