A recent survey on Ukrainians’ attitudes towards a Ukrainian NATO membership shows that 89 percent would support joining the military alliance in a referendum – the highest level of support in the country’s history. Moreover, the convergence of membership attitudes between Western and Eastern regions in Ukraine displays a real loss of trust in Eurasian (pro-Russian) relations as a vector of development for Ukraine. This brief offers some perspectives on how public opinion has changed and what have been the crucial turning points. In particular, the brief digs deeper into the evolution of opinion against a NATO membership, as well as regional differences in attitudes. It also shows how every round of Russian aggression eventually has led to public opinion alignment. These changes not only concern a NATO membership but reflect a deeper transformation of societal values and a consolidation of the Ukrainian national identity, strengthening the grounds for a more democratic society.
The continued Russian aggression on Ukraine has disclosed several deep-running issues that have for long been undercurrents in Ukraine’s history and whose resolution is a key determinant of the country’s future. One such issue is the relationship with NATO, including a potential accession into the alliance.
The most recent survey on Ukrainians’ attitudes towards Ukrainian NATO membership, conducted in May-June 2023, shows that 89 percent of the respondents would support it in a referendum, 8 percent would not, while 3 percent of the respondents found it difficult to say (KIIS, 2023). The survey (which excludes occupied territories where it was unfeasible to conduct the survey) also shows the lowest ever gap in terms of geographic spread. 93 percent were in favour of membership in the Western regions and 79 percent in the Eastern regions, the traditionally pro-Russian areas where most of the Russian ethnic minority resides. In comparison, in 2017, 71 percent were in support of a NATO membership in the Western regions and 32 percent in the Eastern regions, respectively (Kermach, 2017).
NATO Membership Support in Ukraine Over Time
To gain a deeper understanding of how the public’s opinion on a NATO membership has changed over time, it is suitable to start in 2002, when former President Leonid Kuchma first announced Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO. At that point the Ukrainian society could be almost equally divided into three categories; those in favour of joining NATO, those against it, and those who refused to take a stance/found it difficult to say/would not vote in a referendum (hereafter referred to as “indecisive respondents”), depicted in Figure 1. This was a very natural consequence of the late 1990s/early 2000s coexisting positive attitudes to both geopolitical directions – towards NATO and the EU, but also towards Eurasian integration.
Figure 1. Attitudes to joining NATO among Ukrainians, 2002-2023.
One framework for understanding this is the concept of social ambivalence, which has been highlighted as very typical for transitional societies such as Ukraine. For example, Reznik (2022) argues that, in the case of Ukraine the main reason for ambivalent geopolitical orientation is the need for “ideological ‘reconciliation’ of two civilizational directions different in essence and meaning within an unbalanced identity” (Reznik, 2022). Similarly, Golovakha and Panina (2003) suggest that in Ukraine, society simultaneously accepts the old social institutions, which have lost their legality during the transition times but have remained legitimate in the view of the public, and the new social institutions, which have gained legal recognition but have not yet been accepted by society. Ukraine is not unique in this context, similar processes have occurred in many transition countries, for instance in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and others (see, for instance, Roland, 2000; Murrell, 2003; Gruszewska, 2014; and Becker, 2019). This literature documents a mismatch between old and new institutional structures in transforming countries, strongly associated with low levels of trust in society, resistance to new ideas, strong attachment to traditional behaviors and low social activity levels within society. However, such discordance can change drastically due to shocks facing a society, as illustrated by the change in attitudes towards a NATO membership in Ukraine from the early 2000s and onwards.
In the first decade of the 21st century the Ukrainian society gradually became more aligned against joining NATO. This process intensified after 2010, when Viktor Yanukovych was elected as the President of Ukraine. Soon after the election, the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) adopted the law “On the Principles of Internal and Foreign Policy”, establishing the principle of “non-alignment” (Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, 2010). This implied a Ukrainian commitment not to participate in any military political alliances, including NATO. This decision, alongside successful efforts from pro-Russian authorities in the Eastern regions – including anti-NATO propaganda – resulted in as low as 18 percent support for NATO membership in 2013, and 67 percent of the respondents stating to be against a membership (see Figure 1). Such anti-NATO sentiments can be argued to not only have prepared the grounds for, but also to have been explicitly used as an argument for the Russian aggression in 2014.
However, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in Donbas in 2014 drastically changed the public’s opinion on the military alliance, increasing the share of NATO membership supporters to close to half of the population and thus exceeding the share of opposing or indecisive respondents for the first time in history. At that point 47,8 percent of Ukrainians were in favor of joining the alliance and 32,4 percent were against it (“30 Years of Independence”, 2021), and in 2014 the “non-alignment” principle was officially repealed. It was even officially stated in the Comment On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of Internal and Foreign Policy”) that the policy had been a decisive factor for the Russian aggression in 2014: “In view of this, the further continuation of the so-called non-alignment policy, which has already led to the loss of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, is contrary to national interests, poses a constant threat to Ukraine’s state sovereignty and territorial integrity, holds back the processes of socio-political and economic reform of the country, and limits Ukraine’s prospects to become a developed European democratic country within the European Union.” (Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, 2014).
Changes in public opinion in Ukraine is however not only limited to NATO membership attitudes. Naturally, there have been changes in election outcomes and voting patterns as well. Recently, Munroe et al. (2023) found a significant shift in voting patterns in Ukraine after 2014, reporting a dramatic decline in pro-Russian votes in Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa regions that had all traditionally been pro-Russian. Still, about one third of the respondents were continuously negative towards NATO until 2021, when the share of those in opposition of a NATO membership dropped to 24 percent. Potential explanations for the pertaining negative attitudes include a remaining influence from pro-Russian authorities in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country, along with a lack of knowledge and awareness about NATO among the population.
