Vision of Resilience 2024: key findings from the International Renaissance Foundation’s research

Сашко Кульчицький

Russia’s war against Ukraine has created unique conditions in which civil society is forced to rethink its functions and roles. The desire for victory, survival, and development requires new approaches to ensuring influence and responsibility in strengthening international support and solidarity with Ukraine. In preparation for the Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC) in Berlin in June 2024, experts from civil society organizations and the International Renaissance Foundation have formulated proposals for a vision of a civic agenda for Ukraine’s resilience and recovery.

Some may say that now is not the time to discuss the future or other ambitious things. However, in my opinion, it is impossible to separate the agenda of sustainability, or even survival, and building the Ukraine of tomorrow that we all strive for,” said Oleksandr Sushko, Executive Director of the International Renaissance Foundation, during the presentation.” Our Foundation is trying to build a coherent, integrated narrative around our country’s survival, sustainability, and development. We want to help civil society to speak, if not with one voice, then at least with one value wave, a common platform for promoting our common basic approaches to recovery – inclusive, democratic, and open.”

This document, based on the results of expert discussions organized by the International Renaissance Foundation in April 2024, covers the topics of economic resilience, environment, human dimensions of resilience, and community recovery, including the inclusion of people from affected communities, soldiers, and veterans, and Ukraine’s preparation for accession to the European Union. The document does not claim to be comprehensive and does not contain financial calculations but provides strategic directions for future efforts to rebuild Ukraine.

The document was presented at the “A Vision of Resilience: Civil Society Agenda for URC Berlin” conference in Kyiv on May 13.
Below, we describe the key findings of the research and discussions during the conference.

European integration

Ukraine is actively working on its integration into the European Union, which includes examining and advocating European integration legislation. It is essential to develop a particular procedure to synchronize the dynamics of the negotiation process with adopting relevant legislation. Improving approaches to forming target indicators within the “fundamentals” cluster is also urgent.

Civil society and business are involved in inclusively developing the national position in the membership negotiations. Ukraine’s negotiators’ competencies and regular dialog with stakeholders are essential for successful integration.

Establishing a multi-level system of institutions to manage the European Structural and Investment Funds in accordance with the requirements of the EU’s cohesion policy and common agricultural policy is an important step. This includes assistance with testing European systems and practices for managing funds to ensure the quality implementation of available EU assistance.

According to Victoria Melnyk, an expert at the Center of Policy and Legal Reform: “When we talk about recovery, we are talking not only about the restoration of physical objects. In English, we usually use recovery and reconstruction. When we talk about recovery, we are talking about restoring democratic mechanisms. Of course, gradually. The ones we can work with. This could be, for example, the resumption of the civil service competition, which is very important in the context of European integration.”

Thus, Ukraine’s European integration is a complex process that includes legal and economic aspects and the restoration of democratic mechanisms that contribute to the country’s development.

Good governance

Public administration reform in Ukraine includes a proper policy-making system, civil service reform, restoration of competitions, filling vacancies, raising salaries and qualification requirements for civil servants, and training in English and the basics of European integration.

Expertise and participation in developing strategies and programs for reforms and local development based on sustainability principles are important for ensuring good governance. Taking into account the realities of communities and regions, solutions to strengthen resilience for the fall-winter period of 2024-25 must also be developed and advocated for.

Access to information about the recovery process and the facilitating of the exchange of ideas and experiences are critical to ensuring the transparency and accountability of the government and local authorities. Public scrutiny and monitoring of the recovery process help ensure that resources are used efficiently and meet society’s needs.

Joint initiatives with the government, communities, the private sector, and international partners contribute to good governance and recovery. As Oleksandra Betliy, an Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting expert, explains: “Civil society is also essential for communicating reforms and certain changes. We heard this from the regions because they cannot communicate this often. This is a big headache for our government. They cannot even talk about their successes when they make changes. We have a problem that every reform hits someone, so we hear more criticism than positive voices.

Thus, good governance in Ukraine requires systemic reforms, a practical communication approach, and active civil society participation to ensure transparency and accountability.

Human dimension of resilience and recovery

Supporting small and medium-sized businesses and promoting innovation, including those created by veterans and internally displaced persons, is essential to economic recovery.

