On March 4, 2022, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) heard compelling messages about the crisis in Ukraine from four leading civil society activists: Oleh Rybachuk, former Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for European integration, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, and co-founder of NGO Centre for United Action; Hanna Hopko, former Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Ukrainian parliament and an authority on Russian expansionism and hybrid warfare; Daria Kaleniuk, co-founder and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center; and Olha Aivazovska, Chairman of the Board at Civil Network OPORA and expert on electoral legislation and political processes.
“The Endowment is proud that we have had Ukraine as a major partner since 1989, before independence, supporting Ukrainian civil society organizations,” said NED President and CEO Damon Wilson. Ukraine is NED’s fourth largest grant-making program around the world with more than 95 current partners on-the-ground. “Our team mobilized in the past two weeks to ensure that our partners have the flexibility, the support, and the financing on hand, so they can be prepared to pivot at this moment,” said Wilson.
Olha Aivazovska discussed the progress of Ukraine since 2014, when Russia occupied Crimea and launched a proxy war in Donbas. “Eight years ago, Ukrainians and Ukraine as a state didn’t have any chance to survive, but we have this chance now,” she said. “All civil society organizations working on human rights topics and issues are focusing now on the issue of documentation of war crimes, trying to use our own capacity to build some logistical activities for humanitarian aid for our society and people who need us now because of the full-scale aggression.” (Read the NED family’s statement of solidarity with Ukraine.)
Daria Kaleniuk spoke about humanitarian aid stuck at the border, unable to reach citizens in danger. “Two days ago, missiles targeted the central railway station in Kyiv, as thousands of women and children were at that moment in the railway station, trying to escape the horror of war,” she said. “How are you going to deliver aid to millions of people with no heat, with no electricity, with no food, with no water, if there [is a] rain of missiles destroying everything in their way?”
Looking to the future, Hanna Hopko said, “Successful Ukraine will democratize Russia, [and] successful Ukraine matters to stop authoritarian regimes.”
Oleh Rybachuk continued, “It’s not about us,” he said, speaking of his fellow Ukrainian citizens. “There is a global struggle between democracy and autocracy. My question is, who is standing up their hand now, democracy or autocracy?”
About the Speakers
Oleh Rybachuk is a renowned politician and public figure, who previously served as the Chief of Staff to Ukraine President, Viktor Yushchenko from September 2005-2006. Among many other appointments, Mr. Rybachuk also served as Secretary of the Political Council in 2006, and Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine on European Integration in 2005. Following his service in the Ukraine government, Mr. Rybachuk turned his energies and influence to civil society initiatives. In 2009, he helped found the Centre of United Actions, a Ukrainian non-governmental organization that promotes democratic change through analysis of state and local policymaking and citizen engagement in the policy process. In 2011, Oleh was also a large part of the emergence of the “Chesno” (meaning honestly, fairly) public campaign to advance fair election processes through public familiarization and critical analysis of Ukrainian legislators. Mr. Rybachuk graduated from the Faculty of Philology of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (1975-1980) with a degree in English and French languages and earned the second higher education diploma at the Finance and Credit Faculty of Kyiv National Economic University (1993-1996) with a qualification in economics. In 1997, he studied at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service United States.
Hanna Hopko is an expert in advocacy, on Russian expansionism and hybrid warfare. From 2014-2019, she chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Ukrainian Parliament. Hopko was one of the civic leaders of the EuroMaidan during Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity. Ms. Hopko was elected to Parliament from the pro-European Self-Reliance Party in 2014 and later served as an independent MP. In 2014, Foreign Policy magazine named Ms. Hopko a “Leading Global Thinker”. That same year, she received the “Certificate of Merit” from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service Leadership Seminar and was honored with the National Democratic Institute Democracy Award for her efforts to further the cause of democracy in Ukraine. She has spoken on security issues at forums hosted by Canada, such as the 95th Rose-Roth Seminar of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association held in Kyi vand was the keynote speaker alongside Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at the 2019 Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto sponsored by Global Affairs Canada. Hanna belongs to Young Global Leaders Networks of WEF ( World Economic Forum) and Munich Security Conference.
Daria Kaleniuk is co-founder and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a powerful national organization that has shaped Ukraine’s anti-corruption legislation and efforts. Daria’s organization ensured that Ukraine’s newly elected parliament designed strong anti-corruption legislation, including the laws on the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, the special anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, High Anticorruption Court, open property registers and electronic asset declarations. Daria has also founded critical resources to track money laundering and corruption internationally.
Olha Aivazovska is the Chairman of the Board at Civil Network OPORA , an expert on electoral legislation and political processes, the initiator of campaigns to change the relevant legislation, and the leader of the largest monitoring campaigns for election observation in Ukraine. The results of OPORA’s research in this area and assessments of electoral processes are taken into account not only in Ukraine, but are also taken into account by world leaders and respected international organizations. From March 2016 to June 2018, Olha was an expert of the Ukrainian side in the political subgroup of the Tripartite Contact Group in Minsk at the talks on the settlement of the military conflict in Donbass. In January 2018, Ms. Aivazovska was appointed Chairman of the Board of the International Renaissance Foundation. She was included in the rankings of the most influential women in Ukraine according to the magazine “Focus” in 2014-2019, “Novoe Vremya” – 2016, 2020. Ms. Aivazovska is a graduate of the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship on Democracy and Development Program at Stanford University and the Ukrainian School of Political Studies.
Damon Wilson is the president and chief executive officer of the National Endowment for Democracy. Prior to joining NED, Mr. Wilson was the executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, worked at the National Security Council (NSC) as the director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European Affairs from 2004 to 2006, special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs at the NSC from 2007 to 2009, and as the executive secretary and chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.