Opening door Jan van Zanen van de SDLG conferentie in Kyiv


Dobriy dyen,

Your excellency Esselien van Eerten,

Director Oleksandr Slobozhan,

Members of the Association of Ukrainian Cities,

Dear all,

On behalf of my dear colleagues and friends, the mayors Van Eert (Rheden), de Vries (Oudewater), vice mayor Boerkamp (Rhenen) and director Hartsuijker (safety region Utrecht), it is with profound respect and deep solidarity that I address you today. As we gather here, our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, especially the resilient communities represented by the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC). Your strength and spirit in the face of immense challenges inspire us all.

I also greet you as mayor of The Hague, the International City of Peace and Justice, which welcomed President Zelensky in May last year. The Russian terror attacks are the opposite of what The Hague stands for: Peace, justice and non-violent resolution of conflicts.

Above all, this war is about justice. ‘No peace without justice’ was therefore the appropriate title of the speech President Zelensky gave in The Hague. As the centre of international law, The Hague is actively helping to achieve justice for Ukraine. Obviously in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In our city, two important organisations have already embarked on their work: the Ukrainian Public Prosecution Service is investigating crimes committed during the war. The new Register of Damage for Ukraine is gathering evidence of destruction and war crimes which may lead to prosecutions later.

Today, I would like to highlight role that VNG International, alongside all 342 Dutch municipalities, has been playing in Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction efforts. Through their initial project focused on local recovery and development plans, they have laid a strong foundation for sustainable recovery processes in four communities.

Dutch cities played a key role in this mission, contributing through knowledge exchange, coaching, webinars, and hosting study visits. This collaborative approach has facilitated the sharing of expertise and best practices, further strengthening our collective efforts.

As we look ahead, VNG International is set to prioritize key aspects of sustainable local development. By applying the principles of “build back better” and ensuring citizen inclusion throughout the process, they are fostering a future that is not only resilient but also inclusive and participatory.

Let us use this opportunity to explore how Dutch local and regional governments can best contribute to the new phase of the project and the broader Ukrainian cause. Through open dialogue and collaborative efforts, we can identify innovative solutions and forge new pathways for support and development. Our collective expertise and dedication will be instrumental in driving forward the reconstruction and sustainable growth of Ukrainian communities.

We stand here today united by a common purpose – to ensure the success of this vital project and to support the Ukrainian cause. It is our sincere hope that this conference will serve as a catalyst for even stronger cooperation among all participants. By working together, we can amplify our impact and bring about meaningful change.

In closing, I extend my heartfelt wish for good cooperation and fruitful partnerships among all involved in this project. May our efforts be guided by mutual respect, shared goals, and an unwavering commitment to making a positive difference.

Slava Ukraini.

Thank you and carry on.