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Support for Ukrainian children must be at the heart of partnerships between Ukraine and Europe


Benjamin Abtan, Director of Europe Prykhystok, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Oleksii Kuleba, Vice-Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine and Alona Shkrum, President of Ukraine-France parliamentarian friendship group, along with twenty-four Governors and a hundred and seventeen Mayors of Ukraine are calling on their European counterparts to strengthen their cooperation.

Published on Thursday 18 May 2023

Winning the war in deepening democracy, this is Ukraine’s choice. Its approach: accelerating the decentralization of power and developing local-to-local cooperation partnerships with local actors in Europe. Among the immense challenges regarding civilian populations, children are the priority.

This vision was clearly stated by all levels of Ukrainian authorities during the recent Summit of Cities and Regions in Kyiv.

Faced with brutal military aggression, some countries would have chosen the path of stiffening the regime. Not Ukraine. The full-scale war unleashed by Russia in February 2022 has not caused the country to deviate from the democratic trajectory to which it has resolutely committed itself since 2014. On the contrary, despite the war, efforts have been intensified to make governance more transparent and effective, to fight corruption, and to strengthen the Rule of law.

Decentralization of power

At the heart of these democratic efforts is the process of decentralization of power. In Ukraine, the participation of the population in the development and implementation of public policies is not wishful thinking, it is a daily reality and a project for the future. The current deepening of decentralization, in the midst of the war, gives more power to citizens, strengthens local ownership of policies, and consolidates social cohesion.

This decentralization movement is fundamental because it allows Ukraine to overcome the greatest challenge a nation can face: brutal military aggression by a cruel, powerful, authoritarian regime determined to destroy its national existence.

While democracy is weakening everywhere, Ukraine thus offers a way forward to renew it and generate support from the people again, as it had shown in 2014 with EuroMaidan the value of the European project when the support for it was waning everywhere across the continent.

As a result, what is politically at stake with the war appears with clarity. Two models are in total confrontation. On one side, the democratic, decentralized Ukrainian model, with increasing participation of the population in the exercise of power; on the other side, the centralized, authoritarian, increasingly oppressive Russian model, supported by its authoritarian, theocratic, and dictatorial allies. On one side, a project of liberation and projection toward the future; on the other side, a gruesome attempt to go backward and constitute a “USSR 2.0”.

A war crime

In order to have liberty and democracy win, and to make the decentralization process more efficient, cooperation partnerships between local actors from Ukraine and Europe are fundamental.

Regions, cities, agglomerations, and civil society organizations: we call on you to establish institutional and operational partnerships with your Ukrainian counterparts. This is how we will continue to learn from each other, make each other better, deeply anchor Ukraine on the continent and invent together a shared European identity.

Ukraine has a lot to learn from the expertise of its European friends to rebuild back better, and it has many innovations invented during the war in several fields to share.

Among all the challenges concerning the civilian population, children are the priority. They suffer terribly, and they are the future of the country. Traveling to Europe, meeting young people from other cultures, gaining experience, and acquiring skills will allow the younger generations to continue the work of liberation and democratization currently underway for the decades to come.

The abduction of over 16,200 Ukrainian children by Russia is a war crime according to the International Criminal Court and constitutes a crime of genocide according to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN in 1948. There is no greater urgency than their immediate release.

Offering a “prykhystok”

Support for the millions of Ukrainian children who are suffering because of the war must be at the heart of the local-to-local cooperation partnerships between local actors of Ukraine and Europe. These children need a “prykhystok”, a shelter, a refuge, to “breathe” away from the horrors of the war, to be children again, to overcome the immeasurable trauma they suffer, and to continue to live in spite of this, with this.

In particular, we have three specific requests for local actors in Europe:

- Welcome these children for respite stays for a few weeks;

- Organize “transplanted classes” for a month: children who have started their fourth consecutive school year in distance learning come to Europe with their teachers to learn the Ukrainian curriculum in person and thus repair some of the damage in mental health, educational level, and socialization;

- Finally, support the development of children and youth empowerment centers in Ukraine, especially in the areas that are the most affected by the war.

Offering the youth a “prykhystok” in Europe also relieves the women who are often in charge of them. The local communities as a whole are supported.

The establishment of cooperation partnerships between local actors from Ukraine and Europe, with actions for children at their heart, will support the movement of decentralization and the deepening of democracy in Ukraine. It is the victory of liberty and democracy against authoritarianism and oppression that is at stake. Long live democracy, long live Europe, Slava Ukraini!

