International Renaissance Foundation 2024 Strategy

February 2024 will mark two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with no clear end of the war in sight. Ukraine continues to fight an existential struggle for its survival as a free democratic European nation and at the same time seeks to pursue fundamental reforms to enable its accession to the European Union (EU).

The International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) sees its role in helping Ukraine prevail as a resilient democracy governed by the rule of law, enabling justice and accountability for the war crimes committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine and beyond, ensuring the international rules-based order is strengthened and global authoritarians are powerfully rebuked.

IRF builds on its leverage as a national entity and a Ukrainian civil society actor that is prominent on the ground, bolstered by Open Society Foundations extensive international resources and networks.

This strategy has 5 priority areas:

  1. Safeguard resilient democracy in Ukraine;
  2. Advance justice and accountability
  3. Promote human-centric recovery, reintegration and inclusion of war veterans and displaced people
  4. Support Ukraine’s accession to the EU
  5. Strengthen Ukraine’s global reach

Priority 1: Safeguard resilient democracy in Ukraine

Goal: Strengthen public demand for democratic governance and practices in conditions of the ongoing war.  Protect and strengthen open society, democratic actors and civic participation. Foster cross-sectoral alliances around democratic values and freedoms and enable efforts towards building trust and cohesion within the Ukrainian society, including by offering democratic solutions to people most severely affected by the war, including those living in temporarily occupied territories.

The protracted Russian war in Ukraine constitutes serious risks for the sustainability of Ukrainian democracy. The longer the war lasts and the more Ukrainian society faces daily danger and uncertainty about key Western partners’ support for its victory and long-term security that could be achieved through the NATO membership, the more Ukrainian actors shift to zero-sum based solutions that do not align well with democratic practice, thus increasing strategic risks for Ukraine and its partners significantly. A severely traumatized and threatened society becomes more conservative and inclined to choose security over democratic governance and freedoms. Domestic politics is back with its polarizing influences.

IRF will respond to these challenges by building the social capital and voices of open society and democracy actors, strengthening democratic institutions, and helping put governance, education, decentralisation reforms and inclusive policy processes back on track. We will support consolidation of human rights and civic initiatives, communities and cross-sectoral partnerships of volunteers, rights advocates, academia, culture ambassadors, independent media, democracy watchdogs and social impact investors by:

(1) building horizontal networks of joint action and advocacy;

(2) fostering key legitimate voices and independent institutions, policy analysis, independent expression  and communication to mobilize key stakeholders around pro-democracy messages and collaborations;

(3) supporting participatory governance and accountability at all levels and empowering civil society leaders to engage, especially when democratic practices are at risk.

Priority 2: Advance justice and accountability

Goal: Strengthen the role of human rights institutions to respond to the deficit of justice, a key risk to stability and democratic development of Ukraine, by supporting the development of a comprehensive judicial accountability infrastructure and a justice mechanism for Ukraine for the crime of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed during Russia’s war against Ukraine. This includes support to domestic and international networks for documentation of international crimes and to advocate at international platforms against impunity for the perpetrators and just remedies for victims.

IRF will act as a convener and facilitator of the justice and accountability process by engaging the government and civil society, bringing in relevant international expertise, helping lay the foundations of a future policy in line with human rights standards and develop national ownership of transitional justice mechanisms, access to justice and national memory about the war. We will continue building the Ukrainian capacity to engage with criminal proceedings, sanctions, reparations, help create a coordination mechanism for victim-centred remedies, and support the creation of a common fund for confiscated assets to be redirected for the reconstruction of Ukraine as well as reparations and compensation for victims of Russian war crimes.

IRF will also work with civil society and key governmental institutions to develop mechanisms of return of kidnapped Ukrainian children and unlawfully detained and deported civilians, and release of Ukrainian prisoners of war. IRF will also work with partners in national and foreign jurisdictions, to advance broader accountability for crimes against the environment and support preparation and advocacy of submissions against the perpetrators involved in crimes against cultural heritage.

Priority 3: Promote human-centric recovery, reintegration and inclusion of war veterans and displaced people

Goal: Strengthen the role of state and civil society in designing and implementing inclusive and accountable economic and social policy reforms necessary for inclusive reconstruction, recovery, and reintegration. These efforts must build and promote scalable solutions and models for reintegration and recovery that foster social cohesion and economic resilience at a time of war and promote a holistic approach to ensure an enabling environment for reintegration of internally displaced people and war veterans.

