27 representatives of Ukrainian and international NGOs sent an open letter to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission. In the letter, they call for the integration of accountability and transparency, wider participation in decision-making, and incorporation of the green principles within Ukraine’s reconstruction process.
Vladlena Martsynkevych, Project leader | 10 June 2022
A shelling partially destroyed a block of flats in Obolon district, Kyiv, 14 March 2022. Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak, UNDP Ukraine
The Russian invasion of Ukraine impacts livelihoods and economies throughout the central and eastern European region and beyond, creating threats to food security, increased poverty and inflation. In the future, Ukraine will face the double challenge – rebuilding fast but also ‘build back better’ with significant cost ranging from $500 billion to $1,000 billion.
In the open letter, the civil society groups welcomed the Commission’s proposal for the high-level strategic Reconstruction Plan for Rebuilding Ukraine, which aims to ensure the elaboration and implementation of structural reforms, good economic policy and sustainable development goals in line with the Green Deal, which could ensure the country’s long-term and sustainable development. However, the undersigned NGO representatives call on the Commission to consider suggestions of what should be reflected in the establishment of the Ukraine Reconstruction Platform and its associated fund:
Ukrainian people’s ownership
The success of the RebuildUkraine plan is fully dependent on its real ownership by the Ukrainian people. Therefore,
the EU Commission should ensure proper structures for public participation by impacted communities and civil society groups from Ukraine, as well as international organisations and independent experts, in the platform.
From the beginning, the financial instrument should apply the partnership principle in line with the European Code of Conduct on Partnership to ensure involvement of all stakeholders in all stages of decision-making and implementation.
Ukraine’s Rebuild back better framework
Ukraine’s reconstruction should be based on long-term strategic documents such as a comprehensive development framework and a needs assessment study. Both should be in line with the European Green Deal and Paris Agreement.
The documents should guide and coordinate the efforts of the entire donor community. It is important that these documents undergo strategic environmental impact assessment procedures to identify potential negative environmental and social impacts and properly mitigate them. Compliance with the principle of do no significant harm should also be ensured to guarantee that Ukrainian investments will comply with the best standards for sustainability as outlined in EU Taxonomy Regulation.
Ukrainian civil society’s guiding green principles
More than 50 Ukrainian groups have developed guiding principles to ensure that the country green post-war reconstruction delivers sustainable economic development and is beneficial for people.To achieve this goal, the reconstruction plans should also include the following:
- Transparency; community and public participation in decision-making;
- Using the best available technologies and practices;
- Sustainable development of cities and regions;
- Energy sector decarbonisation and decentralisation;
- Development of sustainable and decentralised agri-food systems;
- Preservation of Ukraine’s ecosystems and natural resources.
National plan for RebuildUkraine
In advance of a ceasefire, the government of Ukraine has already set up the National Council for Recovery, which is preparing a plan for post-war recovery and development. Although this is an important step forward, there are a few concerns regarding the timeline, format and process of the plan’s implementation, the EU should provide more political and practical guidance.
Foremost, it is unrealistic that the Council will be able to develop a long-term plan within six weeks that adequately utilises the 23 thematic working groups to ensure a thorough bottom-up approach to planning. This will also be problematic since
the plan is currently not conditioned by the EU’s major driving principles, including transparent budgeting, the European Green Deal, climate goals, gender mainstreaming, anti-corruption measures, social welfare, etc.
The International Advisory Board that oversees the working groups consists mainly of well-known economists and does not represent the views of the other sectors and is not diverse in terms of gender. The participation of civil society and even municipalities in the working groups is limited due to constraints on information dissemination.
Donor coordination, transparency and accountability
According to the European Commission’s communication, the platform would ‘bring together under one roof the EU support as well as other initiatives set up by other partners such as the World Bank Trust Fund or the International Monetary Fund (…)’.
It is important to ensure that the platform not only brings donors together but also sets common rules and standards for transparency and accountability. Since different donors have different rules and procedures, it would be beneficial to have a memorandum of understanding on donor coordination, transparency and accountability. The proposed RebuildUkraine facility will have a special governance unit ensuring that investments ‘in strategic digital, transport and energy infrastructure are brought in line with climate and environmental EU policies and standards.’
The transparency and accountability of RebuildUkraine should also be ensured through a digital platform that collects and gives public access to the relevant information on loans and grants for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
Protecting people and the environment
The Ukrainian government has simplified the legislation on the Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment, particularly for the period of the war and the subsequent reconstruction without proper procedures or discussions. Although this is understandable in the time of war, it will be important to have safeguarding procedures in place by the time major reconstruction projects are implemented. Should the government delay the process of restoring environmental legislation provisions, EU safeguards should serve the purpose of long-term public interest. Environmental and social impact assessments, energy efficiency indicators and the clients’ capacities and track record assessments should be maintained to avoid future negative implications of the post-war reconstruction.
The ‘RebuildUkraine’ Facility would potentially build on the EU’s experience under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) with an understanding of the unprecedented challenges of reconstructing Ukraine and accompanying it on its European path. Thus, similarly to the RRF Regulation, the RebuildUkraine Facility must have clear milestones and targets to support Ukraine’`s green transition – as, for example, climate expenditure target (37%) and respect the do no significant harm principle within the RRF.
The European Commission plays an important role in currently supporting Ukraine and in the future plans. In order to avoid any significant obstacles in Ukraine’s green reconstruction process, the Commission needs to ensure proper adherence to the European Green Deal and Paris Agreement, transparency and public participation in decision-making, donor coordination and transparency.
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