The President of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) Paul Grod: “Canada has actually put us at the forefront of negotiations with the German government”

About how the Ukrainian diaspora influences the policy of major countries and international organizations in order to support Ukraine, what resources it attracts to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine and how it will help build Ukraine after victory – in the interview with the President of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) Paul Grod.

– You called on the UN and world leaders to establish a war crimes tribunal to hold Russia accountable, as well as to deprive it of veto right in the UN Security Council during the 77th UN General Assembly. What is the probability that these calls will be implemented?

– Our appeals must be ambitious and correct, but at the same time realistic. The Ukrainian World Congress believes that the creation of an International Tribunal in the case of Russian war crimes is necessary, real and possible. This is an ambitious task because it is necessary to gather the vast majority of UN members. We see that during some votes in the Organization, they are positive towards Ukrainian requests, for example, to allow President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak virtually, but in some moments not so favorably. However, the UN has a rather serious coalition that supports Ukraine. And the best option is to create such a tribunal there.

There are other options, but we will focus on the UN first. The International Criminal Court could also undertake (and wants to undertake) such a mission. But it has limited jurisdiction, so this is not the best option for Ukraine. Regarding Russia’s veto, it is also very important, especially in the context of the overall effectiveness of the UN Security Council. We understand Russia’s game: it is trying to dissolve these issues, and it wants to include other countries in the Security Council. But we will promote our demands, this is our priority. It is very important to create this international tribunal, as well as the International Criminal Court works. They should work in parallel because they will have two separate mandates and, accordingly, more opportunities.

– And what opportunities does the UWC has to influence governments and international organizations?

– Politics is the influence of civil society on political affairs because politicians are elected. And it is very important that politicians who want to be elected consider their voters. Therefore, we are trying to form a coalition of Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine to influence political processes in the countries where we live. The UWC includes Ukrainian organizations from over sixty countries. We work with each country to strengthen its political influence. Some communities are more mature, some less. But it can be very fast: for example, a new community in Norway has become very powerful and influential in a short time. They are actively working with their politicians.

It is important that we can speak the languages of the countries where we live. And not only speak but also think in the terms of their political culture. Therefore, the UWC works with communities to increase their influence on political processes and support for Ukraine in their countries. This is the importance of the global diaspora. There are few diasporas in the world as effectively coordinated, united and influential as the Ukrainian one. We also cooperate with our friends in the framework of the global coalition of Eastern and Central European communities, which includes the Polish community, and the Baltic communities. Everywhere in the world, we have our political weight and can influence the situation together. There are even examples when political players in certain countries helped us to influence the processes in other countries. For example, we have very good relations with the Canadian government. Despite the fact that we are suing them, we understand each other. Because of the relationship between Canada and Germany, we as the UWC have been involved in their game. Canada has put us virtually on the front lines of negotiations with the German government and we are now working with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Minister of Economic Affairs Robert Habeck to influence the situation.

– Are you referring to the situation with turbines?

– With turbines, and in general, on the energy issue. We are partly perceived as a bridge between Ukraine and other countries. Obviously, we are an independent public organization. I am dependent as an elected person on our stakeholders, and our stakeholders are our communities. And so we can think independently. Quite often we work closely with the authorities in Ukraine, but there are times when we disagree. And this independence is very important.

– Tell us more about the lawsuit of the UWC against the Canadian government?

The lawsuit is working. It was very important because, despite the fact that Canada is a great friend of Ukraine and will always be, we had to say that its decision was wrong. Although we understand political and economic issues, we had to take a principled position. And that’s why we filed this lawsuit and will continue to do so. It takes time, but it was important for us to tell the democratic world that we have no intention of giving up and will defend Ukraine at every step. The world must understand that we will watch and actively act to secure stronger sanctions against Russia. And this message which we sent to Canada and Germany is necessary. Vice Chancellor Habeck called me to hear my position on why this is important. I expect that in the coming weeks you will see additional lawsuits in other countries around the world where we see sanctions being eased or countries or companies trying to avoid them. We will continue to monitor and engage in legal or political processes to strengthen sanctions.

– Is it possible to fully use the Ukrainian resource in the world, for example, in the USA or Canada, where there are many influential, successful people among Ukrainians?

– Today, everyone, even if there is a drop of Ukrainian blood, is ready to help Ukraine. But this is not only a question of Ukrainian origin. All normal people in the world, when they see this war, these crimes committed by Russia, are ready to help. We’ve been seeing this since full-scale war broke out. Therefore, it is not even a question of Ukrainians. Although the fact that Ukrainians have lived in some countries for more than 130 years also helps. The Prime Minister or the President of the country usually knows someone from Ukraine and feels a certain closeness. We are a global people who are respected. Especially now, when the world has seen how Ukrainians bravely and courageously defend themselves. This shows that the Ukrainian people are very powerful, and our authority in the world today is incredibly high, probably more than any other nation.

