Politics of Aid in Ukraine

Release Date: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Yurvi and Tatiana stand in the ruins of their home in Nikishino, eastern Ukraine. The couple's home was hit during fighting in the village and was completely destroyed. (c) A. McConnell/UNHCR

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Two years of conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine has continued to intensify since early March of this year. An estimated 3.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, particularly in terms of protection, unimpeded access of humanitarian agencies, continuous supply of water, food and emergency shelter, and other critical services.

Yet aid remains highly politicized in this conflict, complicating humanitarian access and operations. Most recently, the Ukrainian government has suspended social payments and started a verification process projected to affect over 600,000 registered IDPs from five eastern Ukrainian regions, citing allegations of fraud, and instituting policies limiting humanitarian access to rebel-controlled territories. Russian-backed separatists have also prohibited humanitarian operations in these territories - with the exception of the ICRC - relying on over 50 Russian convoys entering since August 2014. Humanitarian agencies raise concerns over the contents and purpose of these convoys, which the Ukrainian government has called a violation of their sovereignty and international law. In the absence of sufficient assistance provision, the UN reports that hundreds of thousands of civilians regularly risk crossing the ‘contact line’ between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in order to obtain critical goods and life-saving services.

In conversations with key experts and practitioners, this podcast will examine how the politicization of aid in Ukraine significantly hampers humanitarian access and assistance to vulnerable populations. It will also explore strategies for mitigating the humanitarian challenges of operating in highly political environments.

The podcast will explore the following key questions:

  • How does international humanitarian law (IHL) define humanitarian access and assistance in the context of Ukraine, and how well does this definition correspond to the needs of vulnerable groups?  

  • What has been the extent of humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected populations thus far, and what risks or impediments exist to the delivery of humanitarian assistance? How have these challenges limited the provision of humanitarian assistance, or impacted the humanitarian community’s control over the delivery of assistance?

  • What efforts or strategies exist to mitigate the politicization of humanitarian assistance?

Speakers

John Cerone
Visiting Professor of International Law, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Paul Martin Senior Professor in International Affairs & Law, University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
Simon Eugster
Chief Observer at the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk
Kristina Jovanovski
Journalist
Twitter: @kjovano
Annette Lyth
Humanitarian Consultant
Twitter: @lythannette
Florian Razesberger
Head of Human Dimension Unit, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
Giancarlo Stopponi
WFP Head of Office in Ukraine
Twitter: @WFP_Ukraine

Resources:

 

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