The signatories of this opinion paper are: Benjamin Abtan, Director and co-founder of Europe Prykhystok, Oleksii Kuleba, Vice-Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine on regional policy, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Alona Shkrum, President of Ukraine-France parliamentarian friendship group, Colleen Thouez, Co-founder of Europe Prykhystok, Andrii Vitrenko, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Liliia Pashynna, Head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman), Maryna Bardina, Member of the Parliament

With the governors of 24 regions, the mayors of 117 cities and towns, and civil society leaders from across the country:

Maksym Kozytstskyy, Governor of the Lviv Region, Oleksandr Prokudin, Governor of the Kherson Region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, Governor of the Donetsk Region, Oleh Syniehubov, Governor of the Kharkiv Region, Serhii Lysak, Governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Region, Serhiy Tyurin, Governor of the Khmelnytskyi Region, Volodymyr Yuriev, Vice-Governor of the Khmelnytskyi Region, Vitali Kim, Governor of the Mykolaiv Region, Yuriy Malashko, Governor of the Zaporizhzhia Region, Ihor Taburets, Governor of the Cherkasy Region, Viacheslav Chaus, Governor of the Chernihiv Region, Ruslan Zaparaniuk, Governor of the Chernivtsi Region, Andriy Raykovych, Governor of the Kirovohrad Region, Ruslan Kravchenko, Governor of the Kyiv Region, Artem Lisohor, Governor of the Luhansk Region, Borys Voloshenkov, Acting Governor of the Odesa Region, Roman Grygoryshyn, Vice-Governor of the Odesa Region, Dmytro Lunin, Governor of the Poltava Region, Vitaliy Koval, Governor of the Rivne Region, Volodymyr Artiukh, Governor of the Sumy Region, Taras Savchenko, Vice-Governor of the Sumy Region, Volodymyr Trush, Governor of the Ternopil Region, Serhii Borzov, Governor of the Vinnytsia Region, Yuriy Pogulayko, Governor of the Volyn Region, Viktor Mykyta, Governor of the Zakarpattia Region, Vitalii Bunechko, Governor of the Zhytomyr Region, Svitlana Onyshchuk, Governor of the Ivano-Frankivsk Region

Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, Anatoly Fedoruk, Mayor of Bucha, Roman Mrochko, Mayor of Kherson, Borys Filatov, Mayor of Dnipro, Oleksandr Sienkevych, Mayor of Mykolaiv, Andrii Besedin, Mayor of Kupyansk, Yuryi Bova, Mayor of Trostyanets, Sergiy Tetyukhin, Vice-Mayor of Odesa, Oleksandr Tretyak, Mayor of Rivne, Serhii Zelenskyi, Mayor of Lozova, Olesandr Lomako, Acting Mayor of Chernihiv, Serhii Bychkov, Mayor of Ochakiv, Yevhenii Velychko, Mayor of Voznesensk, Oleksandr Akulenko, Mayor of Yuzhnoukrainsk, Sergii Miliutin, Vice-Mayor of Kryvyi Rih, Ivan Samoydiuk, First deputy Mayor of Enerhodar, Viktoriia Halitsyna, Mayor of Berdiansk, Iryna Lypka, Mayor of Molochansk, Serhiy Yarmak, Mayor of Huliaipole, Vadym Boychenko, Mayor of Mariupol, Denys Korotenko, Mayor of Shyroke, Serhii Sukhomlyn, Mayor of Zhytomyr, Ivan Korud, Mayor of Ovruch, Oleksandr Sitailo, Mayor of Malyn, Maria Chernenko, Mayor of Rohan, Galina Minayeva, Mayor of Chuguyiv, Valery Marchenko, Mayor of Izyum, Tetiana Yehorova-Lutsenko, Head of the Kharkiv Regional Council, Kyrylo Fesyk, Head of Kyiv district Obolon, Mykola Kalashnyk, Acting Head of the Kyiv district Darnytsia, Tetiana Karlo, Vice-Mayor of Smila, Victor Kovalenko, Mayor of Zolochiv, Anatolii Bondarenko, Mayor of Cherkasy, Vitalii Matsiuk, Mayor of Korsun-Shevchenkivskiy, Volodymyr Mitsuk, Mayor of Biloziria, Volodymyr Tiron, Mayor of Kamianka, Dmytro Bryzhynskyi, Mayor of Chernihiv, Olena Shvydka, Mayor of Ivanivka, Yuliia Posternak, Mayor of Kulykivka, Ratan Akhmedov, Mayor of Koriukivka, Vitaliy Rudnyk, Mayor of Honcharivsk, Roman Klichuk, Mayor of Chernivtsi, Vasyl Kozak, Mayor of Sokyryany, Olha Borislavska, Acting Mayor of Jemrynka, Nikola Baksheyev, Mayor of Pervomaisk, Andrii Bilousov, Mayor of Kamianske, Oleksandr Saiuk, Mayor of Nikopol, Hennadii Borovyk, Mayor of Marhanets, Svitlana Spazheva, Mayor of Pokrovske, Mykola Lukashuk, Head of the Dnipropetrovsk Region Council, Vitalii Yatsenko, Mayor of Lozuvatka, Serhii Boievskyi, Mayor of Druzhkivka, Oleksandr Goncharenko, Mayor of Kramatorsk, Serhii Dobriak, Mayor of Pokrovsk, Oleksandr Sych, Head of Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Council, Ruslan Martsinkiv, Mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, Vitalii Karabanov, Mayor of Balaklia, Oksana Suprun, Mayor of Savyntsi, Galyna Minayeva, Mayor of Chuguyiv, Ihor Dudar, Mayor of Chornobaivska, Vitaliy Nemerets, Mayor of Kakhovka, Tetyana Hasanenko, Mayor of Oleshky, Svitlana Linnik, Mayor of Holoprystan, Oleksandr Symchyshyn, Mayor of Khmelnytskyi, Mykhailo Positko, Mayor of Kamianets-Podilskyi, Mykola Melnychuk, Mayor of Starokostiantynivska, Vitaliy Byzil, Mayor of Shepetivska, Oleksandr Korinnyi, Mayor of Novoukrainka, Volodymyr Sokyrko, Mayor of Znamianka, Serhii Kuzmenko, Mayor of Oleksandriia, Oleksandr Masliukov, Mayor of Kompaniivka, Inna Zaviriukha, Mayor of Sokolivka, George Yerko, Mayor of Borodianka, Tetiana Svyrydenko, Mayor of Ivankiv, Vadym Tokar, Mayor of Makariv, Oleksandr Zarubin, Mayor of Boiarka, Bogdan Balagura, Mayor of Tetiiv, Taras Didych, Mayor of Dmytrivka, Andrii Yurchenko, Mayor of Rubizhne, Mykola Khanatov, Mayor of Popasna, Yana Litvinova, Mayor of Starobilsk, Natalia Petrenko, Mayor of Shulhynka, Andriy Kulchynskyi, Mayor of Truskavets, Taras Kuchma, Mayor of Drohobych, Ihor Hrynkiv, Mayor of Zolochiv, Bohdan Dubnevych, Mayor of Solonkivska, Andriy Zalivskyy, Mayor of Chervonograd, Ivan Kukhta, Mayor of Snihurivka, Serhii Bychkov, Mayor of Ochakiv, Oleh Demchenko, Mayor of Pervomaisk, Yevhenii Velychko, Mayor of Voznesensk, Oleksandr Akulenko, Mayor of Yuzhnoukrainsk, Oleksandr Berehovyi, Mayor of Bashtanka, Maksym Lahodiienko, Mayor of Novyi Buh, Oleksandr Poliakov, Mayor of Nova Odesa, Andrii Abramchenko, Mayor of Izmail, Vasyl Huliaev, Mayor of Chornomorsk, Volodymyr Novatskii, Mayor of Yuzhne, Vitalii Maletskyi, Mayor of Kremenchuk, Serhii Solomakha, Mayor of Myrhorod, Oleksandr Lysenko, Mayor of Sumy, Artem Semenikhin, Mayor of Konotop, Olha Harkavenko, Mayor of Nova Sloboda, Serhiy Minakov, Mayor of Esman, Yuriy Zarko, Mayor of Bilopillia, Serhij Nadal, Mayor of Ternopil, Vadym Boiarskyi, Mayor of Shumsk, Serhii Chaprak, Mayor of Pidhorodnye, Liubomyr Kovch, Mayor of Velyki Birky, Serhii Morhunov, Mayor of Vinnytsia, Hennadii Hlukhmaniuk, Mayor of Mohyliv-Podilskyi, Volodymyr Yashchuk, Mayor of Illintsi, Hryhoriy Nedopad, Head of the Volyn Regional Council, Igor Polishchuk, Mayor of Lutsk, Ihor Chayka, Mayor of Kovel, Oleksandr Kovalchuk, Mayor of Kivertsi, Zoltan Babiak, Mayor of Berehovo, Bohdan Andriiv, Mayor of Uzhhorod, Ivan Turyanitsa, Mayor of Gorondivska, Volodymyr Kashchuk, Mayor of Khust

Yurii Bezkorovainyi, Director of NGO “We Will Help Together”, Mariana Kashchak, Director of Charitable organization “Ukrainian Education Platform”, Mariana Bilyk, Program Director of Charitable organization “Ukrainian Education Platform”, Daria Sydorenko, Executive Director of public union “The League of the Strong”, Irina Dontsova, Director of NGO “Zakhyst Zarady Peremohy”, Yevheniy Korobka, Director of NGO “5 Peron”, Oleksandra Shagan, Director of NGO “Amer Prykarpattya”, Vitaliy Krykun, Director of Charitable foundation “Razom my syla 2022”, Lyubimsky Stanislav Georgievich, Head of Charitable organization “Peaceful Heaven of Kharkiv”, Yuliana Khymchuk, Project manager at Europe Prykhystok, François Trésorier, Project manager at Europe Prykhystok, Kateryna Kuchina, Head of Open Aid Space “Samе tut” at Melitopol, Ruslan Yuriovych, Head of Charitable organization “Dobrota”, Sergey Ashotovich Keropov, Head of “Heart to heart” NGO, Iryna Pervushevska, Director of the Rivne City Palace of Children and Youth, Natalia Tserklevych, Program director of Charitable organization “Voices of children”.


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