– Why did the world suddenly unite around Ukraine?

– This is difficult to say about all countries. There are countries of different categories. Democratic countries such as the EU, North America or Japan understood who Russia is. But still, they thought: we can work with this country normally. Yes, everything is complicated, they play their political games, but they will at least adhere to human norms, not to mention international law. They saw that this country and its leadership could not adhere to any human standards, and therefore the attitude towards Russia changed radically because of the full-scale war. The war opened everyone’s eyes to what Russia is and who Putin is. And that is why the world supports Ukraine so much today. But it is important that they understand that it is not only Putin. Unfortunately, these are the zombified Russian people. We have to reveal this to them. Everyone is looking for a way to solve this case, but it won’t be easy and at one moment Putin will die or someone will shoot him. This is a question of Russian policy. Russia must understand that it can no longer be an empire and that such a world no longer exists. Russians must learn to live in a normal world where there is a rule of law and respect for human rights.

Until now, the UWC has focused its activities on Europe and North America and has significantly supported Ukraine’s accession to the EU. Our priority has been to ensure full economic and military support for Ukraine, and I think that now it is solid. However, we still have a big problem with some countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. We will focus more on these countries in the future. Russia wants to create a feeling that there is the West and everyone else, and that America, Europe and we are against everyone. We cannot allow this, so it is important to work with these countries to make them feel close to the Ukrainian case.

– The Ukrainian authorities practically did not use the powerful resource of the Ukrainian diaspora for a long time, and relations between the state of Ukraine and Ukrainians of the world were mostly symbolic. Has the situation changed today? How fruitful is the cooperation?

– Cooperation with the authorities is constantly improving. Each new government, since the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, began to better understand who the diaspora is. Today, we closely cooperate both with the President’s Office and with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Education, and Culture. I would say that there is a constant evolution in our relationship. We try not only to help but also to cooperate. And this applies to various issues. Before the war, there was talk of commemorating the Holodomor, Babyn Yar or the Revolution of Dignity. This is important for the world Ukrainian people because we are one nation of 65 million people. Today it is about protecting the state. All Ukrainians of the world perceive Ukraine as their state, the way Jews see Israel as their state, which must first be protected. Therefore, our cooperation takes place at the military, economic and political levels. Just last week, I was in New York, where I had several meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister of Ukraine. We discussed the following practical strategy and tactics. This is how we coordinate our work. The UWC is not affiliated with the authorities and does not receive any funding from the Ukrainian or any other authorities. We are a public independent organization. But today we need to work closely together so that we can help Ukraine win this war and unite the whole world in support of Ukraine.

– Are there cases when Ukrainian officials ask for your help?

Yes, there are. And sometimes we hear from our communities that an ambassador in some country is not coping, or is not fulfilling his duties, or is playing his own game. In such cases, we can appeal directly to the highest authorities. Of course, we do not spread gossips. We must have evidence to pass on this information. But this is how it happens. We protect the interests of the Ukrainian people, and therefore, if someone fails, we can draw attention to it. When Viktor Yanukovych was the President, we disagreed with the authorities and could speak openly in the international arena, defending the Ukrainian people. Because not the government is our priority, but the Ukrainian nation. Whether it is in Ukraine or abroad. And we will always stand on its defense.

– The UWC has directed over $30 million to assist Ukrainian soldiers, where do you get this money? How is the fundraising going?

– The $30 million that the UWC has raised is money for the “Unite With Ukraine” program to support Ukrainian troops. But recently we contacted our organizations and asked how much they have raised in support of Ukraine since the beginning of the war. We are talking about the amount of almost half a billion dollars. For example, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which is a component of the UWC, in addition to raising money for the “Unite With Ukraine” program, has a special fund that has raised over $65 million to support Ukraine in the humanitarian sphere. Every country collects in this manner in the USA, Australia, or Great Britain. As for the UWC, we raise funds on a global level. For example, the province of Alberta in Canada gave us $5 million to support the soldiers of Ukraine. Foundations and individuals give us money ($100 or $1000). We also have partners, for example, the Saint Javelin brand. This is a recently established company that makes T-shirts, and various symbols in support of Ukraine and transfers the earned money to “Unite With Ukraine”. This is how all our communities in the world work.

The first stage of our work was to provide the soldiers with helmets, thermal imagers, and body armor. The next stage is preparation for winter. We also joined United24 to create the “Army of Drones”. That is, the assistance evolves at each stage. We need to understand that communities are not created overnight. We need to work with them. Now, having the formed structure, we can use it according to how the circumstances in Ukraine change. We will also change our work and I hope that soon we will move from martial law to recovery and rebuilding. The UWC and our communities will be actively involved. We are beginning to form an army of experts. These are conscious Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine in the world who have the experience and capabilities to help Ukraine.

– How has the war affected the World Congress, what new priorities and areas of work do you see for yourself?

– Our communities around the world have understood very well that this war with Russia will not leave us quickly and the state of readiness to defend Ukraine must be permanent. The Ukrainian people have been fighting Russian imperialism for over 300 years. And we probably forgot it a little bit after 1991. Perhaps we thought that we could live peacefully with such a neighbor. But now we understand, just like Israel, that this war will not leave us quickly. Perhaps it is hot phase, when we win, maybe it will calm down a bit, but Russian chauvinism will not leave us alone. And that is why we, as the world Ukrainians, must be ready for it. I hope the war has changed us and we will stick together. And in order to hold on, we need to build institutions around the world to educate conscious Ukrainians for many generations. Kindergartens, schools, churches, youth and professional organizations are needed for this. A whole network of Ukrainians should exist outside of Ukraine. We see that Ukraine will be in danger for a long time. This challenge has become much more serious for us today than ever before.

 – Will the new migration wave caused by the war change the face of Ukrainians abroad?

– In our history, we have already had five waves of emigration of Ukrainians, and each wave has its own characteristics. My parents belonged to the third wave, which was the political emigration after the Second World War. They raised us in such a way that we should fight for the independence of Ukraine. I remember when I was young, when I went to demonstrations with my parents, holding the Ukrainian flag or some kind of poster. After the declaration of independence, there was rather an economic wave. And in recent months (the fifth wave), as sociologists say, very politically conscious people have arrived. They did not leave earlier because they did not want to flee Ukraine due to economic reasons but were forced to do so due to security reasons. They will either return to Ukraine, or they will remain and be a very influential political force. Therefore, the UWC and our public organizations in the world need to find ways to engage them. There are many very powerful activists among them. The challenge for us is how best to involve them in effective public life, so that their activism turns into organizational and institutional development of our communities. Because it is one thing to go out to the street with a flash mob and posters, but it is more difficult to enter the corridors of power and influence governments. We must turn this activism into political power, and I am convinced that our communities in the world will be more influential than ever.

– What does the UWC assistance to refugees from Ukraine look like?

– Our communities have been very active in supporting temporarily displaced persons, particularly in Eastern Europe: Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova. I saw this with my own eyes as I was in Poland during the first weeks of the war. I saw how the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Przemysl [Polish city – ed.] helped refugees with accommodation, medicines and documents. Volunteers at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Warsaw showed me a database of 10 thousand refugees who had registered and whom they found accommodation for. Another level is working with governments of different countries to provide refugees with social protection and access to education. Not to any, but to the Ukrainian one. It is important for us that children can return to Ukraine and continue their studies without losing a year. It is important to create conditions for people to continue practicing their faith, so we are working with churches in order to our believers can have access to temples and can use them for the spiritual support of our communities. It is also necessary to help refugees find a place of employment.

Our communities are very active at all levels of people’s protection, solving daily issues, political and social. Communities work as best they can in every country. My wife and kids help in a refugee store in Toronto. Companies donate various clothes, medicines, and detergents there, and refugees can take everything they need for free. And it happens everywhere in the world.

– How do you see the post-war cooperation between Ukraine and world Ukrainians?

– I participated in a conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine in Lugano (Switzerland) at the beginning of June. There were representatives from 50 countries and international organizations. At this forum, the Prime Minister of Ukraine presented a plan for the reconstruction of Ukraine. And in this, I see a lot of opportunities, where the whole world of Ukrainians can join. It won’t happen tomorrow, it’s a process and you have to work on it carefully. We will continue to encourage the authorities to engage experts from the diaspora. Although today there are many examples where Ukrainians from around the world join the development of Ukraine. For example, Horizon Capital, whose chief executive officer is Olena Kosharna, the vice president of UWC, just a few days ago created a $125 million fund that will be used to support Ukrainian companies.

We will not wait to be asked or to open any door. We will come and work. We are ready to work with the authorities, civil society, and Ukrainian businesses because there are opportunities for development in all areas. The authorities of Ukraine are open to cooperation, and I hope that they will become even more open. But we need work with civil society. Civil society, which does not exist in many countries of the former Soviet Union, is a great advantage of Ukraine. It shows our uniqueness. It is thanks to our volunteers and civil society that we were able to protect Ukraine during the invasion in 2014 and can protect it today. Therefore, we will continue to work with them to build the new, innovative, interesting Ukraine that we all aspire to.

Originally posted on Tyzhden. Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website

Avatar photo


An independent media focused on Ukraine.
Follow us on social media:

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!