Displaced People as Driving Force for Change: IOM Supports Social Cohesion in Ukraine

4 June 2018

The conflict in eastern Ukraine entered its fifth year, continuing to aggravate urgent humanitarian and long-term recovery needs of the affected people. The Ministry of Social Policy has registered approximately 1.5 million internally displaced persons who face multiple challenges accessing employment, basic services and paying for rent and utilities. At the same time, as regular surveys conducted by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reveal, the social aspect of IDP integration is gaining in importance: currently 47 per cent of IDPs mention that they need to have their family and friends with them in order to successfully integrate in a new community.

Since the beginning of the conflict in the east of Ukraine, IOM, funded by the European Union and other donors, has been comprehensively addressing the needs of conflict-affected people through livelihood opportunities and community development initiatives. “We aim to offer IDPs and local communities alike a platform to make new friends, exchange ideas and unite efforts for their mutual benefit,” said Dr. Thomas Lothar Weiss, IOM Ukraine Chief of Mission.

On 1 June, IOM gathered in Kyiv over 150 IDPs, representatives of local communities and NGO activists, as well as government officials, to share their best community development practices and lay ground for further joint programmes aimed to create an inclusive and multicultural environment. The conference was funded by the European Union and marked the completion of the project component which supported 49 communities across Ukraine in conducting over 5,500 events such as outdoor festivals, master classes, concerts and amateur theatre plays engaging over 46,000 participants.“The EU and IOM projects provide excellent opportunities for social cohesion all over the country,” said Mykola Shambir, Deputy Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine. “A person who feels in their community like home is a driving force for great positive change,” he added.

According to Helga Pender, Project Manager at the EU Delegation to Ukraine, the European Union is committed to further assisting displaced persons and IDP host communities in Ukraine. “Past experience has shown that civic engagement and community activism has a double beneficial effect. It not only helps people build social capital in communities, but also helps those involved to overcome their trauma and feel empowered as they contribute to positive change,” Helga Pender said.

A vivid example of how displaced persons become part of their new communities and took on a leadership role is Valerii Polischuk, and IDP from Crimea who now resides in Dolsk village, Volyn Region, north-western Ukraine. IOM supported Valerii with a modern boiler to heat his greenhouse, and later he became a member of the IOM social cohesion project initiative group. Last autumn he was elected a deputy of the amalgamated territorial community. Valerii took part in a local lake cleaning; he also chairs the village committee on culture and acquaints locals with Crimean traditions. “It’s not just that we became part of the community, we grew roots here,” he says.    

Watch a video about IOM supported social cohesion initiatives.