Video Address by Damon Wilson, President and CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy, at the Kyiv Security Forum (VIDEO, TEXT)
by Damon Wilson,
President and CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy,
at the Kyiv Security Forum
1 December 2021
I am Damon Wilson, President and CEO of National Endowment for Democracy. I am delighted to join all of you at the Kyiv Security Forum this year.
The Endowment is an independent non-profit grand making foundation, supporting freedom around the world. Publicly funded, we are effectively America’s foundation for freedom and democracy. As such, we are proud partners of the Ukrainian people and their aspirations for democracy.
We began supporting Ukrainian civil society in 1988, and Ukraine continues to be among our top five largest programs in the world. And this is because Ukraine today remains on the frontline of freedom. We will not waiver in standing in solidarity with you, the Ukrainian people.
I am honored to be here today that have marked the 30th anniversary of the all- Ukrainian referendum on December 1, 1991. Ukraine’s referendum that manifested the Ukrainian people aspirations to build not only an independent Ukraine, but also a democratic Ukraine. The will of the Ukrainian people to live in an independent state was a critical step to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the communist rule. It created a tectonic shift in the region and transformed the global political landscape.
Today more than ever as Russian troops amass at the border with Ukraine, the country’s democracy, sovereignty, and security are key to counter the threat of aggression. Ukraine’s referendum on independence was a breaking point to the Soviet Union, but also a start of a long journey toward truly independent state.
Three decades later, Ukraine is at the epicenter of a hybrid war. Its democratic achievements and territorial integrity are challenged by the disinformation campaigns, military aggression, and manufactured energy crisis. And Ukraine has demonstrated remarkable determination and its commitment to European future.
Ukrainians choose their leaders at competitive, free and fair elections. They made their voices heard at both the ballot box and on the Maidan by holding their leaders to account. Today supporting Ukraine for European Union and NATO membership is at all time high.
Ukraine’s robust civil society and independent media are key to the country’s resilience. Through our programs in Ukraine we continue to see how civil society activists and independent journalists defend the legacy of those who paved the way for Ukraine’s independence.
Beginning in 1988 the National Endowment for Democracy supported diaspora groups and groups documenting Ukraine’s history, including the Holodomor and crimes against the Crimean Tatars.
After independence the Endowment supported civic initiatives that set the foundations for Ukraine’s vibrant civil society including the Student Brotherhood, the Lion Society, and the Democratic Initiatives Foundation which pioneered the use of the exit polls in Ukraine to counter the falsifications of election results.
They also supported independent media like “Ukrainska Pravda” which to this day continues to play a pivotal role in Ukraine’s democratic processes. Currently the Endowment supports more than seventy active programs.
We work with civil society partners across the country focusing on four priorities for more transparency, accountability, governance; support independent media; strengthening of civic initiatives; and fostering reconciliation to mitigate the consequences of Russian aggression.
As Ukraine marks thirty years of self-determination we stand as partners with you for the next thirty years. That’s why the U.S.-Ukraine Charter on strategic partnership is an enduring bond between our nations.
I had the honor serving at White House National Security Council in 2008 when I helped to craft the first such Charter. We committed to a Chatter to lock in our enduring support with Ukraine, especially given we did not succeed in the beginning of NATO accession process at the Bucharest Summit.
At the time we were already deeply concerned about Vladimir Putin’s intentions as he scoffed openly at the concept of a sovereign Ukraine.
Indeed, you’ll notice two references to Crimea at the 2008 Charter underscoring our concerns about the Kremlin territorial ambitions. We have all learnt painful lessons from underestimating the Kremlin willingness to act outrageously. We cannot do that again.
This year Ukraine and the United States have renewed the Charter on strategic partnership, making it fit for purpose today. A point of continuity among the two documents remains the principles upon which our cooperation is based. And both of the Charters read that those principles are:
First, support for each other sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders constitutes the foundation of our bilateral relations;
Second, a friendship and strategic relationships stem from our fundamental mutual understanding and appreciation for the shared belief that democracy and rule of law are the chief guarantors of security, prosperity and freedom;
Third, cooperation between democracies on defense and security is essential to respond effectively to threats, to peace and stability;
And forth, the strong, independent and democratic Ukraine, capable of defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and promoting regional stability contributes to the security and prosperity not only of the people of Ukraine, but of Europe whole free, democratic and at peace.
These principles underscore that Ukraine’s democracy is essential to Ukraine’s national security. And did you gather in Kyiv as Washington prepares to host a summit for democracy, an initiative underscoring the contest between democracy and autocracy is the central issue of our time.
And for democracy to be triumphant, democrats must unite. Democracies must work together; democrats must stand by each other. Here at the Endowment, we believe it’s time to go on offense in favor of freedom.
Our support for democrats around the world recognizes that those struggling on the frontlines of freedom are the ones who will help to end this democratic recession and unleash a new democratic wave.
Ukraine is central to this struggle. So, democrats around the world must rally to Ukraine’s sides, support Ukrainian freedom, help your democracy fight and defend itself from Russian coercion.
This autocratic kleptocracy that emanates from the Kremlin not only abuses the Russian people, but challenges Russia’s neighbors, so we have a historic mission to stop this democratic recession, to show democracy can deliver for our people, to stand by those fighting for freedom, and to stand up to those trying to stop them.
This is the cause of our time.