One could feel the eagerness and excitement of the participants who met this morning in Kyiv’s city centre, in the conference room of the Hotel Lybid. In order to prepare themselves for this final event, the participants representing the national majority and minorities had a chance to attend two workshops (Odesa and Lviv) earlier this year. During the training, they identified their specific regional needs and priorities and developed initial ideas on how to improve the existing policy in the multicultural regions they live in. During the workshops, they gained knowledge in important topics related to minority issues, such as minority rights, minority participation and non-discrimination as well as practical training in needs assessment and policy recommendations writing.
The final draft will be translated into English and Ukrainian, printed and sent to the high authorities. The policy recommendations have the potential to become a milestone in the Ukrainian youth policy as they could lay foundations for the new version of the State Targeted Programme “Youth of Ukraine” with strong emphasis on the needs of multi-ethnic Ukrainian youth.
The young participants from the Western and Southern regions of Ukraine are not the only guests today: Many other stakeholders, like representatives from the regional administrations, representatives from the HCNM Office in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for human rights and a representative from the embassy of Germany in Kyiv are present today.
The event started this morning at 10:00 and was opened by ECMI Director Prof. Malloy, who welcomed the guests. She specifically welcomed Ms Andrea Stohr, 1st Secretary and head of the Department of Culture, Education and Minorities of the German Embassy in Kyiv and expressed her gratitude to the German Federal Foreign Office for the support of the project within the framework of the programme “Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia”.
She also spoke about the initiation phase of the project and expressed her hope to “bring minority issues onto the agenda of the youth strategy.” Prof. Malloy spoke about Ukraine as a diverse society with a long history of coexistence of different cultures and people and highlighted the tolerance of diversity and non-discrimination as important values in order to secure Ukraine’s future as a diverse, integrated and peaceful country: “These are European values and therefore also Ukrainian values,” said Prof. Malloy. She emphasized the importance of youth as agents of change, explaining that they are the ones who can identify the needs in their communities best.
After giving a short introduction of the ECMI and its mission, she explained why the project was particularly interesting to the work of the ECMI. Here, she mentioned long-term experience in projects which bring minorities and majorities together and the mission to transform research into action.
After a short introduction of the ECMI colleagues in Kyiv (Ms. Nataliia Mekahal, Ms. Olha Sribniak, Ms. Olha Hlushko, Ms. Anna Chernova and Mr. Serhii Yevteiev), the representative of the Ombudsman of Ukraine, Ms. Aksana Filipishina, took the microphone.
She thanked the ECMI and expressed her happiness about the fact that the project specifically addresses the youth. She expressed her wish to identify deficiencies regarding the current national minority youth policy and find possible new ways for improving it. Moreover, she stated, the youth’s potential is underestimated, and she expressed her trust in the project and the progressive youth.
The welcome session was finished by Ms. Andrea Stohr. Referring to yesterdays 70th anniversary of the general human rights declaration, she highlighted the importance of the protection of the national minorities’ rights for the future. She also placed an emphasis on the role of the youth within the project: “The exchange of ideas, promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination among the youth is very useful, because it gives new impulses for the development of the future.” Concluding that “engagement and responsibility of the individual at local level are important for all of us”, she expressed her wish for a closer cooperation between Germany and the future Ukrainian leaders. Addressing her words to the young participants, she stated: “I would be very happy, if you would after this day take the feeling home with you, that you have good contacts within Germany regarding future project partners.” She also expressed her satisfaction regarding the attendance of the representatives of the Ukrainian government: “I am very happy about the fact that even several representatives of the Ukrainian central government are present today,” and thanked the organisers for the invitation.
After two lectures on participation and non-discrimination, the afternoon will be filled with group work followed by a joint dinner in the evening.
“Youth for Empowerment” supports young Ukrainian leaders from different cultural backgrounds. It aims at nurturing the European values of tolerance and non-discrimination. By developing national and regional recommendations, the project intends to meet the needs of all cultural groups living in Ukraine and foster social cohesion. The overall aim is to lead to an overall societal transformation.
The involvement of representatives of the minority organizations from the German-Danish border region (e.g. Danish minority association – Graenseforeningen) and Ukraine adds new perspectives on civic and minority activism in Europe. The Ukrainian project partner is the Centre for Evaluation, Scientific, Educational and Social Programs (CESESP), which has been fostering intercultural dialogue and conflict resolution in Ukrainian society since 2008. It has a well-developed network of regional partners from both civil society and public authorities. The project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and is run in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.