Motives, Regional Variations, and Information Gaps
In this context, it is essential to highlight the Ukrainian’s motives for support, or scepticism towards NATO membership. A nation-wide survey from 2017 shows that among the majority of NATO supporters in Ukraine the dominant motive was the expectation of “security guarantees for Ukraine” (86 percent). On the contrary, those who did not support joining the alliance expressed concerns that a NATO membership might “draw Ukraine into NATO’s military actions” (44 percent) or “provoke Russia to direct military aggression” (28 percent). 27 percent were convinced that “Ukraine, in principle, should be a non-aligned state” (27 percent), and finally, 22 percent were worried that “foreigners and foreign capital will start to rule in Ukraine” (DIF, 2017).
Stereotypes of NATO as either protection or conversely, a threat, for Ukraine are subject to significant regional differences. While in Western and Central Ukraine the perception of NATO as protection clearly prevailed (81 and 68 percent, respectively), attitudes in the Southern and Eastern parts were more uncertain. About the same number of respondents (19 percent) considered NATO as both protection and a threat, while 25 percent of the respondents in the South and 30 percent in Eastern Ukraine didn’t see NATO as either.
The basis for these opinions is most likely a lack of effective information and a lack of understanding of the alliance, as well as the complex geopolitical dynamics involving it. Research has attributed negative attitudes towards NATO to surviving Cold War stereotypes and a lack of information concerning NATO’s specifics, functions, decision-making procedures, and the rights and obligations of member states (Kermach, 2017).
In the 2017 survey, almost every other Ukrainian admitted that they were not well informed about NATO. Only 55 percent of the respondents claimed to “know something about NATO”, while 22 percent said they knew virtually nothing about it. However, a majority of Ukrainians (55 percent) “would like to know more” about NATO, while about a third (36 percent) of the respondents did not express such interest (see Table 1). Also in this regard, regional differences are remarkable. In Western and Central Ukraine, interest in NATO was much higher in 2017 than in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country.
Table 1. Interest in knowing more about NATO among Ukrainians in 2017.
Public Opinion Consolidation
The most drastic change in attitudes towards a NATO membership has however occurred after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the public almost converging in their support of a NATO membership. The ongoing share of NATO supporters exceeds 85 percent, and the increase in this group draws, to an almost equal extent, both from the number of those who previously were against the alliance and those who were previously indecisive. For the majority of those who consistently considered the “non-alignment” policy of Ukraine as optimal (26,6 percent according to Kermach (2017)), it has become obvious that this “non-alignment” strategy has failed to provide effective security guarantees.
Moreover, the perception of a NATO membership as a security guarantee is also changing. In the 2022 Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) survey, just below 40 percent of the respondents considered a NATO membership as the ultimate and only security guarantee, while approximately the same number were willing to accept other security guarantees. In the 2023 survey, the share of the former response category increased to 58 percent (with a slight difference within regions – 64 percent in the West and 48 percent in Eastern Ukraine), – while the latter dropped to 25 percent. Furthermore, 76 percent were not willing to accept forgoing a NATO membership as a condition for peace (KIIS, 2023).
Public opinion in Ukraine, including attitudes towards a NATO membership, has been drastically affected by the Russian aggression in 2014, and even more so by the ongoing war. As survey results show, each subsequent round of Russian aggression on Ukraine has only increased the share of NATO membership supporters and decreased the number of respondents indecisive on whether Ukraine should join NATO. Additionally, regional differences in attitudes between the Eastern and Western parts of Ukraine have also smoothened. These changes imply a deep transformation in societal views, where the meaning of living in peace for Ukrainians has transformed from the idea of “non-alignment” into perceiving a NATO membership as a security guarantee and a prerequisite for future peace.
While the transformation of public opinion is important per se, it is only one example of the groundbreaking changes the Ukrainian society has especially undertaken since the invasion in 2022. The necessity to fight the Russian invasion brought about unprecedented consolidation and feelings of a national identity. This, in turn, provides an essential foundation for building trust and active political participation, strengthening the grounds for an effective democratic society.
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This policy brief is based on an empirical examination of the early-stage migration of Ukrainian war asylum seekers to Latvia in 2022, following the Russian invasion. The study highlights the urgent nature of their displacement and identifies the pivotal role of kinship in Latvia in the decision-making. Three categories of refugees emerge based on kinship ties, employment opportunities, and cultural affinity. The study also reveals the substantial influence of the pre-existing Ukrainian diaspora and underlines the significance of network effects in refugees’ location decisions. Contrary to previous studies, refugees didn’t necessarily settle for the first country available. The research underscores the strategy of seeking support from personal networks in acute displacement scenarios, which appears to be the most influential factor for the choice of location in the decision-making process.
Ukrainian Displaced People in Latvia
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 triggered a geopolitical upheaval in Europe and resulted in a mass exodus that had not been witnessed since World War II. With the war showing no signs of cessation, return for many of these displaced people appears difficult in the near future. Latvia, although not a bordering country, have become a haven for 36 000 Ukrainian refugees.
This brief seeks insight into Ukrainian displaced people’s preference for Latvia, using interviews conducted in March 2022, a month after the war began. With no common border between Ukraine and Latvia these refugees had to transit through other countries, making the question about the choice of Latvia as their ultimate destination particularly relevant.