IRF will advance an approach that puts people at the center and a key beneficiary of the reconstruction, recovery and modernisation process. Human-centric recovery is a way to foster economic resilience, reduce poverty, re-integrate war veterans and internally displaced people, and empower domestic democratic actors through institutional recovery, particularly in de-occupied areas and communities severely damaged by the war. Hence, IRF will invest in human capital through building skills, meaningful civic engagement in designing and implementing scalable solutions for reconstruction, strengthening local and national institutions, and ensuring civic control to curb corruption and restore trust. We will foster inclusion, equity, diversity, human security, local leadership and capacity to address traumas and devastation caused the war. We will support independent expertise and policy advocacy, foster accountability through access to information, public consultations, integrating anti-corruption mechanisms into reconstruction and governance.

IRF will contribute to building a holistic system of integrating veterans, bereaved families, prisoners of war, displaced people and other war victims into existing programs in order to improve social cohesion, strengthen change agents, develop support networks, address inclusion of people with disabilities and severe mental trauma by promoting the rehabilitation management reform, developing rehabilitation programs, advancing deinstitutionalization and supportive community living. IRF’s integrated response to the human security and mental health crisis will focus on improving state policies and delivery in order to prevent conflict, criminalization and radicalization of war veterans and IDPs by means of improved conflict management and mediation. We will help develop and pilot effective monetisation of benefits and help develop new approaches to social service delivery that would respond to the needs of veterans and other war-affected people and offer opportunities for them to engage in making the system work. We will support the development of an inclusive migration policy and a non-discriminatory labor policy, and advocate for accountability and compensation mechanisms to redress the damage done to the environment. IRF will work with OSF on the debt sustainability, financing of the reconstruction, and advocacy for legal mechanisms of putting Russian frozen assets to work for recovery.

Priority 4: Support Ukraine’s accession to the EU

Goal: Advocate for EU policies and programs that facilitate accession for Ukraine and other EU-aspiring states. Strengthen Ukrainian capacity to advocate for EU accession and adopt effective positions in the accession negotiations. Leverage the EU accession process to domestically strengthen democracy and rule of law reforms inside Ukraine. Collaborate with civil societies in other EU accession states and the EU to build momentum.

With the opening of the EU accession talks create a window of opportunity, IRF sees an opening for the contribution of civil society to the implementation of pro-European democratic reforms, and the approximation to EU standards of good governance, rule of law, economic justice and environmental sustainability.

Ukraine’s integration to the EU is also a matter of national and common European political, economic, and security concerns. Our focus will be on both the necessary domestic reforms and proactive advocacy in European institutions and, particularly, EU member states, to increase support for Ukraine, in particular through facilitating access to the EU single market, trade liberalization in line with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), energy integration, digital transformation, climate and green transition, and other areas. We will also work with interlocutors in the EU to counter security threats from authoritarian regimes. OSF’s expertise and access to key European institutions are of top importance for combining domestic and international leverage, in cooperation with partner foundations and civil society in Moldova, Georgia, Western Balkans and Central Europe to support this wave of the EU enlargement.

Priority 5: Strengthen Ukraine’s global reach

Goal:   Help  Ukraine increase its global reach and facilitate meaningful contact between opinion-makers from Ukraine and seven[1] key countries across the world by informing and shaping Ukrainian government and public diplomacy and promoting academic, policy and cultural partnerships between Ukrainian institutions and their international counterparts.  

IRF will advocate for a  sustainable high-level commitment to  Ukrainian victory in the US, EU and promote a greater understanding of Ukraine, its position and interests in the seven countries across the world. We will support professional, diplomatic, and intellectual networks to expand Ukraine’s circle of friends and allies, develop a cohort of domestic experts and institutions with an understanding of non-Western regions, and foster cultural diplomacy and intellectual collaborations to enable Ukrainians speak in their own voice. We will continue dialogue on strengthening the sanctions  regime, ensuring accountability for war crimes, and aligning common positions on key issues at international institutions and in bilateral policies. OSF and IRF can achieve considerable success in these efforts against a much stronger Russian diplomatic machine because our response has been asymmetric, flexible, and mid-term

[1] These are based on our conversation and strategic agreement with the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and include Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, India, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates.

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