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Ideas Flow in Rio at Columbia’s Launch of Global Discussions Program

November 12, 2013

Columbia Global Centers recently hosted two discussions at its Rio de Janeiro Center to launch the inaugural Columbia Global Debates, a pilot program connecting all eight centers and the main campus with a live audience in Brazil.

The initiative strengthens the Centers’ mission to link Columbia University faculty and students to a broad spectrum of thought leaders and experts in key regions throughout the world.  The Columbia Global Centers, situated in these regions, catalyze Columbia’s research and learning on a global scale.  The Centers are located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Beijing, China; Istanbul, Turkey; Amman, Jordan; Paris, France; Mumbai, India; Nairobi, Kenya; and headquartered in New York City near Columbia’s campus.

The initial conversation—“Future Cities”—was held Tuesday, Oct. 29, and featured presentations from Mark Wigley, dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. Dean Wigley spoke of the “generosity of cities,” while Mayor Paes explored the global implications of historical and future development in Rio de Janeiro’s coastal communities, particularly its large-scale redevelopment of the downtown port area.

On Oct. 30, Columbia Global Centers presented “Democracy and Development in Brazil” with Rio Center Director Thomas J. Trebat and Columbia professor Marcos Prado Troyjo (standing in for for President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, whose appearance was cancelled due to illness). Trebat and Troyjo discussed the impact of 20th century political and economic development in the country relative to Brazil’s current world standing and future prospects.   

Both debates were filmed before a live audience in Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood and live-streamed to participants from over 14 countries via the Columbia Global Centers website. Questions for each speaker were submitted via video conferencing from several Global Centers, as well as through a Twitter feed. Journalist Patricia Campos Mello, an editor and columnist with Folha de São Paulo moderated the debates.

Each debate comprised a twenty-minute presentation from each speaker, followed by approximately 40 minutes of discussion with the audience.  Questions flowed in from viewers watching via live-stream at Columbia Global Centers in Istanbul, Beijing, Mumbai, Nairobi, Amman, and Paris, as well as via Twitter and from the Rio de Janeiro theater audience.  Topics discussed included public management of rural migration to cities; the effect of real estate speculation in Rio’s hillside communities; China’s future in terms of its economic and political development; the role of tourism in Brazilian cultural heritage and identity; the export of Brazilian-style democracy and development to Africa; several aspects of the recent protests in Brazil and other developing countries, and the development of the deep water oil fields recently discovered off the Brazilian coast.

Recorded versions of each presentation, along with the accompanying audience-led discussions, will be posted to the Columbia Global Centers website very soon.  We invite you to follow the debate online and add your thoughts and comments.