Human Responsibility: Why is It Recognised as a Special Mark in Ukraine?

May 3, 2024
What role does personal responsibility play in the development of a society? And what message does Ukraine hope to send to the world through its Human Responsibility Day?

Marianna Yeleiko, the Head of the Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Family Foundation, told UkraineWorld why the notion of individual responsibility is a linchpin for societal progress and resilience, as well as what profound lessons Ukraine can teach about the transformative power of responsible actions.

What is Human Responsibility Day?

The National Day of Human Responsibility began in Ukraine in 2021. This day promotes an idea conceived by Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, a well-known Ukrainian visionary, futurologist, and philanthropist.

Hawrylyshyn determined that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, was insufficient to effectively enforce human rights and foster comprehensive societal development.

He emphasized that democratic progress in nations requires individuals to take personal responsibility. 

Hawrylyshyn emphasized the importance of not relying solely on governments to secure rights but instead advocating for a balance of rights and responsibilities, individual initiative, and personal commitment to protecting rights and promoting civic engagement at all levels.

He created the Declaration of Human Responsibilities in 2014, which consists of 15 fundamental points. It divides responsibilities into several categories, including family, society, country, the world, future generations, and oneself. 

These principles seek to instil a sense of responsibility for one's surroundings, emphasizing respect and exercising rights without infringing on the rights of others.

Following Hawrylyshyn's death in 2016, his family continued his foundation's work, promoting initiatives to spread the concept of human responsibility throughout Ukraine.

Recognizing the importance of intertwining rights and responsibilities, the foundation advocated for the creation of Human Responsibility Day, which is similar to Human Rights Day. The goal is not just to talk about responsibility once a year, but to use this day to actively promote the topic in public discourse.

In 2021, the Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada, will officially designate October 19 as Human Responsibility Day, coinciding with the 95th anniversary of Hawrylyshyn's birth and Ukraine's 30th anniversary of independence.

Since then, this day has been used every year, serving as a platform that promotes societal values, fostering societal maturity, awareness, passion for endeavours, and patriotism.

Ukraine as an example of how to Implement human responsibility principles

The Russian full-scale invasion served as a litmus test for Ukrainian society's maturity, highlighting crucial aspects of responsibility.

Throughout this critical period, Ukrainian society has demonstrated itself as a conscientious civil society, with the majority of people taking both significant and minor actions, all of which are deemed necessary.

Despite this existential threat, Ukrainians have demonstrated a sense of responsibility towards themselves, their loved ones, fellow citizens, the country, and its institutions.

Notably, it is individuals, rather than institutions, who have demonstrated responsibility. Even in the face of bombardment and power outages, people continued to get involved in activities, work, build, and express their love.

Ukraine sets a compelling example for the rest of the world, emphasizing the importance and value of responsibility. The nation defends not only its own freedom and core values but those of the entire liberal world. 

Furthermore, the responsible actions of Ukrainian citizens and those from other nations who tirelessly advocate for dignity, justice, and democratic values have often inspired support from our international partners.

The foundation's overarching goal is to spread this vision of human responsibility globally, with the ultimate goal of seeing the Declaration of Human Responsibility adopted internationally.

Given the current global landscape, which is marked by significant shifts (the COVID-19 pandemic, Russian aggression against Ukraine, and other conflicts), individual responsibility, a mature outlook, and conscious decision-making remain highly relevant and will continue to be so.

Ukraine is primed to share with the world practical examples of how responsibility works effectively, showcasing worthy examples of responsible behaviour.

The Responsibility Award

Annually, the Responsibility Award is presented through ceremonies, established in 2021 to showcase the growth of responsibility and societal development in Ukraine.

The most recent ceremony, held in 2023, recognized NGOs that collaborated with partners from various sectors. The award aimed to highlight responsible partnerships. 

Originally intended to select 10 finalists and 3 laureates from 168 applications, the exceptional stories resulted in a long list of 50 stories, with 10 finalists and 3 laureates ultimately chosen.

Held on January 22, Unity Day in Ukraine, the award ceremony took place in a Kyiv parking lot, creating a poignant atmosphere.

The Mariupol Chamber Orchestra performed orchestral music, with their conductor, a survivor of shelling, leading the performance. Part of the orchestra navigated challenging routes to Kyiv, eventually finding refuge there.

The winner on the community level was the project fulfilling the final wish of a Ukrainian soldier who envisioned a special public space on Parashka Mountain in Lviv Oblast if he died. This dream came true, providing a resting place for travellers on the mountain.

On a national level, the "Brave Cities" project by Ukrainer was the winner. It highlights occupied cities, supporting locals there by sharing their culture, traditions, and general information about the cities. 

The winner on the international level was the "War Archive" project by Docudays". It compiles terabytes of data on Russia's war crimes in Ukraine. It aims to seek justice and hold Russia accountable as an aggressor.

The work is set to continue. It effectively communicates Ukrainian values and our identity. It is a proactive tool that contributes to the development of a Ukrainian narrative rather than just denying the myths of Russian propaganda.

Marianna Yeleiko, the Head of the Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Family Foundation
Interviewed by Anastasiia Herasymchuk, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at UkraineWorld