Tag Archives: Ukraine

Ukraine’s Multi-Faceted Saga, by Claudia Lamberty

29 Nov

Editor’s Note:   Since May upon her graduation from Skidmore College, Claudia has been a frequent presence in UN conference rooms, including in the Security Council chamber. While she and her GAPW cohort continue to assess the value and relevance of the UN for their generation’s future, all have been encouraged to think and write about areas of special interest.  For Claudia, the situation in Ukraine is one of those areas. 

The Russian occupation of Ukraine continues to fuel hostility in an already adversarial international climate. In late October, then Security Council President Bolivia organized a meeting to address the situation in eastern Ukraine – the first of its kind since May 2018. The meeting was followed by a side-event to further elaborate on human rights abuses in Crimea. Despite the supplementary meeting’s low attendance the event organized by Ukraine was poignant and persuasive. When it comes to permanent members of the Security Council, there simply is no room for systematic violations of the UN Charter and other relevant frameworks. And yet, less than a month after this meeting, Security Council President China was forced to confront the latest of Russian provocations.

In October’s Security Council meeting the Undersecretary of Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, briefed the council on the situation in eastern Ukraine. Since 2014 Russia’s occupation of Crimea and its fueling of conflict in the Donbas region have fostered social unrest and impeded efforts towards a sustainable peace. The meeting was organized to hold Russia accountable for the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine and scale up efforts in the aid process. Despite expressions of decisive support towards reconciliation and while noting a general decline in levels of violence, the situation continues to breed uncertainty and instability in the region. Ambitions to demilitarize the zone of conflict in Donbas must not lose momentum among Security Council members.  

Ukraine’s objections to the preparation of elections in Crimea and elsewhere in the east of the country remain consistent. The Minsk Agreement (2014), the first negotiation of peace regarding Russia-Ukraine, dutifully addresses the scheduling of elections. According to DiCarlo’s briefing, “Any measures taken outside of Ukraine’s constitutional framework would be incompatible with the Minsk Agreement.” Russia cannot demonize our democratic modalities in order to gain or maintain control.

Infringement on Ukrainian political will is only exacerbated by the humanitarian crisis faced by local residents in the region. According to the Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 70 disruptions of local water supplies have occurred since 2017. Deliberate destruction of infrastructure obstructs civilian access to resources. The safety and health of civilians must be a priority for all parties to the conflict and Russian collaborators have failed to prioritize the needs and livelihoods of at-risk families. It was made clear that more can and should be done to support civilians and the internally displaced.

Russia’s occupational and administrative tactics in the region continue to violate measures intended to preserve human rights and thwart international aggression. As highlighted in the Security Council and the related side-event, accusations against Russia appear to be firmly supported by its violations of the Minsk Agreement, the Paris Charter, International Humanitarian Law, the Helsinki Accords, Law of the Sea, and the Law of Occupation. During this turbulent time it’s unfortunately starting to feel like commitments to multilateralism are too much to ask for. Russia must be held to the highest standards of international diplomacy as a permanent member of the Security Council. Instead military occupation seriously impedes diplomacy and the dwindling integrity of the UN continues to be fueled by the P5.

Instances of censorship and non-commitment to transparency are also serious red flags in the escalation of conflict.  For example, Russia’s refusal to accept UNHCR monitoring of the Donbas and Crimea regions opens the door to new violations of what are legally binding frameworks.  The silencing of Ukrainians seeking their full entitlement to land, resources and ethnic identities will only lead to a worsening of conditions. When given an opportunity to defend itself in the Security Council, Russia responded with blatant and stubborn rejection of any accountability. As the Ambassador to Ukraine poignantly stated, “Elections are only a stepping stone to a new cycle of Russian aggression.” The broader UN community must not allow the continuation of textbook human rights abuses especially when the accused sits in the Security Council chamber every day and evaluates the behavior of others.

