Ukraine

HD operates on several tracks, and our activities seek to build understanding and reduce tensions by facilitating dialogue in search of a political solution to end the conflict.

Background

Since 2014, the armed conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region has resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 people and has displaced hundreds of thousands more. In the summer of 2014, fighting intensified until a ceasefire agreement was reached under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Minsk in September 2014. Following a renewed escalation of violence, another round of negotiations in February 2015 reinforced the Minsk ceasefire and introduced a package of implementation measures. Four working groups were created to discuss political, security, economic, and humanitarian issues.

Although some progress has been made, the fighting continues along the line of contact. The official dialogue process faces an increasingly difficult context. At the geopolitical level, the West and Russia have severed many channels of official engagement; and regionally, relations between Russia and Ukraine continue to deteriorate.

HD has been working in Ukraine since December 2013 and has established a number of dialogue initiatives aimed at introducing comparative expertise and creative ideas into the official dialogue process, and preventing further polarisation between the conflict parties and their respective constituencies.

Activities

HD operates on several tracks, and our activities seek to build understanding and reduce tensions by facilitating dialogue in search of a political solution to end the conflict.

HD’s activities complement the official Minsk process, as they provide an informal space to brainstorm creative ideas and discuss comparative experiences from other conflict theatres. HD has deployed world-renowned experts on various thematic issues, including transitional justice, to discuss creative options with influential stakeholders. Some of the ideas developed through such approaches are fed into the official dialogue process.

Since the beginning of the conflict, HD has communicated closely with officials and the international community on the humanitarian implications of the conflict. As fighting intensified in the summer of 2014, HD met local stakeholders in Donetsk and Luhansk to discuss the humanitarian situation. In August, these discussions resulted in a Declaration on the Protection of Civilians that was signed by the de facto authorities (the self-declared DNR and LNR) and some of the battalions aligned with Kyiv. Through this process, HD was able to open a channel for communication between the de facto authorities and humanitarian agencies.

HD has also studied the lost business opportunities and ecological challenges caused by the conflict, with a view to develop confidence-building measures on issues of mutual concern to the parties. A recent economic survey gauged the impacts of the conflict on business across the line of contact, and assessed what conditions might allow intra-Ukrainian trade to return to something resembling its pre-conflict state.

On the ecological front, HD facilitated a study of the impacts of the conflict on the environment in Donbas, with a view to promoting cooperation on an area of mutual concern. The environment has been a major casualty of the conflict and is an issue that, if not properly addressed, could cause catastrophic damage to human life and health; irreversibly harm waterways, agricultural and industrial land; and spoil the prospects of an eventual economic recovery of Donbas. The fallout from an ecological disaster would severely impact not only the Non-Government Controlled Areas (NGCAs), as well as the rest of Ukraine, large parts of Russia, and potentially beyond.

HD has also worked with civil society actors in the eastern and southern regions of the country to defuse tensions and prevent further polarisation within society. HD has supported civil society to analyse the tensions in these regions and address some of the conflict-provoking ideological issues, including those between pro-Maidan and anti-Maidan groups, between internally displaced people and host communities, and between local populations and their authorities. In Kharkiv, for example, HD has supported a dialogue project that brings together local authorities, security forces, and members of the local community with a view to preventing societal tensions from escalating into violent conflict.

Donor support

HD would like to thank the governments of Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom for their generous support to this project.