Blessed are the pure in spirit peacemakers and women peacemakers ...


On March 4, 2014, I received a call from a Russian journalist I had known for 20 years on joint gender events, and before that, after a long break, I met before the 2013 revolution in Almaty at a conference on the Women, Peace, Security agenda. She said she and her family do not support Putin's occupation of Crimea, are outraged and want to do something. As a first step, she suggested a Ukrainian-Russian women's dialogue. At the time, I was so unprepared for it that my icy shells were almost motionless. I squeezed something out of myself - we can try ... Time passed, we plunged deeper into the quagmire of conflict, people were more and more affected by trauma, the chronology of killings of our people in military uniform and without it grew ... I tried to find bifurcation points for influence and changes in the situation.

One of such points lay in the plane of possible contacts with the Russian side. I wondered - for what? Personally, I wanted to get answers to some questions - why are Russian parents silent when their children return "two hundred"? What strategies and tactics do Russians see disagree for the future? How can all this be used to increase our security?
Such a meeting should take place on a neutral platform, but we have been moving towards finding such a territory for a year and a half. Numerous donors admired and said Wow! however, they waved their hands for support or promised it in the cloudy future. Finally, as is often the case, we have found support where resource concentration is not highest. We have been helped and still are supported by the Women's Organization of the Methodist Church of the United States and the World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations.

Due to the security of Russian participants who did not sing synchronous songs with the local authorities, the meetings are held in a closed format, which means that we, the Ukrainian side, do not reveal the names of Russian participants, but talk about the context and overall results.

Already the first meeting showed us that the declaration of democratic aspirations, non-support of the Putin regime, contacts and a common (gender) theme are not the key to successful easy work in such difficult new conditions. One of the important reasons was that in planning the next joint or coordinated actions, we in Ukraine could do everything, and the Russian participants - almost nothing. Such a schedule can not productively affect the development of the situation and generally loses its relevance. In the search for possible solutions, we have proposed a fairly common approach in conflict studies - expanding the range of stakeholders to avoid bipolar polarizations, which inevitably occur if we consider only two sides of the conflict, and others only through mediation or observation.

Therefore, the next step was to prepare and hold a regional women's meeting to create a platform that would move in line with the "Women, Peace, Security" agenda. Such a meeting took place in the summer of 2016, and its context and results showed the successful format and prospects of such a platform both in the national and regional dimensions.

What is the result of this meeting other than the beautiful place where it took place, comfortable conditions, interesting people? Each participant can speak for themselves. For me, it was a confirmation of my own previous thoughts, analytical calculations and conclusions.
If you combine it thematically, you can say about the gender dimension of conflict at different stages. I'll start with the pre-conflict state, which is much talked about by international humanitarian organizations and experts, but in reality, as an international agency spokesman once said, early warning is at best a place to target civilians when the conflict will ignite. I was very surprised that in the former Soviet countries, where the conflicts provoked by the imperial center continue to flare up, they (conflicts) were almost completely reflected neither at the state level nor by civil society. These are, first of all, the signals that the conflict sent, but we did not notice them, paid little attention or did not put enough (or enough) effort to reduce their impact. The impetus for this was given to me by the information that Igor Druz, the infamous chairman of the so-called Parents' Committee before the war, became the first "press attaché" of Igor Girkin, also infamous but at another time and in a different context. This fully confirmed the thesis voiced by women's NGOs and gender experts, but not heard by the opposition at the time. The thesis that, sometimes funny, sometimes ugly, but always false, the speeches of the parent committee ChONGO (Church organized non-governmental organizations) - pseudo-public organizations created by the church to fill a niche in which she can not play because of its separation from the state - is not really a clumsy effort by a section of civil society to "protect traditions", but is a well-planned, well-funded campaign to weaken the democratic foundations of the country as a whole through one of the difficult thematic lines, namely 

- gender issues.

Why gender? Maybe someday we will read the reports of the 18th FSB department from St. Petersburg, but we can assume today, especially since intelligence in this direction began before the Russian aggression and occupation of Ukraine [1]. The Russian government itself is actively exploiting sexism, stereotypes and homophobia to support its own actions. It still works well there, so she considered such "preparatory work" necessary in Ukraine as well. But in our country, unlike them, it turned out to be much more difficult to break down the "gender walls". In my opinion, the feminist gender part of civil society has become an obstacle to the "rolling of the walls". Yes, it was not so big in our country at that time, but it is conscious, mature, purposeful and united in groups such as the Gender Strategic Platform, created in 2011 to strategically overcome those challenges to rights and freedoms that were already flourishing at that time. in country. The Russian government's use of such a gender policy, purposeful and active on the one hand and destructive and hateful on the other, was intended to increase the atmosphere of mistrust, xenophobia and aggression. The organized intervention was evidenced by the repeated circulation of anti-gender brochures of 20,000 copies each. The prepared whole packages of instructions to deputies, teachers, parents also showed a systematic approach to the campaign in general and its foreign origin in particular. The texts themselves, which referred to the analysis of open sources, but did not take into account certain broader aspects of Ukrainian legislation, the format of state institutions, their subordination, which at that time were already significantly different from Russian, testified to foreign origin. The basic anti-gender brochure was a model of a combination of various propaganda manipulation technologies as a mixture of ordinary lies, sophisticated lies and scares.

Along with this "background" movement, other "instrumental compositions" unfolded - legislative restrictions on women's admission to higher education institutions, the destruction of the national mechanism for gender equality at the executive level, etc., all supported by sexist statements by high-ranking officials.

