The Moscow Urban Forum is a major international congress devoted to the development of global spaces and megacities. The platform brings together representatives of Russian and foreign city administrations, architects, urban developers, heads of finance companies, investors, as well as journalists and members of the public.
This year, participants in the forum discuss the results of the large-scale urban transformations of the past decades and the opportunities for adapting spatial solutions and infrastructure to changing economic, environmental, technological, social and cultural requirements.
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Speech at the 8th Moscow Urban Forum Megacity of the Future: New Space for Living
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Sobyanin.
I would like to greet you all at your forum and I am pleased to do so. I welcome all of you in the capital of Russia, all who have come to the 8th Moscow Urban Forum. It has become a traditional event in Moscow and it is rightfully one of the most reputable platforms where the present and the future of our cities, and all cities on the planet, are discussed.
I believe that it is only right that such a forum is held in Moscow, because Moscow is now a huge platform for creativity, ideas and the implementation of architectural projects.
The forum is being held in Zaryadye Park, which features the most advanced achievements and solutions in urban development and public space design. This concert hall is no exception; I think it can rightfully be called one of the best in Europe.
To us, Zaryadye is the expression of the indispensable connection between the history of our country and the present of Russia, of our intention to move forward while preserving the heritage of our ancestors.
Today cities play a decisive role in global development and economic growth. Over 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product is produced here; education, science and culture are actively developing and new knowledge and technology are being born.
More than a half of the planet’s population and three quarters of Russians live in cities. According to forecasts in all countries, urbanisation will continue to grow rapidly.
At the same time, it is clear that those cities that fail to find a balanced development model will definitely face serious social problems and lose the battle for people’s quality of life, comfort and security.
I am sure that the key to the development of cities of the future lies in harmony between the technical sphere and nature, in freedom, in creating a wide range of opportunities for residents and their work, recreation and sports. This would enable them to combine their efforts and implement scientific, creative, social and cultural projects to make the city comfortable for everyone: children, young people, older people and those with disabilities, so that everyone becomes a part of a united urban community.
Russia has already implemented a number of complex development projects in cities that are famous not only in Russia but all over the world, such as Kazan, Sochi and Vladivostok, among others.
Of course, any changes, repairs and renovation projects always mean hassle, complications and, unfortunately, often involve moving outside the comfort zone. Sometimes city authorities receive harsh criticism for the temporary inconveniences arising from street and road reconstruction or metro construction. There are some valid and fair assessments, but, frankly, sometimes unjust ones as well. I would like to point out that we should listen to all of these opinions.
In this sense, I would like to note that Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin showed he was ready to take responsibility, to work consistently and to have an open dialogue with Muscovites, in the interests of Moscow and its residents.
Today we can see that Moscow has become a real trendsetter in terms of the quality and comfort of the urban environment, setting a standard for the development of modern megacities.
Very large, if not grand, changes have happened here in a short time. New public, business, cultural and residential spaces are being formed. Public transport is changing and becoming more user-friendly and easily accessible, from the metro and buses to the advanced taxi digital platforms.
I know that the Moscow authorities plan to continue their programme aimed at creating a high-quality urban environment and restoring the coziness of Moscow streets while making all the city districts as comfortable as the historical centre. This means not only new facilities or improvement work; in fact, changes in the urban environment change the way people see the world, their feelings and mood.
New industries, including creative ones, services and small businesses are being given an additional impetus; new modern and popular jobs are being created.
Moreover, a cozy, friendly atmosphere in cities can eliminate barriers and stereotypes. It improves trust and changes the image of a country for millions of people.
In this context, I cannot but mention the recent World Cup. The improved squares and streets of our cities have become points of attraction, friendship and communication for tourists from all over the world. As we know, during the tournament, Moscow’s Nikolskaya Street was identified as the main football street on the planet.
I am glad that fans liked it here in Russia. They praised our hospitality and friendliness, our sports facilities and transport infrastructure, our cities, public spaces and modern service sector, the work of volunteers, medical and communal services, the police and other agencies responsible for public order.
It is important that what our guests saw was not a showcase, not some artificial, short-term outer appearance, some flashy, virtual world. Everything they saw was real.
The entire country is changing, and this is a consistent, long-term trend. We are investing huge efforts and money in it. These investments are designed, first of all, to improve the quality of life of our citizens and to create a whole range of opportunities for the personal fulfillment of each one of them. We will continue doing this, of course.
