28 September 2012
Pictured: East European Development Institute Chair Dr. Mridula Ghosh, leaders of the African Council in Ukraine Issa Sadio Diallo and Mohammed Sesay, and human rights activist Yaroslav Minkin facilitating the discussion about Diversity Initiative prospects.
Representatives of Ukrainian NGOs, state bodies, migrant communities, diplomatic institutions and human rights organizations gathered in Kyiv to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Diversity Initiative (DI), a voluntary network combating racism and xenophobia in Ukraine, co-chaired by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The achievements of five years of monitoring and reporting on hate crimes, advocacy with the government and promoting cultural diversity throughout Ukraine were recalled and discussions held on how to move the Network forward in order to address the current challenges: hate speech in media, lack of official reporting on hate crimes, prejudice against Africans and Muslims, Roma integration etc. The ?Diversity Camp? was financially supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Ukraine.
?What often begins as a softer expression of dislike and intolerance can develop into institutionalized discrimination, hatred, verbal and physical abuse, hate crimes which constitute a serious threat to the overall protection environment and hamper integration of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants into the host society,? noted UNHCR Deputy Regional Representative for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine Mr. Vanno Noupech opening the ?Diversity Camp?.
According to IOM Chief of Mission Mr. Manfred Profazi, ?migrants constitute a particularly vulnerable group often being blamed for political, social and economic problems not of their making.? At the same time, stated Mr. Profazi, ?the 21st century will be an era of unprecedented global migration. Currently there are more Ukrainians living and working abroad than foreigners in Ukraine. Reciprocal good treatment in the spirit of fellowship and understanding is key to making sure that all migrants live without fear of violence and enjoy access to the international human rights for which they are entitled, whether it is a Ukrainian construction worker in Portugal or an African student in Ukraine.?
The Head of the Consular and Legal Department of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ukraine Mr. Kurt Stoeckl-Stillfried noted that xenophobia is a common danger for many societies today: ?It takes root where there is a lack of knowledge, where there is prejudice, where people don?t interact.?
Conversely, the ?Diversity Camp? laid ground for discussion, the sharing of knowledge and interaction between migrants, visible minorities, the Ukrainian Government, and educational institutions, thereby supporting the on-going development of Ukrainian society as free, culturally diverse and respectful of the human rights of all.
The Diversity Initiative was formed in 2007 responding to an increase in the number of suspected racially motivated attacks in Ukraine. The Network was co-founded by IOM, UNHCR, Amnesty International and other concerned civil society organizations. DI strives to uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and visible minorities in Ukraine. It currently includes over 65 organizations from the international, civil, corporate, and government sectors as well as diplomatic missions and interested individuals. In 2011 the USA-based non-profit international organization Human Rights First named DI as one of three international best practices for combating hate crime.