It was the response of the gender cluster of civil society, professional, persistent, consistent, creative, that reduced the negative impact, and in some cases even helped to create a new broader toolkit to counter totalitarian attacks in the country. Because in the summer of 2013 the Verkhovna Rada passed the Law "On Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine", which absorbed the lessons of lawsuits against Prime Minister Mykola Azarov for his statement that reforms are not a women's issue, and against the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers contained indirect discrimination and restricted the right of some groups, including women, to enter universities of internal affairs.

It happened because Ukraine is not Russia.

Such a great introduction to the results of the meeting, which created the regional platform "Women, Peace, Security", is necessary because the meeting, in particular, confirmed the network of the campaign, which unfolded in this scenario in other countries of the former Kremlin empire those who have already found themselves on the other side of the "Schengen fence" - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. We have seen other trends in the pre-conflict situation, as well as the hot conflict stage and, very importantly for Ukraine, the post-conflict settlement period. In particular, an important lesson should be that the "windows of opportunity" that open during conflict, especially for women, close very quickly, so they (windows) should be tried to use to maximum advantage.

More than a year ago, when we first met in a bilateral format, one of the participants from the Russian side offered us, as one of the options, to organize "parallel women's Minsk talks" with an attempt "at the level of people's diplomacy" to try to talk and agree. Those who took part in the meeting from the Ukrainian side and part of the Russian group expressed doubts about the feasibility and effectiveness of such a format. The arguments were, in particular, as follows:
- official Minsk talks end on December 31, 2015, while the next format is unknown;
- these negotiations do not have a high authority in Ukrainian society, and therefore the general interest will be closer to the marginal fields;
- the purpose of such negotiations, from what I heard, is unclear. The proposed joint work on the trauma at this stage and in the format of the parties will be either blasphemy, or a formality, or an incomprehensible simulation.

But we expressed interest in seeing a more detailed procedure and then making a decision. We did not see a more detailed procedure and decided that the idea did not go beyond general discussion. Suddenly, almost a year later, we begin to learn from various sources about various peaceful women's dialogues, which eventually turned out to be one initiative, namely the "Women's People's Minsk Process", coordinated by the same initiator who once offered it to us.

I realized that somewhere the soil turned out to be more nutritious and I mentally wished 

their work success. As a person who "dances on the same field", I, of course, became interested in the process. It is a process, because the peacekeeping path is very difficult and fragile. During 20 years of immersion in the transformation of conflicts, the development of relevant training programs, I visited conflict zones in different parts of the world and saw and heard with my own eyes how difficult it is to achieve even small successes, how often you have to go back and start from scratch. and to a lesser extent. But in my attempts to obtain some information, I came across a clear or not at all disguised reluctance to talk about it. The words "we were asked for privacy" were a protective firewall.

The principle of confidentiality is one of the basic principles of the Empowering Education program, which I started more than 20 years ago for my daughter and other children, and then for adults, and which I continue to develop together with those who are not indifferent and interested. And they were interested in the Ukrainian program in 10 countries, near and far, from Indonesia, Burma, Afghanistan to Moldova, Georgia, Lithuania. When we talk about confidentiality, we emphasize that it is primarily about private information, not the process, ideas, proposals that sound at the meeting, because we are not a sect, and therefore happy when more people are involved in the topic. However, confidentiality is not equated with complete secrecy, especially when it is directly related to national security. Therefore, such a position of the Ukrainian participants is not entirely clear to me. Especially when non-Ukrainian participants in round tables, forums and other international meetings talk "bloody nonsense" about Ukraine - that we have criminal liability for communication with the Russian side, that we have banned the Russian-language press, that "both parties of the Nazis ", that we are persecuted by the Russian language, that they heard all this in focus groups in our country, in Ukraine. And in a parallel context, however, sapienti sat - "we are supported from Western Ukraine." I reread this paragraph and see directly the temnik of rashatudei or other similar "sources".


I was inspired to write this by a very interesting, intense and instructive training that has just ended at the Klingendael Institute in The Hague. Training for women on participation in negotiations. Theoretical calculations were interspersed with numerous role-plays, simulations of specific and fictional international conflicts. The hard work of groups from three countries - Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - made me think about many things, think about many things.

How important it is to remember that in the hybrid jungle the dream can appear in the form of an imitation of a branch of peace in a pigeon, which can instantly turn into hail and other deadly weapons.

That trust and truth are the fundamental principles of peacemaking, and covert peacemaking is an oxymoron, because peace is not built in a single apartment.

To make peace is not to play a game, but to take on the burden, which then often has no one to pass on and must be pulled even when the forces are exhausted.

Negotiations are not only and not so much an equilibrium of words, they are an extremely high responsibility for all those behind you who are waiting for their results, even if your only but highest position is a citizen of Ukraine.

It is also important to remember that the confidentiality of information about the aggressor may cross the red line of national security. Various events of recent days have clearly shown that beautiful words can put us in a very ugly situation, and getting out of it will be difficult.

Therefore, I invite to a meeting, conversation, exchange of views and ideas of those who are really looking for ways to sustainable and effective peace for the state of Ukraine, in particular, through communication strategies.

I thank the UN Women and Anastasia Divinskaya and Sabine Feiser for their ideas, invitations, support and understanding of the sensitivity of all moments from beginning to end.

Thank you to everyone who was saturated with knowledge and skills during the past week, reflected inconspicuous and invisible signals, analyzed them in a comfortable atmosphere.