In 2019, ABA ROLI launched the five-year, Promoting Internet Freedom in Ukraine program, which seeks to strengthen the knowledge and capacity of cross-sector Internet freedom (IF) champions to advocate for laws and policies that promote IF and online freedom of expression (FOE). The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). To achieve the program’s goals, ABA ROLI partners with local and international civil society organizations (CSOs), experts, businesses, members of Parliament, and government agencies to organize expert symposia and conferences to share best practices that support IF through sound policy. We are also providing technical assistance and financial support to local CSOs—selected through a competitive application process—to advance IF and FOE in Ukraine, and to promote the independence of Ukrainian CSOs in their advocacy efforts. In addition, we train civic activists, lawyers, and other local leaders on international best practices in IF, online freedom of expression, and the countering of disinformation. We are also helping the Ministry of Digital Transformation to align legislation on digital rights and freedoms, cybersecurity, and e-commerce more closely with norms and standards accepted by the European Union and Council of Europe.
In 2020, ABA ROLI launched a separate program designed to increase national unity, promote civic identity, and foster informed and constructive dialogue on issues central to the country’s European future. The three-year, Promoting Social Cohesion in Ukraine Program—known as Pro-SoCo—is also funded by DRL. We are focused on increasing social cohesion in Ukraine. Social cohesion is defined as tolerance for differences across groups and their unity around democratic principles and reforms. We seek to unite diverse Ukrainian champions from different regions around shared challenges and national values while aiding them to jointly advocate for key policy reforms. As such, ABA ROLI is working towards greater tolerance of differences and inclusiveness towards vulnerable groups such as ethnic and national minorities, internally displaced persons, and LGBTQI individuals. For example, the program works to bolster the skills of teachers and youth leaders to help prevent discrimination, strengthen tolerance, and promote social cohesion among children—particularly in communities hosting large numbers of persons displaced by conflict.