Unlike during the migration crisis in 2015 and during the recent influx of Syrians and other groups, the Ukrainian refugees found themselves being welcomed with open arms, belying Latvia’s typically guarded stance towards immigrants. This unexpected warmth is influenced by a multifaceted kinship rooted in historical connections from the Soviet era, a pre-existing Ukrainian diaspora in Latvia, labor migration, and shared cultural elements.
These factors can also play a role in Ukrainian refugees’ choice of Latvia as their ultimate destination. The study underlying this policy brief seeks to explore these facets and unravel the reasons behind the Ukrainian refugees’ choice to seek safety in Latvia.
Two aspects are crucial in the analysis of migration decisions: the factors that influence refugees’ choice of destination and the process underlying this decision.
Traditional assumptions surrounding asylum-seeker migration, as emphasized by Böcker and Havinga (1997), suggest that when people are forced to flee, their primary focus is safety – not destination. However, more nuanced perspectives have evolved in recent studies (see Robinson and Sergott, 2002; Brekke and Aarset, 2009). They highlight the calculated and adaptable nature of refugee destination choices throughout the asylum-seeking migration journey, demonstrating that circumstances and journey stage significantly influence destination choices.
Research indicates that host country policies and economic conditions can both enhance and limit refugee flows (Czaika and de Haas, 2017; Ortega and Peri, 2013; Brekke and Aarset, 2009; Diop-Christensen and Diop, 2021; Kang, 2021; Suzuki,2020; Collyer, 2005). However, another line of research emphasizes that policy and economic factors are secondary to networks, cultural affinity, language, and perceptions in determining destination choices (Robinson and Sergott, 2002). Factors such as social networks (Koser and Pinkerton, 2002; Tucker 2018), kinship (Havinga and Böcker, 1999; Neumayer, 2005; Mallett and Hagen-Zanker, 2018), financial resources (Mallett and Hagen-Zanker, 2018), geography (Neumayer, 2005; Kang, 2021), destination country image (Benzer and Zetter, 2014), culture (Suzuki, 2020), and colonial links (Havinga and Böcker, 1999) have been established to be significant at various stages of migration. Economic and education opportunities are also found to have a marginal influence on destination decision-making compared to the possibility of resolving statelessness (Tucker, 2018).
These varying determinants of destination may also be contingent on the refugee journey stage. Policies may not dominate in acute cases of forced migration (Diop-Christensen and Diop, 2021). For individuals with time to prepare for migration, a cost-benefit analysis often informs their decisions. In contrast, those in urgent circumstances, such as during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, may have to take immediate refuge and put less emphasis on benefits and policies (Robinson and Sergott, 2002). Destination determinants differ by both origin and destination countries (Havinga and Böcker, 1999, Tucker, 2018, Gilbert and Koser, 2006). Thus, research on underexplored regions and countries is valuable for a comprehensive understanding of migration patterns.
Migration, voluntary or forced, involves intricate decision-making. As Mallett and Hagen-Zanker (2018) aptly state, the dynamic experiences ‘on the road’ shape refugees’ journey and destination choices. Robinson and Sergott (2002) and Brekke and Aarset, 2009 have pioneered models for asylum seekers’ decision-making, suggesting that factors such as networks, language, cultural affinity, and perceptions evolve across different stages of the asylum journey. Others, like Gonsalves (1992) and Shultz et al. (2020), have constructed models delineating stages of refugee passage and displacement, highlighting the changing needs and preferences of refugees.
While existing literature mainly focuses on the later stages of forced migration journeys, limited empirical evidence exists on the migration moves during acute displacement. Additionally, further understanding on migration induced by the war on Ukraine is needed. There is also incomplete coverage of asylum seeker and refugee topics in the Baltic countries, making such research particularly relevant. To address these gaps, this brief aims to provide qualitative findings on the decision-making and experiences of Ukrainian displaced people in Latvia.
Understanding the Decision
The research underlying this brief explored the reasons behind Ukrainian displaced people’s choice of Latvia as their migration destination during the early part of the invasion. The study is based on 34 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with displaced people conducted in March 2022. The dataset is part of a larger study that includes continuous interviews to understand Ukrainian displaced people’s lives, plans and needs in Latvia.
From the interviews, it was apparent that the predominant factor in respondents’ decision-making was the presence of kin or acquaintances in Latvia.
All but one participant had some connection to Latvia, whether through distant relatives, friends, or professional contacts. The one participant without such connections arrived from Russia and not from Ukraine, working on a contract. A minority of our participants considered staying in Ukraine. One example is Lidiia, who initially planned to move near Lviv, but redirected to Riga during the journey.
“She found a family that would host us, 100 km from Lviv… We agreed, but then our friends… called us on the way, we were leaving Kyiv under bombardment. Our train was delayed because of the air alarm. When we just arrived there, a shell exploded above the railway station… And on the way, friends from Riga called us and invited us: ‘Come, everyone will help here’. Therefore, everything changed while we were on the train, we decided everything“ (Lidiia).
Proximity of kin was not the primary concern for the interviewees; the mere fact that they had a relative in Latvia appeared more influential in their narratives. Indeed, the majority of participants had distant rather than close kin, though a few had close family in Latvia (grandparents, parents, common-law husband, and sister). As Olena explained, the presence of even distant relatives influenced her choice: “there are distant relatives, very distant… That’s why we came” (Olena). However, ties in Latvia were not the only determinants as many of the participants also had family connections in other parts of Europe.
The speed of decision-making was also striking – most decisions to migrate were not a matter of long-term planning but a reaction to the sudden crisis, often influenced by incoming offers of assistance. Nataliia remembered: “My mother said, ‘You have to leave because everything is so fatally bad. Take the children and leave.’ And literally overnight I packed up, bought the tickets. But first I went to Poland, to my brother” (Nataliia).
