Walls are never efficient

Construction of walls between Ukraine and occupied territories will further divide people.

A number of years ago you'd embarked on a number of travellings around the world to see a series of walls. These were not just the usual walls, but the walls dividing society and people. Can you tell us why did you embark on these journeys?

Alexandra Novosseloff: Because I thought, it was a way of contradiction to the general discourse on open borders, free circulation of moving of goods and people... Since the fall of the Berlin Wall more than 25 years ago now, we've seen the multiplication of separation walls either on borders or in the same territory dividing the same population. I've seen 8 to 9 of them [walls].

Why do we still need these walls in the XXI century?     

Alexandra Novosseloff: Well, what we've found out is the fact that this is a preference of governments and people in security apparatus, in security solutions to conflicts or crises, and so that's why we saw this multiplications of walls. But what we concluded in our book is that these walls are never efficient and they cannot stop the movement of people.

If we look at the situation here in Ukraine, we don't physically have any walls now, but these walls may exist in the minds and imaginations of a lot of people. There are areas of the country which are occupied. Do you think that citizens, particularly in east Ukraine feel themselves isolated and surrounded by the wall?

Alexandra Novosseloff: Most of the time, the construction itself is the reflection of the walls in the heads. So, when there is a wall in people's mind, a concrete wall will be build. And actually, as I know there are plans for the construction of such walls between Ukraine and occupied territories.

Speaking about the impact of these walls on Ukrainian people, that will isolate them even further and that will prevent them from healing in a way, from going beyond the trauma they faced.

Walls are never real solution to problem. They never solve the conflicts or the crises. Wall just can become another frozen conflict. 

Do you think that building a wall between Ukraine and Russia will have any benefit?

Alexandra Novosseloff: I don't think so. We've done all these projects and looking at the long-term effects of a wall and we've never seen positive outcome. It had only short-term positive outcomes.

What is the role of the UN in Ukraine conflict?

Alexandra Novosseloff: The role of UN is mediation, is trying to bring a solution to the table. But of course, the UN can never enforce, impose the solution on the parties. It has to come from the parties, when they are ready. So, the UN can facilitate the solution, can advise in general, but the solution to the conflict, to the crisis will come first and foremost from the parties of the conflicts.

This text and video interview was originally published by Ukraine Today on November 23 2015

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Nov 23, 2015
Alexandra Novosseloff
Peace Operations
Peace and Security