Defending the defenders: workshops in Ukraine

DRI started a series of workshops “Fixing and Reacting: Shrinking Space for Civil Activism”.

The first workshop took place in Lviv on 14 July and brought together 32 representatives from civil society organisations and activists from Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil. It was followed by a workshop in Ivano-Frankivsk, on 21-22 August, for almost 20 activists representing organisations from Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpatia. Acknowledging the demand for training, OSCE monitoring mission in Ivano-Frankivsk will cooperate with DRI to identify human rights defenders interested in the topic.

The workshops are designed to address recent pressures faced by civil society. During the last few years Ukraine has witnessed a number of restrictions against human rights activists. The pressure against civil society and activists mostly comes from the state law enforcement bodies, officials and legal entities with a corruption trace, and radical non-governmental organisations. In this environment, activists have not always been able to respond efficiently to threats or abuses of power by law enforcement agencies or officials.

Through these workshops, DRI addresses the emerging request from human rights activists for greater knowledge in the spheres of personal data protection, the securing of social network communications and information, the procedural rights of activists in the pre-trial stage of the criminal process, and crisis communications. According to participants’ feedback, this knowledge could better position the organisations to handle possible crises.

Thus, a major facet of the workshops is equipping human rights defenders with the knowledge and skills in the mentioned fields.  However, through this workshop DRI also hopes to interlink human rights activists, lawyers engaged in CSOs protection, and documentators who fix and report attacks against activists. Participating organisations are encouraged to join a coalition of human rights organisations, initiated by Freedom House, one of the partners of the event. The role of the coalition is to strengthen cooperation between organisations to more effectively advance from crises.

These workshops for human rights activists are part of a pilot project which DRI Ukraine plans to expand, offering similar workshops to organisations in other regions of Ukraine. A few activists from Vinnytsia and Poltava attended the first workshop and found that security and communicational trainings are highly demanded in Central Ukraine as well.

As this initiative continues to develop, DRI Ukraine will be attentive to the changing needs of civil society and human rights activists and allow the initiative to evolve in response to these needs.


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