The Role of Civil Society in Implementing the SDGs Locally: The Case of Curitiba, Its Challenges, and Practices

The Role of Civil Society in Implementing the SDGs Locally: The Case of Curitiba, Its Challenges, and Practices

Julijana Nicha Andrade (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8426-2.ch019
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This chapter aims to present the complex relations between the local actors, the municipality of Curitiba, and UNESCO via the UNESCO Creative Cities Network to implement the 2030 SDGs on the local level. From the case study, the chapter explores the shortcomings and Eurocentric approach of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and how local actors use the network requirements to gain local ownership of the goals' implementation. As a result, a mutually benefiting relationship arises. On the one hand, UNESCO Creative Cities Network widens its membership approach. On the other hand, local municipalities, such as Curitiba, change their structures to accommodate the SDG implementation by opening to multi-stakeholder governance. It applies a light-weighted approach of the inter-organizational framework and orchestration and makes use of document analysis, historical case analysis, and semi-structured interviews for data gathering.
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Cities are rising actors on the international scene; however, their presence as prominent international actors is understudied in the literature (Scott, 2001; Sassen, 1991; Tilly, 1990; Harrison, 2007; Brenner, 1998). In the 1920s, there were only 24 cities with more than one million inhabitants. In the 1980s, there were 198 cities with more than one million inhabitants, and it is projected that by 2050 the number will rise to 486 cities or more (Potter & Lloyd-Evans, 1998). The increasing birth rate and migration flow on a global level are changing the urban map of the globe. Most of the world’s population lives or seeks migration to urban areas. It is estimated that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities (UNESA, 2018). Studying the relationship among cities, nation-states, and international organizations is important to understand the level of autonomy a city or city-region must implement the global public policies on a local level.

The future economic, social, and territorial development of countries will be determined by the type of development cities implement (Vaz & Reis, 2017). The UN has perceived the role cities hold and has started treating them as intermediaries in implementing the SDGs. Even though nation-states are the ones that adopted the SDGs, they are too far off the local happenings to implement them. That leaves space for cities to act as suited intermediaries because they are embedded into the nation-state structure and have the necessary institutional and ideational means to implement the SDGs locally. Moreover, they are very much aware of local needs and can work with local actors to address them endogenously. The nation-states act as targets in this scenario; however, their behavior is not influenced by international or local pressures. As signatories of the SDGs, nation-states accept the orchestration because they do not have the outreach nor the means to implement them locally. Nation-states set the framework of the Goals adoption via national plans, laws, and treaties; however, it is difficult for them to action centrally in each corner of their territory. The UN then acts through the institutions of the UN system to promote and assist the implementation of the SDGs.

As the 2030 Goals are endogenous and have adopted a unique approach of culture, creativity, and innovation to achieve sustainable development, the UN institution on Science, Education, and Culture, UNESCO, became more active in the field. Since the adoption of the SDGs, UNESCO has updated its mission towards their implementation. Among the few programs, UNESCO has managed the Creative Cities Network, which serves as a platform for creative cities to share best practices on sustainability and innovation. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) is the fastest-growing international network of cities whose central economic and developmental approach is based on the local cultural trends. The UCCN offers ideational assistance to cities by extending UNESCO’s institutional credibility and expertise to the cities via their usage of UNESCO’s logo once they win the Title. Membership at UCCN is very competitive and increases so every selection year. Currently, there are 246 city members.

Curitiba is a UNESCO Creative City of Design since 2014. Exploring the case study of Curitiba offers insights into how enterprises and civil society interact with state actors and UNESCO to implement the SDGs. Curitiba is an interesting case study because it is the capital and the largest city of Paraná, and one of the most developed cities in Brazil (IBGE, 2018). In the 1960s, Curitiba passed through a rapid growth that caused hasty urban expansion from hundreds of thousands to millions of people, attracting Brazilians from all over the country. The rapid growth resulted in mass unemployment, transport congestion, lack of essential services, uncontrolled growth of squatter settlements, and crime (ICLE, 2016). Moreover, Curitiba is a very culturally diverse municipality. It is home to German, Italian, Ukrainian and Polish migrants that immigrated to Brazil in the 1980s, each populating a specific part of the city (Ibid).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Orchestration: Coming from a constructivist perspective, the orchestration framework complements the Principle/Agent model. Orchestrators are entities that have ideational or material resources but lack enforcement capacities. For that reason, they operate via intermediaries who do have enforcement capacities for the end goal of steering or changing the behavior of a specific target.

Inter-Organizational Relations: The study of complex formal and/or informal interconnections between and among organizations involving various actors on multiple governance levels.

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