Modernization of the educational process in communities and ensuring uniform quality of education are critical for the country’s future development. As Yana Lyubimova, Head of the IDP Council, notes: “Ukraine today has one of the highest rates of displacement in the world. The fixed figure is almost 8 million. Today, we are forming a new agenda for integrating internally displaced persons, and the ability of people to integrate into communities is one of the highlights that should be fixed during the recovery.”

Developing programs to support the integration of veterans, women, and IDPs into the labor market contributes to their social and economic adaptation.
Creating social infrastructure in communities based on citizens’ needs and strengthening the role of civil society organizations in providing social services ensures social cohesion and inclusiveness.

Veteran community as a booster of inclusive reforms

Veterans are a separate category with specific needs, as military service leads to the loss of career experience in civilian life, making it difficult to return to the labor market. Unfortunately, few programs have been developed to support the employment of veterans. Due to the poor quality of social services and weak reintegration initiatives, the veteran community is forced to create such services on its own, targeting broader vulnerable groups.

International donors and partners should ensure greater flexibility in funding criteria, including support for veterans who are active military personnel.

The government should support and cluster small and medium-sized businesses created by internally displaced persons (IDPs) and veterans, including those with an innovative component.

Liubov Halan, head of the NGO Principle, explains: “Fundamental to effective recovery planning is creating a veterans’ policy, which is currently absent. In Ukraine, its absence leads to problems at the level of the country’s internal processes and in relations with partners. Because, unfortunately, without it, we can neither adequately assess nor communicate our needs in the context of veterans’ affairs and recovery.”

Therefore, for adequate recovery and inclusive reforms, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive veterans’ policy that considers the specific needs of veterans and facilitates their reintegration into society.

Strengthening community capacity

Increasing and disseminating knowledge about European systems for managing funds for regional development is a crucial aspect of strengthening community capacity. This includes effective solutions for agricultural policy, environmental protection, improving the planning system for the recovery and growth of territorial communities, and methodological support from responsible authorities and civil society organizations.

To streamline the system of adopting planning documents for recovery, development, and project financing, legislative conditions must be developed and advocated to support the recovery of the affected areas and areas with increased security risks.

Implementing a territorial impact assessment for draft decisions in cooperation with the government will help ensure that they meet the needs of communities and territories.

Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of programs at the community level will help ensure that they meet the population’s needs while training and strengthening communities in planning resilience and recovery measures by European standards, which will increase their effectiveness.

Natalia Drozd, head of the Dobrochyn Center, said: “It is important to say that communities are all different, and this is often not considered. When planning recovery, reconstruction, and development, the first thing to do is to put the documents in order. We need to improve them; it should be a unified system consistent with each other. It should be understood at the local, regional, and national levels because every planning document that is currently adopted is great in itself. But when they go down to the community level, they cause chaos and misunderstandings about what is a priority. Therefore, the first thing to do is to start putting these documents in order.”

Thus, strengthening community capacity requires a systematic approach to recovery planning and implementation that considers each community’s specifics and ensures effective communication between different levels of government.

Why is it important?

The study’s vision is based on three basic principles: people-centeredness, participation, and good governance. People-centeredness emphasizes that security, development opportunities, economic well-being, inclusiveness, social cohesion, and a safe environment are the critical goals and keys to resilience and recovery.

We often hear the phrase ‘people-centered policy’ and ‘people-centered recovery’. Sometimes, people ask what we mean by this. It is clear that there is no single definition,” explains Oleksandr Sushko. – “We put a set of meanings into the concept of ‘human-centeredness’. Nevertheless, we understand what it means. It focuses on a person, a citizen, who is both the object and the subject of this policy. This includes the importance of education, social services, inclusiveness, and security. We want to create living conditions in which a citizen will want to link their life strategy with Ukraine, with the community where they live.”

The document identifies key actors, including the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the government, local governments, civil society, the private sector, and international donors. It offers recommendations for each to promote people-centered recovery.
Creating a unified voice for civil society in Ukraine is key to securing international support for the country’s recovery. Consistency of messages increases the effectiveness of communications, which is extremely important in an environment where it is necessary to respond quickly to new challenges and ensure support from international partners.

The “A Vision of Resilience” study provides comprehensive analysis and strategic recommendations to help Ukraine address current challenges and build a sustainable future. It considers all aspects of development, from security and economy to education and social infrastructure.

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