On 24 February 2022, the world witnessed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With great speed, the King Baudouin Foundation mobilised its philanthropic tools, expertise and networks to further strengthen the great momentum of solidarity in support of victims of the conflict, to facilitate donations and ensure the relevance of their use. In one year, the KBF has redistributed almost 5.5 million euros to 140 grassroots organisations. In addition to the support provided for Ukrainian victims and refugees in exile, the KBF has been resolutely committed to democracy and, notably, to freedom of the press.
In times of crisis more than ever, the King Baudouin Foundation steps up to help the most vulnerable, listening to the numerous citizens, organisations and businesses that get in contact to express their solidarity. And this is how it was from the very first day of the war in Ukraine. Today, the KBF is assessing a year’s activities in the provision of emergency aid and the strengthening of democratic initiatives.
Freedom of the press
Today, war is being waged not only with arms, but also with information. The KBF made available a budget of its own, of 400,000 euros, to support various media fighting disinformation and to preserve freedom of the press. By doing so, the Foundation is continuing its philanthropic initiatives in support of democracy and solidarity in Europe (Civitates), as well as for independent media in European countries where the plurality of the media is threatened (Pluralis).
Through the Media Development Investment Fund, the KBF has contributed to financing several independent media, information sources and debates that are indispensable to living in society. One such instance is the Ukrainian economic daily newspaper Liga.net. You can read the testimony of its editor-in-chief Yulia Bankova. Russian media in exile, which are fighting to give a voice to others than those in power, have also received support from the KBF through the European Fund for Journalism in Exile. This is a bold gamble, but it is a step towards the opening of constructive dialogue, conducive to the reconstruction of peace.
Support for freedom of the press also means providing journalists with the means of doing their job in the safest possible conditions. This is why the KBF has supported the Press Freedom Centre set up by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) NGO in Lviv. The centre provides logistical, financial and psychological support to journalists in Ukraine.
As part of its wish to strengthen democratic voices present in Ukraine, the KBF has provided two grants for members of Ukrainian think tanks. It has also contributed to the Ukraine Truth Defenders Fund and to the Civitates Fund’s Solidarity with Ukrainian Civil Society, which provided precious financial support to independent NGOs and other actors in civil society.
The Help People in Ukraine Donors’ Circle, created by the KBF, has received numerous financial contributions, including from BNP Paris Fortis, the EU Staff Fund, Euroclear Fund, Solvay Solidarity Fund, R&Co4Generations Fund, Ergon Capital Fund, Forbidden Colours Fund and the Decathlon International Solidarity Fund, as well as donations from individuals. The funds raised have been distributed to organisations in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries in order to meet urgent needs (food, lodging and medical aid). Some of the initiatives supported provide help for specifically vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied children, female victims of violence, mothers of young children and the LGBTQI community.
In Belgium too
The arrival of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in our country posed significant challenges in terms of accommodation, education and communication etc. Other funds raised by the Help Ukrainian People in Belgium Donors’ Circle, also set up by the KBF, enabled various initiatives to be supported regarding the care and integration of Ukrainians in Belgium (e.g. language lessons, training of interpreters, information about accommodation, emergency packs etc.), in complement to government action.