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Mayors Voices: Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes

In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing news about how cities are setting the course for long-term sustainable growth. But first, we want to catch readers up on the conversations we have been having over the past year, featuring the progress being made around the world. The following post originally ran on the C40 Cities Live Blog on March 2, 2012.

Rio’s four commandments for the cities of the future

Eduardo Paes – Mayor of Rio de Janeiro

On February 29th, I had the great honour to be one of the speakers of the TED 2012’s session about cities. The fact that I was invited to take part in an event that has already hosted personalities such as Bill Gates, Richard Dawkins and Bill Clinton, proves that Rio is really living a special moment. The world is clearly curious to learn about the projects that are transforming the marvelous city into a more sustainable and socially integrated city.

During my presentation at the auditorium in Long Beach, California, I emphasized how challenging was for Rio to be chosen the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games, as we had to defeat Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago, the latter supported by Barack Obama. However, our main mission has started after being chosen. From that moment on, we have become responsible for using the Games to improve our peoples’ lives.

As our victory against those cities reveals, it is not necessary to be rich or powerful to be successful and get things done. To manage a huge city such as Rio de Janeiro is certainly a great challenge. But, following four commandments and adopting innovative strategies, one can transform cities in amazing places to live. For me, the four basic rules for the cities of the future are:

1) It has to be environmentally friendly,

2) It has to deal with mobility and integration of its people,

3) It has to be socially integrated,

4) It has to use technology to be present.

During my speech, I used the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system as the greatest example of an original project that can dramatically improve people’s lives. Four exclusive lanes for articulated buses that can carry up to 160 passengers are being built by the City Hall. Users will board on acclimatised stations, where they will buy their tickets and connect with the train and underground systems. We believe that the BRT will allow Rio de Janeiro to increase the percentage of its population that uses high capacity public transportation from the current 18% to 63% in 2015. This will be a revolution in urban mobility.

Another key point that I discussed on TED was regarding the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. These poor communities of our city are usually seen as a problem. For me, however, they can actually be a solution. In order to stop the vicious circle of poverty and violence, it is necessary to enter in the favela taking high-quality public services, mainly education and health. That is what we are trying to do. In Complexo do Alemão, for instance, we have built a 3D cinema and a technology inclusion centre. We are spreading new schools, nurseries and health clinics in all of the favelas. We still need to build much more, but I am sure we have already started a virtuous circle.

The last point I made on TED was about technology. As my fourth commandment says, technology helps us to be present everywhere to take care of our people. In Rio, we inaugurated in December 2010 the Rio Operations Centre, a nerve centre where we monitor all logistics of the city, from waste management and traffic control to weather and climate-related incidents. Using IBM technology, a 250-km-radius radar and 560 cameras, the Operations Centre allows us to be present when and where we are needed. For me, that is what technology is all about.

Rio is an amazing city, full of beauties and challenges as well. I know that there still plenty of work to be done in our city to deserve this marvelous landscape and our amazing people. But I am confident that we are in the right path, as we are using our opportunities to transform Rio into a more sustainable, socially integrated and modern city.

To watch my full presentation, please go to: http://vimeo.com/37712209