Engaging Ukraine: Ukrainian Canadian Congress Action Plan
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) is the voice of Canada’s Ukrainian community. The Congress brings together under one umbrella all the national, provincial and local Ukrainian Canadian organizations. Together with its member organizations, the UCC has been leading, coordinating and representing the interests of one of Canada’s largest ethnic communities (1.2 million) for 70 years and has been instrumental in shaping Canada’s social, economic and political landscape.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has prepared an action plan outlining its strategy and associated plan for interaction between the Ukrainian Canadian community and Ukraine. The plan was written in consultation with member organizations and was approved by its Board of Directors.
There are 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent with close familial, cultural and linguistic ties to Ukraine. Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence and this attachment has been recognized in the special relationship between these two countries. There is also mutual benefit to be derived from maintaining the relationship between them including the geo-political position of Ukraine and potential for deriving mutual economic benefit.
Among the purposes and objects of the UCC is: “To support the democratic, civil, social, economic and state development of Ukraine.” By extension, the Ukrainian Canadian community wishes to see a great country and its talented peoples succeed in overcoming the legacy of its difficult past and continue to build a democratic, stable, prosperous, and harmonious society within Ukraine based on respect for national and religious minorities, and strong mutually respectful relations with its neighbours and beyond.
The Ukrainian Canadian community is looking to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) to provide some direction as to the actions and activities that could be implemented within Canada to improve the situation.
The Ukrainian Canadian community wishes to develop and maintain positive relations Ukraine.
Today, many feel Ukraine’s sovereignty is at risk as there is a perception that Ukraine’s new government is bowing to Russian pressure to re-integrate into the former Soviet sphere. There are signs that Ukraine’s language, history, and national identity are being threatened amid media reports indicating that the rule of law and democratic freedoms such as freedom of the press, assembly and speech are being stifled.
Canada, and indeed the West’s interests are best served by a democratic and independent Ukraine, something of an anomaly in that region of the world where the democratic trdition is fragile.
These factors have collided to create the opportunity for Canada for the organized Ukrainian community, and also the Government of Canada Canada, to respond to the situation. Canada is widely respected in Ukraine as a model for democratic values and as a civil society, for its economic and social development, and its long-term support for Ukraine.
Among the purposes and objects of the UCC is: “To support the democratic, civil, social, economic and state development of Ukraine.” By extension, this policy paper reflects the desire of the Ukrainian Canadian community to see a great country and its talented peoples succeed in overcoming the legacy of a difficult past and in building a democratic, stable, prosperous, and harmonious society within Ukraine based on respect for national and religious minorities, and strong mutually respectful relations with its neighbours and beyond.
The Key Areas of Engagement of the strategy are as follow: i) Safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity; ii) Advance Ukrainian cultural, historical and national identity; iii) Respect for the Constitution, rule of law; democratic rights and anti-corruption actions; iv) Preserve right to life, liberty and security of person; v) Strengthen civil and open society; vi) Uphold Ukrainian as the official language; vii) Defend fundamental freedoms of expression, media, religion, peaceful assembly, and association; viii) Balance and independence among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government; ix) Promote and enhance education of Ukraine’s unique history; and x) Support person to person contact between Ukraine and Canada through tourism, athletic and student exchanges.
The engagement strategy is a multi-pronged approach to influencing the governments of Canada and Ukraine in order to follow key principles that support the objectives outlined above in all cooperative endeavours with the Ukrainian government.
In order to achieve the objective, the primary strategy is to influence policy decisions of the governments of Canada and Ukraine, to promote the Key Areas of Engagement. To do so we must engage key stakeholders in Ukraine by establishing and reinforcing the channels through which we can foster mutually advantageous cooperation.
Common Ground Issues
As a first step, issues where agreement may be possible have been identified and include:
- Ukrainian language. The President of Ukraine is on record as stating that Ukrainian shall be the official language.
- Cotinuing a positive bilateral relationship between Canada and Ukraine, as well as between Canadians and Ukrainians.
- European Union. President Yanukovych has stated that Ukraine is interested in joining the EU and Canada should support this undertaking.
- Economic development. Support the economic development of Ukraine through provision of Canadian expertise including small business development, agriculture and energy.
- Support for continued joint NATO, Ukrainian naval exercises in the Black Sea.
To achieve the strategy we must engage the government of Ukraine and its citizens through a multi-pronged campaign with direct engagement being at the heart of the strategy. The plan focuses on four groups of stakeholders: i) the Government of Canada; ii) engaging the government of Ukraine at all levels; iii) the media; and iv) civil society in Ukraine
Instruments of Engagement
The plan seeks to reinforce mutually advantageous cooperation. Our belief is that seeking to isolate the government of Ukraine, or to withdraw cooperation, would bring no benefit to the interests of the people of Ukraine or the Diaspora. We will reinforce the channels through which we can foster mutually advantageous cooperation, including thorough the following approaches:
Business: has become potentially the most dynamic force for change in Ukraine. It attracts the young elite and interacts with the outside world; in a growing number of companies, it requires conformity with international standards of law, accountancy, and governance. Wider interaction will have a beneficial influence on all concerned.
Information: We need to be vigilant in defending the flow of information to and from Ukraine and should take very seriously any interference with it including freedom of media.
Education: Along with business, education should be a very significant instrument for bridging the gap over the next generation. Where there are resources available, there can be no better use of them than in sustaining and expanding the volume of educational interchange between Ukraine and Canada.
Opinion and policy makers: The level of interchange between opinion and policy makers and the level of understanding needs to be enhanced.
NGOs – There are estimated to be more than 50,000 NGOs of one kind or another in Ukraine. Many with contacts to Canada have learned best practises, for example, in various sectors such as homelessness, domestic violence, and a wide range of health-care problems.
Engagement with the government of Ukraine is necessary provided it is grounded on mutual interests, with a firm approach to principles and standards, and a realistic appreciation of Ukraine’s direction. We must engage policy makers with credible arguments, and by shining the public spotlight on issues of importance both in Ukraine and within the international community.
Engagement with Ukraine should not solely be a matter of engagement with state actors at the highest level. The most effective contribution that both the Diaspora and our governments could make to Ukraine will be to use the many opportunities that now exist to engage with as wide a range of people and organizations as possible.