In Ukraine, Initiatives of Change is known officially as Foundations for Freedom. F4F, as it is often called, is tackling some of the country’s most difficult challenges. Three of its leaders write about it:
Foundations for Freedom is working on conflict prevention and dialogue through methods of non-violent communication. We have facilitated numerous seminars, trainings and dialogues in cooperation with the United Nations and other organisations.
The war in Eastern Ukraine has forced 1.7 million residents of the non-government controlled areas in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea to move to other regions of Ukraine. Often there are tensions between these ‘internally-displaced people’ (IDPs) and the communities which receive them. Our Network of Dialogue Facilitators, created through F4F activities, is working in these communities to encourage understanding, peace and social coherence. In the last four months, as an executive partner with the International Organization for Migration, we have held 78 trainings in 20 regions of Ukraine.
Last year we worked with the State Migration Service on a project aimed at ‘transforming Ukraine into a more tolerant and friendly place for refugees and asylum seekers’. We developed a conflict-prevention strategy for their employees focusing particularly on xenophobia, and conducted two workshops and six focus-group meetings. Since then we have supported their work with IDPs.
We have also facilitated dialogue between different Patriarchies of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (see photo at top), a project initiated and supported by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) through its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Together with other dialogue facilitators and mediators we created an on-line course 'How to effectively organize and run a dialogue', and ran follow-up off-line training for graduates. This was also supported by the OSCE.
Another project was ‘History begins in the family’, conducted in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. In the past nine months we have brought together 25 young Germans, Ukrainians and Poles in three conferences – first in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, then in the Polish city of Oświęcim (Auschwitz) and lastly the German city of Oldau (near Bergen-Belsen).
The aim is to learn lessons from the past, and discover the role of unhealed wounds in shaping what is happening today. Each participant has explored their family history through video interviews with older family members, and these memories have helped in understanding the relations between our countries. We want to help our communities to develop an understanding of the fundamental values on which society depends, and to promote democratic traditions and international cooperation.
Several organisations, including the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, have subsidised Ukrainian participation in forums at Caux, the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Switzerland. This has been of immense help in developing this Network.
Oleh Ovcharenko, Executive Director, Foundations for Freedom, Ukraine
Angela Starovoytova, project coordinator
Olena Kashkarova, Council member, Initiatives of Change International