Maryana ended up choosing her destination only after leaving home. “At first, we thought to go to Poland, but it is completely crowded, and then we called to whoever we could. There are no relatives in other countries. No, there are relatives in other cities, but these are Luhansk, Donetsk, we are from Slobozhanska Ukraine, so all our relatives are from the side where very heavy fighting is going on now“ (Maryana). Such testimonies illuminate how, owing to the immediacy of the situation, the eventual destination of some displaced Ukrainians was not predetermined but evolved during their respective journeys.
From the interviews with the participants who knew someone in Latvia, one can identify three groups based on the main factor that determined their decision.
Network, First of All
For respondents who did not have family in Latvia, friends, acquaintances, and professional contacts in Latvia acted as anchors. Like family members, such acquaintances often reached out, offering assistance and lodging as soon as they heard the news of the war. The influx of supportive communication from Latvian acquaintances influenced the decision for many participants.
Olha decided to flee with her friend, who had a distant cousin residing in Latvia. Upon the onset of the conflict, the cousin reached out and urged them to come to Latvia. As Olha recalls: “As soon as she heard that there was a bombing in Kharkiv, she said, ‘Come’. My friend, with whom I came, Lesya, does not have a car, so she immediately told me… let’s run away’” (Olha).
Lidiia received an invitation from a Latvian friend she had met through her church, even as she was already in the process of fleeing Ukraine. Similarly, Andrii, who was vacationing abroad at the time of the war’s outbreak, remembered: “On the 25th our best friend wrote to us that, ‘There is housing, come here’ and we began to negotiate with the embassy to fly here” (Andrii).
Even in the absence of explicit messages, displaced individuals recalled having friends and family in Latvia and chose to make their way to Riga. Olena, like Lidiia, initially set off without a clear destination in mind. It wasn’t until she reached the border that she decided to head to Latvia: “Just at the border that you decided where to go?” (Olena).
Existing friendships and ongoing communication also influenced some people’s choice to opt for Latvia. Olha (2) was encouraged by her daughter to relocate to Riga due to her daughter’s friendships with Latvians that she had formed at a camp in Estonia: “Friends appeared, with whom she was in close contact for six months. That’s why for her there was no choice at all ‘Where?’. She immediately said: ‘To Riga’” (Olha (2)).
Opportunities and Realities
The turning point for many respondents was their arrival in Poland as, initially, Latvia was not the principal or only choice of destination. These respondents emphasized that, besides having friends and relatives in Latvia, they also contemplated where they might find better opportunities. Their narratives provide a contrasting perspective of Poland and Latvia. While traversing Poland, their general impression was that the country was already ‘overfilled’, which in turn kindled the notion that Latvia might harbor more possibilities. For this group of displaced individuals, the importance of employment prospects was paramount.
Nataliia took the decision to head for Latvia, choosing to stay with remote kin there rather than with her sibling in Poland, as she believed Poland lacked opportunities for her. In Myroslava’s case, a friend helped secure a job in Latvia: “We didn’t choose Latvia for any particular reason – better or worse, we didn’t care. We needed somewhere to stay, somewhere to work in order to live. Well, that’s why when a job turned up through acquaintances, they said that a person was needed here, we immediately gathered. Could not be found in Poland. In Poland, there was simply no work, no housing” (Myroslava).
Bohdan, too, mentioned the crowdedness and the high cost of living in Poland, hence deciding to move further north to Latvia: “We didn’t have a specific plan because we weren’t at all sure we would succeed. In general, my wife benefits from going to Poland, she works for an IT company operating in Poland. And we thought about getting there at first, but when we got to Poland, everything was already full. There were such expensive options, $1600 a month, we were shocked” (Bohdan).
Anastasiia echoed similar concerns: “We arrived in Warsaw, reunited there and tried to stay in Warsaw and look for a place, but there are a lot of people there, and there is no place to live, very… food, maybe cheaper than in Latvia, but there is no place to live… no place to work. And I would like to work somehow… not to be dependent” (Anastasiia).
These stories illuminate another stratum of decision-making, that beyond familial ties, participants also considered the opportunities available at their chosen destination. They accumulate information on their journey and recalibrate their destination accordingly.
Cultural Kinship, Language, Diaspora
Not all participants had prior personal experience with Latvia, even if they had relatives there. A lot of their understanding about the country stemmed from stories they’d heard or news they’d come across. This third group of participants decided on Latvia not only because they knew someone in the country, but also because they saw value in shared language, culture, and history.
Political and cultural connections played a significant role in their choice. Being able to communicate in Russian and Ukrainian in Latvia was a crucial factor, as it was associated with a smoother integration process and increased job opportunities. Nadiia, who traveled to Latvia via Poland and Budapest, elaborated on this: “And I was in Latvia and here there is an opportunity to communicate in Ukrainian, in Russian” (Nadiia).
The possibility of being accepted and integrated into the local community was also mentioned as a decision-driver. Oksana shared that her father, who had previously worked in Riga, advised her to go to Latvia: “you guys, probably go to Riga, well, because you will be accepted there, accommodated” (Oksana).
Nonetheless, choosing Latvia because of the possibility to communicate in Russian does not come without complications. Nataliia B., for instance, found the topic of language stirring up strong emotions and confessed that she doesn’t wish to speak Russian anymore: “I had such a psychological reaction – I didn’t speak Ukrainian for many years, and when all these events began, I read, I remember well how I woke up in the morning and began to speak Ukrainian. My thoughts have become Ukrainian” (Nataliia B.).
