Launch of an online matching platform for cities to support Ukrainian local and regional authorities
29 March 2022
Thank you, Secretary-General for giving me the floor.
Allow me to briefly introduce myself: my name is Bernd Vöhringer and I am the Lord Mayor of the medium-sized city of Sindelfingen, in the south of Germany.
Since 2021, I am the President of the Chamber of local authorities of the Congress in the Council of Europe.
2. Situation in Ukraine
It is in both capacities but also as a human being, that when we saw and heard what started on February 24th in the Ukraine, we had to act.
Following the decisions of the Committee of Ministers, the Congress, during its 42nd Session was very clear in strongly condemning the war.
After a long and powerful debate on Ukraine in the Congress, among all 46 Member States, we unanimously adopted a Declaration.
This was clear in its message, that this war is against all of our common values: human rights, democracy, rule of law and freedom.
In this Declaration, the Congress condemns the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine as a blatant breach of international law.
But besides this important and strong political condemnation, we felt that we need to do more, especially in our main area of expertise as local and regional politicians.
3. Local Level – Closer to the citizens
Representing the local level means in all European Countries the same – that you are the first contact citizens go to, whenever they need help and support.
We are close to the citizens and we are the ones who meet the daily needs of our constituencies and provide the necessary infrastructure.
After having received letters and calls for support and help by Ministers, Associations and Members of the Congress from the Ukraine, we consulted European Associations and Networks, and always received the same feedback:
That there is a need for coordination and action coming from the local level.
Knowing from past experiences how important and fruitful cooperation between cities (mostly twin-cities) are, where Mayors help Mayors and a city councillor talks to city councillor, that’s where we wanted to start our support.
Because, we know, that Mayors, local and regional leaders are the first point of contact for citizens, especially in time of war and crisis.
Seeing the urgent needs for material, financial support as well as human resources first hand in our polish twin-city near the Ukrainian boarder a few days before the Congress Session, the need for coordination and support became very clear.
Under the patronage of the Congress of local and regional authorities of the Council of Europe, my city, the City of Sindelfingen, developed the platform Cites4Cities to match Ukrainian and other European Cities.
Putting cities and their representatives into contact and providing a platform that facilitates exchange and, in the end, enables faster and more efficient support to our Ukrainian friends and partners was our main idea.
As the Congress is not a humanitarian organisation nor can it run an external platform like cities4cities, the City of Sindelfingen in kind cooperation with the IT Company STAR Cooperation, worked on a solution.
To sum up, in full solidarity with the Ukraine, its cities, local and regional authorities and its people, the platform will be a place to match the demands/needs of Ukrainian cities with the capacity, know-how and supply of other European Cities.
As a side note: We got very encouraging feedback from our Ukrainian colleagues during last week’s session when we showed them a first version of the platform.
And we also got very positive feedback when we presented the platform during the Congress session and during an assembly of German local and regional authorities on Friday.
So together we can help our Ukrainian colleagues and respond to their urgent needs.
And, in the long run, we can create a long-lasting network of partnerships between Ukrainian and other European cities,
a European network based on Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
So, please, colleagues, go out check out and register your local or regional authority or association.
Together we can make the difference and show our full solidarity with the Ukraine – and as the local and regional level we don‘t only talk about solidarity but we show solidarity by concrete action!