On 13-19 Jnauary 2020 a delegation from the World Veterans Federtaion visited Ukraine to begin the process of setting up the Veterans Peace Initiative Project country plan in Ukraine.
WVF delegation’s visit to Kyiv, Ukraine 13th – 19th January 2020.
At the invitation of Lifeline Ukraine (https:// lifelineukraine.com/en/) and Euromil (http://euromil. org/), the WVF was invited to present the Veterans Peace Initiative program (VPI) with an extra focus on Health and Welfare. Our mission was to support veterans in Ukraine to arrange the next VPI mission in Ukraine. The delegation from the WVF included the President of the WVF and Mr. Geir Olav Stamnes, appointed as Medical Advisor in the WVF Health and Welfare Division. Mr. Stamnes is a well-known Norwegian medical expert who has participated in three wars for NATO and UN. He is an international expert in the mental analyses and treatment of military personnel before, under and after assignments. He has been part of the team to develop a Military Veterans Reintegration Program as part of the VPI.
Lifeline Ukraine https://lifelineukraine.com/en/ is a 24/7 suicide prevention and emotional first aid support line focusing on veterans. The operational team of Lifeline Ukraine is composed of responders who are themselves veterans or, for instance, psychologists. Some of them are members of WVF member organisations in Ukraine, namely the All Ukrainian Union of War Veterans (VSUV) and the Ukrainian Union of War Veterans of Afghanistan (YCBA). One thing they all have in common is that they are deeply committed to the goals of Lifeline Ukraine, to “be there” for Ukrainian veterans. Mr. Paul Niland, the founder of Lifeline, represented lifeline Ukraine.
The European Organisation of Military Associations and Trade Unions (EUROMIL) http://euromil.org/, is the voice of European soldiers on an international level. Its core mission is to promote the professional and social interests as well as the fundamental rights and freedoms of European soldiers and it has more than 500 000 members. President Emmanuel Jacob represented EUROMIL in Ukraine. EUROMIL is committed to the principle “Citizen in Uniform” and in particular demands:
- equal rights and treatment of soldiers;
- the right of servicemen and -women to form and join trade unions and independent staff associations and that these are included in a regular social dialogue by the authorities;
- inclusion of military personnel into EU social and labour legislation.
EUROMIL requires of governments to lift all existing restrictions rights of soldiers which are not an inevitably and proportionate result from the military assignment.
Military Veterans Reintegration Program
As we know, a significant number of veterans have to deal with unemployment, low self-esteem, mental challenges, suicidal tendencies and low social acceptance due to mental health challenges, disabilities and general mistrust. When this is taken into account, many veterans have special training needs to help themselves cope with their veteran situation. The training is based on the concept of training; “Before, during and after assignments”. Higher educated veterans can play an important role in the integration process. By training veterans who can perform this task, we then can get veterans to meet “on the same stage” for better understanding and for positive results. The program consists of training objectives for effective reintegration of veterans into communities and will address issues related to successful reconciliation, reintegration, health and well-being, especially mental health support and treatment of people with suicidal tendencies.
” High levels of despair exist among veterans who are caught between military and civilian cultures and feel out of touch with family, society and governing authorities. The World Veterans Federation Military Veterans Reintegration Program can reduce this negative effect.” —Medical Advisor, Mr. Geir Olav Stamnes, World Veterans Federation Health and Welfare Division
During their stay, the WVf delegation met with a delegation of the Cabinet of the Minister of Veteran Affairs and the Minister of Defence. The country plan for Ukraine was received with enthusiasm and a way to find the funding and time for the implementation of the plan was discussed. With a team composed of WVF President Dan Viggo Bergtun, the WVF Medical Advisor, Geir Stamnes and EUROMIL President Emmanuel Jacob, as well as Mark Sandman (a US Vietnam veteran and trauma psychologist), two teams of two days each, loaded with presentations, videos, sharing of information and debate, were organised. A meeting was also held with the Chairman of the Rada’s Committee on Social Policy and Protection of Veteran’s, Mr. Anatoliy Ostapenko. The delegations shared their experiences, and the work of the WVF was promoted as well that of WVF members in Ukraine. The WVF offered its support to create the best possible social and living conditions for Ukrainian veterans and their families through our VPI Ukraine Country Plan including the Military Veterans Reintegration Program
It became very clear that being a first responder for Lifeline Ukraine is not just a job for the team members, but it is a collective and a personal mission to achieve for each one of them. It is their conviction that they must support both veterans and others who need a listening ear or are looking for advice, and this whenever needed and wanted. The goal with these sessions was to give a better understanding of what kind of tools have been developed by European and international countries to help veterans overcome the issues of re-adaptation and reintegration to civilian life when their military service has finished. Looking at the experienced partners who joined this training session, there was no doubt that EUROMIL should be one of our companions, to forward their experience on soldiers in missions and to prepare soldiers and relatives for their future veteran status and challenges they can face. The WVF President gave presentations on the WVF and on his experience of the exchange of knowledge in international society. He introduced a template of how to establish a workable Buddy Support System. He also gave a presentation on the VPI and the Military Veterans Reintegration Program and detailed the Ukrainian Country Plan that we are ready to deliver to Ukrainian veterans. A WVF Health and Welfare presentation was delivered and discussed in all sessions and was very welcomed and needed.
Finally Mr. Geir Olav Stamnes gave the following important speech:
“Ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you all for inviting me to beautiful Kiev to share some of my experience working with Veterans since 1997. I am a veteran myself and have three tours, participated in three wars, Desert Storm or the “Gulf War”, Saudi Arabia, UNOSOME Somalia and UNPROFOR Bosnia Herzegovina. I have worked as a professional soldier and a medical officer with the rank of lieutenant in the Telemark Battalion. Telemark Battalion is part of NATO’s Immediate Reaction Force and it is a unit that is on 24/7 stands by alert, ready to be deployed first from Norway in the event of a conflict or war wherever needed by Nato. They have been involved in several tours in Afghanistan. My main focus should and will always be to learn from the history of past wars and conflicts and from the soldiers and veterans who lived and died in these earlier wars. To learn from our earlier mistakes, and not necessarily rely on our own skills alone. The work requires openness, curiosity, humility and respect for the veteran’s service and his or her stamina and perseverance. My lecture will explain how the work has been done in and what impulses and learning we have received from international research and experience. It has been a long walk, and we have learned that is a work that will continue for many years and maybe decades to come.”