In the spring of 2014, the political crisis in Ukraine escalated. Armed conflict broke out in the east of the country between pro-Russian separatist forces and the central government in Kyiv. Since the start of hostilities, more than 5,000 people have been killed, while some 2.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in other parts of the country or abroad. Not only is the conflict in the Donbas region jeopardising national cohesion and giving rise to great human suffering, it is also having a devastating impact on local infrastructure and the local economy.
Together with the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the SDC is funding the "Restoration of Governance and Reconciliation in Crisis-Affected Communities of Ukraine" project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Switzerland's contribution amounts to some CHF 1.5 million. Sweden is contributing just under CHF 1.2 million. The project will run for three years, and is part of a wider programme launched by the UNDP in early 2014 to support the areas of eastern Ukraine affected by the conflict.
Restoring local governance, building trust and social cohesion
The target region of the project comprises 15 towns and four villages with a total of approximately 1.1 million residents in the areas of eastern Ukraine which are affected by the conflict and controlled by the central government.
The project has three principal objectives:
- To establish functioning local authority structures which are close to the local population
- To support participatory reconciliation and peace-building processes
- To promote trust and social cohesion between the local stakeholders and municipal authorities
A wide range of activities will be pursued to achieve the above-mentioned objectives. Exchanges of views between the authorities and civil society are to be promoted through the creation of “public councils”. The Facebook group "Public councils of Donbas" has been created. Accessible to all, among other things this group provides practical information about the development, management and operation of public councils.
The establishment of citizens' advice bureaux is also planned: these will serve as a point of contact for the local population and provide general information, advice in emergency situations, psycho-social support, and legal advice.
Drawing up communication strategies, promoting tolerance in schools
To promote reconciliation and peace in the conflict-torn region, conflict-sensitive and gender-sensitive communication strategies will be drawn up as part of the project, and journalists are to be provided with the corresponding training. In addition, tolerance will be promoted in schools.
A key element of the project is the further development of personal skills through targeted training and thematic events. Finally, the project will aim to assess the social repercussions of the conflict in a systematic way using various parameters.
The project's principal partner is the Ukrainian government, specifically the Ministry for Regional Development. In addition, the project will be carried out in conjunction with the emergency services, local authorities, civil society organisations, and media representatives.