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International comparative city-region governance (2024)

This project consisted on a comparative analysis of different forms of city-region governance across the global South, beginning with the BRICS cluster (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The research was led by Prof. Phil Harrison, who spent a year doing fieldwork in four city regions – São Paulo, Moscow, Delhi and Shanghai – examining governance and intergovernmental arrangements in comparison to those in the GCR. City-region governance responds to the ongoing need in large urban agglomerations to mobilise collective action across administrative jurisdictions, and between diverse agents of governance, to address shared problems relating, for example, to economy and livelihood, poverty and inequality, distribution of public goods, environmental quality, and the management of unexpected crises. With their scale, complexity, dynamism, and multiple contending interests, city-regions are challenging contexts in which to achieve this. Comparative study does however provide insight into different ways for organising collective action at the scale of a city-region. There are no easy answers, or easily packaged ‘best practices’, as governance arrangements are deeply embedded in different histories, political cultures and constitutional framings, but comparative study reveals the possibility of alternative pathways. The project also showed that city-regions, as they are variously constructed, are themselves part of wider networks of ‘extended urbanisation’, and that the organisational arrangements for urban governance need to be multi-scalar, and extend even beyond current framings of the city-region. The major output of this project was a 2023 book entitled Governing Complex City Regions in the Twenty-First Century.


Harrison, P. (2023). Governing Complex City-Regions in the Twenty-First Century: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Johannesburg: Wits Press

Harrison, P. (2021). 'Sustainability in City-Regionalism as Emergent Practice: The Case of the BRICS' Sustainability, 13(9), 4721.

Mabin, A. and Harrison, P. (2022). 'Contemporary planning and emergent futures: a comparative study of five capital city-regions on four continents' Progress in Planning online doi:10.1016/j.progress.2022.100664

Last updated: 5 Feb 2024.


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