The roundtable Ukraine – strategic value of location. Conflict-related challenges, approaches to Donbas reintegration and international experience was held at the Ombudsperson’s Office. It was jointly organized by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and the Ombudsperson, with the support of the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Ukraine.
The goal of the roundtable was to lay the foundation of legislative and public support for the national peacebuilding policy, new approaches to Donbas reintegration, institutionalization of dialogue as a conflict resolution mechanism under temporary occupation, facilitation of dialogue, economic development and community building for conflict-affected people. It was also a forum for experts discussing society’s ability to contribute to peacebuilding and establishing of dialogue.
People’s Deputies of Ukraine, representatives of state government bodies, national NGOs and international organizations were invited to take part in the event. It was also attended by experts of the international independent peace building organization Conciliation Resources (United Kingdom).
The roundtable consisted of two sessions:
Session 1: Conflict-related challenges – reassessment. Approaches to reintegration. Dialogue institutionalization at the local level in Ukraine – experience with PCI.
Session 2: Two-fold role of civil society as an object of the conflict and an agent of conflict resolution. Synergy vs. conflict in the interactions between government bodies and non-governmental initiatives.
At the beginning of the roundtable, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova made a statement. She believes that “international experience of addressing the aftermath of armed conflicts will help Ukraine avoid mistakes on this path.” In her opinion, among the most important measures that will help implement transitional justice in Ukraine are restoration of the rights of victims, administration of justice and institutional reforms.
Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said that the roundtable brought together a unique panel of experts from the UK and European countries that would share their knowledge on how to resolve armed conflicts. “Conflicts have multiple dimensions – between peace and war, between the present and the past, which presses on us with its consequences, and the conflict within the Ukrainian society between the government and the non-governmental sector,” he said.
People’s Deputy of Ukraine Sergiy Taruta said that, unfortunately, after four and a half years of war, we still have not seen an appropriate response from our government and Parliament. “Back in December 2014 I suggested establishing a committee on the socioeconomic situation in the occupied territory in Donbas and Crimea,” he said. “All factions agreed, but there wasn’t enough political will to adopt this important decision.”
Benjamin Moreau, Deputy Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, stressed that the civilian population in government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas is suffering, dying and losing property. People have to pass five checkpoints to cross the demarcation line, waiting in long queues. “It’s very important for reconciliation in Ukraine to preserve these ties,” said Benjamin Moro. “The Ukrainian government should ensure this.”
Ganna Khrystova, head of the Council of Europe Project Strengthening the Human Rights Protection of Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine said that her project seeks sustainable solutions to the issues of internal displacement in Ukraine. “By the conflict’s fifth year we can conclude that it’s gradually moving into a long-term phase,” she said. “On the one hand, it is not in the active phase, but on the other hand, it’s keeping us from moving toward addressing urgent issues of all those suffering from human rights abuse, and toward true peace.”
Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director of NGO Conciliation Resources, said: “When a conflict gets stuck, it is necessary to reformulate existing options. Reconciliation is only possible if conflict-related phenomena in society are addressed. In each of the conflicts that we had been witnessing in society for decades, reconciliation required political changes and compromise that are not always pleasant for the warring parties.”
Natalia Mirimanova, expert and scholar on conflict resolution, reminded the participants that reintegration is part of the Minsk Protocol. “Separation most often takes place during a military conflict and external intervention, as it happened in Ukraine,” she said. “Such separation is accompanied by a sense of fear and distrust. For reintegration, it is necessary to combine all aspects of separation: both legal and internal policies. Not everything can be resolved through political negotiations behind closed doors or through international organizations like the United Nations. All people must be involved in the reintegration process.”
Craig Oliphant, Senior Adviser of NGO Peaceful Change Initiative, said that it is extremely important for Ukraine to focus on the local context of reconciliation. “In a conflict with the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”, one should work on different levels: interstate, local and geopolitical.” he said. “Although every conflict is unique, it is still possible to learn useful and practical lessons and skills from them. Ukraine needs to focus on the local level, that is, on the people crossing the demarcation line in tens of thousands every day.”
According to Anthony Foreman, Senior Adviser on Peacebuilding at the Peaceful Change Initiative, Ukraine has one significant advantage: a great many experts are working on resolving the conflict here. In his opinion, decentralization of power in Ukraine should help achieve the final solution. It is the local government that should establish a dialogue between the sides of the conflict.
Taras Tsymbrivskyy, Head of the USAID Human Rights in Action Program, said that a lasting peace can be achieved in Ukraine through transitional justice. The Law on the Legal Status of Missing Persons is also relevant here. “At present, at least 1,500 people are presumed missing in Ukraine as a result of the armed conflict,” he said. “It is also necessary to adopt a law on the status of protected persons, that is, those being persecuted in the Russian Federation, the occupied Crimea, and the so-called “LPR” and “DPR”.
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