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Displaced Ukrainians consolidate the society by bridging East and West – Lauren Van Metre, Professor at the Elliott School

Kyiv, November 29, 2017.

Atlantic Council presented a report on the situation with internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine. According to the report, there are 1,6 million IDPs in Ukraine today. More than a half of them – over 808 thousand – are pensioners. Over 239 thousand children had to flee their homes. “Ukraine can become the forefront of international effort to resolve the crucial global crisis (with refugees and IDPs – ed.) Ukrainians bridge both East and West, consolidate the Ukrainian society. That’s an important story to tell,” emphasized Dr. Lauren Van Metre, Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University during a discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

According to the research results, women and men have different attitudes towards displacement, said Dr. Lauren Van Metre. Thus, men suffer more from broken economic ties or depression, in such an emotional state the cases of domestic violence happen. “Women tend to integrate more quickly as they take their children to school, go see doctors, etc. Their situation is different,” she added.

Among the main recommendations suggested to the Ukrainian government in the report is the elaboration of a clear strategy incorporating the gender perspective, stable payment of pensions and of social benefits as well as the right to take part in the local elections. Melinda Haring, the editor at UkraineAlert and Atlantic Council, noted that the media need to talk more about the successes of IDPs so that a positive attitude to them is being built in the society. “There needs to be a very creative ‘I am an IDP’ (media) campaign. Tell the world how interesting, smart and diverse the IDPs are. Do real journalism and tell people ‘we’re Ukrainians’,” Melinda Haring emphasized.

It is important to avoid the stigmatization of IDPs. Mass media are also responsible for fueling the prejudice. “Since the first days, when internally displaced persons appeared in cities and villages, I noticed that in the crime news pieces wherever they may take place, in case a crime was committed by a person who happened to be internally displaced, this nuance was definitely going to be mentioned. Whether conscious or unconscious, such coverage started forming a negative attitude of Ukrainians towards their fellow citizens who found themselves in the shoes of internally displaced. At the same time, the stories on the successful integration of internally displaced persons received quite modest coverage,” said Georgiy Tuka, Deputy Minister for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons.

The report is set to draw the attention to the fact that there’s a big number of IDPs in Ukraine, said Ambassador John Herbst, Director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. “People in Ukraine already know this, while people in the West don’t,” Ambassador Herbst emphasized. “The reintegration of IDPs in Ukraine is an effort of the entire society, and it has been really impressive given the relative lack of resources. This has strengthened the resilience of Ukraine as a society. This has diminished the differences between East and West that have been part of the social reality here since before independence.”

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