DT Global’s General Partner, John DeBlasio, visited Ukraine this fall to meet with USAID, American University Kyiv, Media Development Foundation, NV Media, and other partners, clients, and DT Global projects operating there. John is a decorated US Army veteran with 21 years of active and reserve service, who now serves as General Partner for DT Global, and Chairman for DT Institute, where he continues to innovate in the security and international development sectors. We sat down to talk to John about his experience and reflections in Ukraine.
One of the main projects that DT Global is implementing in Ukraine and in Eastern Partnership countries right now is the EU-funded EU 4 Independent Media (EU4IM) project. This project strengthens independent journalism and media in Ukraine by supporting fact-based, gender-inclusive, and reliable public interest journalism. We have amazing partners for this project, who I was also honored to meet with alongside our project staff.
EU4IM has been responding to the war in Ukraine with trainings that offer immediately useable skills, like how to report on war or how to stay safe in urban conflict environments. Since May 2022 alone, EU4IM has held 18 trainings for 129 Ukrainian journalists, provided emergency support and housing to 56 journalists, and provided power supply equipment to 32 newsrooms. At the same time, the project is supporting the building blocks for longer term resiliency and financial independence in media companies. These longer-term building blocks create part of the foundation for anti-corruption work that Ukrainians want to see in their future.
DT Global is also implementing the Support to Implementation of the Ukraine Urban Road Safety Project with the European Investment Bank to improve road safety and road infrastructure in five Ukrainian cities. This flagship project will improve road safety, with the goal of saving lives and improving economies in these Ukrainian cities. It was inspiring for me to learn how this work will support infrastructure reconstruction efforts in Ukraine.
There are several focus areas I see emerging — decentralization, infrastructure, rule of law, independent media, and economic growth. In addition, a core underlying theme is the idea of breaking the cycle of corruption. Anti-corruption work is clearly top of mind for all Ukrainians.
I think that the development community can be a partner to Ukraine in these areas — our work can be thought of as a tool in Ukraine’s toolbelt. Things like traditional ODA programs, as well as work around EU accession, can serve as an instrument for positive change in Ukraine.
The main thing I want to point out though is that Ukrainians are clearly able to be leaders here — this is a prime example of a place where localization is critical. Ukrainians are focused, resilient, and capable of extraordinary things. So, I think it’s important that the international community looks to Ukrainians for leadership, while we offer support.
Ukrainians are incredibly resilient, and they have a high motivation to win this war. The pace of life in Kyiv and Lviv is open and active, though at the same time, you can feel that everyone is a little on edge. I think that Ukrainians are feeling resolved, and prepared, for a long battle.
The persistent, unflappable desire for freedom is tangible in Ukraine. There is a true desire to break systemic corruption and rebuild even stronger institutions and infrastructure. Ukrainians have a resiliency and determination for change that is truly inspiring for me.