Why fair recovery for Ukraine matters?

The war exacerbates inequality between the regions of Ukraine. For its recovery, it is extremely important to take into account the needs of the communities.

Bohdan Ferens
Ph.D., founder SD Platform and Progresylni

The Berlin Conference on the Recovery of Ukraine (URC) became another attempt to look into the future of reconstruction. Unlike previous events of a similar format in London and Lugano, it qualitatively differed with a larger number of participants, level of representation, and focus on the role of local communities in the reconstruction process. The rhetoric has also partially changed. The term 'resilience' was added to the concept of 'recovery'. After all, without ensuring the current capacity to support the defense forces, the economy, and the social sphere, it is quite difficult to look into the future. As before, it is murky and unexplored, but so important for those who have not lost hope under the burden of war.

On the sidelines of the conference, discussions centered on the processes that must be directed towards the reconstruction of infrastructure, ensuring economic stability through support of the industrial sector and social protection, attracting and distributing international financial resources with the aim of creating jobs, and prioritizing a people-centric approach.

Community support with a focus on localization

It was also extremely important to focus the attention of the conference participants not only on restoration but on fair reconstruction with the involvement of local stakeholders. After all, a recovery process is considered fair when the interests and needs of those who suffered the most from the war are prioritized and properly addressed. This includes veterans, rescuers, energy workers, doctors, educators, and all those who, through their daily work, give life to the country and protect it.

It is extremely important to improve the analysis of community needs, and there should be a more balanced and transparent mechanism for the distribution of financial assistance.

"The war caused a massive exodus of people, businesses, and funds from frontline communities bordering Russia and Belarus to safer areas. This internal relocation increased income inequality between regions. Attempts to mitigate these disparities through government subsidies have not been very successful, with some higher-income communities sometimes receiving substantial subsidies, while communities with budget deficits have been less fortunate. For a fairer recovery, it is extremely important to improve the analysis of community needs, and there should be a more balanced and transparent mechanism for the distribution of financial assistance."

On international discussion platforms, one can often hear about the success of the 2015 decentralization reform, which significantly strengthened the capacity of local authorities. However, this reform is incomplete. Additionally, there has been a decrease in the ability of local budgets to generate the necessary financial resources. There are also concerns about local elites who, even during the war, receive excess profits and spend considerable funds inappropriately. Unfortunately, self-interested motives and the desire to increase their electoral attractiveness persist, even when elections are not being held.

The longer the Russian war lasts, the more inequality will deepen, particularly between regions.

The longer the Russian war lasts, the more inequality will deepen, particularly between regions. A fair approach involves redistributing part of the income from communities that have significantly increased their revenue to support the most affected areas. This redistribution should also fund management training for the hardest-hit local governments. Communities with experience in financial management and strategic planning, especially those that had the status of a city of regional significance before the 2020 administrative-territorial reform, have proven to be more resilient. Therefore, training local managers based on the experience of more successful communities is extremely important to strengthen resilience.

Both the Ukrainian government and donor organizations need to prioritize supporting communities with a focus on localization. Transparent aid processes must provide equal opportunities for local organizations to participate, ensuring that reconstruction efforts are inclusive and effective.

Political changes are necessary

There is little discussion about politics in the context of renewal; more often, the focus is on investments, economics, and decentralization. However, all processes are fundamentally political, specifically regarding their level and quality. For a transitioning democracy like Ukraine's, the existence of a policy based on a value-oriented approach remains an elusive goal.

Why do most mayors have their own so-called pocket parties? Such actions are driven by the specifics of internal political dynamics and the desire to increase influence through their factions in local and regional councils. There is also a desire to maintain distance from the central government.

To achieve sustainable and equitable renewal, policy and behavioral changes are needed at both central and local levels. Changing elites, including local leaders, is essential for fostering a more equitable recovery and implementing a values-based approach to decision-making.

Resilience and recovery necessitate human, financial, and technological resources. The equitable distribution of these resources has perennially posed challenges, exacerbated by the impact of war. Priority support should be directed towards those most in need, and the international aid framework should also prioritize demonopolization.

Priority support should be allocated to those most in need, and the international aid framework should prioritize demonopolization.

Local community organizations and small communities often encounter challenges in project implementation and securing financial support. The majority of financial resources tend to flow to organizations that already possess the necessary status, experience, contacts, and capital. Therefore, donors need to revise their approaches to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources and clearer localization requirements. Established players in fundraising and relief sectors should consider sharing resources more openly with grassroots initiatives and communities.

To adequately prepare for Ukraine's widely discussed upcoming restoration, concrete results must be achieved now. This necessitates a targeted approach to identifying the issues facing local communities and providing effective tools for resolving them. It is crucial for participants in future events to delve deeper into the context and emphasize the importance of further democratization, inclusiveness, and engaging diverse community groups in recovery planning. Only through comprehensive approaches can Ukraine foster greater resilience and achieve a more fair recovery.

This article was published by IPG_journal

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