Advancing Democracy in a Time of War
IFES has been steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that Ukrainian democracy re‑emerges from the war as strong and resilient as ever.
In April, IFES President Tony Banbury was one of the first NGO leaders to travel to Ukraine after the invasion.
“The best way of standing with Ukraine is standing in Ukraine.”
On February 24, 2022, Russia began its criminal full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Missiles struck across the country, followed by ground troops and heavy armor. Russia’s invasion killed thousands and displaced millions. It was a brutal assault on the Ukrainian people—but the Ukrainian people inspired the world with their resistance, rallying against the invader’s brutal tactics and greater numbers with inspiring determination and resilience. Russia’s war of aggression continues, and so does Ukraine’s heroic resistance.
In the first days after the invasion, our priority was the safety of our team and partners, and we worked to ensure our staff were out of harm’s way. We quickly reprogrammed work to meet the emerging challenges of the war—for example, our disability and inclusion work with local non-governmental organization (NGO) Fight for Right pivoted to evacuate over a thousand Ukrainians with disabilities and immediate family members.
Winning the peace
IFES maintained a continuous presence in Ukraine from the start of the war. By spring, as Russian forces had been repelled from the Kyiv region, our office in Ukraine’s capital reopened and, with IFES Ukraine leadership based in Kyiv, continued supporting Ukraine’s democracy in the face of regular air raids over the months that followed.
Providing support to institutions
When Ukraine prevails and martial law lifts, Ukraine needs to be prepared to hold inclusive, free, and fair elections. That work must happen now to ensure Ukraine is well-positioned to continue its tradition of democratic elections. IFES is working closely with lawmakers, civil society, and Ukraine’s Central Election Commission to support Ukraine’s preparations to ensure that all Ukrainians—including millions of displaced people—can cast their ballots.
For Ukraine and the world to have faith in their elections, transparency and accountability around political finance are essential. IFES supports the National Agency on Corruption Prevention’s mission to monitor money in elections and ensure public sector integrity.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought an increase in cyber-attacks. IFES provides cybersecurity and operational assistance to key government bodies to safeguard the nation’s electoral infrastructure and to ensure continuity of governance even through war.
These efforts will be key to realizing Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions and maintaining international support for critical economic, humanitarian, and military assistance through and after the war.
Deepening civic and democratic knowledge
Well-informed and engaged citizens are essential for a thriving democracy. IFES has focused on civic education in Ukraine since 2018, reaching over 12,000 young Ukrainians. Since the invasion, IFES has continued its partnership with Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and 60 universities and colleges nationwide that offer IFES’s civic education course, “Democracy: From Theory to Practice.”
IFES provided support to educators and students on educational resilience through war. Thousands of students deepened their knowledge of democracy and citizenship skills in shelters and through air raid sirens over the past year.
Ukraine’s recovery promises to demonstrate democracy’s resilience to the world. IFES stands with Ukraine in its journey to not only prevail in the face of this war, but also in its determination to win the peace and the future by advancing Ukraine’s democracy.