Numerous European institutions have recently voiced their anxiety about the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine. Indeed, there are reasons to worry. And although Ukraine is not the only country facing such challenges, the Ukrainian variety of the problem is quite unique, a point which The Day has made more than once — our problem is very subtle.
One famous philosopher has a curious and not very popular definition of culture, which he sees as a “fine apple skin above the scorched chaos.” Freedom of speech probably hovers above the scorched chaos somewhere next to culture. Even in the most advanced democracies, it is always at the risk of burning to ashes.
Thus, as Europe urges the Ukrainian government to influence the situation, is it aware of the peculiarities of freedom of speech in Ukraine? Can it feel the heat of our chaos? Can European know-how be truly helpful for us? And can we make a good use of this know-how?
These issues are going to be discussed in Kyiv on December 2: the Foundation for Effective Governance has invited renowned European and other politicians, public figures, and media experts to take part in a debate about freedom of speech. This is actually the name of the conference (“What Is Freedom of Speech?”), whose participants will include Joe Lockhart, press secretary for Bill Clinton, Cesar Gaviria, ex-president of Columbia in 1990-94, Ann Cahill, vice president, International Press Association, Brussels, Piotr Stasinski, deputy editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Vladimir Pozner, journalist and TV anchor, and Anar Mamedkhanov, MP, ex-chairman of day.az media holding, Azerbaijan. The conference will be moderated by Sir Christopher Meyer, ex-chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, former ambassador of Great Britain to the US and Germany.
Among the chief speakers at the conference will be Kim Campbell, the former Canadian prime minister, head of the International Advisory Board of the Foundation for Effective Governance. The Day was able to get an appointment with Ms Campbell in Geneva.
While freedom of speech was naturally the main topic of our conversation on the eve of the conference, her competence and expertise considerably expanded the frames of this discussion.
In order to thank Ms Campbell for a very interesting conversation and help her better understand Ukraine, we presented her with The Day’s photo album and a collection of sketches by Anatolii Kazansky.
We offer our readers the exclusive interview with Kim CAMPBELL, in which she shared her ideas about protecting freedom of speech from the burning hot chaos, and explained why the Foundation for Effective Governance, which specializes in economic strategy development, has initiated a discussion on freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is indeed of critical importance, however, the themes which are usually put forward for discussion by the Foundation for Effective Governance, are in some way or another related to economic reforms. And here, all of a sudden, we have freedom of speech. Why? What connection can you see between economic reforms and freedom in general?
“As a rule, a free society is usually more successful economically than ones which are constantly oppressed. As soon as China liberalized its society, economic growth followed.
“I am one of those people who are convinced that real innovations and the improvement of a nation’s well-being are impossible without liberty. And even in the Soviet Union there were special places, cities where scientists and others lived, that had more rights and internal freedom than the rest. The regime only tolerated this situation because what these scientists were doing was so important for the country’s government.
“Besides, both the level of freedom as a whole, and that of freedom of speech in particular are a sort of indicator. When prospective investors, ready to bring money to a country, analyze the situation and see that journalists get killed in this country, they stop to think if it is really worthwile investing in this economy, if the country is good to start a new business in, and produce new ideas and new technologies there. They may even question if they want to go there on holiday. So even the mere sense of safety matters. That is, freedom of speech has a lot to do with the economy, with how people perceive the attractiveness of a country.”
Ukraine still remains a kind of terra incognita for Europe. Once you said a very important thing: that Ukraine is a crucial country for international stability, and “the destiny of this region depends on Ukraine’s success. Moreover, the success of Ukraine is pivotal for global stability.” How can we spread this knowledge about Ukraine in Europe and the world?
“I think that the government of Ukraine should seriously look at its diplomatic efforts, not just their formal diplomacy, but the informal one as well, and adduce more information. As you already know, one of the things the Foundation for Effective Governance is involved with organizing public debates and other events (like discussion forums) on an international level, in order to discuss critical issues and the challenges Ukraine is facing today.
