The public are unimpressed by the government’s image-creating project



Representatives of Ukraine’s civil society, including cultural figures, journalists, intellectuals and others, have addressed an open letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, K. Hryshchenko with respect to his ministry’s presentation of a “Strategy for positioning the country abroad”.  The letter states that according to the Director of the MFA’s Department for Information Policy, Oleh Voloshyn, this was done as part of a State funded programme on financial support for ensuring Ukraine’s positive international image.

The authors note that creation of such a strategy is undoubtedly an important step however the strategy presented has received wide publicity and elicited largely negative public discussion. 

This is not merely because:

- the result obtained is not in fact a strategy since that envisages objectives which should be achieved on a competitive basis and measures which make it possible to achieve the set aims;

- there was no open tender for the developer of a strategy although the document was prepared using taxpayers’ money;

- they did not create a serious team of independent specialists – philosophers, social psychologists, cultural specialists, international relations specialists, cultural and scientific figures, sociologists, journalists, with this being crucial for any wide-scale task which cannot be achieved by one PR company;

Even more worrying is the fact that such so-called “strategy” is not only incapable of improving the country’s image but could in fact worsen the situation.

The authors believe that the figures of Harniunia and Sprytko (seen here:  who have been designated by good knows whom and on goodness knows what grounds as symbols of the Ukrainian people in fact exploit typically colonial stereotypes. They ignore a number of important national features and are simply offensive for the national dignity of both Ukrainian men and women.

The authors stress that PR measures cannot change the image of a country formed in the first instance by real actions and real facts. It is those actions, directed at positive change, which should be provided with the appropriate PR support.

The letter states that if the Cabinet of Ministers  and MFA wish to draw up a real and high-quality strategy for improving the image of the country, they should concentrate on:

-  creating a positive investment climate and transparent taxation system in order to attract business and investment;

-  developing a contemporary infrastructure in order to bring tourists to the country;

-  safeguarding human rights and freedom of speech in order to position Ukraine as a safe, democratic and civilized country;

-  stimulating and promoting Ukrainian culture, cinema, literatures, art;

-  creating a contemporary system of education and science in order to stimulate professional and youth exchanges.

It is these elements, they stress, which should be the foundation for a publicity campaign advertising Ukraine abroad. Without them such a campaign can only cause harm to Ukraine’s reputation.

They demand that the strategy presented be withdrawn and work begun on forming a professional team capable of adequately determining the main direction of a real strategy for positioning Ukraine abroad.

The letter is signed by the writer Oksana Zabuzhko, a number of prominent journalists including Vakhtang Kipiani, Natalya Ligachova and Viktoria Syumar, , as well as civic activists and others. 

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