Very recently at the UN, an emergency meeting in the Security Council addressed the latest act of alleged Russian aggression against Ukraine. The event in question took place on November 25th under a Russian-built bridge in the Kerch strait. The strait is the only passageway between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, which is located northeast of Crimea and borders both Russia and Ukraine. Russian warships blocked the strait and proceeded to ram into and open fire on 3 Ukrainian vessels. Several Ukrainian seamen were injured in the attack. The event proved to be another chapter in Russian’s persistent annexation of Crimea and disregard for Ukraine’s navigational rights. According to the Ambassador of Ukraine, the incident was a clear violation of the Law of the Sea, as well as other treaties that assert the neutrality of the Azov Sea. Ukraine has officially declared martial law for thirty days as a result of escalating aggression: a political strategy that will perhaps only further summon Russian militancy. 

Once again, Security Council members scrutinized Russia’s provocations and its refusal to take responsibility. When given an opportunity to address the situation, Russia denied any references to Crimea within the Minsk Agreements and yet again played victim. The current situation continues to jeopardize the integrity of legally binding agreements and calls into question UN handling of fragile circumstances. Unfortunately, the outcome of the meeting did not measure up to its urgency. While Security Council members condemned the act of violence, little progress was made in scheduling consultations or providing tangible measures to mitigate the conflict. Hoping for political solutions is not the same as creating the conditions for them.

The weakening integrity of our political infrastructure can only be curtailed once our permanent Security Council members stop pointing fingers and take responsibility for their own actions. During this divisive moment in our global politics, acts of operational, administrative, and economic aggression in the name of one or another major power are increasingly common and unfortunately fail to surprise. The dwindling integrity of our global institutions cannot afford to be fueled by the P5. Existing legal and political instruments can be better utilized to prevent conflict and restore the dignity of those who continue to be bullied by powerful states.



Eurovision 2016: Glitter and Politics

25 May

Editor’s Note:  Jessica is now employed in public policy after having spent time working on youth development initiatives in Ukraine. She currently serves as an adviser to GAPW where she previously worked as Project Consultant.

Where is your heart?  Yaşlığıma toyalmadım

Humanity rise.  Men bu yerde yaşalmadım

As the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues comes to a close, it seems apropos that in a parallel but more theatrical forum, issues relevant to the protection of indigenous rights have played out for the world to view in the form of song.  The enormously popular “Eurovision 2016” song fest was held recently in Stockholm and featured both the Russian favorite to win the competition, Sergey Lazarev, and the ultimate winner, Ukraine’s Jamala.

Jamala’s song “1944” references May 18, 1944— the date on which approximately 200,000 Tatars were deported from the Crimea under the USSR’s Stalinist regime.  Rules and regulations aside (“No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted during the Eurovision Song Contest”), Jamala’s song reignited conversation across Europe and beyond regarding the rights of indigenous peoples—and in particular, the rights of an indigenous group that has struggled to retain much of its culture while existing under various ruling powers: the USSR, a newly democratic Ukraine, and now Russia.

The 2016 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues focused on the theme of “conflict, peace, and resolution”—a relevant issue in light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the various accusations of human rights violations targeting Crimean Tatars that have followed. It also raises an interesting question of policy: how can we create meaningful initiatives to commemorate the traumatic history of the past and, at the same time, push for more inclusive societies that recognize the unique language and culture of indigenous people?  In addition, what responsibility does a multi-lateral institution like the United Nations have towards indigenous people who are alleging persecution by the government that “rules” over them?

It is not enough for the world to show its solidarity with Crimean Tatars through a cultural song competition, no matter how popular.  Various op-eds have called for “Western” governments to push harder to protect Crimean Tatar rights. However, as difficult as this dialogue may be (especially given that Ukraine and Russia both now sit on the UN Security Council), it needs to take place at the United Nations—and include input from multiple regional organizations, cultures, governments, civil society, and the Tatars themselves.  If the conversation is not fully inclusive, we risk politicizing the situation further—which is exactly the game that Russia now accuses the West of playing in Eastern Europe.