At the same time, we understand that there is still a lot to do. As I said in my Address to the Federal Assembly, we are going to implement a large-scale spatial development programme in Russia to transform our large and small cities, improve the infrastructure in rural areas and use the potential of advanced technology, new architectural and management solutions.
I am talking about a significant increase in housing construction, renovation of the urban environment, the creation of a transport and digital infrastructure, the solution of environmental problems, the development of healthcare, sports and educational institutions. These are the areas that directly influence the well-being of our people.
We will certainly develop the unique advantages that, I am sure, each village, city and region in Russia has. At the same time, the most important thing is to create a comfortable environment, not only in large centres, but also across the entire territory of the Russian Federation.
To give the regions greater incentive to change, I would like to suggest launching mechanisms of competition between regional and municipal authorities in order to create more comfortable, better living conditions for the people, providing incentives for creating efficient management teams, and, of course, clearly outlining the standards and criteria for the quality of their work.
First and foremost, this concerns urban development. The construction of modern housing must be based on projects that meet people’s needs, while new residential areas must become examples of smart development. This means that cities must ensure public transport access, create new jobs and social infrastructure, build children’s playgrounds. We need new architectural solutions to both improve the city and develop existing residential areas.
It is important to take care of abandoned, dilapidated buildings and develop vacant lots – there are plenty of those, and they affect the image of cities in a negative way. The responsibility of the owners of these lots should be increased significantly.
I would also like to ask the Government and the relevant development institutions to intensify efforts to use federal lands more efficiently. Today they often get excluded from the life of the city.
I have already mentioned that modern cities built for people are, first and foremost, about environmental well-being. This means cities free from landfills, cities that have clean air and water. That is why introducing environmental protection technologies, modern waste processing and management systems, and the modernisation of industrial, housing and utility facilities must become indispensable requirements for the further development of residential areas.
The development of transport infrastructure, including railroad links, is of the utmost importance.
The Moscow Central Circle is now successfully operating in Russia’s capital; in the next few years, passengers will be able to travel through the entire city and get to the nearest Moscow Region towns using the surface metro created on the basis of existing transportation systems.
Through the development of road, transport and digital infrastructure, big towns, small towns, and historic towns, as we call them, will get an additional boost. Their residents must have full access to all modern services.
There are about 1,100 towns in our country with over 900 of them being small towns with under 100,000 residents. Most of them are towns with 10,000 to 50,000 residents, and they are the ones that form the unique cultural image of Russia.
Today, we are facing a challenge of paramount importance – we need to help these towns unleash their potential, so that they can become centres of tourism, art, science and technology; so that the quality of life there can meet the latest standards and people’s needs. It is, to be sure, a serious creative and professional challenge for economists, managers, architects and urbanists.
I would like to address participants in the forum, the young professionals. Of course, everyone expects specific projects and creative proposals from you. For our part, we will do everything we can to support you.
This year we held a national contest for the best projects on creating a comfortable environment in small towns and historical towns for the first time. I think it is necessary to continue this contest and make it a tradition, especially since it involves the local residents in improving their towns.
In this era of constant technological change, both small towns and large cities should preserve their unique character, identity, historical image, traditions and, if you will, their spirit and human attitude.
A city can only be successfully developed if its residents are involved, with their opinions and initiatives, and with strong institutions for direct democracy and local self-government and effective means of communication with people.
Today, active citizens, volunteers and non-profit organisations are ready to undertake these tasks in many areas, such as the provision of services and the organisation of tourism, sports, education and culture. They are creating an atmosphere of hospitality, good heartedness and mutual support that modern cities need so much.
Using this opportunity, I would like to once again thank the volunteers that worked during the FIFA World Cup.
Needless to say, we should use the best experience – both Russian and foreign – for meeting our challenges. We need to use the best solutions from urban developers, economists, architects, and experts on environmental protection, transport and IT.
Naturally, the younger generation and people of all ages that are not afraid to step forward and suggest original, unconventional ideas should certainly be involved in creating the future of cities.
I believe each region in the Russian Federation should have venues where specialists will be able to communicate, exchange their knowledge and propose modern projects. This is where the creative potential and energy of every region should be concentrated.
Moscow has very good experience and it should be used by other cities. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has just talked to me about the city’s development plans. These are extensive plans and I hope all of them will be carried out for the benefit of the people.
A lot of work and ambitious tasks are ahead. I would like to invite all of you to take part in joint work – both our partners, whom we can call this because we are working together – and those who want to work with us.
Thank you very much for your attention. I would like to wish you success. All the best to you!