In the aftermath of the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, the traditional forecasters will find themselves pondering for some time before they make their next predictions. In the end, 2016 has only added to the uncertainty: trust has declined all over the world, international law no longer seems to work as it should, and military might is once again on the rise. People and states seem disoriented, wanting to protect their identities or to simply not do anything at all, lest things get even worse.
Sometimes we even hear people at a loss and disenchanted. Multilateral platforms and international organizations that should be offering humanity visions of a better future have failed to become more effective. They are incapable of even reforming themselves.
Will we be able to solve any of these problems in 2017? My honest response is No. Is there a chance that we will get closer to resolving them? Yes.
Under these circumstances, I see three key objectives that offer a kind of guidepost for Ukraine in the upcoming year:
1. Keep building a democratic and open society based on the principles of European democracy and respect for human rights.
The fact that we have achieved more progress in the last three years of government reform than for the entire period of independence is only the first step towards this goal. We will not be able to survive in the modern world without proper deregulation, decentralization by transferring the most functions possible to the local level, pension reform, comprehensive reforms to education and healthcare, and radically increased transparency in all processes. I believe that for us to achieve real success, we need less government and more opportunities for individuals. Where the state is absolutely necessary—national security, defense, foreign relations—, it should remain but perform better. The rest should be turned over to the citizenry.
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2. Maintain solidarity with the civilized world and the transatlantic community in order to fend off Russian aggression.
Our diplomatic successes of the last few years would not have been possible without arranging real partnerships, not only with the major democratic countries of the world and international organizations, but also with the Ukrainian community abroad, NGOs, and leading think-tanks.
Just these last months, two exceptionally important decisions went our way in combating the aggressor: a positive result in the vote on a resolution of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly regarding the human rights situation in Crimea, which condemned Russia as an occupying force, and the annual report of the prosecutor in the International Criminal Court, which established that there is an international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
We will continue to find support, but only if we are strong enough ourselves and able to withstand Russia’s hybrid war. Help only comes to those who help themselves.
3. Develop Ukrainian society and business as a global hub between Europe and the Middle East, between the Mediterranean and Asia-Pacific regions.
This is not about Ukraine’s foreign policy priorities or the long-forgotten multi-vectoral concept. I’m talking about the building of a successful, flourishing European Ukraine: a strong state with confident business and free, prosperous citizens. I am confident that this kind of Ukraine, having carried out all the necessary reforms despite the daily battles against Russian aggression, can and will be an integral part of the new world.
In 2017, the world will be defined by three key terms: leadership, populism and human values.
Many surprises are likely in store, some of them not so pleasant. The challenges of migration are likely to become more far-reaching. Demographic processes will lead to a growing inflow of refugees in developed countries. Outbursts of radicalism will lead to new acts of terrorism. Elections in Europe will result in growing populism, the dilution of European values, and stronger centrifugal trends within the EU.
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Ordinary people have lost faith in their elites—or in those whom we tend to call this—, and in their capacity to take us all forward. Referenda and massive anti-government demonstrations are a clear indication that people are no longer willing to accept mechanized, politically correct policies. They want to see, and sometimes to demonstrate, where the real ambitions of their countries lie, their emotions, and their life choices and how they fit in the general political direction of their state and the international community.
Amidst all these trends, threats and challenges, the main thing is not to forget the significance of the individual and the human. If the person stands at the core of a country’s foreign policy strategy or the political platforms of parties, this will change the direction of the negative spiral that us all wound up lately.
In 2017, people will once again elect their leaders. I believe that those politicians who promise to uphold the lifestyle that dominates today will have little or no chance. Henry Kissinger once said that the job of a leader is take people from where they are to where they have not yet gone. I would change that to: “to where they thought they could never go.”
A real leader is that person who can offer a path forward, even if it is not a simple one. I favor moving forward.
Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj