People in Need’s Emergency Response in Ukraine: Partnerships and Localization AgendaPublished: Sep 20, 2022 Reading time: 9 minutes
After the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, People in Need (PIN) was amongst the first responders in the region addressing the large-scale humanitarian crisis caused by military action and displacement. According to the UN Security Council, the rate of deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine has caused the highest rate of displacement since the Second World War.
PIN’s rapid response to the escalation of the conflict was due to the organization’s existing capacity and experience working in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as early as August 2014. At the same time, previous cooperation with civil society was another powerful factor that helped PIN rapidly expand its humanitarian activities to all of Ukraine’s regions enabling it to reach difficult-to-access communities. Working with local organizations also allowed the humanitarian response to be more tailored to the needs of the local communities. PIN provided grants to partners so that they could determine what was required on the ground and organize an efficient response.
Expanding our response from two regions to the whole country
To quickly respond to humanitarian needs, PIN launched the Ukraine Emergency Appeal, raising 80 million EUR thanks to donations from Czech citizens and companies. This campaign has been used by PIN to support local civil society organizations (CSOs) providing life-saving assistance to war-affected populations across the whole country. PIN decided to act through local CSOs as grassroots organizations can quickly assess the situation and prioritize how to allocate civilian assistance. One of the first communities PIN contacted was the Vilnius Task Force (VTF), an advocacy platform the organization established in 2021. This platform unites CSOs and local authorities from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as well as governmental bodies and INGOs to enhance citizens’ participation in local policy-making. Just as PIN was forced to relocate from its office in Slovyansk westwards due to military action, the VTF members left their home regions for different destinations inside the country and started to provide humanitarian support from their new locations. With VTF members scattered across the whole country, PIN could access different communities through VTF members and their partners very quickly.
Over time, the number of PIN’s partners has grown. By July 2022, PIN has provided financial and in-kind support for around 160 CSOs involved in humanitarian assistance in all Ukrainian regions. The majority of these organizations (90%) support residents of the regions with ongoing hostilities or members of the communities bordering such regions. This assistance normally includes food, water, hygiene kits for local residents and support for those who are displaced from more dangerous neighboring communities. A smaller portion of CSOs in PIN’s pool of partners (10%) work to address the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs) in collective centers, usually based in western Ukraine. Apart from the basic needs of IDPs, PIN also improves living conditions within the collective centers and provides psychosocial support for their residents. Through its partners, PIN implements Multi-Purpose Cash Programing (MPC) for the most vulnerable people. Educational activities for children will start soon in Sumy with support of local partners.
The division of PIN’s partners into these sectors is quite general and highlights the organizations’ key directions of work rather than all of the nuances of partners’ multiple activities within the humanitarian sphere. Many local organizations work across regions and clusters and can be involved in different sectors of PIN’s work in Ukraine: Cash assistance, Education, Food security, Protection, Shelter, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
Covering diverse agendas
Agency of City Initiatives (Chernihiv) was established as a CSO in 2017 to formalize the activities of a group of citizens that had been active in Chernihiv for three years before the registration. Between 2017 and February, 24, 2022, the organization was focused on promoting citizen’s participation in local decision-making, conducting anti-corruption activities, and advocating for sustainable solutions in the urban sphere. After the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, even when there was severe fighting for the city, members of the organization remained in Chernihiv and volunteered to help those residents that were unable to leave. With PIN’s support, the Agency introduced a free service called Social taxi to drive people with limited mobility to hospitals or public institutions, and launched a program to provide building materials to those whose property has been damaged due to the hostilities. More information is available on https://www.facebook.com/agencycityiniciatives/.
Chernivtsi Union Protection (Chernivtsi). Established more than 11 years ago, the organization protects the rights of people with disabilities, helps them with socio-economic integration and employment, and enhances inclusiveness and accessibility of public spaces. In 2014, Protection started to work on the social and economic integration of IDPs from Donetsk and Luhansk regions into Chernivtsi. In February 2022, the organization’s office was converted into a reception center for IDPs arriving to the city from different regions within Ukraine. Since then, Protection provides IDPs within their own spaces as well as in other collective centers with psychosocial support, paying special attention to displaced people with disabilities. The psychosocial program is financed by PIN (group and individual consultations for more than 1,500 IDPs). More information is available on https://www.facebook.com/zahystcv.
SVOI (Zaporizhzhya) aims to foster the development of volunteer movements in Zaporizhzhya oblast and unites several hundred volunteers. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the CSO worked in such areas as advocacy, capacity-building for grassroots organizations, coordination of public actions, and the expansion of volunteer networks. Under the current emergency, in partnership with Zaporizhzhya regional youth center, SVOI established an assistance headquarters to provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable residents of the city and IDPs that arrive to Zaporizhzhya from neighboring communities. PIN has supported the activities of SVOI since March. More information is available on https://www.facebook.com/ngo.svoi/.
Youth Organization STAN (Ivano-Frankivsk) is a CSO that moved in 2014 from Luhansk to Ivano-Frankivsk. Primarily, STAN was an art institution aimed to foster local democratic development in Luhansk oblast. After 2014, they relocated to Ivano-Frankivsk and started to implement education, environmental, and development projects. After the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the CSO pledged to provide assistance to the increasing influx of IDPs from the war-affected regions of Ukraine. PIN supported STAN’s request to help five collective centers for IDPs in the Carpathian region with utilities, legal support and PSS, in particular activities to help the social integration of IDPs. As PIN expands its PSS program, STAN has become its project partner for activities aimed at the development of child-friendly spaces in western Ukraine. More information is available on https://www.facebook.com/stan.org.ua.
Along with direct humanitarian response, PIN, through its Center for Human Rights and Democracy, supports non-governmental organizations working with a human rights agenda, media, activists, and human rights defenders. Such partners monitor violations of the rights of people affected by military operations, in particular the rights of children. Furthermore, they document and report on cases that could be potential war crimes, monitor the activities of local self-government bodies, and carry out international advocacy. Some of them promote activities that facilitate the social integration of IDPs and help meet their humanitarian needs. In particular, one of PIN’s partners established a public space in Ternopil for displaced CSOs, where they can work and hold events. Another such space is planned to be opened in Lviv. PIN supported the activities of two shelters for representatives of the LGBT+ community in the west of Ukraine. In addition, PIN provides psychological support to its partners, in particular volunteers and team members of CSOs.
Seeing local organizations as equal partners
Since PIN partnership policy values participation, local CSOs are usually consulted with during a program’s design phase and implementation. Moreover, PIN regularly conducts information sessions with partners to identify their needs, discuss any possible challenges they face, and think about the solutions. The outcomes of such meetings are channeled into policy briefs on subjects such as facilitating the localization agenda in Ukraine and strategizing support to CSOs. Briefs are subsequently circulated among INGOs, embassies, and donors. PIN’s staff participates in national and international events to advocate for the implementation of recommendations identified by partners. An example of this includes the summit for coordination of volunteering and humanitarian initiatives organized by ISAR Ednannia on June 30 — July 1, 2022, in Truskavets. Partners are also encouraged to communicate their concerns during the advocacy working groups that take place bi-weekly. Additionally, it is important to give the floor to local and international humanitarian actors to shape joint advocacy statements. As part of the localization agenda, PIN has recently introduced the simultaneous interpretation of these meetings from English to Ukrainian. Other activities undertaken by PIN to reinforce its commitments to the localization agenda include the introduction of an emergency assessment tool for partners’ verification and simplified reporting requirements. Additionally, PIN prioritizes a willingness to cooperate with unregistered volunteer movements if they can work in regions where PIN has low or no access.
Prior to the invasion, the overwhelming majority of CSOs in Ukraine worked in spheres that were not necessarily related to providing live-saving assistance. Now many of them work as humanitarian organizations. Understanding this, PIN has introduced a comprehensive capacity-building program that covers such topics as humanitarian standards, protection mainstreaming, as well as communication and partnership policies. Apart from this program, PIN also responds to the requests for specific trainings expressed by partners and organizes security trainings, psychosocial retreats, etc.