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

If the audio player above does not load, you can listen to the podcast here.

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?


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
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



Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Allows content to be broken up into multiple pages using the separator: <!--pagebreak-->.
  • Allows breaking the content into pages by manually inserting <!--pagebreak--> placeholder or automatic page break by character or word limit, it depends on your settings below. Note: this will work only for CCK fields except for comment entity CCK fields.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Recent Tweets

Our Sponsor

A Program Of

All materials © 2014 Harvard University

Back to Top

Back to Top