Global aid: how the Foundation helps to increase international support for Ukraine

Сашко Кульчицький

For more than 600 days, Ukraine has been confronting a much larger, more powerful and richer Russia. Our resilience is, first and foremost, the result of the heroism of Ukrainian soldiers. However, we will not be able to withstand and win this war without the support of our partner countries: security, economic, and diplomatic. And it is important that the volume of this support only grows.

We, the International Renaissance Foundation, support many projects from various organizations that have a single goal – to maintain and increase support for Ukraine, as well as to increase pressure on Russia. And while Ukrainian diplomats are working at their level, we help NGOs promote messages important to Ukraine among experts, advisors, media, bloggers, and politicians in the countries that matter to us.

Why does it work?

“Today, international politics is not driven by professional diplomats alone,” says Dmytro Shulga, director of the Europe and the World program at the International Renaissance Foundation. – “Diplomats and politicians are influenced by the media, experts, opinion leaders and even commentators on social media. Sometimes they may not even realize this influence, but it is happening.”

According to Dmytro, numerous advisors, analysts, and experts also have a great influence. Ukrainian civil society organizations can communicate with them and convey Ukraine’s position, and they can integrate our messages into their notes, articles, and speeches. “This is much more effective, sustainable, and trustworthy than if we just try to explain something directly within their countries,” says Dmytro.

“It’s a combination of different ways of delivering information. There are closed-door meetings with politicians, government officials, and diplomats, both abroad and in Ukraine. For example, often when Western politicians come to Ukraine, they seek to communicate not only with government officials, but also with experts and civil society. Similarly, when an important decision is made within their countries, they are accustomed to verifying information from the Ukrainian authorities through conversations with experts and opinion leaders to complete the picture.

At the same time, they also work in the public sphere: posts, interviews, articles, media columns, and Twitter storms. “If we are talking about advocacy in democratic countries, public opinion has a significant impact on decisions there. And the key countries for us are Western countries that are democratic,” explains Dmytro Shulga.

The Foundation currently supports a dozen organizations working on international advocacy. This activity can be divided into several areas: promoting Ukraine’s accession to the EU, political and security support for Ukraine, expanding the network of international partnerships to promote the Ukrainian agenda, raising awareness of Ukraine in the global world, and increasing sanctions pressure on Russia.

Promoting Ukraine’s accession to the EU

The path to the European Union is no longer just a matter of politics, but also of Ukraine’s economic sustainability. The EU is already providing significant support to the Ukrainian economy, which is suffering from the consequences of the war. In the future, joining the EU should accelerate our development by an order of magnitude, as well as strengthen our security through joint foreign policy and defense cooperation with EU countries.

One of the organizations that deeply and consistently promotes the idea of Ukraine’s accession to the EU abroad is the New Europe Center. The Foundation provides the New Europe Center with institutional support that allows it to continue its advocacy work with the EU member states.

The organization’s focus is on working in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and the United States on Ukraine’s accession to the EU, as well as political, financial and military assistance from allies to defeat Russia. Thanks to the Foundation’s institutional support, the organization is able to advocate for the topics that are most relevant at a particular moment in time. For example, before the NATO summit, the organization actively promoted the idea of Ukraine’s future accession to the Alliance, and now it is communicating the issue of starting negotiations on EU membership, etc.

The organization’s experts publish articles in the media of the allied countries, conduct surveys, visit these countries to meet with politicians, officials and political advisors, and host foreign experts in Ukraine.

“Ukrainian Prism is also expanding its capacity to work in the EU. With the support of the Foundation and the Open Society Foundation, Ukrainian Prism opened its office in Brussels to have easier and faster access to stakeholders. In addition to Brussels, with the support of the Foundation, Prism experts also work with the Scandinavian countries, Spain and Portugal.

The Ukrainian Center for European Policy analyzes the extent to which Ukraine is ready for EU membership and what our partners from the countries of the united Europe expect from us. They actively involved experts from EU countries in this research, and in the fall, with the support of the Foundation, they went on advocacy trips to Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Stockholm, and Stockholm: Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid and Stockholm. During these visits, the experts will meet with local experts, activists, and diplomats to tell them how far Ukraine has progressed on its way to the European Union. Such visits will help to convey to key EU countries that Ukraine is on track with its European integration trajectory, as many decisions depend not only on Brussels but also on the decisions of the member states.

Easy Business explores and promotes how Ukraine can be useful to the EU in the context of the European idea of Strategic Autonomy. This is a popular concept in the EU, according to which the European Union should be independent and self-sufficient in such aspects as technology, resources, security, economic sustainability, etc. Today, this idea is becoming increasingly popular among European officials.

Easy Business experts analyze how Ukraine can join European value chains and help EU countries realize the idea of European strategic autonomy. This will help to explain to EU officials and politicians that Ukraine’s integration will benefit them in terms of economy and building this very strategic autonomy, that we are not just a poor country that needs to be supported, but that we have a lot to offer Europeans, in particular in overcoming the EU’s dependence on Russia and China.

Analysts will disseminate the results of their research among EU stakeholders, and representatives of Eastern European countries are planned to be invited to a joint conference to discuss in more detail the role of Ukraine in the EU’s strategic autonomy.