Moreover, having knowledge of the Ukrainian diaspora in the country also proved an important factor. “I also found out that there is a Ukrainian diaspora in Latvia of about 50 000 people, as I heard in the Latvian news. And this also encouraged me, I realised that I could find help from my compatriots” (Nadiia). This observation underlines the role of cultural kinship in the decision-making process regarding destination, and it can indeed be seen as a decisive factor. As the diaspora expands with the influx of more displaced people, this rationale for choosing Latvia may become increasingly common.
The study underlying this brief provided empirical insight into the initial phases of Ukrainian war asylum seekers’ journey to Latvia in 2022, enhancing our understanding of the factors that influenced the choice of Latvia over other destinations.
Ukrainians fleeing the early stage of the 2022 Russian invasion were compelled to make swift and difficult decisions due to the pressing crisis. Leaving behind their familiar lives, properties, and dear ones – often the very individuals facilitating their exodus for safety reasons – was a harrowing reality. The support from kin and acquaintances in Latvia was crucial in endorsing their decision to seek refuge in the country.
Three groups emerged among the Ukrainian refugees in Latvia, all connected by personal relationships to some degree. The factors influencing their migration ranged from the presence of kin and considerations of employment prospects, to shared language, culture, and history. The fact that the initial outreach usually originated from the Latvian side underscores the profound solidarity and active support provided by Latvians to their Ukrainian counterparts. This likely also played a significant role in the refugees’ decisions. The pre-existing Ukrainian diaspora in Latvia, estimated at around 50 000 before the invasion, also significantly influenced the choice of Latvia as a refuge.
Financially-related factors such as seeking benefits were largely absent from the narratives, likely due to the geographic proximity, relatively low costs, and the urgent nature of the displacement. The most significant determinant in choosing Latvia as the destination appeared to be the network effect, contrasting with Robinson and Sergott (2002) findings that acute asylum seekers often settle for the first country available.
Given the emergency nature of the displacement, no unambiguous pattern in the location decision could be established. The narrative varied considerably among respondents with decisions often being made, or altered, on the fly. However, in most cases, personal relationships played a primary role in shaping the choices among Ukrainian refugees in Latvia.
For policy-makers planning and responding to acute migration crises, the study highlights the importance of mapping and understanding multifaceted kinships, as well as culture and history. The mapping can be used to plan support and allocate resources to give displaced people an opportunity of a place where they feel welcomed and connected, with hopes of greater integration.
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- Suzuki, T. (2020). Destination choice of asylum applicants in Europe from three conflict-affected countries. Migration and Development, 1-13.
- Tucker, J. (2018). Why here? Factors influencing Palestinian refugees from Syria in choosing Germany or Sweden as asylum destinations. Comparative migration studies, 6(1), 1-17.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.
The subjects of political discourse are important but hard to quantify. This brief uses data from 30 years of party manifestos to study how the dominant topics in politics have evolved across Europe. Transition countries have seen the most significant shift in the content of political discourse. In the early 1990s, party manifestos in Eastern Europe focused on a distinct set of topics related to transition; by recent elections they had converged to those in Western Europe, with a heavy emphasis on the welfare state, education, infrastructure and technology. Political discourse can change rapidly in times of crisis as shown by the example of Ukraine.
“It’s the economy, stupid!”
James Carville, Bill Clinton’s strategist for the 1992 election.
The dominant topics in politics are not always as apparent as when Bill Clinton was elected US president in the midst of a recession. While it is easy to track winners across election cycles, it is much harder to know what got them elected and what they will do (or at least, promise to do) once in power. The key issues and topics that political parties and candidates talk about form as important a part in our democracies as vote shares.
In this brief, we use data collected by the Manifesto Project (Lehmann et al., 2022) to describe the development of political discourse across Europe, with a particular focus on the differences and similarities between western European countries and transition economies in Eastern Europe.
Political Manifestos as Data
In most countries, voters mainly participate in the democratic process by voting for candidates put forward by political parties. Political parties advertise themselves to voters and distinguish themselves from each other by issuing party programmes or party manifestos where they lay down their ideological and policy positions.
The Manifesto Project provides a publicly available dataset on parties’ policy platforms. The data are based on the manifestos of parties that have won at least one (Western Europe) or two seats (transition countries) in a national election. Coders manually analyse the content of the manifestos and provide the percentage of each party’s manifesto that falls into one of 56 content categories. These content categories summarise a party’s policy position on given issues, for instance, whether they favour environmental protection or an expansion of the welfare state or oppose protectionism or multiculturalism.
The Manifesto Project is an example of “text as data“. Quantitative analysis based on text is becoming increasingly important across the social sciences (Gentzkow et al., 2019) but it is particularly useful in political economy and political science given that “language is the medium of politics“ and objective numerical data are often limited (Grimmer and Stewart, 2013). Unlike many recent approaches which process data using automated text analysis tools, the Manifesto Project relies on the judgement of coders from over 50 countries who read the original text. The resultant dataset has limitations: the subjective choices made by individual coders, the to-some-extent arbitrary determination of content categories to summarise the most relevant issues across different contexts and time periods and the difficulty of imposing consistent classifications for texts written in over 40 languages. Despite these caveats, it is a unique resource for analysing the evolution of countries’ political discourse over time and across countries.
