Working for peace amidst war in Europe

Published on Monday, 6th of June 2022

CMI has been working actively in Ukraine since 2009. The constant work has created a vision and in-depth connections that help support a path towards sustainable peace.

The outbreak war in Ukraine in February 2022 caught most of the world off guard. Although CMI has been working in the country since 2009, and understood the possibility of such a major escalation in its scenario planning, the work in Ukraine still had to change drastically from 2021 to 2022.

“In 2021 we were in the eighth year of what was really a protracted conflict. We were planning our activities for months or even years in advance. Now, when this new phase of the war began, we had to work very much on a day-to-day basis”, says Denis Matveev, Senior Advisor of the Eurasia team.

Before the February 2022 escalation of the war, one of CMI’s projects in Ukraine, funded by the EU, was focused on building the country’s national unity through dialogue. In the process, CMI held face-to-face and online meetings and consultations as well as closed-door events to build the capacity of the key stakeholders of the official peace process.

Whereas in 2021 the situation was already difficult in terms of peace mediation in the region, the current work is entirely tied to what happens on the battlefield.

In the first weeks after February 2022, CMI was working on the humanitarian aspects of mediation, particularly how to limit the damage to civilians. As the armed conflict continues, the team focusing on Ukraine and Russia aims to prevent the repetition of the situation, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe.

Ukraine in numbers 2021

774 people participated in CMI’s EU-funded project supporting the multi-track dialogue process in Ukraine.

28 multi-track dialogue sessions and meetings arranged in the project.

15,6 million people reached within CMI’s EU- funded project via traditional and social media.

CMI works with all parties to the conflict in order to find solutions for a sustainable and just peace. This work is particularly valuable in a situation where official mediation structures are challenged, stresses Irma Pidtepa, CMI’s Project Manager in Ukraine. CMI’s local partners and advisors are the key actors to initiate the direction of the organisation’s work.

“Ensuring local ownership is our main priority. Our work is very much driven by our partners’ and stakeholders’ needs and aspirations, what they think is necessary and needs to be done.”

Pidtepa gives an example of such local ownership: “Our partners in Ukraine told us they wanted to have a platform to improve the national support for dialogue as a social and political practice. We had never done that kind of project in CMI, but eventually helped in designing, launching and supporting our partners’ project.”

Long-term presence and partnerships as a tool for peace

CMI’s main assets in Ukraine are the deep knowledge about the history of the armed conflict, the actors involved and what their expectations are regarding the situation. CMI’s broad network of high-level experts across Europe, in the US, Ukraine and Russia has helped to adapt to the situation and to gain a wider perspective.

“Now that the current form of communication between the sides is mainly through waging war, knowing that you can still be in contact with the various parties is very valuable”, Matveev explains.

As an independent organisation, CMI benefits from its position in the field of conflict resolution. Pidtepa says that CMI’s ability to talk to all parties can help to create richer analysis and to have a more holistic view on the situation. This ultimately helps in creating dialogue and mediation support projects, which are more relevant to the parties’ needs. Independence also creates a wider scope for discussion.

“When we talk to parties of the conflict it is a less politicised conversation compared to the ones led by multilateral organisations or governments. We have the flexibility to talk to all parties of the conflict without it being interpreted as a diplomatic signal or a message from one side to the other”, says Pidtepa.

War in Europe creating a new security landscape

The conflict in Ukraine has affected the peace landscape of the whole region. CMI’s Eurasia team now faces new challenges in many countries due to the changed situation. What happens in Ukraine has a far-reaching impact.

“Everybody is watching Ukraine and waiting to see whether they will be able to maintain some sort of normality in their countries and conflict-affected regions. People in Chisinau and Tiraspol are afraid of a spillover of the armed conflict because of their geographical location, and people in Armenia and Azerbaijan are weighing the impact of the war in Ukraine on Russia’s peacekeeping operation in the South Caucasus”, Denis Matveev explains.

Matveev stresses that understanding what happens in Ukraine and its security is also important for the rest of the European continent.

“We live in a completely new environment where the previous agreements built up in the last 70 years no longer work. Whatever is ultimately agreed upon in Ukraine may end up being a precedent or at least a de facto first step for rebuilding a security system for Europe as a whole.”

Some have seen the outbreak of the war in Ukraine as a failure of mediation work in the region. In the case of CMI, Matveev does not see the situation the same way. Long, protracted conflicts can be unpredictable and different phases are common in conflict resolution work.

In urgent, escalated conflict circumstances, Matveev describes CMI as an ambulance – a professional, well-equipped service in the middle of an emergency.

“Providing comprehensive ambulance services does not prevent people from getting sick, but it does stop some people from dying and the community from facing bigger social problems. When things are calmer you need more than just an ambulance – you need a plan for how to build a better hospital and prevention strategies to reduce rates of illness.”

This article was published in our Annual Report 2021

Anni Lindgren / CMI