- Esteemed Yevgenia, the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum opened in Kazan on October 19. The first question is obvious due to the current situation in this country and the rest of the world – what issues did you have to address while preparing for this event?
The BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum was scheduled for late May this year. We have been preparimg for it on a large scale: conducted numerous business meetings and compiled an extensive cultural and sightseeing programme. It was particularly important for us to introduce the guests of our city to our rich history and culture, all the more so since this event was included in the federal plan for the preparations and holding of the centenary of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. We also wanted to share our experience in using sports facilities after major international competitions. This is a problem for many world cities that built stadiums, swimming pools and other sports facilities requiring maintenance and use for economic gain. The practical part of the Forum was supposed to be most interesting and intensive. However, it became clear in early April that the Forum participants would not be able to come. The Forum’s dates were suspended several times because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And even now that it was decided to convert the Forum into an e-format, we are watching with concern the threatening figures of the infection rate and hope all participants will be safe and able to take part in the discussion.
- The world has been living in conditions of the pandemic for almost a year. How has this affected the cooperation and development of the BRICS municipalities?
You know, strange as it may seem, the pandemic has united us. As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Friendly ties are particularly strong during a crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners from Guangzhou and Hangzhou offered us help with supplies of medical masks and thermometers. We organized several large international events and it turns out that virtual meetings are a great success. Our colleagues are pleased to take part in discussions and exchange experience. We have made many new friends.
- What issues are being discussed on the sidelines of the Forum?
This year, the theme of the Forum is “Achieving Sustainable Development Goals”.
The need to study and circulate the best practices on implementing sustainable development goals is growing all the time. We are more and more faced with the requirement to draft mechanisms for effective planning and management of urban systems, and cooperation between central, regional and local authorities. It is necessary to ensure the openness, safety, viability and ecological sustainability of cities and other residential areas and create mechanisms for protecting and preserving their cultural and natural legacy.
The participants will discuss topics in line with Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, during the pandemic, the introduction of the smart city concept, efforts to ensure the viability of our cities, and the further expansion of municipal cooperation between the BRICS participants.
- What are the priorities for the Heads of cities and municipalities today?
The local authorities and their administrations are at the forefront of countering the sudden crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The lives of people, their safety and welfare depend on our ability to make timely and well-balanced decisions.
These difficult times will pass whereas our resilience and experience will stay with us. These complicated times have shown more clearly than ever the importance of distributing the world’s best practices in countering threats.
- You are always in touch with your BRICS colleagues. What can you tell us about the expectations and forecasts in these countries and cities in regard to the development of joint projects?
Promotion of cooperation between BRICS friendship cities and municipalities is fundamentally important for enhancing interregional cooperation and exchange of practices on countering the challenges related to rapid urbanization. All of us recognize the need to strengthen inter-municipal cooperation between the BRICS countries and implement specific initiatives. I hope that the Forum will help us bring twin cities closer and find new partners and friends.