Hanna Shelest, Security Studies Program Director of the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” for Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Ukrainians suffer from quite high levels of human insecurity, especially regarding health, economic, and personal security. The conditions for citizens deteriorate the closer they live to the contact line of the conflict in Donbas. Despite the lack of information about the real conditions in the occupied Donbas and Crimea, sporadic reports and monitoring by human rights groups reveal grave violations of political security, especially the rights of pro-Ukrainian citizens and Crimean Tatars. The persisting humanitarian crisis in Donbas impacts millions of people who face a lack of food and access to healthcare and suffer from psychological trauma.
Heightened insecurity, especially the lack of economic prosperity and personal security, impedes the development of social capital in Ukraine. Citizens are overwhelmed and juggle various jobs to provide for their families. The state of insecurity makes it more difficult to focus on goals of personal achievement and community development, with pure survival driving the logic of social behaviour.
With weak state capacity to deliver services, chaotic reforms, uncertainty, and armed conflict, it is key that Ukrainians develop resilience as individuals, and as a collective polity. It is unlikely that reforms will visibly increase human security in the short-term. Furthermore, people feel reforms are not delivering tangible results, with a quarter experiencing negative results.
In the meantime, it is key that self-organization and citizen engagement, even by a minority, are sustained. Relative political security should enable the growth of civic communities, with more people engaged in local decision-making, increased volunteering, a vibrant local media and effective collective civic action for the public good. It is a long path, but one that is organic and in line with democratic development.