Activism: Helping Ukraine

Dr. Ori Swed, Texas Tech University

Published on: April 28, 2022

Photo credit: People fleeing the war in Ukraine stand with their luggage as they wait to board buses near the Polish city of Przemyśl. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

The war in Ukraine disrupted the international order, adding to the strains and uncertainties inflicted by the COVID-19 outbreak. This is the first war in a hundred years that takes place in a breadbasket and that is instigated by Russia, one of the pillars of the international order. It already has and will continue to have dramatic implications on the lives of many. We are still in the process of understanding its broader implications, especially forvulnerable communities in the global south that are more sensitive to rise in food and energy prices.

War is an agent of social change, and often that dramatic social change is far from being positive. Looking at the events beyond the macro level, we see the personal stories of refugees and individuals that lost everything. We see people that are in an unthinkable situation. As scholars that study peace war and social conflict, we understand more than others the complexities and challenges those individuals face. We often explore those events analytically as observers. For those of you who are interested in going beyond and taking a step into activism, in one way or another I would like to introduce to you some options.

First and foremost, the UN, through the UNHCR provides information and a hotline that you can access here. Their webpage provides information that can help Ukrainians on the ground, such as the available IDP programs.

Established nongovernmental organizations, such as Save the Children, Refugee Council USA, The Salvation Army, OXFAM International, The Red Cross, International Medical Corps, CARE, Nova Ukraine, UNICEF, OutRight Action International, Ukraine Take Shelter, World Food Program, and many others offer opportunities to donate, take actions, volunteer, and even help in hosting refugees.

There are also opportunities to help students and scholars that are at risk. Here, we as academics are in a unique situation where we can help scholars by hosting them in our departments and universities. You can ask if your institution is part of the Scholars at Risk or the Open Society University Network initiatives and build on those networks to host or help scholars in different ways. Those networks offer fellowships for scholars who have lost their academic positions or cannot remain in their home countries due to threats or actions from authoritarian regimes, persecution for their views or identities, or other risks. If your university is not part of those networks, you can advocate for your university to join one. Another opportunity is the Scholars Rescue Fund and the Emergency Student Fund which provide funding for hosting institutions.

For more resources and opportunities to help you can go here or here.

Notice that the war in Ukraine, as horrible as it is, is not the only war that takes place today. Most of the same institutions, resources, and opportunities mentioned above are relevant if you want to assist people in other conflict areas.

Ori Swed is an Assistant Professor at the Sociology Department at Texas Tech University. He is also the director of the Peace, War, & Social Conflict Laboratory. Dr. Swed research explores the organizational aspects of violent non-state actors and state actors in the context of peace, war, and security.