If you take a walk in the centre of Kyiv in Ukraine, you will not see any clear signs of a country in war.
A newly renovated shopping centre on the main street, Khreshchatyk, was opened recently with number of luxury boutiques. People are going to the cafés, billboards invite to concerts with both local and international music bands. But when you come to the main train station you get a feeling of entering a a war movie set. Hundred of soldiers with heavy bags full of winter equipment are headed East.
The recent escalations in the Eastern Ukraine and battles in Avdiivka this January reminds us that the conflict in Donbass is still active. Political talks in Minsk didn’t bring peace. In the very beginning of 2017 no less than eighteen people had already been killed. The country invests tremendous efforts and resources into building state institutions, which are indeed needed. Strong state institutions are however not always a solution to segregation which is one of the problems Ukraine is facing. In addition to segregation Ukraine is struggling with an unstable political situation and corruption.
NCPD in Ukraine
Since the conflict started in Ukraine in 2014, Nansen Centre for Peace and Dialogue visited Ukraine on different occasions 12 times. The main aims of the activities NCPD participated in Ukraine were to develop dialogue culture and to spread knowledge about the Nansen dialogue method. You can read more about our activities in Ukraine in this report.
This time our host was “Vostok-SOS” – one of the biggest Non-governmental organisations (NGO) operating in the Eastern Ukraine. “Vostok-SOS” invited NCPD to Severodonetsk to talk about dialogue and to arrange a practical master-class for dialogue practitioners. Steinar Bryn and Anatolii Kyryliuk had to take 16 hours train-trip from Kyiv to get to the city. Luhansk is temporarily controlled by the self-proclaimed pro-Russian government. Because of the this Severodonetsk is the acting administrative centre of the Luhansk region.The city is only 5 miles away from the frontline and is a home for many internally displaced people (IDPs). Number of international organisations and a monitoring mission have their operational centers here.
What comes first segregation or conflict?
Despite severe weather conditions 95 people came to the evening event. It shows a real longing among the people for an alternative solution to the conflict. People miss the platforms where they can share their thoughts, feelings, concerns and ideas. There were students, teachers, IDPs, locals, representatives of international organisations, NGO members, war veterans and volunteers. The event started with a short introduction of the NCPD followed by the screening of “Reunion” and reflections of people on the current situation in Ukraine.
During the discussions which followed most people agreed that it was not necessarily the segregation that triggered the current conflict. Unfortunately the conflict itself is producing the division. Can dialogue be a tool for tackling this segregation? Creating safe environment for people to share their stories and find common solutions for the problems in the society can be a good start. Vostok-SOS and NCPD agreed to keep the contact and to join their forces in developing dialogue culture in Ukraine.