Key Issues in Political Discourse
Figure 1 summarises, through content categories, the policy positions of parliaments in Western Europe and transition countries at two points in time: the early 1990s (around the time of the first democratic elections in most transition countries) and after the latest election. We measure the importance of a policy position in a country’s parliament by weighting the importance of the relevant content category in each party’s manifesto by that party’s vote share. Over time, our measure of a policy position’s importance in political discourse may increase or decline for two reasons. First, parties may change the extent to which they emphasise a given position in their manifestos. For example, parties across the political spectrum are likely to have increased references to healthcare in their manifestos during election campaigns held during the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, as voters’ preferences shift, parties that gain support will see their issues receive greater weight in the aggregate measure relative to parties that lose vote shares. For example, if the pandemic shifted voters’ preferences towards a more comprehensive welfare system, voters could respond by voting for parties which discuss the expansion of the welfare state in their manifestos.
Figure 1. Policy positions of parties in parliament.
Some striking patterns emerge. While the policy priorities of Western European parliaments remain relatively stable over the past 30 years, those of transition countries have changed markedly. During the transition period, many parties focused on the political and economic aspects of transition. Support for democracy, freedom and human rights, as well as the free market economy, featured heavily in the manifestos of parties that formed the first democratic parliaments. Over time, policy priorities in transition countries have become more similar to those of their western neighbours, and issues such as the expansion of the welfare state, the provision of education, and the importance of technology and infrastructure, have come to the fore in all countries.
Nevertheless, some differences still remain. For instance, environmental protection is one of the most important topics in western European parliaments, though its importance has declined over time. In transition countries, the environment is slowly becoming more important, but even in the latest elections it ranked at only number 16 out of 56 issues. In contrast, support for the “national way of life” was and continues to be a prominent part of the political discourse in transition economies and it is also becoming more mainstream in the Western European countries.
Political corruption and governmental and administrative efficiency have become relatively more important issues in the parliaments of transition countries, both over time and relative to their western neighbours. Meanwhile, parties in Western Europe are devoting more of their manifesto to calls for equality and social justice.
A Closer Look at Ukraine
A country’s parliament’s policy platform can change suddenly in response to shocks. Figure 2 shows the big topic groups in the manifestos of political parties in the Ukrainian parliament from 1998 to 2019. The parliamentary election in October 2014 closely followed the Euromaidan Revolution, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the start of the Donbas war. Compared to the previous elections, external relations became a major issue in the Ukrainian parliament, driven in particular by increased mentions of the military and the relationship with the EU. Party manifestos heavily featured appeals to Ukrainian nationhood, national solidarity, and unity (as evidenced by the increasing importance of the content category “Fabric of Society”). The trend of increasing attention to freedom and democracy also continued in this election cycle. In contrast, the previously most important issues in elections (welfare and quality of life) received much less attention in parliament at times of political upheaval and military conflict.
Figure 2. Topics in Ukrainian elections.
Distribution of Political Ideology
While the previous section discussed the main policy issues in parliament, we now turn our focus to the ideology of individual political parties that make up a country’s parliament. A commonly used summary measure of political ideology is a left-right scale (RILE), where left positions favour peace, state intervention in the economy and the expansion of the welfare state and right positions support security, traditional values and the free market economy. The Manifesto Project provides a RILE value for each party at each election (based on Laver and Budge, 1992), which is calculated by subtracting the share of a party’s manifesto devoted to left-leaning policy issues, for instance support for the welfare state, from right-leaning content, such as support for the free market economy. Condensing the complexity of party programmes into a one-dimensional measure based on fixed definitions has advantages and drawbacks. The RILE makes it possible to compare diverse political parties that campaign on different issues (for instance ecological parties compared to nationalist parties) and measure how the same party’s policy stance may have shifted over time. As the definition of left- and right-leaning issues were based on influential political theories around the 1900s, some scholars argue that this measure has become less appropriate to empirically differentiate between modern political parties, particularly in transition countries (see, e.g., Mölder, 2016). In particular, Tavits and Letki (2009) show that during the transition process many leftist parties in Eastern Europe pursued economically right-wing policies and Vachudova (2008) argues that right-wing parties in the region often appealed to a nationalist discourse.
With these caveats in mind, Figure 3 shows the distribution of all parties in parliament in the Manifesto Project database on the RILE scale, weighted by their respective vote shares. In Western Europe in the 1990s, the chart shows the prominence of both centre-left and centre-right parties, as well as smaller parties both on the more extreme left and right. In contrast, the parties in parliament in transition economies at the time were more concentrated in the centre (and slightly towards the right). Fast forward 30 years and the distribution of political ideology has changed in both the east and the west. In Western Europe, the majority of parliamentarians are now situated slightly right of centre with little mass in the more extreme tails. In contrast, in the former transition countries, there is evidence of political polarisation with party representation moving both to the left and the right on the ideological spectrum and relatively few parliamentarians occupying the centre.
Figure 3. Left-right position of parties in parliament.
What are the main topics of political discourse? Are they different across countries? Do they change over time? While there is no perfect way to quantify and track political discourse over time, this brief uses data from parties’ manifestos provided by the Manifesto Project to illustrate some broad trends across Europe over the past 30 years.
We document two kinds of changes in the subject matter of party manifestos. First, there are gradual shifts in content that reflect underlying developments in society. As democracies have matured in Eastern Europe, the content of their parties’ manifestos has evolved away from the immediate concerns of economic and political transition and converged to those of Western European parties. Second, more abrupt shifts can arise when countries experience crises or institutional upheaval. Over the past decade Ukrainians have lived through a revolution, the Donbas war, and the ongoing Russian invasion. Most of the parties that represent them in parliament are new, and the issues that feature prominently in their manifestos are now markedly different from those before the Euromaidan revolution.
Manifestos are not just about substance but also about ideology. Using the Manifesto Project’s classification of parties on a left-right scale, we show how the distribution of parties has evolved in Western Europe and transition countries. By this measure, political polarisation has been increasing in transition countries where centrist positions are less well represented than in Western European parliaments.
