Laudation address by His Royal Highness The Prince of Orange on behalf of His Royal Highness Prince Claus to the recipients of the Principal 2000 Prince Claus Award at the Royal Palace, Amsterdam, December 12, 2000
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Urbanization is on the march all over the world. People are voting for the city with their feet. Half of the world's population already lives in cities. Consequently this influx has embroiled cities in a struggle between quantity and quality.
This development is often regarded just from the viewpoint of planning and architecture. Yet a city is more than a planning challenge or an architectural feat. A city has, above all, a human dimension. It is also a combination of all the dreams and aspirations of its inhabitants. The city is a center of hope. 'City air is liberating' is an old saying which has lost nothing of its meaning; the city is still the embodiment of a process of emancipation, a process in which individuals acquire social, economic and artistic freedom.
That the rapidly expanding cities of today continue to function, rather than collapse, is quite simply a miracle; the more so in those cases where the city administration fails in its duties. The explanation for this resilience lies in the population itself and the enormous potential for human resourcefulness that it represents. It is this human dimension of the city that is being highlighted here today.
A city exists thanks to independent spirits, thanks to all those people who, every morning, seem to become absorbed by the crowd as they wait to squeeze into a bus or a train, but who never lose their sense of individuality. A city exists thanks to their flexible spirit; the spirit of those, for example, who make a living out of what is cast out as waste by others.
Today we are honoring representatives of these people as Urban Heroes. They are working towards a decent urban life; they are the 'makers', or perhaps the 'saviors', of the city. The Principal 2000 Prince Claus Award this year goes to urban heroes who are all working in Latin America: Jaime Lerner, Curitiba Viva Rio, Rio de Janeiro and Francisco Toledo, Oaxaca.
As mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, Jaime Lerner, an architect and planner by profession, developed a public transport system, which forms the heart of the city's street plan. Within the framework of the project 'Curitiba Ecological Capital' he made rubbish bags exchangeable for bus tickets.
Lerner carried out radical reforms which altered more than just the face of the city. He made Curitiba a paradigm of a livable city. Curitiba's population has tripled over the last decade, and yet the city has never burst at its seams. During my official visit to Brazil, in March 1998, I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Jaime Lerner, who was then and is now governor of the great state of Paraná, where many Dutch immigrants have made their home. We recognize in him a great urban developer and an important politician of national stature, and we hope that his example will be followed by many.
In Rio de Janeiro, the people of Viva Rio, under the impassioned leadership of Rubem César Fernandes, are fighting against the problem of even greater numbers. Viva Rio is a network of citizens' action groups and an alliance of many different organizations and individuals who are battling against violence and exclusion. People from all sectors of society, ranging from residents of the favelas to officials and political leaders, are involved. The people of Viva Rio are recreating the city and giving its millions of inhabitants - including the large numbers of newcomers who arrive from the countryside every year - the opportunity to live a decent life. Rio de Janeiro, panoramically one of the most spectacular cities of the world, needs initiatives like Viva Rio and inspiring people like Rubem Fernandes. During my two visits to Rio de Janeiro I witnessed at first hand the many-fold challenges that face the people of Rio who have this leader that they can proudly look up to.
It has not escaped my notice that Rubem Fernandes/Viva Rio is also a major force in the struggle against the carrying and use of small weapons - still a scourge of Carioca life -. The success of an international seminar on this subject that mr. Fernandes organized last year and attended by representatives of both the public and private sectors of many interested countries, shows that private drive and initiative can achieve great things.
The Mexican artist, Francisco Toledo also demonstrates a unique social consciousness. In his paintings and graphics he searches for the indigenous and the global; he works for a flourishing cultural climate in his home town Oaxaca. He is an urban hero because he preserves the beauty of this old provincial capital. Here he has created the El Pochote Garden, which offers respite from the noise of the city. He also saves and rejuvenates the city's cultural heritage by giving old buildings a new life as an exhibition space, a library, or an institute for arts education.
It is not only the practical or economic opportunities of a city that hold the attraction for the millions of inhabitants, fortune hunters and adventurers. It is the mythical dimensions of such cities as New York, Mumbai, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro or Amsterdam which embody the urban dream. Today we are honoring the urban dreamers who have had the courage, the stamina and the persuasiveness to realize their dreams. They are proving that cities are viable. I would like to commend Governor Jaime Lerner, Rubem César Fernandes of Viva Rio and Francisco Toledo for their work. They have made an urban dream reality.
Muito Obrigado pela sua attencão.
Muchas gracias por su atención.