Davos Agenda

Ukrainian Nobel Peace laureate on democracy, human rights and technology at Davos 2023

Human rights lawyer Oleksandra Matviichuk speaks to Davos 2023.

Human rights lawyer Oleksandra Matviichuk speaks to Davos 2023. Image: World Economic Forum/Sikarin Fon Thanachaiary

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Kateryna Gordiychuk
Video Producer, World Economic Forum
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Oleksandra Matviichuk is head of the Kyiv-based non-profit organization Centre for Civil Liberties, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.
  • She spoke poignantly at Davos on a session titled Democracy: The Way Forward.
  • Here's what she told the panel about the war in Ukraine, democracy, and how digital technology can help to rebuild the country.

"I am a human rights defender, and work with people who survived from Russian captivity," said Nobel Peace laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk, at a session entitled, Democracy: The Way Forward at Davos 2023. The head of Kyiv-based non-profit organization Centre for Civil Liberties, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.

It's been almost a year since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The ramifications of the war have seen a humanitarian crisis, energy prices soar, supply chains disrupted, a cost-of-living crisis and food insecurity.

On democracy

"We as Ukrainian people are fighting for our democratic choice just for a chance to build a country where the rights of everybody are protected, government is independent and accountable, judiciary provide justice and police do not beat student demonstrations.

"This is not just a war between two states, this is a war between two systems, authoritarianism and democracy.

"Victory for Ukraine is not just to restore international order and push Russian troops out from the country... victory for Ukraine is succeeding in democratic transformation and building a sustainable democratic institution.

"Success of Ukraine will have a huge impact to a democratic future of Russia itself and to other countries in our regions where the freedom shrinks to the space of a prison cell. So in this regard, we as Ukrainians ask for support of the international community to make Ukraine win fast."

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On human rights

"In my Nobel lecture last year, I mentioned that we must return the meaning to human rights. Human rights is a value, it's not just a word which we have to repeat because it's supposed to be heard from us. It means that human rights has to become a basis for political decisions like economic benefits and security issues in internal policy and external policy as well.

"We are responsible for everything which is going on in our planet. And countries which systematically violate human rights obligations are a threat not only to their own citizens, it's a threat to the region and to the whole world."

On technology

"We live in a very interconnected world and all the spread of freedom makes our world safer. New technologies provide opportunity for rapid dissemination of information and new forms of association without any ties of national borders. But, in parallel, new technologies provide possibilities to cement horizontal networks, to manipulate public opinion by controlling the flow of information and analysing personal data.

"Our future in this digital era can be very different... We must find a new way to protect freedom of expression, access to information, and defence of privacy."

The session also featured Tobias Billström, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden; Rodrigo Chaves Robles, President of Costa Rica; Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, President, Open Society Foundations; Samantha Power, Administrator, US Agency for International Development (USAID); Egils Levits, President of Latvia. It was moderated by Adam Tooze, Director, European Institute, Columbia University.

Watch the session in full here.

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