From heroes to villains: Brazil at risk of moving away from the New Urban Agenda


network of Brazilian civil society organisations is calling the international
community to support their mobilisations against a new presidential act that
intends to dismantle the regulations for land regularization in Brazil. Since
the introduction of the City Statute in 2001, Brazilian urban policy has been
setting a series of innovative precedents in the implementation of principles
of Right to the City. The Statute involves the recognition of the social
function of property, setting the framework for participatory urban planning as
well as linking land tenure regularization with urbanization of settlements.
Since then, this law has been consolidated as a legal guide for the Brazilian
land regularization policy and several other statutes were enacted guided by
its principles in order to regulate instruments and procedures (Law n.11977/09
about urban settlements regularization; Law n. 11481/07 about regularization on
public owned land; Law 11952/09 about regularization on land owned by the
Federal Government in the Amazon Region). This legal framework became an
international example of progressive urban policy, prioritizing justice over
profit, and informing the development of the United Nations’ New Urban Agenda
agreed in 2016

Provisional Presidential Act (PPA) no. 759/16 enacted at the very end of 2016 attempts
to amend the existing legislation regarding land regularization with an act
that promises to reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiency. However, its
underlying motivation is to reposition land as a financial asset, rather than a
right. Apart from dismantling an entire legal body that represents the result
of a long term public debate and consolidated collective understanding and agreement
of multiple stake-holders, the PPA marks a step backwards in terms of assuring
access to land for the poor and implementing the principle of social function
of property. Below are some of the problems with the PPA.

Changing basic principles: legal definition of land
regularization established by the PPA suppresses the aim to assure housing
rights and environmentally sustainable by observing the social function of
property. According to the new law, policies on land regularization are to be economically
sustainable and developed based on principles of competitiveness and

Lack of participation: participation is no longer a
principle of land regularization. Furthermore, the PPA revokes a consolidated
and democratic legal framework replacing it with a not self-operating law
enacted without any public debate.

Massive privatization of land owned
by the Federal Government
: the new law creates an instrument that gives property rights
indiscriminately, without meeting any criteria regarding social and collective
interest. The PPA makes possible and easier to regularize high-income
settlements and gated communities in public land without any compensation at a
loss of social and environmental function of public property.

Amnesty to deforestation and land appropriation: the PPA allows regularization of
large parcels of public land all over the country even to those who already own
land. It accepts deforestation as proof of possession,substantially changing the
program “Legal land in the Amazon Region” originally conceived to settle
conflicts over landbetween small-scale agriculture and traditional population
against agribusiness, preventing deforestation.

Policy on Rural Reform weakened: according to this new law,land titles
resulting from rural reform can be sold in the market,increasing the risk
toreturn to a situation of land concentration. Furthermore, the governmental
agency on rural reform is released from its obligations regarding the wellbeing
of settled families and looses competencies to a Secretary that answers
directly to the President.

Land regularization for social
interest weakened
: in
the PPA, special social interest zones no longer exist.This results in the loss
of an important zoning instrument that for a long time was used to demarcate
urban territory occupied by the poor, setting priority fortenure regularization.
This and other tools and procedures that made it easier to regularize informal
settlements occupied by the poor are no longer in place.

brief, the PPA focuses on property titles not in assuring basic human rights to
those more in need. This new law deconstructs an innovative legal framework
based on pillars of participatory urban planning socio-environmental function
of the city and property and land regularization as a key element for attaining
social inclusion. It represents the triumph of the concept of abstract
entitlements held on individual bases, prioritizing the exchange rather than
social value of property.

Open Letter attached is meant to summon social movements and all those who
believe in Urban and Rural Reform to demand Brazilian Federal Government to
withdraw Provisional Presidential ActNo.759/2016 from Congress; therefore
stopping the voting process and promoting a large scale debate about land
ownership, property and possession, guided by constitutional principles of social
function of property and individual and collective human rights.

show your support, please sign the on-line petition: