On October 31, an (Un)likely dialogue took place discussing the UniCities initiative. Its goal is to foster collaboration between universities, local governments, and civil society organizations to promote the climate-neutral and fair reconstruction of Ukrainian cities, aligning with the European Mission of climate neutrality for 100 cities by 2030.
This Erasmus+ program is driven by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM), and involves various Ukrainian universities and civil society organizations such as the Chernihiv Polytechnic National University (CNUT), the Yaroslav Mudry National Law University (NLU), and the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), among others.
How did the session unfold?
The dialogue was moderated by Olga Kordas, a professor at KTH and director of Viable Cities, a Swedish initiative aiming to promote sustainability and climate neutrality in cities. The KTH professor explained how this initiative seeks to create partnerships and collaborations with diverse stakeholders such as universities, local governments, and civil society organizations. Presently, they are working with 23 cities in Sweden, representing 40% of the country’s population, with the purpose of expanding this approach to the entire society.
Additionally, she shared the inspiring story behind “UniCities: Unlocking the transformation of Ukrainian universities towards climate-neutral and sustainable cities,” an initiative driven by her Ukrainian roots, which has been hindered and reshaped due to the war.
Kordas’ presentation was followed by an invitation to Veronika Khudolei, the rector of the International University of Science and Technology (ISTU), and Yuliia Bandura, Director of the Development and Project Execution Center at the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), to join the conversation.
Veronika shared a message of hope, stating that “after a catastrophe, there is always a new opportunity,” emphasizing her motivation to rebuild the country in collaboration with the Viable Cities program and the UniCities Transition Lab.
Yuliia provided information about the Association of Ukrainian Cities, their partnerships, and the measures they are taking to address the challenges arising from the armed conflict, focusing on the country’s reconstruction and the improvement of citizens’ quality of life. The conversation addressed topics such as damaged infrastructure, population migration, the high number of people with disabilities resulting from the conflict, and the lack of trained personnel. She stressed the importance of universities as the seedbed of the future. Furthermore, Yuliia expressed gratitude for the support provided by Spanish municipalities and itdUPM.
Nataliya Lazarenko, also from the AUC, offered a more detailed perspective on how the Ukrainian population is facing the consequences of violence and armed conflict. She highlighted the need to work on population relocation, mentioned the fundamental role of women in caring for children, the elderly, and the creation of support centers for women who suffered gender-based violence due to the armed conflict, for veterans and their families.
To conclude the dialogue, Hanna Dyvnych (CNUT) and Alina Murtishceva (NLU) shared specific examples of collaboration between universities and cities, successful social projects, and how they have currently managed to implement them in educational centers through a combination of remote and in-person teaching.
This (Un)likely dialogue made us reflect on how, despite the challenges, the Ukrainian population is working and collaborating to rebuild their country sustainably and fairly, aiming to be part of the Mission of “100 Neutral Cities by 2030”. From Viable Cities, UniCities, and the Innovation Center in Technology for Development, itdUPM.