IFES President Visits Ukraine to Show Solidarity with Staff and Partners, Plan for the Future

A blue and yellow sign reading "Ukraine" in Ukrainian and in English

On March 26, 2022, IFES President and CEO Tony Banbury and Senior Country Director for Ukraine Peter Erben crossed the Polish border into Ukraine to meet with IFES staff who had relocated from Kyiv to western Ukraine. They also met with IFES partners in Ukraine, including members of the Central Election Commission and representatives of civil society organizations. Despite the Russian Federation’s invasion, IFES continues to support Ukraine’s democratic institutions and organizations.

“I am moved by the determination of my colleagues to continue IFES’ work in the face of the most grievous challenges, and to continue the fight for democracy in Ukraine,” Banbury said. “Each of our colleagues has a story, and each had been forced to make difficult decisions, but their spirit and commitment are undaunted.”

While western Ukraine has braced itself for war, it has been spared the worst of the violence. Banbury joined Ukrainian staff there in assessing the ongoing work and planning for the future. More important than ever, IFES Ukraine continues its mission.

IFES’ ongoing support in Ukraine includes the continuation of a civic education course, Democracy, from Theory to Practice, at nearly 40 Ukrainian universities. IFES is also providing comprehensive assistance to state institutions, which are key pillars of Ukrainian democracy, and to civil society partners.

“We are proud that our partners insist on continuing their work," Erben said. "We are doing our utmost to support Ukraine’s students, persons with disabilities, internally displaced people and democratic institutions.”

Most of the 46 IFES Ukraine staff based in Kyiv have sought refuge in western Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe; some remain in Kyiv. One IFES colleague joined the territorial forces under arms, while several others have volunteered to support the defense of Ukraine. All IFES Ukraine staff are safe and the majority continue the critical work of supporting Ukrainian democracy.

One IFES Ukraine staff member reflected that the "visit of Tony and Peter to western Ukraine to see our colleagues was a demonstration of firm commitment and support not only towards our Ukrainian colleagues and partners but also towards Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty.”

After the trip to Ukraine, Banbury and Erben were joined by IFES’ newly appointed Europe and Eurasia Director Anya Cumberland in Rzeszow, Poland, where the IFES team met with key stakeholders, including the Canadian and Danish Ambassadors to Ukraine and the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires. They also met with a member of the IFES Ukraine team who had taken refuge in Poland.

Banbury’s visit underlined the priority that IFES gives to supporting its staff around the world. “It was an honor to be side-by-side with some of our Ukrainian colleagues. For me, staff at IFES will always be the number one priority,” he said.

IFES thanks our partners, the United States Agency for International Development and Department of State, Global Affairs Canada and UK Aid, for their steadfast support to peace and democratic progress in Ukraine.

Published on April 19, 2022.

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