Yaşlığıma toyalmadım [I did not enjoy my youth]

Men bu yerde yaşalmadım [I was not able to live in this place]

We need to engage at a level beyond song, beyond the deep concern expressed by interested parties, in order to ensure a viable future for the Crimean Tatars.   They, like other indigenous, must be allowed to live in the places of their familial and cultural origins.

Amplifying Women’s Voices in Ukraine

5 Jun

Editor’s Note:  This is the first post from Danielle Peck, who comes to GAPW from the University of Wyoming.   Danielle will take leadership for some of GAPW’s program work in the areas of youth development and human rights, and she will be writing in this space from time to time. 

At the recent (pre-election) panel discussion “Invest in Women for Peace: Conflict Prevention and Women’s Participation in Ukraine,” part of the speaker series for Women, Peace and Security, panelists Natalia Karbowska and Gregore Pop-Eleches highlighted the unsettling situation facing women being excluded from the political processes taking place in the Ukraine.

Karbowska began the panel with an example detailing how talk of war in other states often includes the gender perspective, which looks at the impact of gender on people’s opportunities, interactions and social roles during war. Ukrainians as well as the international community have yet to apply the gender perspective on the current situation in Ukraine. Karbowska explained that when Ukrainian women fight to be heard, they are told that their opinions are important but that they can be heard later. Women, not only from the Ukraine should be asking, “When is this later that you speak of?” Women all around the world have been silenced for many generations, too many generations. I say, enough is enough. While it is 2014, women are in need to be heard now especially in countries like the Ukraine that are attempting to implement serious reform.

While NGOs and Parliament are implementing reforms to help overcome crisis and fight corruption, they often still do not sufficiently incorporate a gender perspective or promote women’s participation in political processes. Karbowska explained further, “During this moment in time, many important developments within social policy are being made. Ukrainian women are at risk of losing their own rights; they are at risk of losing their only rights and permanently.” Women need to be involved not only to secure but also to protect their liberty. She also stated that organizations and programs that include women are often the first shut down due to budget cuts. The National Action Plan on gender equality is one of those programs at risk. The narrow window of opportunity for Ukrainian women to finally and fully be heard is closing.

The National Action Plan on gender equality to improve the situation and status of women was first approved in 1997, and then later modified in 2001 to not only improve the situation of women, but to implement gender equality in society. Many positions were implemented all over the state to ensure its success. One major goal of the plan was to significantly raise the female representation within the highest positions by 2015. The National Action Plan not only incorporates a list of goals and tasks to accomplish gender equality, but it supports other programs that support the interests of women. Karbowska referred to the National Action Plan as an essential tool to guarantee women’s involvement in the political decision-making process.

Pop-Eleches focused his presentation more on the divide between East and West Ukraine, which helped explain where and possibly why Ukrainian women’s voices are having the least impact. Due to the lack of mass media in the country, the East and West gather different perspectives from the surrounding countries’ media sources, which can lead, as a result, to a different perception of political reality.  Women from eastern Ukraine are the least represented within the state. As shown in the recent election, there was a high voting turn out everywhere except for regions in eastern Ukraine where polling stations were shut down by pro-Russian separatists. Even though statistics of women’s participation in the election have not yet been revealed, Karbowska explained that in past elections male voters outnumbered women two to one.

Taking all of the above into consideration, what can be done to assure Ukrainian women’s political participation? The international community ought to support Ukraine’s National Action Plan on gender equality. Funding and budget advising should be given to increase the program’s success. The international community should also support other grassroots woman’s civil society organizations in the country. Pressure and education about the importance of including women through media attention, and UN and other state capacity assistance to the Ukrainian parliament and government are both needed. The Ukraine is going through an unsettling period of political reform at this moment in time and cannot afford to ignore the voices and talents of its women. A nation whose policies represent only the interests and positions of men is a nation that, in reality, is only half a true society.

Danielle Peck, GAPW Intern