The world is watching in dismay as the Putin-led aggression in Ukraine worsens, attacks intensify, and hostilities deepen. At the time of writing, 1.5 million have fled Ukrainian territory, with numbers expected to increase up to 7 million exiled and displaced, and 18 million requiring humanitarian assistance. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has already cost 14,000 lives since 2014 and despite a recent commitment to avoid a nuclear arms race, European citizens are worried about the possibility of the conflict turning into a fully-fledged nuclear war.
We call for immediate intensification of diplomatic efforts, as they are the only way to resolve disputes between states. Leaders should focus on expanding spaces for dialogue, enabling a peace process that is people-centred and ensures meaningful participation of all parties involved. In returning to the negotiating table, leaders should act with a disposition to find the best way out away from the logics of war. A myriad of peacebuilding tools are at their disposal, with some useful approaches and historical lessons found in our report Building Peace Together.
An old African proverb says: when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers; alas, Ukrainians are paying the price of this geopolitical battle. Our leaders have a positive obligation to ensure that civilians do not suffer the consequences of war. We urge that parties comply with international humanitarian law, particularly the principle of distinction between civilian and military objects, while respecting the rights of peace advocates, war resisters and conscientious objectors. All people displaced from Ukraine should be granted protection as long as their safety is not guaranteed, and irrespective of their nationality.