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International comparative city-region governance

This project currently involves two components.

First is a book project that explores the different forms of city-region governance across the global South, beginning with the BRICS cluster (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). This component is 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 shows 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.

A second component of the project is being led by Rashid Seedat. It compares innovative city-region planning processes in Barcelona, Beijing, Istanbul and Gauteng. The collaboration is based on a session held at the Marmara Urban Forum in October 2021 entitled ‘International experience exchange: Good examples of innovative planning’. Experiences with innovative strategic planning are being written up by representatives in each region and will be collated into a GCRO Occasional Paper.


Prof Harrison submitted a book manuscript to Wits University Press in mid-2022. It is currently in review.


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: 12 October 2022.


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