- Gentzkow, Matthew, Bryan Kelly, and Matt Taddy. (2019). “Text as data”, Journal of Economic Literature 57, no. 3: 535-74.
- Grimmer, J., and Stewart, B. (2013). “Text as data: The promise and pitfalls of automatic content analysis methods for political texts”. Political analysis 21, no. 3: 267-297.
- Lehmann, P., Burst, T., Matthieß, T., Regel, S., Volkens, A., Weßels, B. and Zehnter, L. (2022) The Manifesto Data Collection. Manifesto Project (MRG / CMP / MARPOR). Version 2022a. Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB). https://doi.org/10.25522/manifesto.mpds.2022a
- Laver, M. and Budge, I. (eds.). (1992). Party Policy and Government Coalitions, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: The MacMillan Press.
- Mölder, M. (2016). The validity of the RILE left–right index as a measure of party policy. Party Politics, 22(1), 37–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068813509525
- Tavits, M. and Letki, N. (2009). When Left Is Right: Party Ideology and Policy in Post-Communist Europe. American Political Science Review, 103(4), 555-569. doi:10.1017/S0003055409990220
- Vachudova, M. A. (2008). Centre—Right Parties and Political Outcomes in East Central Europe. Party Politics, 14(4), 387–405. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068808090252
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine profoundly impacted the global economy, immediately sending shockwaves across the globe. The attack of a country that was once a major energy supplier to Europe on the country which was one of the top food exporters in the world, sent food and fuel prices spiralling, causing major energy shortages and the prospect of protracted recession in the United States and the European Union.
The unprovoked and brutal aggression resulted in nearly universal condemnation and widespread sanctions placed on Russia by the United States, the EU, and other Western allies. Financial sanctions were perhaps the most unexpected and significant with the potential for immediate impact on Russia’s neighbours, including those that did not formally join the sanctions regime. In addition to sanctions, the major consequence of the war was mass migration waves, particularly from Ukraine, but also from Russia and Belarus to neighbouring countries.
At the start of the war, it was expected that the Georgian economy would be severely and negatively impacted for the following reasons:
- First, as a former Soviet republic, Georgia historically maintained close economic trade ties with both Russia and Ukraine. The ties with Russia have weakened considerably in the wake of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war but remained significant. Russia was the primary market for imports of staple foods into Georgia, such as wheat flour, maize, buckwheat, edible oils, etc. Russia and Ukraine were both important export markets for Georgia. Russia was absorbing about 60 percent of Georgian wine exports and 47 percent of mineral water exports, while Ukraine was one of the leading importers of alcohol and spirits from Georgia (46 percent of Georgia’s exports). Tourism and remittances are other areas where Georgia is significantly tied to Russia and somewhat weaker to Ukraine. Before the pandemic, in 2019 Russia accounted for 24 percent of all tourism revenues, while Ukraine for 6 percent. Remittances from Russia accounted for 16.5 percent of total incoming transfers in 2021.
- Second, while the Georgian government chose to largely keep a neutral stance on the war (announcing at one point that they would not join or impose sanctions against Russia), the main financial and trade international sanctions were still in effect in Georgia due to international obligations and close business ties with the West. These factors were reinforced by strong support for Ukraine among the Georgian population, where the memory of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 remains uppermost.
- In addition, Georgia is a net energy importer, and while the dependence on energy imports from Russia is not significant, the rising prices would have affected Georgia profoundly.
Original publication: This policy paper was originally published in the ISET Policy Institute Policy Briefs section by Yaroslava Babych, Lead Economist of ISET Policy Institute. To read the full policy paper, please visit the website of ISET-PI.
The post-war reconstruction of Ukraine will have to comprehensively address a number of objectives to set the country on a path of stable, sustainable and inclusive growth. In this Policy Paper we argue that the principles of “building-back better” need to take the gender dimension under consideration. While the war has exposed women and men to different risks and challenges, various types of gender inequality were also pervading the Ukrainian society prior to it. Gender responsiveness in the preparation, design and execution of reconstruction programs is essential to ensure fair and effective allocation of the coming massive inflow of resources in the reconstruction effort. We argue that the principles and implementation mechanisms developed under the gender responsive budgeting (GRB) heading are suitable to apply in the process. We also document that the principles of GRB have in recent years become well established in Ukrainian public finance management and point out areas where the application of a GRB approach will be of particular importance.
In August 2022, in the midst of the full-scale Russian invasion, the Ukrainian government adopted the State Strategy for ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men for the period until 2030 and approval of the operational plan for its implementation for 2022-2024 (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2022), reaffirming its commitment to promote gender equality in Ukraine with a focus on empowering women and eliminating gender-based discrimination in all areas of life. The Strategy follows a number of earlier legislative initiatives that had placed gender equality at the center of Ukrainian public policy and included a comprehensive approach to the design of fiscal policy at the central and local government level, adopting the principles of gender responsive budgeting (GRB). Given substantial gender gaps in numerous areas of life in the Ukrainian society these principles will have to be considered in the future reconstruction process to address such disparities. Following the overall guidance presented by the authors of the CEPR Report published in late 2022, titled “Rebuilding Ukraine: Principles and policies” (Gorodnichenko et al., 2022), this Policy Paper examines some key dimensions of the future reconstruction of Ukraine from the perspective of gender equality with a focus on consistent and effective adoption of the principles of GRB.
