Olena Sotnyk is the first Ukrainian woman in the Bureau of Women Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Up till 2022, Olena Sotnyk will be engaged in all issues of gender equality, combating sexual violence, human trafficking, the rights of women, children, equal rights to education, access to health care, environmental issues.

This is extremely important for Ukraine, because this raises the Ukrainian issue in the world to a new level – demining of Donbas, restoration of the local infrastructure. After all, the Russian aggression in the East will definitely have its consequences for Ukraine.

Olena Sotnyk says:

“Unfortunately, at the global level, no one talks about the situation in our state. It is discussed in the EU, by the Americans, but even in the UN, there are very few concrete initiatives in this relation. And in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, besides the European parliamentarians, very few know about the challenges that Ukraine has faced and will face in the future.”

Why is this important?

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is the oldest parliamentary organization in the world. And Ukrainian women have never been here in the governing body.

Unfortunately, up till now, Ukraine has not paid due attention to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It was more viewed as an opportunity for the delegation to go abroad, but no one there worked particularly hard. For all this time, even the speakers of the parliament did not go there. Although it is very prestigious for the heads of parliaments to attend the sessions, after all, this is an important platform for communicating and discussing common topics. Ukraine has never used this platform. Though it should have…

Russia has a powerful influence there. It got to the point that two years ago it was suggested holding one of the regular meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in St. Petersburg.

Olena Sotnyk recalls:

“We were shocked that the delegates who participated in the Inter-Parliamentary Union had not prevented this. There is practice, according to which, if a country has begun military aggression, then it is not allowed holding meetings of such a level there. And here we have Russia lobbying such a meeting in order to bring all the parliamentarians of the world to Russia, to treat them with caviar and vodka…”

It turns out that the then Ukrainian delegation just missed the meeting where this issue was raised. And the delegation, in which Olena Sotnyk participated, had to do at least something at the last moment.

“We quickly formed a permanent delegation headed by Borys Tarasiuk as an experienced diplomat, and it included people working in other international organizations that have experience and have a reputation. In fact, it now includes active young deputies who either work in PACE or OSCE PA. Or they work with influential states.”

Then the new Ukrainian delegation did a historic thing: when the Russian delegation headed by Speaker Valentina Matvienko arrived with a winning presentation about how they would receive everyone in St. Petersburg, our delegation did something that no one had ever done.

“We made the entire assembly re-vote for this decision. I said that Russia was an aggressor, that they had blood on their hands and that no parliamentarians respecting diplomacy and international law could go there,” says Olena Sotnyk.

Unfortunately, at that time the Ukrainian delegation did not have the support of an absolute majority. Yes, we were supported by European countries, Canada, Australia. But the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Third World were for Russia.

The diplomatic battle was lost. Unfortunately, the session in St. Petersburg did take place. The Ukrainian delegation ignored it. But since that time we decided to actively participate in this body and begin to neutralize the influence of Russia abroad.

And so it happened. For the first time, Ukraine initiated the creation of a resolution to be adopted at the next 140th session, and for the first time in the history of Ukraine’s participation, three members of the delegation occupied leading positions in the bodies, and Olena Sotnyk will now be a member of the influential body of female parliamentarians.

Unfortunately, the Inter-Parliamentary Union has no levers to impose sanctions. The only inter-parliamentary organization that has the right to impose sanctions is PACE. This is why our work there is so important. All others can only issue resolutions, recommendations, have a diplomatic influence. But for Ukraine, it is important to convey true information about what is happening here. Russian lobby is not weak. Moscow is trying to show that it is not involved in the situation with the Crimea and Donbas, and many parliamentarians believe this.

Now Ukraine has one platform for initiating certain projects that will be implemented through the UN. This is an issue of parliamentary diplomacy, and Olena Sotnyk once again confirmed that she is a worthy fighter on this front.

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