Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on displacement: Learning how to approach civil diversity
Title: Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on displacement: Peace education measures to support the overcoming of social polarities in Eastern Ukraine
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2017 to 2020
22 years after Ukraine obtained its independence, in November 2013 the Ukrainian Government announced that it would not be signing the Association Agreement with the EU. Large sections of the population in Ukraine came together in Maidan Square, Kiev. They were there to protest against this decision and come out against corruption, as well as the violation of human and civil rights. The protests spread throughout the country and violent clashes occurred. After a transitional government was formed, the then president fled. At the same time, separatist groups began to mobilise on the eastern border. In March 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula. Separatists backed by Russia then declared the independence of the two eastern Ukrainian regions Luhansk and Donetsk. This has led to open conflict between separatists and pro-European forces.
What followed was a violent armed conflict for control of the two rebel ‘people’s republics’. As a result, some 8,000 people have lost their lives in the interim, between 15,000 and 20,000 have been injured and an estimated two million people have had to flee their homes. The latter now live as internally displaced persons in other parts of the Ukraine. Despite the 2015 Minsk Peace Treaty negotiated with international support and the presence of OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) observers on the front line, there is no end to this violent conflict in sight.
Tensions between the local population and internally displaced persons, between pro-European and pro-Russian sections of the population and between citizens and the governmental institutions burden the overall civil climate. Civilians have poor economic prospects and scarcely any opportunities or indeed any culture of social self-determination. In many cases, civil society organisations have effectively taken over the tasks of state institutions.
Taking a positive approach to diversity and eliminating prejudices and stereotypes counteracts social polarisation in Eastern Ukraine. Conflicts between population groups are increasingly resolved without violence as part of a dialogue process.
CSP prioritises the younger generation which is growing up in an extremely tense environment fraught with tremendous prejudices towards other population groups. This generation is however comparatively open to questioning the assumptions underlying these stereotypes.
The project is working with schools, extra-curricular children's and youth facilities, civil society organisations and government authorities to develop approaches to peace education that emphasise commonalities and underscore the value of diversity. This includes joint events, such as summer camps, school peace groups and sport and cultural events. Exchange platforms are designed to enable open discussions of differences in a protected environment. Educators, social workers and psychologists as well as staff from the administrative authorities are receiving appropriate training.
Participative dialogue forums are intended to enable people to resolve conflicts in their communities without resorting to violence.