Moscow Urban Forum hosts discussions of the future of cities and urban agglomerations

Moscow Urban Forum hosts discussions of the future of cities and urban agglomerations
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Denis Grishkin
The forum’s business programme has attracted 11,000 participants and its exhibition of urban projects 50,000 guests. 

The seventh Moscow Urban Forum has become the most ambitious event in the forum’s history. The relocation to VDNKh has allowed the organisers to extend the event from three to seven days, expand the business agenda and add an extra dimension to the festival and the exhibition.

Deputy Mayor for Urban Development and Construction Marat Khusnullin reported on the event at a Moscow Government Presidium meeting.

“The Moscow Urban Forum 2017 has become the most ambitious and best attended one since the launch of the project in 2011,” Mr Khusnullin said. “Today, we can say confidently that it is a world-class event, which has been recognised by urban planners from around the world and has proved a major success. These words are borne out by the number of the forum’s guests and participants this year.”

According to Marat Khusnullin, over 11,000 participants from 68 countries have officially registered to attend the forum. “The number of speakers at the forum reached 414, including 124 foreign participants,” he said.

This year, the forum’s theme was Age of Agglomerations: Rethinking the World Map. The forum was attended by 24 governmental delegations, including foreign delegations led by the mayors of Istanbul, Dusseldorf, Vientiane, Bishkek, Iganga and Balti. Nine delegations headed by regional governors and city mayors from Russia also took part in the forum.

The main speakers included heads of major corporations, developers and investors, as well as leading architects and urban planners and the leaders of high-profile projects to develop megalopolises that are famous around the world. For example, former Mayor of London Kenneth Livingstone, Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School) in Singapore Parag Khanna and well-known Russian economist Mikhail Dmitriyev presided over different plenary discussions. 

Over 800 media outlets covered the forum events and the number of materials published topped 4,700. 

Multinational accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has presented the results of its new survey, “Size Matters: First Global Ranking of Metropolitan Areas”.

“Moscow ranks second in PwC’s ranking of the top 20 metropolitan areas across the world,” Mr Khusnullin said. “New York leads as the world’s largest agglomeration.”

Based on many years of urban studies, PwC experts have developed a benchmarking methodology to identify metropolitan areas, or fast-growing areas, which use their resources with maximum efficiency and have achieved a higher level of economic development than their countries as a whole, and also to identify their competitive development strategies, strengths and weaknesses.     

As a result, PwC has come up with two rankings: the top 20 most rapidly growing cities and the top 10 most efficiently developing cities.

The top 20 ranking shows that by 11 out of 13 indicators that have been analysed, the Moscow metropolitan area has demonstrated higher growth rates than the average for the country; it shares second place with the Shanghai and Istanbul metropolitan areas. With 12 out of 13 indicators, the Beijing metropolitan area has come up on top in the ranking.

New York is the leader of the top 10 most efficiently developing cities. The Moscow agglomeration ended up in sixth place, but it leads the group of metropolitan areas in developing countries.

Business Programme

The forum’s two-day business programme (6 and 7 July) consisted of  85 events, including plenary sessions, debates, round table discussions and presentations.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin devoted his speech to the prospects of Russian urban agglomerations, primarily Moscow.

“The past 25 years have witness tremendous successes of Russia’s key cities that have become bigger – in the past few years migration and a natural increase in the population, the number of residents in agglomerations have grown by 10 million people. The majority of large Russian cities have formed full-fledged agglomerations – more than 20 of them have a population of over a million. In addition to expanding, Russian cities have become more convenient for their residents,” Mr Sobyanin said.

The Mayor noted that the potential of Russia’s urbanization is far from exhausted. “In the next few years large cities and agglomerations will accept another eight to ten million people, many of whom now live in small communities, single-industry towns and rural areas,” he said.

The Mayor went on to tell his audience about Moscow’s main development goals and results, emphasising the city’s contribution to Russia’s progress: “About 20 million people or 13 percent of Russia’s population are concentrated in the Moscow agglomeration today. Indicatively, its contribution to the GDP is twice as large as the share of its population. This means that Moscow is a national economic donor rather than the other way round, as is believed,” he said.

According to Mayor Sobyanin, Moscow creates about 3.5 million jobs throughout the country, consuming goods and services produced in other parts of Russia. The capital is also the biggest donor of the Russian budget and redistributes enormous resources for the benefit of other regions through it. In the past few years contributions to the federal budget alone have grown by 60 percent to reach one trillion roubles. Moreover, every tenth Russian received a pension and medical services from Moscow’s contributions to social funds.