“Such conferences have already taken place in Washington, DC, New York City, and Moscow. Next in line is London, where together with The Economist magazine we are going to discuss Ukraine’s attractiveness for investors. Trying to bring Ukraine in the international limelight, we are promoting people’s understanding of Ukrainian processes and the challenges this country is facing. We provide the world with a more intense and comprehensive knowledge of Ukraine.
“Living by stereotypes is easy. However, Ukraine is a large and very interesting country, with wonderful economic opportunities, rich in natural and human resources. I think the only way you can break it down is to go out in a sort of diplomatic effort, a real campaign, and to take up every opportunity possible to explain that yes, Ukraine does have problems, but it also has extraordinary potential.
“While working to organize that conference in London, I met one of the businessmen investing in Ukraine. He told me, ‘You know, it’s no easy matter, investing in Ukraine. You come across a lot of challenges, but I would never discourage other entrepreneurs from going to Ukraine.’ It is a very interesting summary. Today, Ukraine has lots of problems, yet the people who go there come home moved, they feel the country’s potential. Yes, businesses should be careful there, but they shouldn’t be afraid of Ukraine, or turn away from it.
“Ukraine is a strategic and very important country. I think that the success of Ukraine will have a huge ripple effect not only in Russia, but also in Central Asia. But I also think that Ukraine is a wonderful partner for Europe. Yet clearly, your task now is to raise your standards.”
Yes, but now it looks as if Europe isn’t ready to accept Ukraine, standards or no standards... Why is it so?
“First of all I think it is because Europe suffers from the expansion of the EU. Ukraine, unlike other former Warsaw Pact countries that are now in the EU, had a much longer history of Soviet rule. So in Ukraine there are no generations who remember a previous time. And to form something new is a long and complicated process.
“It has only been 20 years since you started to build a new country. Yes, people have not learned to unite over this time, your political culture is almost non-existent, and personalities still tend to replace party ideology. On the other hand, it is very difficult to overcome the inertia after seven decades of building a totally different society with a totally different ideology.
“Nevertheless, at the regional level very significant positive transfromations are taking place. Slowly but steadily, Ukraine advances. But it’s a great chance. Democracy is a blunt instrument, not a precision tool, it does not produce changes overnight. It needs a culture to support it.
“It would be wrong to maintain that Europe has disengaged itself from Ukraine, but I think Ukraine also has to show interest in Europe. Overall, Ukraine has a very convenient position, and it can have the best of both worlds. Rich Russian tourists coming to the Crimea, and free trade relations with the European Union, why not?
“Those outside Ukraine who watch its development, must help it, and share their know-how. This is the goal of the efforts made by the members of the International Advisory Board. This is actually what the Foundation for Effective Governannce was created for.”
By the way, when you agreed to lead the International Advisory Board at the Foundation, didn’t you have any concerns as to the Foundation not being completely independent? Everyone knows it was founded by Rinat Akhmetov...
“The International Advisory Board was founded three years ago. Back then we, its potential participants, doubted how feasible it is for a man, who allocated big money for creating and supporting the Foundation, not to want to advertize his name wherever possible in connection with the organization, or not to attribute all of the Foundation’s achievements to himself. Some remarked that such philanthropy had not hitherto been typical of this region...
“However, it turned out that this model worked well. The International Advisory Board is made up of people of authority, and it can guarantee the independence of the Foundation. It is a wonderful model, an example for other wealthy Ukrainians. They should be urged to set up independent organizations that would work for the public good, and not only for their own interests.
“I think that the enthusiasm of the board’s members is due to the fact that we see before us an important country with great potential, as well as a wonderful institution — the Foundation, which can do its work effectively, and we can support it protecting its independence and sharing what we know and who we know, and tell the world about those projects and programs we have launched, and be advocates for both the Foundation and Ukraine. Of course, given the size of the country, our contribution can seem quite insignificant, but we consider it extremely important. That is why we are here, we care, and we feel that we all have a role in this great cause.”
The Day expresses gratitude to the Foundation for Effective Governance for assisting in organization of the interview with Kim Campbell