We are a group of people who live on both sides of the contact line and have been affected by the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Through joint activities, we aim to find something that brings us together, and to make the voice of those affected by conflict heard, in order to draw attention to important peacemaking questions.
WHO WE ARE
Composition of the Group: 15 members, including:
The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (Switzerland) assisted the group’s efforts and activities aimed at preparing the ground for transitional justice and reconciliation in Ukraine.
Despite diverging views, the participants agreed to work on two joint projects in order to identify the points of commonality between people on both sides of the contact line.
KEY MESSAGES FROM THE PROJECT
“Five years of war: 1,825 days and how many more?”
People thought the conflict would be over quickly
It was hard to believe at the beginning that this would break out into a full-blown military conflict.
Hope for peace
People across the contact line are tired of war. The longevity of the conflict has taken away their faith in the future. Yet, they are united by their hope for peace, and a return to a situation that offers the promise of future prospects.
Many people share the same priorities across the contact line. They centre on security, economic livelihood, family and property. Some in the NGCAs also worry about their lack of legal protection. Some would like the opportunity to simply visit home:
A key desire that unites people is the improvement of the social and economic situation in the region and its economic recovery.
Assumptions should not be made about political aspirations of people across the contact line
Diplomatic means of conflict resolution
Many agree that the conflict must be solved by diplomatic means, not military. A big fear is a return to the ‘hot’ phase of military action. There is also fear about what happens to those who live on the ‘losing’ side, should there be military ‘victory’.
A feeling that people living in the conflict area cannot influence decision-making with respect to ending the conflict
Acknowledging the grief
Grief – a common experience on both sides – can be a uniting but also a divisive issue between people. Acknowledging this grief, whilst focusing on achieving common goals (e.g. diplomatic resolution; economic development) can assist reconciliation.
Justice and reconciliation
Despite different views about who should be held responsible, most respondents on both sides of the contact line agree on the following:
- The demand for justice: prosecuting people guilty of crimes should be done on a case-by-case basis; the process should be fair and according to the law.
- Being resident in NGCAs is not a crime in itself.
- There should be no impunity for those who committed grave crimes.
- While recognising the differences in opinions on both sides of the contact line, a significant number of respondents attribute responsibility for the conflict to political decision-makers at national and regional levels (based on the interviews, this refers to the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the so-called ‘LDPR’).
According to some respondents, real reconciliation will be possible only on condition that those who stayed in NGCAs, who have not committed grave crimes, are unafraid of returning to Ukraine. Overcoming this fear will depend largely on Ukraine’s state policies. These include:
- The concept of transitional justice and respective laws that would provide clear answers to questions about who will and will not be sanctioned or prosecuted;
- Public assurances by Ukraine’s officials promising people in NGCAs that those who did not commit any serious conflict-related crimes will not be accused and prosecuted, and their rights will be protected by the state of Ukraine;
- An information policy that aims to retain the connection between the people in NGCAs and the state of Ukraine, as well as providing them with access to objective information about the situation in Ukraine.
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