Post-Euromaidan Civil Society in Ukraine

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The aim of this chapter is to analyse the key characteristics of post-Euromaidan civil society in Ukraine and to underline the level of progress made by Ukrainian civil society since the Orange revolution. While investigating these changes, we will switch the focus from the traditional institutional forms of social activism to include also voluntary initiatives, which enables us to expand the range of possible forms of civic engagement included in the analysis.

Euromaidan launched a new Ukrainian political culture in which it has become common to engage in civil activism and contribute to the society in various ways: by protesting at Independence Square, supporting the protesters, raising funds and supporting the army in response to the situation in Eastern Ukraine.

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A closer analysis of civil society shows that post-revolutionary situation is different if we compare it with the precedent wave of protests in 2004. Starting from the Revolution of Dignity, civil society gained more confidence in its own capacity. In particular, civil society was confronted with two main changes in comparison with the post-Orange revolution period. Volunteering and the amount of donations received by civic groups increased and civil society initiatives enjoyed a higher level of trust than before Euromaidan.

 Voluntary mobilisation and charitable giving

Following Euromaidan and in response to the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, volunteerism has become the new key word in Ukraine, the embodiment of a new form of civic activism and it also means peer-to-peer activism. Volunteer initiatives started to emerge to sustain the causes that were central during Euromaidan, such as fighting corruption, defending human dignity and providing support to the army and to the population affected by the conflict.

Ukraine experienced a huge voluntary mobilisation during and after the protests in 2013 and 2014, when twenty percent of Ukrainians took part in the Euromaidan movement: eleven percent participated in the protests in Kiev and other big cities, while nine percent supported the protesters with food, donations and other services.

Looking at the socio-demographic characteristics of volunteers during this period, we note that those that are more active are mostly young people or middle-age urban inhabitants with a good education. Another group that was particularly represented during these protests and after were middle-class businessmen together with individuals that emigrated abroad for study or work reasons.

The extent of voluntary activism during the Euromaidan protests and after has been remarkable. A huge amount of people representing a wide range of professions spent time at the Maidan helping to clean, cook and provide protesters with clothes and food and other necessary goods. According to a poll by the Democratic Initiative Foundation, Ukrainian volunteers in 2015 and 2016 increased to fourteen percent, which indicated an increase of four percent if compared with the situation in 2010 and this percentage remained stable also after the Euromaidan movement.

In order to assess the level of the involvement of Ukrainians in voluntary mobilisation, we will examine a survey from Mach 2015 where respondents were asked to indicate if they attended a number of activities over the period March 2014- March 2015. The main finding was that during that particular year, one out of two citizens engaged in voluntary activities, which clearly indicates an important level of engagement in general.

Looking at the popularity of various forms of civic engagement , we can observe that the most popular voluntary activities were the support of soldiers in Eastern Ukraine (31.4 % of the respondents selected this option), the provision of resources or non-financial assistance to the protesters and the displaced people (for 18.4 % of the respondents) and support to refugees from Crimea or Eastern Ukraine for 12.4 percent. (see table below).

Furthermore, a study based on the observation of two hundred media resources concluded that between November 2013 and February 2014, there were at least four thousand voluntary actions organised in Ukraine. This figure goes far beyond the number available in the period 2010-2012.

Another factor that demonstrates the increased voluntary mobilisation of Ukrainians during and after the protests is the amount of time spent. Relevant studies showed that volunteers spent more time in civic engagement than was the case in the past. In 2012, a percentage of six percent of citizens dedicated a certain number of hours per hour. This share increased in an exponential way in 2015 when more than twenty-three percent of Ukrainians reserved time for voluntary activities.

Another survey carried on by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in 2016 with 142 volunteer respondents showed that the intensity of volunteers’ participation was quite significant during that period. This survey evidenced that active volunteers spent 4575 hours per month in voluntary activities, which is the equivalent of 54900 hours per year.

If we divide this number by the Ukrainian adult population, this gives 5.8 s per each individual per year. The results show that seven percent of the respondents spent some time on volunteering in the twelve months before the organisation of the poll.

Moreover, the outcomes of another survey by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation indicated that 4.8 percent of active volunteers dedicated every day to volunteer actions in 2016. 2009 persons were interviewed. In 2015, the survey was conducted in all regions of Ukraine, with the exception of the Crimea and the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

This other survey also tells us that volunteers spend more time on volunteering than volunteers in 2012: at that time, only about six percent of volunteers dedicated such activities a few hours a week, and the possibility to engage full-time in volunteering was not even included in the questionnaire; and in the year 2016 about five percent of volunteers engaged in volunteer activity and about eleven percent devoted it several hours a week.

As Ukrainian voluntary mobilisation has significantly grown during and after the Euromaidan protests in 2013 and 2014, more people engaged in supporting financially a certain number of civic initiatives and volunteer groups. According to a 2015 survey, the percentage of Ukrainians who started to donate to charities and volunteer initiatives doubled following the Euromaidan events. This is true as charitable donations increased from twenty-one percent in 2012 to forty-one percent immediately after the Revolution of Dignity.

Given the badly equipped and hardly operational Ukrainian army, which had to face with the Russian’s annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, citizens concentrated their resources towards the needs of the army. According to many surveys, the main recipient of donations was certainly the army, with more than sixty five percent of active donors who gave their money to volunteer initiatives dedicated to the provision of the armed forces.

It is thus clear that the biggest share of volunteer efforts and material assistance in the period between 2015 and 2016 went to the army - about sixty five of it was provided in 2015 and sixty two by 2016 from those who carried out similar activities.

Going back to the poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in 2016 with 610 donor respondents, it was estimated that more than ten and a half million Ukrainian citizens engaged in charitable donations. According to this survey, citizens contributed with approximately five thousand hundred hryvnas to civic initiatives and actions. The authors of the survey multiplied this sum by the number of adult Ukrainian citizens and arrived to an estimation of 357.491 million dollars as the total number donated to volunteer activities between 2015 and 2016.

If we take into consideration the gross domestic product of Ukraine in 2015, we can observe that the amount of donations is equal to 0.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. This figure is very similar to the one of Canada, where the civil society is one of the most developed domain. To understand the considerable share of donations towards volunteers actions during this period, we should consider that these kind of contributions amount to only 0.25 percent in the United States.

The author Solonenko underlined this aspect of voluntary mobilisation. She argued that Ukrainian citizens were very prone to donate money to the army and to sustain voluntary activities and the population affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. She also analysed data provided by one the largest bank in Ukraine that launched a donation programme to support the needs of the army.

According to the figures provided by this bank, individuals contributed to this initiative with more than three and a half million hryvnia between the summer and the autumn of 2014. Moreover, thirty-two percent of Ukrainian citizens decided to transfer money to the accounts of the Ukrainian army in 2014. This demonstrates that the proportion of citizens donating money in 2014 more than quadrupled if compared with 2013.

This high share of donations is also confirmed by the outcomes of the 2016 Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation survey with a sample of 2009 respondents. The replies to the question: Approximately what total amount of money have you donated during the last year? showed that small and medium contributions have more than doubled in 2015 in comparison with the year 2012. If only nine percent of the respondents donated from 1 to 50 hryvnia in 2009, this percentage more than doubled in 2015, with twenty two percent of the respondents having contributed to voluntary initiatives. 

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