Fort Russ – 26th January, 2016
“Mr. Speaker, Deputy Prime Minister Zubko, Mayor Klitschko, Mayor Sadoviy, if you’re still here, other mayors and distinguished guests. It’s my enormous pleasure and honor to be with you here today. Yesterday of course was Ukraine’s Day of National Unity, and I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the United States, to commend the Ukrainian government and its people for the remarkable display of resolve and unity that you have demonstrated over the past year in the face of relentless aggression in the East. As many of you know, we were honored last month to host a visit from Vice President Biden of the United States, and I was delighted that the Vice President was able to spend quite a bit of time with Speaker Groysman and with Mayor Klitschko, who are here with us here today.
Vice President Biden’s most important message when he was here in Ukraine is that this is Ukraine’s moment. You have a window of opportunity today to implement systemic changes, to deepen reforms in all aspects of life and at all levels of government. So now is the moment press forward and deliver on the promise of the Maidan.
Among the most important elements of that effort is the work to develop a strong framework for decentralization and local self-governance in Ukraine — to bring government closer to citizens. Especially important in this regard will be the Rada’s vote on the constitutional amendments that will enshrine these decentralization reforms and lay a stable foundation for democratic, European standards of governance in Ukraine. As Speaker Groysman knows well, I can assure you that Ukraine’s international partners will be watching very closely as the Rada makes its historic decision.
Ukraine has already accomplished a great deal with legislation, for instance, on fiscal decentralization — to provide critical resources to local communities, to enable you to significantly improve services for citizens and improve infrastructure. I would argue that another great success in this decentralization process was the formation of 159 amalgamated communities. We hope that their success will motivate and empower other communities to join together and further advance local self-government reforms. At the same time, as Mayor Klitschko alluded to, we all recognize that more can and must be done, and the United States is committed to standing with you every step of the way.
Today, I’m delighted to announce a new partnership with the Association of Ukrainian Cities to support implementation of decentralization through our USAID PULSE program. The PULSE project will work with the Association and with the Government of Ukraine to strengthen local governance, deepen democracy, and improve local services.
We know from our own experience with American democracy the importance of local governance. We know that local government is where often change takes place most rapidly. As mayors and local government officials, you are at the forefront of promoting change at the grassroots level – fighting corruption, promoting transparency, providing services to citizens, and creating conditions that spur investment and economic growth.
And I recognize that all of you also face the challenge of delivering real world progress on issues of local governance like keeping streets free from crime, ensuring that children have the chance to attend good schools, maintenance of roads, and ensuring the garbage is picked up.
By partnering with local governments, we seek to help to take the burden off Ukraine’s central government. This effort is central to the success of Ukraine’s democratic transformation. I know the President believes that, I know Speaker Groysman believes that, and the Government believes that. We will be your partner in this endeavor.
So thank you all for the important work that you are doing, and let me say how much I look forward to the United States working with all of you to help build the modern Ukraine that the Ukrainian people deserve. Your success is Ukraine’s success. “