NGO-activists from Ukraine, Russia and other European countries declare: more strategic cooperation and support can strengthen civil society’s impact on the process of conflict resolution in Donbas

In the East of Ukraine more strategic cooperation of different actors is necessary in order to strengthen civil society’s impact on the process of conflict resolution. This was a key message of the side event “Enhancing civil society’s impact in Donbas” on 15 Sept. 2017 in the framework of the HDIM conference of the OSCE 2017 in Warsaw. NGO-representatives from Ukraine, Russia and other European countries presented their views on how to enhance the contribution of independent civic actors to the reestablishment of rule of law in Donbas and to a peaceful conflict transformation. They stressed the need of a broader support for joint cross-sectoral projects on Donbas issues. The expert discussion was jointly organized by the international Human rights network Civic Solidarity Platform and the DRA in co-operation with ODIHR, and with support of German and French governments.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in the East of Ukraine in 2014 civic engagement in and around the Donbas region has become more dynamic. Alexandre Pavlichenko (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Ukraine) described various activities of human rights aiming on documentation of war crimes and human rights violations in the conflict region, including the temporarily occupied and uncontrolled territories of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. He highlighted the necessity of further trainings for civic monitors and local activists, human rights educational projects for the local population in the conflict areas, legal assistance for victims of the conflict, in particular for internally displaces persons (IDPs), etc.

Valentina Cherevatenko (Union of Don Women, Russia) spoke from a peacebuilder’s perspective about possibilities of people’s diplomacy. This approach aims to help different social groups involved in the conflict to find common interests, to better understand each others´ perception of the conflict and to protect themselves from political manipulation. She also stressed the need to consider the peacebuilders’ approach in the process of international negotiations regarding the Donbas conflict, thus strengthening the complementarity of different tracks of official diplomacy, e.g. in the Minsk and Normandy formats.

Sasha Romantsova (Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine) pointed out the importance of existing initiatives of cooperation which had occurred in 2017 aiming at building bridges between Ukrainian and Russian civil society activists, and between activists from different fields of civil engagement. One significant example is the ongoing preparation of a new European civil society platform CivilMPlus linking the valuable expertise and experience of different actors for conflict resolution in Donbas.

Stefan Melle (DRA - German-Russian Exchange) stressed that a systematic cooperation between the NGO-sector and international institutions, OSCE in particular, is essential to overcome existing fragmentation and to strengthen synergies. He underlined that international and intergovernmental organizations should support and facilitate the further development of joint NGO-strategies, since the conflict in the East of Ukraine is not only a conflict between Ukraine and Russia – it affects the common European security and the relationship between European democracies and Russia.

You can find a report with detailed findings and recommendations of civil society to strengthen its impact in Donbas here: 




DRA - German-Russian Exchange:

Stefan Melle, Yuliya Erner,

Civil Solidarity Platform (CSP):

Simon Papuashvili,