Welcome Remarks at the UNECE Forum of Mayors Side Event Ambassador Sheba Crocker Permanent Representative to the United Nations and International Organizations in GEneva Tuesday, April 5, 2022 As Delivered Palais des Nations, Geneva
Good morning and welcome to our distinguished panelists, those attending in the room, and those watching this online.
On behalf of the United States, it is an honor to co-host this side event with Ambassador Cornado and Columbia University’s City Diplomacy Lab.
I’m also honored to have Ambassador Filipenko from Ukraine here with us.
We are lucky to have Mayor Klitschko of Kyiv, Vice-Mayor Sciascio of Bari, Vice-Mayor Villacís of Madrid, and Susanne Klink from UNHCR to drive today’s conversation.
The event is “Cities: From Theaters of War to Actors for Peace.”
And this is a poignant moment to discuss this topic.
As we work together to build back better from the global COVID pandemic and to address the common challenges of climate change, sustainable development, and adequate shelter for all, we now also face a crisis of President Putin’s making.
Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine is creating an extraordinary humanitarian crisis and the utter destruction of urban areas. Revelations over the weekend of shocking brutalities against Ukrainian citizens, civilians in Bucha and elsewhere in Ukraine are deeply disturbing and need to be investigated thoroughly.
We have seen the horrifying images and heard the credible reports of torture, rape, and the execution of civilians. Reports suggest these atrocities are not the act of a rogue soldier or two, but are instead part of a deeply disturbing pattern. The Kremlin’s forces cannot and will not act with impunity. The United States, in coordination with Allies and partners, is pursuing accountability using every tool available. We are documenting these atrocities and sharing information with relevant institutions and organizations and those who are responsible will be held accountable.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has displaced more than 10 million people—most of them women and children. Russian military forces have destroyed hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, infrastructure, and entire cities.
Throughout Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s cities have won admiration the world over for their remarkable resilience. The Ukrainian people have demonstrated that conquering—or destroying—a city is not the same as capturing the hearts and minds of its citizens.
I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the United States stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who must be allowed to make their country’s decisions and determine their country’s future. We call for Russia to immediately withdraw its military from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.
The United States is working vigorously with the international community to support vulnerable populations in Ukraine and in neighboring countries with humanitarian assistance.
On March 24, President Biden announced the United States is prepared to provide more than $1 billion in new funding toward humanitarian assistance for those affected by Russia’s war in Ukraine and its severe impacts around the world.
However, the reality continues to be that while humanitarian goods are gathered and en route to areas most in need, the convoys are not able to reach people in besieged cities in Ukraine.
We continue to call on the Russian government to allow genuine safe passage so civilians may depart the cities and towns of Ukraine that are besieged by Russia’s forces and allow deliveries of humanitarian goods.
But let me return focus to our side event, where our panelists will discuss the role cities can play in ending conflict and creating peace.
The United States supports the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and agrees with Secretary-General Guterres’ call for cities to play a more active role in the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN system overall. Cities around the world have been at the forefront of adapting and applying the SDGs to address local challenges, including in the United States.
After New York first published its own voluntary local review of the SDGs, other cities around the United States have followed suit, including Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Orlando. Los Angeles has also developed a global network of mayors to address gender equity and it became the first city in the world to use an open-source platform to publicly report on their SDG indicators.
This innovative, grassroots thinking on SDGs by our local leaders is inspiring and I look forward to hearing and learning from the mayors on our panel.
To conclude, the challenges before us are daunting and many of them will require a common commitment to work together as members of the international community.
Events like this should reassure all of us, despite the horrors Russia is inflicting on Ukraine, there is a global community of cities and practitioners that stands for peace and the UN Charter and that is working together to solve our biggest problems.
I look forward to today’s discussion.