How the Ukrainian Institute of Crisis Management teaches community residents in Donetsk Oblast to protect their rights
Publication date: August 14, 2023
Author: Halyna Kolesnyk, communications manager of the Legal Development Network
The Ukrainian Institute of Crisis Management, founded in 2015 in Kostyantynivka, Donetsk Oblast, was established by local activists with significant experience in the fields of local development and management. Following the onset of the Russo-Ukrainian war, they decided to develop tools of local democracy and unite pro-Ukrainian community efforts.
The activists of this organization established communication channels between the police, prosecution, local authorities, and community residents, promoting transparency in the operations of law enforcement agencies.
The organization’s team consists of eight individuals, four of whom remained in the community following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory, while the others work remotely.
Deputy Head of the organization, Oleksandr Melanchenko, shared that there were numerous community organizations active in the area. However, due to the proximity to the front lines, most of their members had to relocate. The Ukrainian Institute of Crisis Management decided to unite representatives of the remaining 13 organizations in a public platform by signing a memorandum with them. This collaboration aimed to strengthen each other, particularly during the implementation of joint initiatives within the community.
For instance, at the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, they were able to develop and adopt an Ecological Development Strategy for the Kostyantynivka community. A few years ago, the community had experienced several environmental issues, including a radioactive landfill and significant levels of mercaptan (potent nerve toxins with narcotic effects that cause muscle paralysis) in the air, surpassing safe levels by hundreds of times.
The organization has intensified its collaboration with the police, jointly conducting activities related to combating gender-based and domestic violence.
“Although everyone in our community initially believed that addressing this issue during the full-scale war was not timely, the Kostyantynivka community was among the first communities on the frontlines where the public, alongside the police, began working not only on combating but also on preventing domestic violence. After the community members became more informed about their rights, reports to the police increased eightfold,” explains Oleksandr Melanchenko.
When the NGO “Ukrainian Institute of Crisis Management” learned about the initiative “Capacity Development of Local NGOs – Legal Aid Providers in Ukraine,” they decided to participate in the training and mentoring program.
“Previously, the NGO was more of a beloved activity for us, something we all invested in. We didn’t view it from a professional perspective and didn’t have experience in implementing initiatives supported by international organizations. Thanks to the program, we gained deep knowledge about how the organization should function, structured its work, developed necessary policies, and we also have the support of our mentor, Timur Kanataev. He’s like a good friend to us, someone we can call for advice. I feel that I’ve grown a lot over this year,” shares the head of the organization, Lilia Miroshnichenko.
The implementation of the “Community Reception of the Kostyantynivska Community” initiative, supported by the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine, has become important for both the community and the organization’s experience. Even before receiving funding within the framework of the mini-grant support, the organization’s lawyers provided legal consultations, as legal aid centers had ceased their work in Donetsk region, and local self-government bodies faced security challenges in organizing legal assistance. Since the launch of the initiative, the organization’s lawyers have provided over 220 consultations through meetings with community residents and over the phone.
In addition to legal consultations, the organization also conducts legal awareness events, primarily offline, taking into account security precautions.
“We are a front-line and receiving community. We have frequent shelling, even during the recent events, our office windows were shattered. We don’t have local radio, television, or newspapers. But even if we did, I can’t post announcements about our legal education events in the public space. So, for spreading information, I use the contacts we have established and distribute through our network of partners and other NGOs that support us. I often invite workers from social welfare, social services, and the police to community meetings,” says Liliya Miroshnychenko.
To receive consultations for residents of Donetsk Oblast, you can contact the following numbers from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM: 050 148 21 41; 095 422 23 45.
The initiative “Capacity Development of Local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine” is implemented by the Network of Legal Development with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine and with financial assistance from the Government of Canada under the Peace and Recovery Programme.
The program is supported by eleven international partners: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the United States Embassy in Ukraine, as well as the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland.
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