CBSS-led Civil Protection Faculty launches in Helsinki to empower Ukrainian educators with BSR expertise

The Civil Protection Faculty, spearheaded by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), is a landmark initiative designed to equip Ukrainian educators with Baltic Sea Region (BSR) expertise in civil protection, addressing the urgent need for tactical and emergency skills in Ukraine amidst the ongoing Russia's war against Ukraine.

The Civil Protection Faculty, a pioneering initiative led by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), was launched in Helsinki on 24 November 2023, aiming to channel Baltic Sea Region (BSR) expertise on civil protection into the heart of Ukrainian education. The project was kick-started amidst growing demands for tactical and emergency skills in Ukraine.

The Civil Protection Faculty marks a significant step in equipping Ukrainian educators with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate and mitigate the challenges posed by the current Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, fostering a more resilient and informed society.

“Being able to benefit from the Swedish experience in demining, the Estonian expertise in search and rescue, and the Finnish volunteer management programmes will make Ukrainians better first responders and significantly enhance the resilience of Ukrainians,” said a Ukrainian delegate, acknowledging the value of BSR contributions.

“Even if only half of what we’ve learned during [the launch in Helsinki] benefits Ukraine, I’d consider it a tremendous success,” said Serhii Chumachenko, the founder of the Ukrainian NGO Folk High School Vovchok. “I am confident that every interaction and every bit of knowledge will be invaluable to us, and I trust that our Ukrainian experience will benefit others in the Baltic Sea Region too.”

Before the war, Serhii and his team, all highly motivated education professionals, had already embarked on a mission to integrate the principles of Nordic adult education, or folkbildning, into Ukraine’s educational fabric. Initiated in 2014, their efforts aimed to instil lifelong learning and critical thinking – hallmarks of the Nordic model – to cultivate free and responsible citizens and lay the groundwork for a democratic society.

The surge in Russian aggression in 2023 pushed the team to refocus on emergency medicine. This strategic shift was supported by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which deployed trainers to Ukraine. Collaborating with Tactical Medicine North, the team successfully trained 65 instructors in tactical medicine, ultimately educating over 40,000 Ukrainians, including military personnel, civilians, and members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Services.

“In the Chernihiv region, with 475 schools, 10 colleges, and 4 universities, training their staff alone would take us 2.5 years, even if we worked every single day,” said Vlada Tereschenko, a Vovchok trainer, highlighting the extensive need for such training.

Despite the Ukrainian government’s efforts to provide such education, the vastness of the country and the extraordinary war circumstances necessitate the engagement of all possible actors. NGOs like Vovchok, known for their agility and dedicated professional staff, are ideally positioned to take on this task.

The Civil Protection Faculty project, funded by the Swedish Institute Baltic Sea Neighbourhood Programme, was initiated by the CBSS, in collaboration with MSB, the Norden Association, and Lithuanian Domus Solis.

This project originated from the EUSBSR conference on cooperation with Ukraine in December 2022, where Serhii first showcased Vovchok’s activities. As coordinators of PA Secure and PA Education of EUSBSR, CBSS, MSB, and Norden committed to utilizing their extensive networks to collate best practices from BSR countries in tactical and emergency medicine, mine safety, psychological resilience, and democratic citizen engagement.

Following months of online preparation, project partners convened in person for the first time in Helsinki, just a day after the Ukraine Forum organised by the Finnish Ministry of Interior. During this inaugural meeting, Ukrainian educators engaged with experts from eight BSR countries, discussing the adaptation of training programs and curricula to meet Ukrainian needs.