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For Our Freedom and Yours! For Our Common Future!

October 26, 2009

Mission statement

The end of the Cold War was one of the most significant events of the contemporary era. The new world order that began to emerge 20 years ago was based on the notion that the will of the people was a factor to be reckoned with and that freedom and democracy and the ideas and values associated with them can change the world.

Changes that started from Ronald Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech and Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost and perestroika resulted in dismantling the “Iron Curtain”. Solidarnosc came to power in Poland, the “Velvet Revolution” took place in Czechoslovakia, and the Berlin Wall came down. Great changes started also in the USSR, with mass demonstrations in big cities, rising democratic and national self-consciousness of the people allover the country. “Sajudis” and the National Fronts in the Baltic countries and Ukraine were formed, deputies started to speak openly during the All-Union Assembly of People Deputies of the USSR in a way that had never happened before. By the end of 1991 the USSR was no more and the Newly Independent States were born. The Baltic States regained their freedom, Ukraine became an independent state ending a period of centuries when Ukrainians were one of the largest nations without state, the Belarusans, Moldovans, Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis and other former captive nations cast off the domination of the Soviet state.

In November 1989, the Polish-Czech-Slovak Solidarity held a conference in Wroclaw that helped to launch the Velvet Revolution. The event was a festival that celebrated the resilience of independent culture in Central Europe and its role in creating the foundation for democracy. The example and help of Polish reformers inspired Czechs and Slovaks to push for changes in their own country. Now this responsibility and task is being passed from Central Europe to Ukraine and beyond.

It is appropriate and symbolic that this conference is taking place in Lviv, which was the leader in democratic change in Ukraine in the late 1980s. Lviv has preserved traditional strong links with the main centers of democracy in Central Europe and remains a good example of such changes for democratic movements in Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia. Lviv is a good meeting place where citizens and activists from all of these countries can gather.

The conference will take place under the slogan “For Our Freedom and Yours”; this motto was the well-known call to solidarity with neighbours across borders twenty years ago. It was proclaimed for the first time in Poland in 1831; demonstrations against the Soviet military invasion of Czechoslovakia and in support of the Prague Spring were held under this slogan in Moscow in 1968. The slogan retains its importance today. The second part of the title of the conference - “For our Common Future” - stresses the best way to build a secure and common future in our part of the world is through mutual help and support among individuals, communities, countries and nations.

The aim of the conference is not only to share the precious memories, gains and achievements of the past twenty years but to anticipate future challenges, build the foundation for further stable common development, and to encourage and inspire the next generation of leaders to follow the democratic way paved by their predecessors. The invited participants from Central Europe, the Baltic States, Belarus, Moldova, the Caucasus States, Russia, and Ukraine, are mostly civic leaders, representatives of analytical centers and NGOs, as well as members of parliament and government officials who are interested in sharing their experience in building democracy, exchanging information and elaborating strategies for further work in this direction.

The conference will include plenary sessions and working groups, whose recommendations will be passed on to the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in Brussels on 16-17 November, 2009. Other events planned along with the conference include a photo exhibition showing the activities of freedom and democracy movements in Central Europe and the USSR which led to the end of the Cold War; a concert featuring some of Ukraine’s renowned rock groups and folk singers who contributed to the pro-democracy movements of the 1990s and around the Orange Revolution; and a reception sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland.

Co-sponsors helping Tovarystvo Leva (Lion Society) in the organization of the conference include: Democratic Initiatives Foundation; Europe XXI; PASOS; EastWest Institute, and National Endowment for Democracy. Other cosponsors include: Fond Vidrodzennia (International Renaissance Foundation); Embassy of the Republic of Poland; Embassy of Lithuania; Polish American Freedom Foundation; National University Lviv Polytechnic; Lviv City Council.


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