Cities are actors of solidarity and support in the Ukrainian crisis

On 9 June 2022, the Geneva Cities Hub organized an informal humanitarian briefing on Ukraine for cities, in partnership with Metropolis. Anh Thu Duong Co-Director, GCH, recalled that the objective was to brief municipal authorities willing to provide assistance in Ukraine about the current humanitarian situation and needs and to ensure that their municipal support can yield the most effective results on the ground. To do so, GCH gathered international humanitarian actorsIFRC, OCHA and ICVA, representatives of the cities of Kharkiv and Bucha in Ukraine, as well as interested cities worldwide.

An unprecedented worldwide solidarity movement has been triggered by the conflict which started on 24 February 2022. Numerous actors have mobilized to provide humanitarian protection and assistance to civilians in the context of the conflict.  

Ukrainian cities have been very much in the limelight, given that armed conflict is taking place in and around cities. As such, the media have extensively reported on how municipal authorities – both in Ukraine and abroad – organize themselves to protect and assist their own population or the thousands of refugees with shelter, food, water, healthcare, information, etc. Humanitarian actors have concentrated in cities to meet the needs of civilians and organize convoys to evacuate them. And worldwide cities have also been “actors of solidary and support”, as stated by Jordi Vaquer, Secretary General, Metropolis), sending humanitarian items such as food, clothes, medicines, mattresses, to Ukrainian cities.

The briefing focused on the cities of Kharkiv and Bucha, which have both been the theatre of intense fighting and have thus been receiving and coordinating humanitarian assistance for their population. Mykhailyna Skoryk-Shkarivska, Deputy Mayor of Bucha, emphasized that the city had received humanitarian assistance in April and May (mainly food) and stated that “it is now time to restore normal life and revive the local economy”, including by repairing the municipal infrastructure (electricity, water, transport, etc.) which had been heavily destroyed. She also underlined that expertise from other cities was needed in order to improve their strategy of protection of the civilian population in the future.

In Kharkiv, one the main priority today is to build new shelter for people who have lost their houses (~30% of the buildings have been destroyed) and to restore all municipal services (water, electricity, heating, transport, etc.) that have been disrupted since the conflict (see annex, list of items needed by the Kharkiv municipal authorities). Olga Demianenko, Director of the Department for cooperation with international agencies & financial institutions, Kharkiv, mentioned that “needs evolve over time. Food supply is better now, because supermarkets have reopened. However, cash support is needed to enable people to buy food and to revive the local economy”.

Both Colin Chaperon, Head of Emergency Operations, Ukraine & surrounding countries from IFRC and Anvar Munavvarov, Humanitarian Affairs Officer from OCHA, provided a comprehensive overview of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries and they pointed at their respective tools to support humanitarian action. For instance, support can be provided to worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, which will then direct that support to the Ukrainian Red Cross. In addition, the IFRC has also published an Emergency Appeal. OCHA has coordinated the Ukraine flash appeal and has maintained the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund established in 2019. These funds are strategic and vital tools available to donors to pool their contributions into single, unearmarked funds to enable humanitarian partners to deliver timely, coordinated and principled assistance in Ukraine.

Jeremy Wellard, Head of Humanitarian Coordination from ICVA, a global network of non-governmental organizations, recalled how NGOs play a crucial role in the Ukrainian crisis. National and international NGOs have indeed been among the first responders, in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including local authorities. ICVA highlighted the importance of good relationships between humanitarian actors and cities in order to ensure access to good information on IDPs, host communities and other persons within the cities’ boundaries. In particular, good data is needed for cash programming, enabling people to meet their own needs and to revive the local economy in the most effective manner.

Humanitarian needs vary a lot within Ukraine depending on the regions and whether fighting is still ongoing in certain areas. While certain cities like Kharkiv and Bucha have started focusing on restoring normal life and repairing municipal services ahead of winter, humanitarian assistance is still needed in many parts of the country and beyond.

Cities interested to assist and contribute are thus invited to connect with the following actors in order to ensure that their support is as timely, relevant and coordinated as possible.

  • their cities’ counterpart in Ukraine;
  • international humanitarian organizations such as IFRC and OCHA;
  • their respective National Red Cross/Crescent Societies;
  • NGOs involved in the respons;
  • The European Union Committee of Regions, which has set up an online Info-Support Hub on Ukraine.

The Geneva Cities Hub remains available to help orient those cities and connect them with the right partners.  

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