Ukraine’s Future – Civil Society Groups Are Key

Author :

Jason Blazakis

Jason Blazakis is a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) where he focuses on threat financing, sanctions, violent extremism, and special operations related research. He is also the Director of MIIS’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism where he directs research on domestic terrorism, terrorism finance, recruitment, propaganda, and the use of special operations to counter transnational threats. CTEC provides expert guidance to and reports on the nature of far-right and far-left wing extremism to world-leading Silicon Valley companies as they fend off extremist efforts to abuse their platforms. From 2008-2018, he served as the Director of the Counterterrorism Finance and Designations Office, Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State. In his former role, Jason was responsible for directing efforts to designate countries, organizations, and individuals as terrorists, also known as State Sponsors of Terrorism, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and Specially Designated Global Terrorists. From 2004-2008, Jason previously held positions in the Department of State’s Political-Military Affairs, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Intelligence and Research Bureaus, and at U.S. Embassy Kabul. Prior to working at the Department of State, Jason served as a domestic intelligence analyst at the Congressional Research Service. In addition, he was the national security adviser to a United States Congressional Representative. He also has worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Administration. Jason is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Soufan Center and a Senior Advisor at the Soufan Group. Jason is also on the editorial advisory board for the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, and also a board member at the Accelerationism Research Consortium. He has published articles in Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time Magazine, Foreign Affairs, The Hill, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lawfare and many other publications. He regularly is quoted by the media (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reuters, ABC, CBS, NBC, amongst others) on a wide range of terrorism and sanctions related matters. He is also writing a book on counterterrorism financing for Cambridge University Press. He holds degrees from the University of Mississippi, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaken the international community to its core. The upsetting of the international balance – namely the use of force to violate the sovereignty of another country – has had profound impact on peace and stability. The wanton killing of innocent civilians, the desperate flight of refugees, the economic chaos, and the threat of WWIII has created the worst security situation in recent memory.

For those charged with providing security and development assistance, the time is now to step up and provide your expertise to those in need. The international community in particular needs civilian voices to close gaps that exist because of the intense distrust amongst nation states. For instance, international bodies designed to promote international peace and stability, such as the United Nations, are unable to use their full power. The Russian Federation’s ability to halt measures by veto because it is a Permanent member of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has slowed the pace of multilateral engagements. Civil society organizations do not have to gain UNSC approval or that of the Russian Federation to help those in need. Of course, doing so in Ukraine comes with great risk. Although despite the great risks there are thousands of individuals within development and civil society organizations risking their lives to help. Even more are dedicating their time and resources to countries on the periphery of the conflict, countries in Eastern Europe and Northern Europe which have borne the brunt of the refugee flow from Ukraine. If you have the capability, skills, and economic wherewithal, I hope that you will lend your expertise to those in need.

While there seems little hope of a peaceful resolution today of the conflict in Ukraine and the chance of a prolonged insurgency seems high, there will be a time when peace prevails. At that time, development and security experts will need to coalesce to rebuild Ukraine. Ukraine has been ravaged by bullets, missiles, and bombs. The scars from the conflict will run deep. There will be much to rebuild – schools, critical infrastructure, and people. It will be a decades long rebuild, but every civil society organization dedicated to development must heed the call to build back up Ukraine. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary work. Society’s future requires it.

It is the kind of work that the Global Best Practice Group (GBPG) has been doing across continents. Building communities, strengthening institutions, and enhancing economic opportunities will be the lynchpin to success in Ukraine. It will take a whole-of-society approach and civil society will need help and support of governments to make that happen. My hope is that after the conflict in Ukraine that civil society will be given the chance to create a new Ukraine – one with a better future.

Creating a better future is why I got into the security field – spending much of my professional life in government, academia, and the private sector. It is also why I’ve joined GBPG’s international advisory board. GBPG is dedicated to making the world a better place. While I pursue my own work, I will have Ukraine in my mind. It will shape how I think about peace, security, and development. I know that the same objectives are core to GBPG and to many of you reading this blog that are in the development community. And, for any of you already in Ukraine or in Eastern Europe right now, thank you. Thank you for making the world a better place. These are dark times but, in your work, you create daylight where none existed before. Together, let’s ensure that the daylight isn’t extinguished by the madness that is omnipresent today.

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