Forum: ready, or not?
In August 1992, the first World Forum of Ukrainians was held in the full flush of euphoria attending the celebrations of Ukraine's first anniversary of independence. That same euphoria led officials of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians (as the Ukrainian World Congress, UWC, was then known) to join with a group of activists from Ukraine, including leading Rukh activist Ivan Drach, to create an umbrella body for all Ukrainian organizations, which they named the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council. Mr. Drach, also the head of Ukraina Society (Tovarystvo Ukraina) since November 1991, was chosen to head the new body.
Five years later the dates for the UWCC's convention (most recently scheduled for August 19, after being rescheduled four times) and the second World Forum of Ukrainians (August 22-25, postponed from last year) draw near.
It appears that inexactitude born of 1992's euphoria has resulted in an organizational hangover in 1997, together with pounding headaches over by-laws, membership and conflicts of interest.
In the meantime, our community in the diaspora has many questions to ponder, and much to be confused about.
Can the UWCC establish and abide by a single, generally agreed upon set of by-laws, something the UWC's officials have been complaining about since 1994?
Can those from Ukraine involved in the UWCC realize that a non-governmental organization is just that, non-governmental, and that concerns about conflicts of interest, such as those expressed by UWC President Dmytro Cipywnyk, are serious?
Can the UWCC rectify its poor record of defending the interests of Ukrainians in the Eastern diaspora, in Russia in particular? For the past two years, UWC delegations that met with President Kuchma reported to meetings of their presidium that UWCC officials had blocked efforts of representatives of Russian-based Ukrainian organizations to participate in meetings with Ukraine's chief executive. The excuse? Considerations of "sensitive issues" in Ukraine's foreign policy.
Despite the dislike for the Ukraina Society expressed by several diaspora representations (notably from the U.S. and the U.K.), the society's headquarters were proposed as the venue for this year's UWCC convention. Can Mr. Drach resist perpetuating the confusion between the UWCC and the Ukraina Society, tainted as it is by its record of defaming the émigré community, and of past links with the Soviet KGB, and as many continue to suspect, of ongoing ties to Ukraine's Security Service?
As usual, not all the questions and confusion abide on that side of the Atlantic. For instance, in recent months (most recently in an interview published in the July 22 issue of the Ukraina Society's organ Visti z Ukrainy), Ukrainian Congress Committee of America President Askold Lozynskyj suggested that the UWC, a diaspora-based umbrella organization, should merge with the UWCC, and that Ukrainians abroad should subordinate themselves to Kyiv. This after being among the leading critics of UWCC "chaos" and "irresponsibility" for years.
Also, at a special plenary meeting of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council on July 12, the UACC challenged the UWC's status as the body representing all UWC member-organizations within the UWCC, despite having repeatedly endorsed this very approach at meetings of the UWC presidium and plenum of its secretariat.
The questions remain: should Ukrainians in the diaspora have a representative umbrella body in order to coordinate relations with Ukraine-based NGOs, the UWCC and the Ukrainian government (for which UWC President Cipywnyk expressed a preference); should all Ukrainians consider themselves to be one large ethnic family, based in Kyiv and directed from Kyiv (as Mr. Lozynskyj suggests); or should all Ukrainians be free to belong to as many international Ukrainian umbrella bodies as they choose (as the UACC appears to favor)?
So far, none of these concerns have been addressed, all have merely been put off. The UWC shrugged off the UACC challenge, and the UWC's remonstrations with the UWCC executive were treated as suggestions for the forum's organizing committee.
And all of the questions raised above are still up in the air.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 17, 1997, No. 33, Vol. LXV
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