Russian forces littered Ukrainian civilian zones with explosive mines during their Kyiv withdrawal.
Before Russia's major incursion in February, Ukraine was already one of the world's most mine-affected nations. Both sides had planted a variety of mines and traps, endangering civilians. Landmines remain a lasting menace, causing harm even after their primary military purpose has ended.
In 1997, the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts against landmines, leading to the 1997 International Mine Ban Treaty. Ukraine ratified it, but Russia and the U.S. have abstained.
Landmines indiscriminately threaten civilians and military targets alike. Their presence further exacerbates the challenges facing Ukrainians, like food and water shortages. Advocacy and international monitoring, such as by the UN-established Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, are pivotal to tackling the issue and pushing nations to renounce landmine use altogether.
At the recent Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, "transparency" echoed prominently. As the European Union (EU) and other global entities prepare to rebuild Ukraine under the "Building back better" slogan, concerns about potential corruption and fund mishandling arise. Independent media's role in ensuring transparency and accountability is thus vital and demands adequate support.
The World Bank's $411 billion estimate for Ukraine's postwar recovery underscores the stakes, especially given Ukraine's persistently low ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Furthermore, Ukraine's desire for EU integration, supported by 92% of its populace, means that transparency isn't just an aspiration; it's a necessity.
Similar to how the Panama Papers leak spurred global calls for accountability, true transparency can be fortified through vigilant media. For Ukraine, such media vigilance can ensure the correct allocation of resources for reconstruction and shine a light on corruption.
Beyond transparency, access to information is a fundamental right, enabling citizens to hold authorities accountable. A diverse media landscape, representing varied voices from all societal sections, is pivotal in ensuring a holistic democratic process.
For Ukraine to maintain its democratic trajectory, citizens need consistent, accurate information. Media agencies must maintain ethical standards while donors ensure diversity in their media funding.
Supporting independent media is paramount, as they remain the primary informers during the ongoing conflict, often the first to report Russian atrocities. Their survival demands adequate funding and protection, given the current threats and the challenges of financial sustainability. Effective coordination of funds, aligned with international development principles, is critical to harnessing the media's potential in fostering democracy post-conflict.
In my view, reconstruction and democracy can only be realized through an independent media landscape, independent from the government and big business. Global and intergovernmental stakeholders must ensure these outlets receive the support, funding, and protection they need for Ukraine to transition from wartime challenges to a democratic future.
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