Ottawa Model Ukraine 

By Oleksandr Pankiv
The Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary ProgramCUPP interns, alumni, speakers and guests at the Ottawa Model Ukraine Conference. Seated centre-right, CUPP Director Ihor Bardyn (CUPP) alumni planned a series of conferences to create a newer model of Ukraine and its governance.

The conferences brought together academics, diplomats, journalists and politicians as well as CUPP alumni to address areas of culture, economy, education, elections, history, politics and current events in Ukraine. The first Model Ukraine Conference took place at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in February, 2010, and dealt with the issues of human rights, history, culture, law and politics of Ukraine.

The second Model Ukraine Conference “The Politics of Education and Elections in Ukraine” took place at the University of Ottawa on November 12-13, 2010. Speakers from Germany, Portugal, Ukraine, the USA and Canada met to address the issues of education, elections, Ukrainian language and self-identification.

The Ottawa Conference was opened by Dominique Arel, the holder of the Chair of the Ukrainian Studies at the University of Ottawa. Opening remarks were made by HE Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada Ihor Ostash and CUPP Director Ihor Bardyn. HE Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine G. Daniel Caron delivered the keynote address in which he outlined the difficulties in the areas of business and governance in contemporary Ukraine. He also spoke about the future of Canada-Ukraine relations; negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement, the newly announced Youth Mobility Agreement for travel to Canada and vice versa, as well as the recent visit of Prime Minister Harper to Ukraine and his statements concerning democracy, human rights and freedom of speech in Ukraine.     

The first session of the Ottawa Conference dealt with education in Ukraine, and the speakers were Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Prof. Iryna Zaytseva, Dr. Phylisse D. Mitchell from the University of Richmond, who lectured in Ukraine for two years in 2008-2010, and Inna Viriasova from the University of Western Ontario. Iryna Zaytseva reviewed the recent resolutions of the government on education issues and announced that the new law which is in the process of being drafted would grant greater autonomy to the universities in the areas of program planning and appointments. The Deputy Minister also stated that many of the components of the Bologna system of education would be implemented in Ukraine. Iryna Zaytseva held the opinion that regions should have the opportunity to set language priorities implemented by local governments. The Deputy Minister stated: “I want to stress that the State Language [Ukrainian] is under no pressure and the necessity [question] of state language is under no debate in Ukraine.”

Phylisse Mitchell was critical of Ukraine’s authorities for the changes in the educational system which appeared to be reverting back to the practices of the Soviet Union and the failure to implement the Bologna system standards in Ukraine.

CUPP alumnus Inna Viriasova spoke about the incompatibility or non-acceptance of foreign degrees in Ukraine due to bureaucratic policies and the quality of higher education in Ukraine.

In the second session, Roman Tashlitskyy of Ostroh Academy National University in Ukraine was of the opinion that Ukrainian higher education needs serious reforms in order to survive. He was critical of the government’s priorities which focused on spending money on sports facilities ahead of education.

CUPP alumnus Pavlo Shopin of the University of Luhansk spoke on whether Ukrainian universities need autonomy. He reviewed the constituent elements of the concept of autonomy and defined it through dialectical unity with accountability. He concluded by saying that university autonomy is as necessary as democracy in the public sphere for Ukraine.

Ayshe Memetova, a student at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, criticized the admission system at Ukrainian universities. Memetova proposed to combine in the admission process both aptitude and achievement tests, considering personal achievements and interests of the applicants, their motivation to pursue particular degrees, carrier goals, etc. She also stressed that Ukrainian education is in deep crisis and there is an urgent need of reformation of the education system as a whole.

Conference participants discussed the issues of language and identity in Ukraine during the third session. Oksana Tyshchenko-Monastyrska of the Potebnya Institute of Linguistics in Kyiv delivered an address about the Crimean Tatar language as an indicator of the existence of an ethno-cultural group in Ukraine.

CUPP alumnus Andriy Olenyuk of Georgetown University Law Centre characterized the constitutional framework for language policy in Ukraine. Olenyuk stressed that Ukraine’s Constitution provides for one Official State Language in the country, which is Ukrainian.

Maksym Klyuchar, Muskie Fellow at the University of Texas, advocated the implementation of a plurivocal approach to Ukrainian history. Such methodology would train Ukrainian students to think critically, analyze Ukrainian history and reach their own understanding and interpretation of the historical facts and not the one learned from the school books approved by the government. The discussants of the Conference concluded that such an approach (known in Western academia as the "Socratic Method"), where students are taught to think critically and illuminate ideas, should be implemented not only with regard to history, but other academic disciplines and areas.

The fourth session of the Conference dealt with the issues of elections and democracy in Ukraine.

Oleh Protsyk, Senior Research Assistant at the European Centre for Minority Issues, Germany, put Ukraine’s predicament in the context of global problems and came to the conclusion that Ukraine does not need regionalization but rather has every reason to introduce policies towards national integration.

Yaroslavl Kovalchuk, a Ph.D. student at the University of Algarve, analyzed the evolution of the electoral system in Ukraine and concluded that it needs to be reformed to reflect the contemporary situation in Ukraine. Yaryna Kobel of the University of Lviv in her speech addressed the problems of democratic governance in Ukraine in light of European and global principles.

 Jeffrey Kuhner, a columnist at The Washington Times, stood up to Russia and Russian leaders’ attacks on Ukraine and its independence. He stressed that Ukrainians need to protect their identity and the integrity of their country. He quoted Churchill saying that ‘freedom is never free’ and challenged young Ukrainians to choose between the Western/democratic or pro-Russian/autocratic path of development.

The third Model Ukraine Conference is planned for Kyiv in the Fall of 2011. Program Director Ihor Bardyn announced the possibility of holding another conference in the cycle of Model Ukraine Conferences, possibly in Western Europe. In 2011, CUPP Alumni expect to prepare a Model Ukraine proposal based on conferences already held and present it to the Government of Ukraine.

 Oleksandr Pankiv graduated from the University of Lviv with an MA in Law (2009) and Boston University School of Law (2010). He was the Coordinator for 2010 CUPP.




CUPP interns, alumni, speakers and guests at the Ottawa Model Ukraine Conference. Seated centre-right, CUPP Director Ihor Bardyn