The Moscow Urban Forum, a major international congress devoted to the development of global mega cities, opened at Zaryadye Park. It has business and festival programmes that will end on 22 July.
“We have been meeting in Moscow for seven years to address the modern challenges that the world’s cities are facing. Many ideas have been offered during this time and we have heard many theories and stories about various practices,” said Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin at the opening of the forum.
He said it is important to remember how the development of modern Moscow started.
“There were large manufacturing plants in Moscow in the 1980s, and the Moscow Mayor and the First Secretary of the Moscow City Communist Party Committee were basically asked, “what about the development of industry, what about the plants? What have they produced? How many consumer goods, machines and devices have they made?” Moscow was a city of manufacturing. However, in the late 1980s even the Soviet leaders began to understand that this was a road to nowhere, Sobyanin emphasised.
New roads and the metro
Today, Moscow is developing the Smart City programme that involves its residents in administering the city and making its services more accessible. Hundreds of kilometres of roads and dozens of metro stations are being built and over 170 government services can be received online.
According to the Mayor, it is important to make public transport accessible to every resident in the city. In the near future Moscow will have 1,300 kilometres of new roads and 1,000 kilometres of new surface and underground transit lines.
“About 8 million people live beyond the Moscow MKAD Ring Road and 2.5 million come to Moscow and leave it every day. The metro cannot solve all the transit problems in such a large agglomeration. So it is necessary to build a ‘surface metro’ to link Moscow’s closest suburbs. We have designed such a project and will carry it out over the next few years. Moscow and its suburbs will receive another 446 kilometres of surface metro,” Sobyanin said, adding “The Moscow transport system should provide synergy. It should unite people rather than divide them. It should allow them to use everything that the city has, that is within the walking distance. They should be able to quickly reach their offices, theatres, cinemas, retail outlets and friends. This is the key to the development of our largest city.”
General level of education has greatly improved
Regardless of which school children study at, they can receive quality education and an opportunity for self-expression. The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has ranked Moscow sixth in reading and mathematical literacy.
“Muscovites have occupied more than half of all places in the national academic competition and continue moving ahead. This demonstrates not only an equal and competent education but also an opportunity for a huge number of children to receive a quality education and express their talents,” Sobyanin said.
Upgrading the streets
Mayor Sobyanin gave several examples of Moscow’s transformation. Now the whole world knows Nikolskaya Street but few people recall how it looked a few years ago.
“Millions of people came to Nikolskaya Street but they didn’t know what it was like a few years ago. Upgraded streets stood the test of the FIFA World Cup when millions of people from all over the world came to our city. Moscow would not have survived this in 2010. All of this looks simple but requires consistent efforts. It is necessary to resolve many conflicts, counter advertisers and the owners of overhead wires that close the skies, put the signs in order, remove the old style temporary retail kiosks from metro station areas and make many other decisions, each of which is small but together make a real urban revolution,” Sobyanin emphasised.
129 government services centres
The Moscow Mayor believes that the megacities’ main asset is not machines but people with their talents, abilities and opportunities to invent.
“It is very important for the following principle to be the main criterion in the development of our city — it should love its residents and Muscovites should love their city,” Sobyanin said.
Today Moscow has 129 government services centres. The first ones were opened in 2011 when they replaced 1,200 reception offices for different government bodies. Today it is possible to receive more than 170 government services in the My Documents centres (birth certificates, passports, personal insurance individual account numbers, personal tax reference numbers, and driving licenses, to name a few).
“We have made serious changes in these services. We have established the relevant infrastructure and the system of proving government services. Today, 97 percent of Muscovites say that they are satisfied with this system. The next step is not just to formally fulfil these services but to include a sincere effort where a person that works there stands by your side and helps you resolve your problems, Sobyanin said.
Projects of changing life for the better
Muscovites are changing their city by taking part in different projects. “Many services have been established to understand what the city residents want and how to involve them in the system of running the city. Thus, the Our City website allows Muscovites to monitor municipal systems and institutions. They can record up to 90 percent of the problems they encounter each day, submit their comments and requests, report them and receive answers within eight days. These problems are usually resolved within four days,” Sobyanin said.
Over 2 million Muscovites vote on the Active Citizen website on the planting of trees near residential buildings, the upgrading programme and other important city projects. Sobyanin said it is important not only to vote but also generate ideas together. He said that the Active Citizen website is one of the world’s largest crowdsourcing sites.
“Investment in infrastructure, public space and the social area are providing a powerful impetus for investment. During the past few years investment has increased by 76 times and the city’s budget revenue has grown accordingly. Today Moscow has no debts. We are confident that we will be able to independently carry out the biggest part of our urban development projects,” Sobyanin said.
The Moscow Urban Forum has been held annually since 2011. It is attended by representatives of city administrations in Russia and the world, architects, city planners, developers, the heads of financial companies, investors, journalists and simply Muscovites.
This year the forum will take place in Zaryadye Park from 17 to 27 July. Representatives of 50 countries will come to Moscow. About 10,000 people will take part in the business programme and over 100,000 in the festival programme at the forum.