International conference on philanthropy and volunteerism explores ways to resolve a conflict in eastern Ukraine

On 26 February, VII International Conference of Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum "Philanthropy and Volunteerism in Action: saving, reconciling and building the future" was held in Kyiv with the support of UNDP "Democratization and Human Rights in Ukraine" Project and other partners.

10404161 828325827232776 3602491627640728030 nEach year the conference theme resonates with the most current issues and trends in philanthropy. This year's conference, aimed to analyse the role of philanthropists and volunteers as agents and pioneers of the peace-building process, conflict resolution and reconciliation in society, gathered an unprecedented number of participants - more than 300 volunteers and 50 journalists.
"Humanitarian aid and reconciliation - being topical for benefactors in 2014 it continues to be topical today - is the focus of our seventh international conference," said Anna Gulevska-Chernysh, Director of the Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum.
Philanthropists and volunteers are now the driving force of society. According to the study "Volunteering in Ukraine", conducted by Gfk for the United Nations, Ukrainians tend to recognize a major role of volunteering in social processes: 85% of respondents believe that volunteering helps promote peace, and 81% consider volunteering an integral part of civil society. In addition, 74% of Ukrainians donated funds to various causes during 2014, of which 25% have started to donate only in the past 12 months.
11031028 828215623910463 8742605699568343813 nThe keynote speech "The role of philanthropy in times of conflict" was delivered by Dr. Avila Kilmurray from Northern Ireland, Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, who has 40 years of experience in philanthropy in conflict society. "Reconciliation must begin during the conflict. Imagine building peace during all cycles of conflict. Peacemaking is a process, not an event. Speak with opponents at all levels of society, not only political. Look for fresh ideas. Philanthropy has a potential for this," underlined Dr. Kilmurray for whom reconciliation is not just words, but the passion of her life.
The essential difference between this year's conference and six previous ones is the presence of public officials. During the panel discussion "The conflict in Ukraine: ways of interaction between civil society, state and international community," Rostyslav Pavlenko, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine, and Mykola Chmeruk, Director of Tax and Customs Policy Department of the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine, answered the questions of the conference participants.
11001832 828245963907429 7071915071862467744 nThe conference was attended by the First Lady of Ukraine Maryna Poroshenko, Chairman of Board of the Petro Poroshenko Charity Foundation, who presented the award "Voice of Charity" for reporters that popularize, investigate and analyse philanthropy and volunteering. The public voted for such national and regional TV, radio, and media:, Vikna-STB, 1+1, "Warriors of Goodness" at Era.FM, "Hazeta po-ukrainsky" newspeper, "Dzerkalo tyzhnya" newspaper, and many others.
"Civil society is now led by volunteers and benefactors. State government would not be able to cope with all the problems without you," Mrs. Poroshenko said. "Special thanks to those who risked their own lives, evacuating people from the conflict zone."
Volunteers, who help people from the combat zone, support soldiers of the anti-terrorist operation, and do everything possible and impossible for Ukraine, received the award from the President of Ukraine, presented by Rostyslav Pavlenko, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine.
One of the most vivid discussions was at the round table "Social Reconciliation: key preconditions." The participants shared their experiences of dialogue-building in conflict affected communities. The discussion with representatives of public organizations and initiatives was moderated by an UNDP expert Inna Tereschenko, Chairman of the Odessa Regional Mediation Group. Of particular interest was the experience of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine in Donetsk, which, with the support of UNDP, works in the field of restoration of life and protection of human rights in post-conflict areas of Donetsk regions.
During the stage interview on global volunteer movement, Geoffrey Prewitt, Chief of Development Programming Section at United Nations Volunteers, said: "Everyone can be a volunteer, regardless of gender, wealth, age, education or occupation." Replying to the questions of a moderator Tamila Tasheva, Co-founder and Coordinator of the public initiative "KrymSOS," Mr. Prewitt underlined that volunteering thrives mainly in times of great despair, whether it's a war or natural disasters.
While Ukraine faces a burnout of volunteers, institutionalization of the volunteer movement, and fiscal aspects, developed countries that have already gone through these problems predict the prospects for global volunteering. "The future is for online volunteering," Geoffrey Prewitt says. "UN Volunteers already has such a platform, and it becomes more and more popular. If you live in Brazil, but want to help Mozambique, you can create a web design for benefactors in any place on the planet."

new donbass rus eng print final coverIt was also a workshop/master class "New Donbas: changing a relations system" that won the attention of the conference's participants. Larysa Artyuhina, film and television director, a member of Babylon13 society, and Oleksandr Fomenko, actor, film director, and a manager of the "New Donbas" projects, who along with other volunteers helped the community of Mykolaivka in Donetsk region, presented the publication for volunteers who want to work in eastern Ukraine.
Thus, the conference participants were trained to assess the needs of the communities, understand new tax laws for benefactors, reconcile and build dialogue in the community, provide psychological support, and help people in post-conflict situations through joint work and art.