Civil Society Ukraine – Great minds think alike?

January 16, 2013

Regular readers will know that this blog has often looked at the issues of civil society and NGOs in Ukraine over the years – and has been quite blunt as to why it is just so ineffective in Ukraine.

On 9th January I wrote this in response to questions I was asked relating to civil society.  On 27th August 2011 I wrote this about the same issues.  In fact this blog is sporadically littered with the failings of civil society in Ukraine when it comes to recognition, support, funding, uncomfortable affiliations to government (domestic or foreign), career, causal and funding longevity verses principle and social interaction and support.

In short, Ukrainian civil society is for the most part (but not entirely) failing to deliver both to society and their causes.  Whether those who fund them feel they are delivering – who knows?

As readers know, I am a member of Chatham House, so it is somewhat reassuring to draw your attention to a briefing paper written by Orysia Lutsevych published by Chatham House on 13th January stating quite clearly the issues with civil society in Ukraine (as well as Belarus and Moldova).

Despite our Chatham House links, I can assure you there has been no collusion or swapping of notes – and yet every issue raised by the author of the above briefing paper has been written about here over the past few years.

Great minds think alike?  Well mine is not a great mind – but you really don’t need a great mind to recognise the obvious failings and where such failings are, when it comes to Ukrainian civil society.  Neither do you need to be a member of Chatham House – that is just a coincidence.

So is the purpose of this post to somehow inflate my ego and say “I told you so – and academics agree with me?”  Well, no, it is not.

On the same day I was reading the Chatham House briefing paper, I was also reading this press release by Stefan Fule, EU Commissioner for Enlargement an Neighbourhood Policy, on just how much the EU is going to further engage and finance civil society in Ukraine (and the other EaP and Southern neighbourhood nations).

The EU it seems, will continue to pump more time and money into a civil society that is for the most part useless, elitist, uninterested in the society it purports to champion, and certainly doesn’t engage with it in any meaningful way.

Further more, in a society distrusting of civil society and NGOs that for the most part have no anchor and make little to zero effort for interaction within society, pumping more time and money into them whilst the said civil society and NGOs remain so chronically disenfranchised will further fuel the opinion that they exist as nefarious entities of their paymasters or simply as a method for professional NGO mangers to earn a living without any steadfast belief in the actual cause they are managing.

Thus it is apparent that the EU will continue to inflate the civil society bubble with time and money – but that civil society bubble will remain just as far from the national society as it ever has been.

Now if I have been writing about this lack in connection for years, esteemed fellow members of Chatham House have just released an official briefing paper reiterating what I have been writing for years (in far nicer and far more academic prose than I have, I will add) – at what point is the EU going to listen to those parts of civil society that are telling it that there is a fundamental failure of Ukrainian civil society to actually engage in, have the support of, or even be known to exist by those it claims to represent?

Throwing time and money at Ukrainian civil society and hoping it will somehow be recognised by, and gain the support of society is not the answer when almost all of the 46 million people that make up the Ukrainian populous cannot even name 5 NGOs operating within their nation – let alone their region/city/town etc.

If the EU plans to support Ukrainian civil society on a “more for more” basis, then the more people who even know of a NGO’s existence may very well be a good place to start – only then can we begin to worry about the fact people don’t know what a particular NGO does and hope for any traction it may purchase within society itself!

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