The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 shocked the whole world and forced long-standing proponents of peacebuilding to go in a new direction.
This resulted in the building of a new ‘bridge’ by Un Ponte Per to support the people and civil society of Ukraine and Russia in their urgent efforts to reinstate peace. Some of the young Ukrainian and Russian men and women most affected by the war are among the most involved in tackling the humanitarian and social impact of the crisis.
It is estimated that more than 2 million young people have left the country, while 2 million others are currently internally displaced. This means they have been forced to stop studying and in some cases be separated from their families, while the men and the women serving in the army were forced to stay and fight or provide healthcare in the military.
Together with the physical wounds of these young men and women, they also bear emotional and psychological wounds. Despite this, they are on the front line of the war and its humanitarian impact on Ukraine. Many of these men and women have joined civilian organizations and centers for humanitarian coordination, working online to foster support for people in the occupied territories or disputing fake news and propaganda.
This inspired the ‘Peace Support Ukraine’ project, financed by the Soka Gakkai Italian Buddhism Institute (IBISG) and implemented together with our local partner PATRIR. The project’s objective is to boost the resilience of Ukrainian and Russian Civil Society and support the nonviolent resistance and peacebuilding efforts of local youth, by taking their messages to local and international institutions.
The project, launching in July 2022, will focus on strengthening peacebuilding capacity, online and in person training courses in conflict mediation for young Ukrainian men and women, the production of specific guidelines, videos and communication material, all of which will be shared with a wider audience through “Youth Channel / Peace Channel”, a dedicated Telegram channel and a peace-themed website.
The project will also focus on training men and women field workers in first aid and the treatment of trauma. In order to reinforce the work of Civil Society, there will be competitions launched for ideas and campaigns on the theme of peacebuilding. The project will also provide support to nonviolent activists working in the occupied territories.
Together with PATRIR, three local partners with high potential for nonviolent conflict transformation and dealing with the impact of war on the psyche of younger people were identified:
- Institute for Peace and Common Ground (IPCG), a nongovernmental organization with 25 years of experience in facilitation and dialogue practices to help communities achieve sustainable change in conflict situations;
- Ukrainian branch of Nonviolence International, which founded the Ukraine Stop the War Coalition (USWC) to support nonviolent resistance to Russian occupation;
- All Ukraine Youth Centers (AUYC) network, which manages 31 youth centers throughout Ukraine under the auspices of the Ministry of Sports and Youth.
By the end of this joint UPP and PATRIR project, scheduled for late 2022, we hope to have benefitted more than 200 young Ukrainian men and women and members of Civil Society, by strengthening their skills in peacebuilding and nonviolent crisis response; the project will also benefit at least 10 Ukrainian organizations and 15 international organizations, who will be able to develop mutual understanding by working together in the field.
The project will also help 10 schools and 50 teachers, with the production of 3 special guides on peacebuilding, nonviolence in the occupied territories and Education for Peace.
The communications focus of the project will be at least 20 examples of nonviolence and peacebuilding initiatives implemented by Ukrainian citizens, activists, youth organizations and Civil Society, documenting them and raising their national and international profile.
UPP IN UKRAINE
In February 2022, benefitting from thirty years of peacebuilding experience in crisis zones like Iraq and Northeast Syria, Un Ponte Per began working with other organizations with similar missions, in order to increase visibility of initiatives for peace and social cohesion, nonviolent resistance, conscientious objection to military service and trauma resilience implemented by Ukrainian and Russian Civil Society.
A delegation from Un Ponte Per was based in Leopoli from April to June 2022 to meet local Civil Society members and participate in the pacifist ‘Stop the War Now’ humanitarian aid convoy. UPP decided to focus on supporting their long-standing Romanian partner PATRIR, with whom a 2-year peacebuilding project was developed and implemented in Iraq (2016-2018).
Together, Un Ponte Per and PATRIR have identified local partners in Ukraine in search of civilian peace initiatives, so far overlooked by international donors.
Photo Credits: Valerio Nicolosi
Project title: Peace Support Ukraine
Project type: Peacebuilding
Beneficiaries: Young people, Activists, CSOs
Length: June 2022 – December 2022
Project areas: Ukraine
Partners: Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR), Nonviolence International Ukraine, Institute for Peace and Common Ground Ukraine (IPCG), All Ukraine Youth Centers (AUYC)
Donor: Otto per mille - Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai (IBISG)