Politics of Aid in Ukraine

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.

May, 2016