Two Ukrainian platforms, traditionally supported by the Foundation, are also working to create an international expert community ready to promote the Ukrainian agenda: The Central European Forum and the Accession Exchange Forum.

The Central European Forum is organized by the Ukrainian Prism in cooperation with our Foundation and with the financial support of the EU. It is a discussion platform that gathers prominent thinkers and experts from Central and Eastern Europe to discuss common challenges and build a shared vision of a prosperous Central European future.

The Accession Exchange Forum is a unique platform that brings together politicians, experts, opinion leaders, media representatives and officials from both candidate and EU member states. Its main goal is to discuss and propose solutions to the most pressing issues related to the EU accession process. The Forum is organized by the New Europe Center in cooperation with the Foundation and with the financial support of the EU.

The International Center for Ukrainian Victory was established in 2022 to increase advocacy pressure on European and American stakeholders. Their main goal is to explain the need for political, security and economic assistance to Ukraine.

The International Renaissance Foundation and the Open Society Foundation provide institutional support to the Center, which helps its experts to choose the most urgent topics for advocacy. They participate in international events, hold meetings and communicate with politicians and experts. Although this activity has a wide range of topics, security assistance remains a key focus.

International partnerships to promote Ukraine’s agenda in the global world

Although the Western world has united in support of Ukraine, this unity remains fragile and needs to be nurtured. In parallel, we need to build new partnerships in Asia, Africa and Latin America, to convey the Ukrainian view of things to the world and to explain Russia’s crimes.

“The Ukrainian Prism has been building partnerships between Ukrainian and foreign think tanks in the UK, Poland, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, India, and Australia. The experts of “Prisma” establish information exchange with foreign think tanks, participate in international conferences, presenting Ukraine’s position there, etc. In each country, Prizma works to develop partnerships with one or more think tanks. In addition, the experts prepare policy briefs on the perception of Ukraine in different countries and produce English-language podcasts on the topic.

The Democratic Initiatives Foundation develops partnerships with academic communities in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Qatar, Pakistan and Indonesia. Experts are in contact with universities, think tanks and media in these countries and help them to convey truthful information to their government officials and citizens in general. This work is also supported by the Foundation.

Sanctions pressure on Russia

Ukraine is making great efforts to not only destroy Russians on the battlefield, but also to reduce Russia’s ability to wage war. This is primarily done through sanctions. At the same time, Russia itself uses legal and illegal ways to circumvent sanctions, so this area requires constant efforts.

The DiXi Group think tank helps Ukrainian government officials improve Ukraine’s energy security and monitors the implementation of sanctions against Russia. Special attention is paid to such topics as compliance with the price ceiling rules for Russian oil, trade in Russian liquefied natural gas in the EU, sanctions against RosAtom and others. “Dixie conveys to foreign stakeholders the need to strengthen sanctions and backs it up with concrete calculations.

Based on their research, analysts prepare advocacy proposals that are presented during online meetings or working trips. Thanks to such meetings, advocacy proposals are eventually transformed into documents and decisions within new sanctions packages.

For many years, the Foundation has been supporting the Monitoring Group of the Black Sea Studies Institute, which is the author of the BlackSeaNews website. The experts have been monitoring violations of sanctions and international law by ships in the Black Sea for 9 years. However, if earlier they were talking about visiting the occupied Crimea, now the area of work has expanded. Currently, their database includes 7380 legal entities that are to some extent subject to sanctions and/or have violated existing sanctions.

Later, based on the monitoring, the organization’s experts prepare proposals to expand the list of sanctioned vessels and companies, which are submitted to Ukrainian government authorities and embassies of partner countries.

The role of the International Renaissance Foundation

In its efforts to increase international assistance to Ukraine, the Foundation is not only a donor, but also an active player that can engage in advocacy, bring different players together, and form new informal coalitions and partnerships.

“The experts and organizations the Foundation works with have unique expertise, contacts, and opportunities. But we, as the Foundation, are also involved in various circles of communication and receive various information that our colleagues may not necessarily have. Often we have more complete information about events, messages, and areas of work in this environment,” explains Dmytro Shulga of the Foundation’s role in advocating for support for Ukraine. – “We are not the ones who give any commands or distribute tasks, but those who can help, advise, guide, not only with grants, but also with knowledge and connections.

According to him, the Foundation acts as a kind of hub that both provides support and helps to find out what other organizations are doing, to synchronize watches, and to understand what is happening in the environment. “It is important that we are a Ukrainian Foundation, we live and work in Ukraine, and therefore we understand the needs and opportunities, prospects and moods among Ukrainian stakeholders, we feel the realities,” says the director of the Europe and the World program.

For the Foundation, it is not about forcing everyone to formulate messages and speak in the same way. In Dmytro’s opinion, such a position would be unjustified and could be harmful. However, the Foundation helps various organizations to understand more clearly what is happening in their field of work in general. “The key thing is that there are no strategic contradictions in the civil society environment, but rather a common understanding that Ukraine needs unified advocacy, cooperation and coordination. Our general directions are the same, our goals are the same,” explains Dmytro Shulga.

International assistance is an issue that includes security and economy, diplomacy and human rights protection. Without it, Ukraine’s victory is impossible, and with its strengthening, victory becomes closer. And as long as the war continues, the International Renaissance Foundation will work to ensure that the world helps us in our just struggle against the aggressor.

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