For the Sake of Our Common Future:

On the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine

July 16th marks thirty years since the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. Having received from our parents 52 million people and one of the most industrialized and educated countries in Europe, it is time to draw some conclusions about the type of state that we Ukrainians have built. The country has already passed a significant milestone, having withstood tests of its independence, autonomy, state and civic maturity. The very fact that an independent Ukrainian state has existed for three decades is a historic achievement. Ukrainians have proved that they can fight for their country and seize the opportunity to build a flourishing and prosperous future.

But we must honestly face the truth that today Ukraine is on the brink. Instead of territorial integrity, Crimea has been illegally annexed by Russia, and Donbass desecrated by a hybrid war. Instead of economic independence, we have complete economic collapse, panhandling, and the disgraceful reality of being the poorest country in Europe. Instead of a tolerant society of sustainable and inclusive development, we have the dominance of aggressive radicalism. Instead of a safe country, we have rampant crime, corruption, and lawlessness. Instead of the principles of foreign and security policy proclaimed in the Declaration, we are as a foreign policy deadend, with no real allies, and in danger of being completely marginalized in the international arena.

Last year hopes for peace, a belief in own strength, and the desire for change and renewal united nearly the whole country. In the presidential election, three-quarters of Ukrainians voted for a new vision of a common future.

Alas, in the year since the election the public's desire for peace has not led to an end of the war. People are still dying in Donbass, the restoration of sovereignty is still far off on the horizon, and work on the return of annexed Crimea has not even begun.

Meanwhile, the "party of war" is becoming more and more aggressive, blackmailing society with radical actions, corrupt media, primitive interpretations, and pseudo-intellectual prophecies. Attempts to have a public discussion of common vision for the country's future, one that could resolve the conflict in Donbas and restore Crimea, are met with aggressive rejection, reinforcing the antipodes, the conservative "party of revenge." It seems that some would like to see Ukraine's traditional tolerance, multilingualism and multiculturalism replaced by political selfishness, radicalism and neo-militarism.

Now a harsh and multidimensional global crisis is exacerbating our internal problems. Ukraine faces this new challenge exhausted, bloodless, and in a state of internal strife and frustration. The lack of the rule of law, disregard for legality, the widespread perception that power is a means for conducting one's private business affairs, and a general lack of knowledge and responsibility, have weakened Ukraine's institutions and are leading to the country becoming a 21st century failed state, a security "gray zone" in the center of Europe.

The socio-political model of recent years has turned us into a backward periphery, risking anarchy and chieftaincy [otamanshchina]. This economic model has not overcome oligarchic monopolies and is based solely on agriculture, foreign remissions, and extracting the last remaining profits from the remnants of Soviet infrastructure. It is a path to poverty and destitution. Our foreign policy model, based on the concepts and paradigms of twenty years ago, does not correspond to modern geopolitical realities, and can not provide the key interests and needs of Ukrainian society: security and prosperity.

We must not allow ourselves to be described in future history textbooks as the generation that allowed the New Ruin [In Ukrainian history "The Ruin" refers to the latter half of the 17th century, a period characterized by domestic strife and foreign intervention], with its complete loss of confidence, destruction of a once powerful industrial base, internal division, and another loss of statehood and independence.

A year ago, Ukraine was given a unique chance for a fresh start. But without a new and well-formulated ideology of modernization, Ukraino-centrism, and social solidarity, this chance could be wasted
 

The only path forward for the country is to consolidate and overcome internal strife. A nationwide, inclusive dialogue is needed to define a future for Ukraine that is comfortable for all. Instead of being yanked back and forth between the past and the unknown, we need an integrated state policy of national consensus,

The vision of Ukraine's future development should be based, as it was thirty years ago, on the Declaration of State Sovereignty, and the principles that derive from the spirit and letter of this document.
 

1. Independence through common values and interests.

The highest common value is statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity within the borders of 1991. It is from this, and not from the constantly shifting domestic or foreign policy orientations, that all state policy should be derived. Foreign and domestic policy goals and objectives should be subordinated to national interests, not the other way around. We must rely only on our own sovereign state, the values and interests of Ukrainian society, and the collective intellect and centuries-old traditions of peaceful coexistence.

2. Conciliarity through understanding.
Our diverse history, languages, religions, and cultures are not dividing lines, but a civilizational advantage, a resource for mutual enrichment and modernization. The history of Ukraine is both heroic and tragic. It is a past we should not be ashamed of, and of which there are many reasons to be proud. There is enough room in Ukrainian history for both the Ukrainian People's Republic [1917-1921] and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic [1922-1991]. We should accept all the diversity of our history, as well as all the diversity of our present. Those who have not built anything have no moral right to demolish monuments of the past. It is not necessary to tear out first this then that page of Ukrainian history to accommodate the current political context. All cultures and languages should have a worthy place, respect and development. Any dicta or pressure put on language or religion is unacceptable, and any decisions at the state, regional or community level on education or culture should be based on dialogue and mutual respect. Minorities must be protected, and any attempt to suppress their rights should be punished. We need an inclusive model of development, a Constitutionally enshrined guarantee of individual and collective rights that no one can restrict.

