The International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) has been named the winner of the 2015 CEU Open Society Prize in recognition of its contribution to efforts toward the creation of an open society in Ukraine. Created in 1994, the award was first given to Sir Karl Popper, the eminent philosopher and distinguished proponent of the concept of open society. In subsequent years the award was given to Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz, Ricardo Lagos, Carla Del Ponte, Kofi Annan, Richard C. Holbrooke and Kristalina Georgieva, among others.
"This award comes at a pivotal moment for Ukraine,” said IRF Executive Director, Yevhen Bystrytsky. “A new quality of civil society has been born. We are proud to have being working for it for 25 years. Now we experience a historical peak of the foundation's support for the civil society in its strife for advocating and implementing radical but necessary reforms. Since the Maidan, IRF has assisted in developing vision and specific reform policies, based on open society values. Today our strategic priority is to enable Ukrainians' participation in making reforms happen.”
The mission of the Renaissance Foundation is to foster an open, participatory, pluralist society based on democratic values in Ukraine. The foundation works with leading Ukrainian NGOs to engage them in developing a shared public policy agenda for the country, catalyzing initiatives that seek to address corruption and prevent backsliding from democratic reforms. To name one of its many achievements, IRF’s efforts to reduce corruption in higher education have resulted in the institutionalization of anti-corruption mechanisms in university admissions testing.
“We consider winning the 2015 CEU Open Society Prize as a recognition of the enormous efforts undertaken by the whole of Ukrainian society to defend democratic values,” said IRF Chairman of the Board Oleksandr Sushko. “There is a civil society which currently pays a key role to push real reforms ahead, to complete transformation of the country, even if the government is not fully capable to be consistent. This fight is not over yet and we hope to be a part of that dramatic endeavor to push ahead the phenomena which George Soros has called a 'New Ukraine,' based on strong determination of the people to build its future on the basis of open society values."
The Foundation also supports projects and groups that advance the rights of vulnerable populations, improve public health, and confront discrimination. To support citizen’s access to justice, the foundation develops and promotes free legal aid systems across Ukraine.
“As the world has witnessed since tens of thousands of Ukrainians risked their lives, pouring onto the Maidan in late 2013 demanding an end to corruption and insisting on real participation in their government, Ukrainians and other Russian neighbors are seeking to control their own destiny and resist Russia’s sway,” said CEU Founder and Honorary Chairman George Soros. “The IRF's stalwart commitment to crucial elements of a functioning and healthy democracy – from fighting to end discrimination to broadening freedom of the press to defending human rights – align well with the spirit of the CEU Open Society Prize.”
IRF promotes European integration of Ukraine through the support of civil society initiatives, aimed at strengthening the influence of civil society on EU-Ukraine relations. The Foundation has contributed to the establishment of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership Ukrainian platform and initiated the European Integration Index for Eastern Partnership Countries; the latter provides an annual comparative assessment of European integration processes for Eastern Partnership countries.
“The Renaissance Foundation is at the heart of the struggle for an open society in Ukraine,” said CEU President and Rector John Shattuck. “It has been a force for transparency, justice and human rights at a time of turmoil, violence and hardship in the country. Its work on policy initiatives in areas such as human rights , democratic freedoms, improvement of public health, visa simplification has made a significant contribution to the lives of all Ukrainians.”
Central European University (CEU) is an institution of graduate education accredited both in the United States and in Hungary, specializing in the social sciences and humanities, law, public policy, and business. It seeks to contribute to the development of open societies through an educational system rooted in the creative, critical, and comparative examination of ideas. CEU is an advanced center of research and policy analysis that facilitates academic dialogue while preparing its graduates to serve as leaders and scholars.
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