“It is vital to ensure priority development of transport, engineering, utility and other infrastructure for the success of the city,” the Mayor said, adding that the Moscow Government is following exactly this logic in its own development programmes.

In conclusion the Mayor mentioned the main challenges that are facing Russian agglomerations, including Moscow. It is necessary to provide their residents with affordable high-quality housing, balance out places of residence and jobs in specific areas, protect the environment, reduce the harmful impact of automobiles and preserve historical heritage. Naturally, one of the main challenges is to coordinate the development of a huge agglomeration, including Moscow, the Moscow Region and the regions that are actively cooperating with the capital.

The following key ideas were voiced at the plenary sessions:

  1. The current world map is characterised by the increasing concentration of resources, primarily human and financial capital. The growth of the largest metropolitan areas has led to the formation of urban agglomerations that are becoming the main targets of development and actors in the global competitive environment.
  2. Development of agglomerations is a key managerial challenge for the systems of territorial and strategic planning in almost all countries of the world. It is critical to ensure the efficient functioning of coordination mechanisms between all entities of this or other region and its management levels.
  3. To speed up Russia’s economic growth rates and transition to a new economic model it is essential to increase the role of the largest cities and agglomerations that are forming around them. Investing in agglomerations and the formation of a comfortable urban environment will make it possible to preserve the competitiveness of these agglomerations and the country in general.
  4. Importantly, the development of agglomerations should not come at the expense of other territories’ progress. On the contrary, it is vital to enhance their integration and cooperation in the interests of domestic growth. Great cities can exist only in a great country but a great country is impossible without great cities.

Experimental labs

The MUF’17 Experimental Labs focused on technological solutions for Moscow in four areas: the Future of Mobility, the Future of Housing, Quality of the Urban Environment, and Data Analysis and Visualisation. They were attended by 143 people who chose the main directions and priority projects for Moscow’s technological development.

MUF Fest

As usual, the Moscow Urban Forum included a cultural programme of 38 events staged at 28 city venues, which were attended by over 11,000 people. On 8 July, some 10,000 people took part in the night bicycling parade, which was organised by the MUF and held as part of Moscow Transport Day.

MUF Community Awards were for the first time presented on 7 July. The winners in eight nominations were chosen through online voting on the official website of the Moscow Mayor and Government (mos.ru), which was held from 15 June to 1 July.

Overall, MUF Fest included 51 events (public lectures, workshops, games, concerts and tours) and was attended by 158 speakers.

Visitors could join running tours around Moscow organised with the Running Environment project or attend an urban business game called Vector, the City Land street art exhibition, the Urban Fields concert of electroacoustic music at the Urban Farm, an open meeting with Steven Raspa, Regional Development Director of the Burning Man Festival, or a lecture by Melissa McCaig-Welles, independent curator and founder of McCaig-Welles Gallery (NYC).

Exhibition

The Moscow Urban Forum was held at VDNKh this year, which allowed its organisers to increase the exhibition space to 31 big stands.

“The city prepared very interesting exhibits, as all forum participants pointed out,” Marat Khusnullin said.

Visitors could learn about Moscow’s tourism potential, the Luzhniki renovation project, and road and transport infrastructure construction and renovation plans.

The forum’s partners presented urban development projects which they are implementing, including transport interchange hubs, Dream Island Park and residential neighbourhoods. The participants included Moscow, the Moscow Region, Tatarstan and Crimea.

Marat Khusnullin also said that one of the forum’s new features this year was the online voting for the best urban project on the Active Citizen and mos.ru websites.

“Voting on Active Citizen and mos.ru was held to choose the best urban projects in a variety of nominations, including entertainment and leisure, education and science, sport and fitness, urban tech, public good [charitable and social projects], urban media [and blogs] and art and culture, as well as a special nomination, Unique  Urban Space. Active Citizen and mos.ru visitors chose the best projects that subsequently received the special nomination award,” The Deputy Mayor said.

The most popular exhibit was a showroom presenting the new flats in the residential buildings to be built under the relocation programme. Over 30,000 people visited the showroom during the four-day forum. “This exhibit was extremely popular and has engendered lively discussions,” Marat Khusnullin said. He added that the showroom would become a standing exposition.

Overall, some 50,000 people visited the exhibition, which will close on 12 July.