Ukrainian civil society call for broader solidarity across international NGOs to work for a dignified and just peace in Ukraine.
PCi supports the calls put forward in the recent joint statement by Ukrainian civil society, among the signatories of which are our partners whom we have seen work tirelessly to build understanding across divisions at least since 2014. We support the call for approaches to international peace work that, in the words of the statement, “bring a new imagination and new approach”.
Acknowledging the unprecedented nature of the conflict that was unleashed on 24th February 2022, we support the call to maintain solidarity across peace movements. As committed peacebuilders, we do not take this lightly. While looking to end war our community must not lose sight of the principles of dignity and justice that are the essential components of a sustainable peace.
The civic organisations in Ukraine, including a wide range of peacebuilders, mediators and dialogue facilitators, have formulated a set of positions they urge peace movements in countries supporting Ukraine to process and internalise when calling for their governments to end the war by ending the provision of military support. The statement emphasises that:
Ukrainian voices should play a central role in organised actions for peace in Ukraine, following the principle ‘nothing about me, without me’.
Calling for an end to armed resistance is a call to surrender, that it is not a path to peace by peaceful means, as demonstrated by the treatment of persons in occupied Ukrainian territories or of dissenting voices in Russia itself.
Ukrainian civic organisations are asking for adherence to the UN Charter and to human rights law, and that any compromise of these principles would set a dangerous precedent for other revisionist powers and therefore to global peace more broadly.
Framing the conflict as a proxy war is an offensive narrative that denies Ukrainians their own agency and choice to follow a democratic future.
The statement is important and acknowledges the cost being borne across many countries and appreciates the sacrifices being made to support Ukraine in its resistance to aggression and occupation.
This policy briefing, reflects on the present situation in the east of Ukraine as experienced by the populations on both sides of the line of contact in the east – in the NGCA of LNR and DNR, and with areas under government control. The paper seeks to contextualise these differing experiences and offers a set of recommendations, with the aim of proposing a peacebuilding agenda for local and international organisations.
A survey of participants in track-three dialogues was conducted between March and April 2018 by the Mediation and Dialogue Research Center, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, with support from PCi. This was to test hypotheses developed during an earlier study about patterns and risks relating to track-three dialogues in Ukraine. ‘Understanding Dialogue in Ukraine: A survey-based study, Analytical Report 2018’ can be downloaded here in English, Ukrainian and Russian.
PCi endorses statement of Ukrainian mediation and dialogue practitioners on the application of dialogue during Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Thirteen Ukrainian organisations with experience and expertise in the areas of mediation and dialogue have issued a joint statement to bring the attention of international donors and programming organisations to key aspects of the present context for the application of dialogue and peacebuilding approaches. The statement has been supported by a further 14 dialogue and mediation organisations.
The organisations preparing the statement express their appreciation of the unprecedented support directed towards Ukraine and propose seven points to be taken into consideration with respect to developing appropriate peacebuilding and dialogue approaches in the country at this time:
The armed aggression in Russia must be understood in its full context, including as a violation of the very cornerstones of the post-World War II world order.
Political-level (Track One) negotiations between the warring parties should continue on peace and humanitarian issues and formats may be considered for the involvement of civil society in such processes.
Dialogue between citizens of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus during active hostilities is not appropriate to the current phase of the conflict, no matter the location of the talks, and does not reflect ‘do-no-harm’ principles.
Dialogue and dialogue approaches can and should be used as a tool to strengthen resilience, social cohesion and unity within Ukrainian society, and these should be supported even during the hot phase of the conflict. Similarly dialogue between the civil society of Ukraine and international counterparts should be encouraged.
Support is needed to citizens of Russia and Belarus who are opposing their own authoritarian regimes and the aggression in Ukraine.
It is essential that peace and dialogue methodologies introduced into Ukraine be adapted to take into account the specificities of Ukraine and are respectful of the approaches and tools that Ukrainians have prepared for their own practice since 2014.
Ukrainian mediation and dialogue experts have highly developed capacities and are currently ready to (i) invest their efforts into development of the conditions under which it will be possible to convene dialogue at the civil society level; (ii) study and adapt available conceptual approaches and formats of dialogues; and (iii) initiate the development of methodologies and approaches to the design of prospective dialogue processes.
PCi endorses in full the points presented by Ukraine’s mediation and dialogue community and encourages all international peace actors looking to make a contribution in Ukraine at this time to acquaint themselves with the full statement and the reasoning behind the principle points, which are well laid out. Furthermore, PCi encourages peace actors in Ukraine to contribute to the dissemination of the statement which is available in both English and Ukrainian.
PCi supported by the Institute for Peace and Common Ground, trained 12 dialogue facilitators in 4 communities of Kherson region. A Dialogue Initiative Group was established in Beryslav where two community members and a representative from the local authority were trained as dialogue facilitators. The Dialogue Initiative Group sought to explore the ways in which dialogue could be more firmly embedded as a formal approach to resolving differences, as well as enabling and promoting more participatory decision-making.
In Beryslav, controversy had arisen from the Decommunisation Law that was passed by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2015, with some statues requiring removal, due to their connections with the Soviet past. Residents of Beryslav held different perspectives on Soviet history and there were varying attitudes towards the symbols. In June 2015, a monument to Lenin was destroyed by local activists, which increased tension and division in the community.
In order to reduce tensions around a remaining statue, the Beryslav Dialogue Initiative Group conducted a dialogue with individuals representing a range of opinions on: “How to improve a memorable place taking into account the current legislation of Ukraine and the different views of the city’s residents?” Common ground was found on the way forward with citizens representing different perspectives agreeing to work together on a project for the reconstruction of the remaining statue, that would fulfil the law of Ukraine but also take into account all historical periods of the city and opinions of its residents. The work of the Dialogue Initiative Group helped to improve understanding between the parties in the community and contributed to the removal of tension around the remaining statue, it also improved the interaction between groups with differing opinions in the city.
Muzykivka village is located in the Southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which borders the Crimean peninsula. When the government of Ukraine began to reform the system of territorial administration Muzykivka was an early adopter, uniting with four other villages to form a new amalgamated community in 2016. The reforms led to more decision making and budgetary power at the local level; this change required “creativity and responsibility” in the words of the community head.
The lack of power that local authorities had experienced in the past led to a situation where decision making was not responsive and this impacted services, but also resulted in a form of public disengagement whereby problems were not aired and discussed but rather remained pent up.
The Institute for Peace and Common Ground began working in Muzykivka in the summer of 2018, building up a Dialogue Initiative Group with facilitators trained to identify conflict issues, analyse them and design a process by which they could be addressed. People in the community also built the skills to engage people to take part in these dialogues: “All participants really like this approach”, said one of the trainees. “Some of them started to use dialogue principles in their work and everyday life. For example, a local government representative started to use the tools he acquired for communicating with people bound for military service and he has noted how relations have become better.”
PCi participated at a Kyiv roundtable event co-organised with the parliamentary Human Rights committee and hosted at the Ombudsman’s office on 23 October 2018. The roundtable focused on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and sought to promote ways to engage across divided communities and promote dialogue in the interests of achieving practical changes for vulnerable people in conflict-affected areas. As part of the Panel input, participants also shared experience from PCi practice on institutionalising dialogue at a local level in Ukraine. The panel speakers (in the PCi session) included Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director of Conciliation Resources; Natalia Mirimanova, a conflict resolution practitioner; and two Senior Advisers at Peaceful Change initiative, Craig Oliphant and Anthony Foreman.