In the face of the fading hope for political resolution of the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, international community invests substantial resources into grassroots dialogue and mediation initiatives of civil society at track III – ‘people-to-people’ diplomacy. This research project is aimed to assess major trends and efficiency of these bottom-up efforts which are analyzed through conflict analysis within wider societal context and in connection with the Minsk peace negotiations.
The research conclusions derive from empirical study consisting of 5 focus-groups and 57 in-depths interviews which were conducted in Ukraine in 2016-2017. Based on these findings, we suggest that conflict transformation strategies currently evident in Ukraine are upside-down – they precede political resolution of the conflict, in many occasions tend to substitute it and become detached from the conflict resolution goal. If completely detached from the conflict, dialogue and mediation at track III may be captured by differing political agendas and become counter-productive for peace in the long run. In particular, this research has identified three trends that support this conclusion – the tendency of many dialogue and mediation initiatives at track III to avoid "existential" or identity-related issues and to focus on technical problems; subsequent exclusion of the "other" Ukrainians (IDPs, people from the territories non-controlled by the government, Ukrainians with anti-European political views, etc.) from such technical dialogues; and secrecy of those few peacebuilding initiatives and "existential" dialogues. By these trends, grassroots dialogue and mediation in Ukraine mimic and reinforce similar negative features of the track I Minsk political negotiations rather than positively influence them.