Ten things the U.S. should do to help Ukraine’s civil society
Within hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many local human rights defenders responded to the crisis, adjusting their work methods and refocusing their efforts. Some became humanitarian workers and provided vital medical supplies, started documenting violations under Russian occupation, or recorded attacks on civilians and other war crimes.
Since 2014, Human Rights First has been working closely with human rights defenders in Ukraine, amplifying their requests to the United States government and to U.S. civil society for support in the fight for human rights. We have conducted regular in-country research in Ukraine over the last nine years, produced reports, briefings, and op-eds, and advocated publicly in the U.S. Congress to support Ukrainian civil society on issues including anti-corruption, LGBTQ+ rights, and anti-semitism. We have also worked with local and international partners to advocate for targeted U.S. sanctions against corrupt or abusive actors in Ukraine, including Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, and in Russia.
Drawing on long-established relations with local civil society, Human Rights First visited Ukraine five times beginning in March 2022. In 2022 and 2023, we reported from Ukrainian cities under Russian attack and worked with local human rights activists. We heard from them about their new realities and difficulties, and what they now want from the U.S. government and U.S. civil society.
This briefing reflects those conversations and that research, and it is summarized in 10 specific recommendations produced in consultation with Ukrainian civil society and local human rights activists.