— Dear Dr. Topbaş, what goals and tasks do you set for your UCLG presidency term? What will the Organization be like at the end of your term?
As I have pointed out during my candidacy, I consider the UCLG Presidency as a “relay-race” for serving the cities, metropolises, regional and local governments of the world. In fact, with the support and full participation of the Co-Presidents, the Treasurer, the Vice-Presidents, the World Council, the Executive Bureau, the Secretariat General, our Regional Sections and of all our members, I try to greatly contribute to the realization of the UCLG mission.
As the President of UCLG, I attach great importance to promote solidarity among our members and I have started and will continue to mobilize all our forces to pave the way ahead for more peaceful, equitable and democratic governance of communities everywhere in the world.
Before the international community we should develop our status and representative capacity within global governance (UN and other pertinent bodies) with the aim of becoming, as we deserve, equal partners in this global setting. We have booked important successes but we need to work further.
I am very much confident that, at the end of my term, UCLG will be the main focus point for local and regional governments in the world for producing and exchanging views, methods, solutions and innovations with regard to creating a more human, peaceful and just world.
— We know you to be the only Mayor of Istanbul who has been reelected for the second term. What do you think caused this decision of Istanbul citizens, what did they like in your work that made them vest confidence in your reelection for the second term?
— I feel honored to be the only mayor of Istanbul who has been re-elected for the second time. And as a lover of Istanbul, I do my duty with great enthusiasm. I have the pleasure and responsibility of performing a duty that gives a meaning to my life. Both my staff and I serve this world city of Istanbul worthily, recognizing our responsibility.
We have restructured the city with masterplans. We dealed with transportation, the biggest problem of big cities. We built 15 km of metro annually, while it was 2.5 km before.
We have completed unfinished sports complexes, congress and fair venues and rebuilt them.
Our efforts to make Istanbul the world’s financial, cultural and tourism center have yielded good results and Istanbul became 2010 European Capital of Culture.
Thanks to the international events we hosted, Istanbul has become a beloved city all over the world.
We worked hard with that in mind, but neither our projects nor our efforts have come to an end and we said we still had a lot to do. I ran for Mayor of Istanbul again. Istanbulites appreciated our service and I was elected for a second consecutive term in Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor’s Office.
This enormous city which has made a distinguished name for itself thanks to its performance during big crises and which produces half of the Turkish economy is now going through a majestic change.The world is speaking about Istanbul and she has become the world’s favorite city. Istanbul has become a trademark. We have opened our beloved Istanbul and country to the world.
Among all these successful organizations, we have assumed the presidency of UCLG and UNACLA and had a voice among other local governments.
We would like to glorify our 2nd office term that dear Istanbulites entrusted to us with permanent achievements. That is why we are keeping our nose to the grindstone.
— The Turkish cities, Istanbul and Safranbolu, were the first to support the foundation of the Eurasia Section of OWHC with the centre in Kazan, and after 8 years of the Section existence, Istanbul is hosting the 5th International conference of the World heritage cities of Eurasia. How has OWHC membership influenced the development of Istanbul? What effect will this conference have on your city and what does it mean to you? What experiences, in what areas are you going to share with the conference participants?
— Istanbul is UNESCO world heritage city. A demand rose to include Istanbul among the members of Organization of World heritage Cities (OWHC) as a symbol of universal values. And she has so become in 2005.
The City of Istanbul actively participates in all the events and conferences organized by OWHC. During the 9th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities themed “Heritage and Economy,” the City of Istanbul was picked among other cities as the group speaker.
In 2009, OWHC delivered a certificate of appreciation to Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, which approved that “Istanbul properly fulfilled all her responsibilities and that Istanbul is a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities.”
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality attaches great importance to the empowerment of local governments and to the exchange of information and experience among the cities. And therefore, we are extremely glad and excited to host the 5th International Eurasian Conference of World Heritage Cities. I believe that this conference will also bring a significant vision to ensuring the sharing of information, experience and technology among the OWHC-member cities. It will also enable Istanbul to transfer her projects and experience in the conservation, development and promotion of cultural and historical heritage to the member cities.
— The theme of the international conference is “the Heritage of the Future Generations”. What are the heritages of Istanbul? What is the main idea of these?
— The Historic Sites of Istanbul have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1985.
She owns a superior series of monumental works depicting the prominent times of the history of humanity. And she is the product of a significant heritage of architecture and engineering.
Among the unique assets of Istanbul are Hagia Sophia, which represents the 6th century architecture and design with its massive domes; Fatih Social Complex built in the 15th century; Topkapı Palace, the complex that expanded since 15th century through the 19th; Mimar Sinan’s masterpieces Süleymaniye and Prince Mehmet Mosques, a reflection of 16th century culture and Ottoman architecture; 17th century architectural work Blue Mosque and the elegant minarets of New Mosque near the harbor.
Throughout history, monuments in Istanbul have had a significant influence on the development of architecture, monuments and site design in Europe and the Near East.
Istanbul is a unique city with its rich cultural ans architectural heritage formed by a great number of civilizations throughout history. Among our major priorities are preserving and maintaining the cultural and natural heritage and make syre that we hand it down to coming generations safe and sound.
— What responsibilities does Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality assume to support the positive image of the city?
— Istanbul is one of the fastest growing and renewing cities of the world. She attracts the attention of the whole world with its international organizations and culture and art events.
In a poll carried out by the Financial Times to determine the most livable cities, Istanbul, the engine of current transformation in Turkey, was chosen as the most livable city in the world. Now, The Daily Telegraph recently named Istanbul as a runner up for ‘Best Cultural City’ and ‘Greatest Cultural Destination’ awards.
We have many projects to be become a brand-city. The international-scale projects of “Canalİstanbul” and “Two Cities” publicly announced by our Prime Minister will make great contributions and change the profile of the city.
We have been awarded the title of 2012 European Capital of Sports. We are the strongest candidate city to 2020 Olympic Games. Because, we already have turned our projects into facilities.
We are taking major steps towards becoming the technology capital of Eurasia. We aim to make Istanbul as technology base. We are establishing Advanced Technology Parks in collaboration with R&D centers and universities.
We are transforming the current industry through the advanced technology parks. We aim a high-tech industry that creates higher added value.
These major projects will clench the position of Istanbul as a global-scale city.Istanbul will become the exemplary center of culture and arts, environment, humane living environments and health, sports and technology.
— The Celebrations of the Turkish Constitution Day will be held during the Conference. What is this holiday and how do you celebrate it? What events are you going to treat your guests to on this day?
— We will celebrate the 88th Anniversary of our Republic and Freedom on 29th October.
We, as Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, are preparing spectacular ceremonies and organizations to celebrate this important and meaningful day.
This year we will organize lights, laser, music and fireworks shows over Bosporus again.
Our famous singers will give concerts at various locations of the city. We will enjoy all these activities with the citizens of Istanbul and our esteemed guests.
Our respected guests to be here in Istanbul to participate 5th International Eurasia World Heritage Cities Conference will enjoy an unforgettable day that they will always keep in their memories.
They will have the opportunity to experience both the historical and modern Istanbul at the same time.