An Intercultural Platform for Democratic Change in Lutsk (Ukraine)
On 14-16 June 2012 the Ukrainian Platform of Intercultural Cities held the First Forum of Intercultural Cities under the theme "The Ukrainian Platform for Change" in Lutsk (Ukraine). The Forum was organised by the Ukrainian Development Centre "Democracy through Culture" with the support of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and the Lutsk City Council. The initiative aimed at fostering partnerships and experience sharing between cities in Ukraine and Europe-wide. It brought together Ukrainian politicians and civil servants, mass media, NGO and community leaders, Council of Europe staff, as well as representatives of intercultural cities and city networks. Aspiring intercultural cities, such as Odessa and Simferopol (Ukraine) or Vilnius (Lithuania), Brest (Belarus) and Tbilisi (Georgia), also participated in the Forum.
Along with a rich discussion of intercultural policies and showcasing cities good practices in youth and media involvement in policymaking, the Forum offered an extensive cultural programme that culminated in a spectacular night show in the Lutsk medieval castle.
Culture as a Way to Foster Democracy
The Ukrainian Platform of Intercultural Cities was established in 2011 in order to promote intercultural dialogue and the intercultural approach to integration in Ukraine, which has historically been home to over a hundred of ethnic groups. Today eleven cities form part of the Ukrainian Platform headed by the city of Melitopol. Along with learning and applying best practices and good governance initiatives at the local level, the network aims to enhance cross-sector exchanges between education, culture, economy and the media, which are seen as priority partners of and participants in the democratisation process.
"The initiatives such as the Ukrainian Platform or the Forum are crucial for democratic development in Ukraine," said Mr Bohdan Shumylovytch, researcher and lecturer at Center for Urban History of East Central Europe in Lviv (Western Ukraine). "Owing to the Soviet legacy, many Ukrainians are still irresolute about publicly debating issues of utmost importance to their daily life, for instance, waste management, hoping that somebody will make a decision in their place. But the times have changed and public involvement is really needed at the local level. Therefore, we try to foster democratic participation by organising public debates around culture. As the experience shows, a discussion about a well-known poem or fairytale easily evolves into a heated argument over local governance or community management."
"Culture has a very important role to play in addressing migration-related issues, as there is currently no dedicated body at the national level to tackle them," added Ms Lydia Yevtushenko from the Ministry of Regional Development of Ukraine.
A number of democratic initiatives routed in culture were presented at the Forum of Intercultural Cities.
Thus, the Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe organises so-called moving agoras in different neighbourhoods of Lviv, offering the participants of the gathering an opportunity to share their opinions about a piece of music or literature. The pieces are selected on the basis of their popularity, relevance and the potential to stir debate around topical issues of local governance. The agoras are advertised through internet and hence attract young people mostly. Adults and senior citizens feel free to join in the course of the debate.
In the Crimea Region, USAID sponsored the design and online publication of booklets under the theme "A Mosaic of Crimean Peoples" in the Russian language. Each booklet features an itinerary through the main sites representing the ethnic groups historically present in the region, such as Russians, Poles, Turks, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, Bulgarians, Estonians, Swiss or Czechs. The booklets are available online and in travel agencies. Additional funds are needed to ensure their translation into ethnic languages, quality publication and further dissemination.
Celebrating Commitment to Interculturality
An agreement of intent was signed between the Ukrainian Platform of Intercultural Cities and the Council of Europe Directorate of Democratic Governance, Culture and Diversity. The agreement marked a continuous commitment of the Ukrainian Intercultural Cities to intercultural integration, their openness to exchange and willingness to learn from other cities.
The Lutsk Forum of Intercultural Cities received extensive coverage in press and very positive feedback from the media.