The Advocacy Forum “Ukraine Leads” by Promote Ukraine gathered 23 Ukrainian NGOs from all over Europe in Brussels on 9-10 November. The meeting took place on the premises of the European Parliament with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Around 30 forum participants from 18 countries had two days to attend four panels, two workshops, the official launch of the website, and the signing of the joint manifesto.
The journey started with immersing into four panels covering democracy, security, economy, and international law. Those panels provided insights concerning the directions that Ukrainian civil society should pursue to achieve results.
During the first panel “Protecting Democracy in Europe,” the discussion began with an inquiry into the state of democracy in European countries, focusing on the popularity and rise of right-wing parties and the general threat to democracy, exacerbated by Russian aggression. Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General of the European Movement, highlighted that Ukrainian NGOs play a substantial role in safeguarding democracy. Ukrainians in exile are the voice of democracy who can work within their countries of emigration with local authorities to promote democratic values. Only by being integral and cooperative Ukrainian civil societies can prevail over different EU members to advance European enlargement processes.
Marta Barandiy, President and Founder of Promote Ukraine, “Ukraine is a part of the European family.”
As the full acceptance of Ukraine to the EU and NATO is impossible due to the ongoing war, the second panel centered around the Security Landscape. Francesco Marchesano, Desk Officer Ukraine at European External Action Service, and Vineta Kleine, Director of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre, reaffirmed that the EU and NATO are ready to support Ukraine in a long-term perspective. Addressing the participants, speakers stated that to receive military aid, the voice of Ukrainian NGOs must be loud.
Francesco Marchesano, Desk Officer Ukraine at European External Action Service, “Russia is firmly committed to continuing the war, and the EU will continue to support Ukraine in the long term.”
Panel 2: “Securing the Future: Assessing the Security Landscape in Europe and Implications for EU-Ukraine Relations.” Speakers: Francesco Marchesano (Desk Officer Ukraine at European External Action Service), Vineta Kleine (Director of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Kyiv), Volodymyr Ilchenko (Senior Researcher at the Center for Military Strategic Studies of the National University of Defence of Ukraine). Moderator: Pavlo Melnyk, Co-founder, Project and Fundraising Coordinator, Vitsche)
Another milestone for any country is economic development. The third panel, “Unlocking Economic Potential: Exploring Opportunities in EU-Ukraine Relations and the Role of the EU in Ukraine’s Reconstruction,” revolved around the need for better communication. Ganna Tsarenko, an expert in Ukraine’s civil society monitoring of reconstruction funds, stressed the need for showcasing successful projects in international media to attract investors. The panel also emphasised the EU’s role in supporting and attracting businesses to invest in Ukraine. For example, Blanc Gabrieal, who is the Team Leader of the Reconstruction Ukraine DG at the European Commission, mentioned the perspectives of involving global insurance companies that can support the local Ukrainian companies and guarantee security for international companies.
“Local levels are substantial considering the process of reconstruction and economic development,” Ganna Tsarenko, Expert in Ukraine’s civil society monitoring of reconstruction funds.
Panel 3: “Unlocking Economic Potential: Exploring Opportunities in EU-Ukraine Relations and the Role of the EU in Ukraine’s Reconstruction”. Speakers: Blanc Gabriel (Team Leader on Reconstruction DG NEAR SGUA Head of Unit E1 of relief and reconstruction), Hanna Slobodyanyuk-Montavon (IWEK, Mykolaiv Water Hub, Berlin-Mykolaiv, Advisor to the Mayor of Mykolaiv on Reconstruction and Economic Development), Antonio Albaladejo Roman (Policy analyst), Ganna TSARENKO (Expert in Ukraine’s civil society monitoring of reconstruction funds). Moderator: Nikolas Zharov, President, LUkraine)
And last, but not least, was the fourth panel: “International Tribunal for Russia’s War Crimes: Addressing Human Rights Violations and Seeking Accountability.” That is one of the most challenging topics to advocate for. Speakers referred a lot to the complexity of international law mechanisms. Thomas Ossowski, PSC Ambassador Permanent Representation of Germany to the European Union began his speech with the statement, “We have to be realistic and focus on what is achievable, not just desirable.”. Even though we all strive to Uphold the UN Charter (like the inviolability of borders), the UN decisions will always be affected by Russia, which can put a veto in the UN Security Council. Oleksandra Romantsova, Executive Director of the Center of Civil Liberties, added “General Assembly is not the place where we feel confident. Each Ukrainian had to find a friend in Africa and Latin America. We have to get global support (like helping Iranian women), we can’t be selfish.”
“We need to speak with politicians and prove that Ukraine is not just a donation but a partner. Explain how Ukraine is useful for cooperation.” Oleksandra Romantsova, Executive Director of the Center of Civil Liberties
Ukrainian Advocacy and Elections of the European Parliament
During the second day of the conference, the participants shared experiences by attending workshops. The workshop about advocacy in general described the peculiarities of the EU institutions, how they work, and how someone can reach them. “The explanation of the EU triangle power was beneficial as the majority of the participants don’t have appropriate education in political science,” said Sviatoslav Kalishchuk, Head of Spilka Czech Republic.
Another workshop included the elaboration of the possible plan aimed at drawing attention to Ukraine under the circumstances of the upcoming EU elections. To elaborate advocacy campaigns the participants were divided into six groups according to the regions in which their organisations work. During the discussion, the participants shared their experiences and visions. “That was a unique opportunity to meet so many representatives of powerful Ukrainian organisations and establish cooperation for the common projects,” explained Maryna Hovorukhina, Head of Executive & Strategic Communications в Common Sense Communications, Germany.
The group of Germany and Austria discussing advocacy campaign during the workshop
The second Advocacy Forum was the continuation of the first session as several Ukrainian NGOs decided to attend for the second time. Hanna Slobodyanyuk-Montavon, IWEK, said, “I liked much that during the second Forum, one could meet the people you met last time and strengthen the contacts and cooperation.” Besides, during the previous forum there were discussions about the need for a common platform for all NGOs, and this time the website UkraineLeads was officially launched.
The official launch of the UkraineLeads website
The platform’s objective is to show all the Ukrainian NGOs in one place. That will not only facilitate the digital connection among Ukrainian civil society but also help external vested interests such as governments, businesses, or grant-giving organisations find all the information they need. As co-lead of the Advocacy team at PU, Liza Bezvershenko stated, “We wanna make Facebook for Ukrainian organisations.”
The highlight of the programme was the signing of the Manifesto. That is a joint official statement by the organisations participating in the European Advocacy Forum 2023, which outlines a common vision for the development of the advocacy movement in the interests of Ukraine in the context of European Parliament elections. “It is vital that all of the Ukrainian NGOs unite to promote our narratives at such an important historic moment for our country,” said Liliia Mykolaiv, President of ConUkrania, Spain.
The participants after signing the manifesto
The organisers of the Advocacy Forum sincerely hope that these gatherings will serve as a basis for even more coordinated and effective work by Ukrainian and pro-Ukrainian civil society organisations abroad. “We sincerely thank everyone who was with us during these two days. Your contribution to development is very valuable. We are also sincerely grateful to our faithful and reliable partners: the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Europe and the European Parliament.” Promote Ukraine team.
To learn more about the programme and participants, read also: About Ukraine Leads
Photo – Anastasia Varvarina
Author – Mariana Yukhno