News Overview 2016

Engaging with Ukraine

After the protests on the Maidan and the fall of President Yanukovych, developments in Ukraine are still uncertain. The country needs the support of the West in order to find its way back to peaceful coexistence and to build up a strong civil society.

For this reason, the professional development program "Ukraine Calling" provides German players from the worlds of politics, administration, culture, and civil society with well-founded knowledge on Ukraine. Together with Ukrainian partners, the participants develop mutual projects.

In an interview, four participants introduce their projects:

Anna Lysiak - Youth in Ukraine

For the Polish-German Youth Office (PGYO), Ukraine is one of the most important partner countries. That is why the project "Jugend in der Ukraine" ("Youth in Ukraine") creates a German-Polish-Ukrainian forum that supports interaction between young people from the three countries and is intended to bring together experts in the field of youth work.

"In the current situation it is more important than ever for young Ukrainians to establish relationships with young Poles and Germans."

Listen to the interview (in German):

A Human Rights Organization for All Minorities in Ukraine

There are many different ethnicities living in Ukraine that are sometimes at a distinct disadvantage. The project "Menschenrechtsorganisation für alle Minderheiten in der Ukraine" ("A human rights organization for all minorities in Ukraine") is intended to protect the culture and identity of the groups and, at the same time, create a feeling of a united Ukraine.
"If the minorities come together in the form of an organization, then they can speak with one voice, establish international relationships, and support each other."
Interview with Sarah Reinke
  • What does your project involve?

Reinke: Ukraine is a multinational and multireligious country. There are 13 recognized minorities in the constitution; there is quite often tension between various groups included in these. The project’s concept is to bring the minorities together in the form of a human rights organization. In this way, we aim to overcome that specific type of nationalism and, at the same time, protect the respective individual identity, language, and culture of each minority group - all together in a common Ukrainian state.

Over the long term, we hope to ensure the compliance with the rights of the minorities through monitoring reports that we will forward on to, for example, the OSCE and the EU.

  • Why does Ukraine in particular need this type of organization?

The minorities in Ukraine are very different. There are groups such as the Hungarians and the Germans who are partially supported by their home countries. Other minorities such as the Crimean Tatars and the Karaite Jews have no home country. But the Romanies certainly have it the worst, as they face daunting anti-Romanyism and, in the eastern part of the country, are even subject to pogroms.

If the minorities come together in the form of an organization, then they can speak with one voice, establish international relationships, and support each other. This would promote the democratization process and pluralism in Ukraine. This would also make it more difficult for Russia, for example, to justify its intervention in the Donets Basin and in Crimea with the protection of Russian minorities.

  • How did the Ukraine Calling program help you?

Every idea needs a reality check: Who are the potential contacts and partners? Who, if anyone, might be interested in a collaboration? My stay in Kiev enabled me to look into these questions and to get to know local experts.

We also recognized that the different minorities need more living space and completely individualized support. Many Romanies and Crimean Tatars are afraid of getting a raw deal as part of a mutual organization.

  • What does the future hold for you and the project?

I hope to invite as many representatives from the minority groups as possible to take a trip to Germany and participate in workshops here. The focus in this process should be placed on the needs of the minorities as well as the structures in Germany. Perhaps there will be a few things that we take for granted but can serve as inspiration in Ukraine - and we can learn something from the guests from Ukraine.

Cécile Druey - Social Perspectives on the Ukrainian-Russian Peace Process

Many Ukrainians are critical of the Minsk II agreement, and some even see the peace process as a failure. The project titled "Zivilgesellschaftliche Perspektiven auf den ukrainisch-russischen Friedensprozess" ("Social perspectives on the Ukrainian–Russian peace process") examines how this perception has come about and promotes trust among the players in society.

"A sustainable peace process is only possible if it is the will of all parties involved. At the moment, certain sectors of the population feel excluded."

Listen to the interview (in German):

Jutta Sommerbauer - MediaLab Donbass

An independent and critical media is crucial for a functional democracy. In the workshops of the MediaLab Donbass project, young people have the opportunity to learn the basics of journalism. This is also intended to strengthen civil society over the long term.
"More and more citizens are calling for a supervisory body. They want to know what is going on behind closed doors and how public funds are being distributed"
Interview with Jutta Sommerbauer
  • What does your project involve?

We put on three-day workshops where we help young people from the Donets Basin (or “the Donbass”) learn journalistic skills. Along the way, we pose the question “What type of city would you like to live in?” We focus on local topics to train the participants’ perception of their immediate surroundings. In doing so, we also hope to provide the impetus for social change.

  • What role does local journalism play in the wider Ukrainian press landscape?

There are plenty of local newspapers and radio and TV stations. However, their reporting is often limited, since they are owned by the state or private individuals with significant influence – for example representatives from the local economy. But after the upheaval in 2013/2014, new local media outlets began to pop up – primarily online – and they have proven to have a more critical eye: What is going on in the bureaucracy and in the administration? Where is there corruption? More and more citizens are calling for a supervisory body. They want to know what is going on behind closed doors and how public funds are being distributed. We have made successful contacts with these local journalists.

  • How have you benefited from the preparation of the MediaLab?

We have made successful new contacts with many local journalists. In addition to that, we have benefited from the knowledge of our local partners who help us organize the workshop. They provided ideas on how best to execute the PR work and how to improve our marketing. The people there are excited about us, and, of course, we are excited as well!

(Interviews: Philipp Wurm, November 2016)