Ukraine on the World Stage:  The UN General Assembly

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

Читати українською

US President Obama and Ukrainian President Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015
US President Obama and Ukrainian President Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015

Each September, world leaders descend on New York for a whirlwind week that’s the diplomatic equivalent of speed dating.  Welcome to the UN General Assembly – “UNGA” as we in the diplomatic community affectionately call it.  Dozens of motorcades zip across the Big Apple to and from UN headquarter at Turtle Bay, leaving the rest of the city’s inhabitants stuck in perpetual gridlock.  Countries rent out entire hotel floors to build meeting rooms and temporary work spaces.  Staffers work around the clock preparing materials for presidents, heads of state, and foreign ministers, whose movements are coordinated down to the minute.  Even parking for official and state-owned aircraft at JFK is a carefully choreographed dance.

This year, amid all of the frenzy, Ukraine was a constant at the forefront of our diplomatic efforts.  You saw it publicly in President Obama’s speech – which President Poroshenko called “very strong” in his comments to U.S. media.  You saw it in the Vice President’s meeting with President Poroshenko, where we announced new that the United States would provide Ukraine with new counter battery radar systems to help equip Ukraine to better defend its sovereign territory.  And you saw it in Ambassador Samantha Power’s call for Nadiya Savchenko’s release as part of her #Freethe20 Campaign.

Vice President Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015
Vice President Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015

But perhaps even more important than the official statements made in the General Assembly Hall are the moments behind the scenes, where leaders can connect on a personal level — unencumbered by staff and diplomatic formalities.  Take for instance the big bear hug Samantha Power gave President Poroshenko before the Secretary General’s lunch, or the warm conversation between our two presidents on the margins of  the Leaders’ Peacekeeping Summit.  These are highly symbolic of the relationship between our two countries, and our unyielding support for Ukraine’s democratic success.

That success is rooted in the ideals we share with the Ukrainian government and its people – the same ideals that President Obama spoke about in his address, and that the Ukrainian people have shown time and again their willingness to speak out and fight for.  When a corrupt government sought to repress your fundamental freedoms, you stood together on the Maidan and demanded a better future.  When Russia invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine, brave Ukrainians put their lives on the line in your country’s defense.  At Bankova and the Rada, CabMin, the PGO, Ministries,  and Oblast Administrations, there are brave reformers press forward, striving to create an open and transparent government accountable to the people.  It’s change that we support, and change that we believe in.

Ukraine’s courageous young reformers at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015
Ukraine’s courageous young reformers at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015

But that change is not just the work of world leaders and senior government officials alone.  It depends on each and every one of Ukraine’s citizens.  On the brave men and women who continue to volunteer to serve at the front, and the volunteers who support them.  On those helping small business owners who fled the east set up shop in a new city or town.  On the police officer who refuses to accept a bribe, and the prosecutor who brings charges against the corrupt regardless of status or influence.    On professional, independent journalists working to hold public officials accountable.  And on people across Ukraine showing up at the polls on election day and taking an active interest in the political life of their nation.

That’s why I’ll never forget the image of some of Ukraine’s courageous young reformers – including friends like Natalia Popovych, Yulia Marushevska and Hanna Hopko – standing in the General Assembly hall with the Ukrainian battle flag from Ilovaisk.

Ukrainians are living proof of what President Obama said, that “the strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity.”  And that’s why I know Ukraine will succeed.

Ukrainians are living proof of what President Obama said, that “the strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity.”  And that’s why I know Ukraine will succeed.

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