3. Wealth through modernization and a modern innovation economy.

We need state-based strategic planning for the recovery of our own economy. Only the Ukrainian government can mobilize the public resources to build new industries, industries, jobs and decent wages. Sweet talk of the magical hand of the market, along with corruption, oligarchic monopolies, and a weak state, have bankrupted the economy, killed production, and turned scientists, engineers, doctors, and teachers into strawberry pickers for neighboring countries. Ukraine owes nothing to anyone but its own citizens. And, if tough steps are needed to curb the harmful import or export of national assets, the authorities must enact them without hesitation. The government is obliged to take care of its own citizens who need jobs and favorable conditions for running their own business, not to rejoice in and contribute to the success of other people's economies. Now, in the face of a severe global crisis, is the time to implement large scale national projects, to create powerful vertically integrated national companies, and in construction. We need a well qualified and professional government of national trust, with a mandate of legitimacy from all of society. The main task of government should be to promote economic development, to provide the necessary conditions for the timely technological renovation of the economy, and give it the capacity to achieve "national breakthroughs".

4. Statehood through honesty and justice.

The civil service, the judiciary, and the police should be fully digitalized. There should be real decentralization and regionalization, and election and rotation of officials. The police, the prosecutor's office, and the courts must cease to be the private business of those in power and a symbol of the state stolen from its citizens. It is necessary to finally put an end to smuggling, to the official protection of illegal mining of amber and other natural resources, to the operation of underground casinos, to police and prosecutorial inefficiency, and to "telephone law" [direct political interference in court decisions]. The state must regain its monopoly on the use of force, curb the gangs that sow chaos and lawlessness under various guises. State institutions need to get closer to the people. Regions like Lviv, Odessa, Kharkiv, and Dnipro have long been ready to become parliamentary, judicial, or ministerial centers.

5. The welfare state through a progressive model of development.

High social standards, overcoming poverty, and social investment in human capital, are possible only through the accelerated development of education, science, technology, health, and culture. Funds for such a model can be generated by de-oligarchizing the economy and overcoming its "shadow" component, along with a ruthless fight against corruption, and the legalization of national capital. De-oligarchization is possible through de-monopolization, if the state choses to effectively enforce antitrust laws, rather than protect private rents and monopolies. This would ensure the fair distribution of national wealth. Taxation should be fair and encourage capital to enter Ukraine, not flee abroad.

6. Peace through reintegration.

Donbass and Crimea are integral components of Ukraine, not "Lugandonia," not "Mordor". These are constitutionally Ukrainian territories, and the citizens of Ukraine who live there are not enemies, but hostages of bankrupt politicians and a weak state. We must fight every day for the return of these people and territories through reintegration and peacebuilding. All domestic and foreign policy initiatives should be subordinated to this goal. Hate speech, inferiority complexes, post-conflict traumas must not overcome common sense. "Ultimatums" and artificial "red lines" will only lead to the loss of our territorial integrity, to the further disintegration and marginalization of our country. Ukraine will be able to restore its integrity within the borders of 1991 only with a proactive, proactive and pragmatic peacekeeping policy that affirms a new "Ukrainian world"--a single national space of economic, legal, cultural and social standards.

7. A new Ukraine-centric foreign policy

must protect its own citizens and its own political and economic interests. We need a foreign policy that meets the challenges of the XXI century, with clear constants: the national interest, the protection of Ukrainian citizens and the interests of the Ukrainian economy, the security of Ukraine's borders. Everything else must serve these constants. Ukraine needs arrangements that make its economy stronger, rather than turning it into a landfill and a source of raw materials. The Ukrainian state should not be a litter for some, a bargaining chip for others, and a battlefield for all. We must rely only on ourselves, on Ukraine's diplomats and army, on the Ukrainian people and civil society. Ukraine's European identity is not one of aggression and conflict, inside and outside, but rather a strong economy of wealthy citizens, and a state that is capable of defending itself, as well as reaching agreements and keeping them.

These principles require an inclusive national dialogue, national reconciliation and solidarity. We need a victory that does not lead to someone else's defeat. We need a future where everyone has a place - not just the chosen or the most belligerent. Only a new vision that is great, prosperous, tolerant and attractive will suit a sovereign Ukrainian state
 

The Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine was a historical milestone that laid the foundation of Ukrainian statehood. Therefore, on this day of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration we launch this "July 16 Initiative", and call for a nationwide inclusive dialogue, and joint action for a successful Ukrainian future.

1. Ruslan Bortnik, Director of the Ukrainian Institute of Politics

2. Andriy Yermolaev, philosopher, head of the Sofia Strategic Group

3. Tigran Martirosyan, journalist, media manager

4. Oleksiy Semeniy, Director of the Institute of Global Transformations

5. Vasyl Filipchuk, Ukrainian diplomat, senior adviser at the International Center for Policy Studies

6. Alexander Chaly, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Member of the OSCE Group of Sages

7. Nina Matvienko, People's Artist of Ukraine, winner of the State Prize of the USSR. Shevchenko, Hero of Ukraine 8. Mykola Kapitonenko, Candidate of Political Science, Researcher of Security and Settlement of International Conflicts

9. Maryna Stavniychuk, Member of the European Commission "For Democracy through Law" from Ukraine 2009-2013, Chairman of the Board of the Public Association "For Democracy through Law"

10. Yuriy Dumansky, Lieutenant General, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (2012-2014)

11. Andriy Honcharuk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Minister of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade (1999-2000)

12. Victor Savinov, Director of the International Institute of Political Philosophy

13. Alexander Reshmedilov, political scientist, candidate of philosophical sciences

14. Andriy Honcharuk, diplomat, Chinese scholar

15. Victor Skarshevsky, economist

16. Anatoliy Peshko, academician and first vice-president of the Academy of Economic Sciences of Ukraine

17. Enrique Menendez, head of the Donbass Institute for Regional Policy
 

Anyone who shares the above ideas and is willing to join the signatories can send a request to: initiative16.07@gmail.com, or join the page "Initiatives July 16" on FB - @ 16JulyInitiative