The Diversity Initiative: Fostering Cultural Understanding and Cooperation in Ukraine

Children’s Day: Working together on arts and crafts. © IOM 2008

The Diversity Initiative (DIN) strives to uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants, refugees and visible minorities in Ukraine. It currently includes over 40 organizations from the international, civil, corporate, and government sectors as well as diplomatic missions and interested individuals. Additional members continue to join on a monthly basis.

Effectively addressing issues related to migration, globalization and the existence of xenophobia and radical groups is a challenge for governments and citizens in every country around the world. Likewise, countering the effects of racism requires a comprehensive and multifaceted response from all levels of society.

Responding to an increasing number of suspected racially motivated attacks in Ukraine beginning in December 2006, IOM, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International and other civil society organizations formed the Diversity Initiative in April 2007 to address the issue in a coordinated way.

What is the Diversity Initiative?

The DIN is a platform to facilitate information exchange and identify common issues. It also serves as a mechanism for coordination and advocacy. Overall it seeks to raise awareness and promote diversity among the general population, and specifically seeks to support the Ukrainian government and populations in need of assistance after suffering from hate crimes.

There are three main areas of action:

  • Government liaison, which seeks to support government activities that encourage intercultural dialogue;
  • Legal affairs, which analyzes existing legislation in the area of discrimination and bias motivated crimes, and researches good legal practices from other countries; and
  • Advocacy, which seeks to engage civil society and the broader population, activities include researches and surveys, round tables, cultural events, monthly bulletins, fliers and debates.

The DIN has also developed a standardized system for collecting reports of suspected racially motivated incidents. Future plans include the establishment of a multi-stakeholder education coalition which will develop a tailored curriculum promoting diversity for use in Ukrainian primary and secondary schools.

Key Objectives

The key objectives of the Diversity Initiative are:

  • Provide a platform and forum for civil society to network with each other and with Ukrainian government representatives.
  • Support the Ukrainian government's efforts in promoting cultural understanding and inter-agency cooperation.
  • Collect and disseminate verified and standardized statistics as well as other relevant information relating to suspected racially motivated crimes in Ukraine.
  • Engage in public awareness raising and educational activities to encourage intercultural dialogue.

Beneficiaries

  • Migrants, asylum seekers, foreign students, visible minorities and citizens of Ukraine
  • Non-governmental organizations who participate in the network's mailing list and other activities
  • Governmental counterparts

Concrete Benefits

  • Coordination and support of Ukrainian government focal points in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Service of Ukraine, and State Committee of Nationalities and Religions. Hate crime units have been set up in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Security Service of Ukraine, and are available to verify information from members of the Diversity Initiative upon request.
  • Thirty-four civil society projects funded by various embassies. Information on projects already funded was shared within the Diversity Initiative forum to reduce duplication of efforts and encourage the development of partnerships between member organizations.
  • Establishment of an inter-agency working group on the counteraction of xenophobia in Ukraine chaired by the State Committee of Nationalities and Religions.
  • Comments provided by network members to the Ministry of Interior and State Committee of Nationalities and Religions' Action Plans, and legal analysis of Ukrainian and European discrimination legislation resulting in the development of a White Paper on this topic.
  • One hundred individuals and organizations are direct recipients of the DIN mailing list. Over 2,000 individuals and organizations receive a partner organization's monthly bulletin.
  • Production of a public service announcement encouraging the support of diversity, produced by Limelite Studios and Leo Burnett, screened on MTV and in the process of being shown regionally.

Project Description

 

"The problems of racism and xenophobia are present in every society around the world. What distinguishes countries is how they address this issue. The Diversity Initiative unites a broad spectrum of interested organizations to foster cultural understanding and cooperation."
-- Jeffrey Labovitz, Chief of Mission, IOM Ukraine

The Diversity Initiative is a voluntary network which meets in Kyiv through regular coordination meetings chaired by IOM and UNHCR.  These meetings provide a forum for presenting ideas and discussing interventions and new strategies.

 

The DIN also has a mailing list maintained by IOM. The mailing list provides a mechanism for uniting civil society in the regions with those in Kyiv and also provides a fast method of sharing information and verifying news and reports.

A centralized and standardized database to record incidents and monitor trends is maintained in IOM with contributions from members, embassies, and other civil society monitors.

High-level conversations with the Ombudsman, General Prosecutor, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Service of Ukraine, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic community have taken place to encourage inter-agency cooperation.

UNHCR and IOM regularly write letters on behalf of the network to relevant government and media authorities drawing attention to suspected racially motivated incidents. The group also monitors media reporting and articles for inflammatory or hate speech.

Diversity Initiative members are often asked to give presentations in Embassies, schools and in journalist trainings. Other public events include participating in Europe Day, Africa Day, Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday, Children's Day, and World Refugee Day.

As a result of advocacy on behalf of the network, there are seven donors who support proposals and ideas from members of the network in relevant areas. IOM and UNHCR are continually on the lookout for additional sources of funding for civil society proposals.

The DIN promotes the idea that one of the ways to achieve intercultural understanding and dialogue is through raising the awareness of the general public about the benefits of diversity and the positive outcomes of mixing cultures.

Principal IOM Activities

  • Collect and disseminate information through mailing lists, including:
    • analysis of data in the database;
    • steps taken by the Ukrainian government in this area;
    • media articles of interest;
    • upcoming calls for proposals;
    • conferences, trainings and other knowledge-enhancing activities.
  • Coordinate between NGO monitoring organizations and government counterparts to ensure standardized and verified data relating to crimes suspected to be racially motivated.
  • Conduct a legal analysis of relevant legislation on discrimination and hate crimes, and provide European samples of discrimination laws, including cooperation with the Institute for Legislation of the Ukrainian Parliament.
  • Promote high-level dialogues on this issue among diplomatic circles and governmental authorities.
  • Provide medical and legal assistance for victims of racially motivated attacks.
  • Participate in public events (Europe Day, Africa Day, Nelson Mandela's birthday, World Refugee Day, International Children's Day) and give presentations in schools, embassies and international clubs.
Mixing of Cultures: Ukrainian women dance to the beat of West African drum. © IOM 2008
Europe Day festivities . © IOM 2008