Liudmyla Yankina: Ukrainian NGOs should take their safety seriously, especially in wartime

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On September 14-15, the 3rd Forum of Legal Reforms for Civil Society: Becoming Stronger in Wartime took place in Kyiv. Within the framework of the forum, a panel discussion on the safety of Ukrainian volunteers was held, which was attended by Human Rights Centre ZMINA project manager Liudmyla Yankina. 

As the organizers note, this forum is a platform for an all-Ukrainian discussion about progress in improving the legal field for the activities of civil society organizations in the conditions of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. 

During the discussion about the safety of volunteers, the importance of the safety of volunteer activities not only for them but also for the state, for international and donor organizations was raised among other issues. Separately, the budgets within the organizations, which are allocated for the safety of volunteers, training, as well as for strengthening security capabilities, were discussed. 

According to Yankina, there is a problem with understanding the importance of safety culture when working both in the civil sector and among donors. Many Ukrainian organizations, even after the start of the full-scale war, still carelessly treat their safety, Yankina notes. On the other hand, organizations doubt whether it is possible to invest money in projects for job safety because donors often provide money only for the projects themselves 

Yankina believes that Ukrainian organizations should take the safety of their work seriously and start talking about its importance to donors. 

ZMINA provides civil society representatives with immediate assistance if something happens to a person. And we do it quickly. Donors support such decisions and expenditure of funds, and this is the result of our many years of work and their trust in us. But in general, such dialogues with donors are quite few in civil society. Therefore, in my opinion, organizations working in the field of safety should stop being in the role of a beggar and become partners with donors. This is about the maturity of our society. Because we are not just activists, we are people who overcome serious challenges in wartime,” Yankina says and adds that Ukrainian civil society must give up the inferiority complex. 

Liudmyla Yankina

Speaking about state measures for the safety of volunteers, Yankina underscores that the state is currently unable to do this because everything ends with corruption scandals. In her opinion, this work should be performed by international organizations in cooperation with Ukrainian civil society. 

But ZMINA is ready to share its experience with the state, if the authorities are ready to work transparently, around the clock and act very quickly,” Yankina says. 

CEDEM project manager Oleksandra Melnyk, head of the partnership department at Ukrainian Volunteer Service Natalia Kalantayenko, military training curator at Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation Oleksiy Dronov, and safety manager at East SOS Roman Buhayov also took part in the discussion. 

Watch the forum and all panel discussions here. 

Photo credit: event organizers