What do an artist from Afghanistan and a Ukrainian dancer have in common?  The answer is that both are big fans of Ukraine who are enriching the country's cultural life.

I'm delivering a short speech at an event at the M17 Cultural Centre in Kyiv organised by the International Organisation for Migration on a cold Kyiv night to celebrate the contribution of people of different backgrounds to Ukraine's cultural life.  An exhibition features the paintings of Akbar Khurasani, a refugee from Afghanistan who received a a degree in Art from the National Arts Academy in Ukraine and has become one of the country's best-known artists.  The evening also features the work of Erik Vakiv, a young participant in a televised competition called "Everyone is dancing"; and an exhibition of amateur photographs which were gathered for IOM’s Facebook competition, ‘Citizen of the World’.

The evening is a good occasion to focus on the way in which tolerant societies, which respect diversity underpinned by human rights and democratic values, can be less vulnerable to conflict and can boost national security and prosperity.  Ukraine, a country in which nearly everyone speaks two or more languages including Russian and Ukrainian, should have a head start in embracing equal opportunities.  Guaranteeing respect for and protection of minorities is also a fundamental part of the Copenhagen Criteria as Ukraine moves closer to the EU.  That makes respecting and making the most of diversity in Ukraine everyone’s business – and in everyone’s interest – across the country.   

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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Ukrayinska Dumka


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