Gorodnichenko et al. (2022) noted the critical importance of thinking already today about how Ukraine will rebuild after the war is over – “advanced planning and preparations now will save lives and increase chances of success (…) these steps will give hope to millions of Ukrainians that after the horrors of the war there is light at the end of the tunnel”. We argue, that if the reconstruction is to result in stable, sustainable development and bring tangible benefits to all Ukrainians, the principles of “building-back better” need to take the gender dimension under consideration. This is important for efficiency as well as equality reasons. Such an approach is fully consistent with the 2022 State Strategy which recognizes that gender equality is not only a human right but also a driver of economic growth and social development. The Strategy also provides a framework for mainstreaming gender into government policies and programs, including the budget, and recognizes the importance of gender budgeting as a tool for promoting gender equality and ensuring that public resources are allocated in a fair and equitable manner. Different forms of gender inequality permeated Ukrainian society before the war: while women were more educated than men, they were less likely to participate in the labor force, were severely under-represented in senior positions in business and politics as well as in fast-developing sectors such as information and communication technology, were earning lower wages, and were more likely to be victims of gender-based violence (see, e.g. World Economic Forum, 2021). The war has also exposed women and men to different risks and challenges (see, e.g., Berlin Perrotta and Campa, 2022). Gender responsiveness in the preparation, design and execution of the reconstruction programs is crucial to ensure fair and effective allocation of the vast amount of resources that will be mobilized through the reconstruction effort, providing a unique opportunity to address pre-war and war-related gender inequalities. We argue that the principles and implementation mechanisms developed under the heading of gender responsive budgeting are suitable tools to apply in the process. There are numerous examples from various post-disaster reconstruction experiences showing how sensitivity along the gender dimension can determine the success or failure of specific initiatives, and how thinking in advance along gender equality lines can help address the change from an ineffective and unfair status quo, to successfully “build-back better” (see Box 1).
The dimensions of post-war reconstruction of Ukraine covered in Gorodnichenko et al. (2022) range from necessary changes in governance, through reforms in the business and finance environment, energy and transportation infrastructure, as well as the labor market, the education and the healthcare system, to a discussion of the structure most efficient to deliver international aid. The Report offers an invaluable blueprint for peace-time reconstruction and development of Ukraine and constitutes a crucial reference point for the discussion about the efficient use of resources necessary to ensure rapid and sustainable development of the country. Below we build on its main principles, examine them through a gender lens and apply a gender responsive budgeting approach to highlight the areas where it can be used at different stages of the reconstruction process.
In what follows we draw on the growing literature in the fields, among others, of political economy, development, education and labor economics, that examines the importance of gender diversity and identifies implications of gender inequalities for socio-economic outcomes at the micro and the macro level. On the basis of this literature, we point out the dimensions of the reconstruction process where a gender responsive approach can be particularly beneficial, and specify the stages of the process where the principles of gender responsive budgeting can be effectively applied to ensure efficient and fair distribution of recovery resources. The paper begins with a brief introduction to gender budgeting (Section 2), followed by three sections focusing on key categories of the reconstruction. First, in Section 3, we discuss how a gender responsive approach can shape governance reforms in the post-war period. In Section 4 we examine how gender sensitivity combined with the principles of GRB can influence the allocation of recovery funds in the process of physical rebuilding after the war, as well as the design of the physical environment. Finally, Section 5 highlights the crucial role of human capital in post-war development and points out a number of areas where reconstruction policies might have to be carefully drafted, taking into consideration the specific needs and requirements of women and men. We stress throughout that the concept of gender budgeting and gender responsiveness has been exercised in Ukraine for some time and that it is well rooted in Ukrainian public policy making. These principles should thus come naturally to representatives of key institutions in the discussion of plans for the country’s reconstruction and their execution.
2. Applying Gender Responsive Budgeting Principles to the Process of Post-war Reconstruction
At the heart of gender responsive budgeting lies the recognition of the potential of financial and fiscal policies to influence gender disparities. Gender budgeting integrates “a clear gender perspective within the overall context of the budgetary process through special processes and analytical tools, with a view to promoting gender-responsive policies” (Downes et al. 2017). It is aimed at ensuring that fiscal policies and public financial management practices and tools are formulated and implemented with a view to promote and achieve gender equality objectives, and that adequate resources for achieving them are allocated (IMF, 2017). For GRB to be effective, gender considerations ought to be included in all the stages of the budget cycle, including:
- the setting of fiscal policy goals and targets
- the preparation of the annual budget and its approval by the legislature
- the control and execution of the approved budget
- the collection of revenues, the preparation of accounts, and financial reports
- the independent oversight and audit of the budget
At each stage of the process, different tools have been developed to ensure that discussion on the gender impact of a specific fiscal policy will constitute an integral part of budget decision-making, execution and reporting. These tools include documents ensuring that spending ministries and agencies are fully briefed on the legal and administrative procedures to be followed in implementing gender responsive budgeting as well as on the requirements to include gender-relevant indicators in budget requests, to provide data disaggregated by sex, or to request specific budgetary allocations for gender-related programs or projects (Budlender, 2015). Moreover, gender budget statements can be published with the budget document as strategic tools to implement gender-responsive policies by allocating adequate resources to reach strategic goals and measuring impact and results. Gender budgeting also includes requirements for gender-impact assessment of the potential direct and indirect effect of policy proposals on gender equality and more broadly on different groups in the society. The regulations may require such assessments to be made prior to implementation (ex-ante assessment) as well as after the roll out of the policies (ex-post evaluation).
The principles of GRB originated in the 1980s in the Australian government in the form of the so-called ‘Women’s Statement’. The principles were applied more broadly in transition and developing countries with support of UN Women and numerous NGOs and research institutions. In recent years, mainly as a result of recognition of the effectiveness of GRB from international financial institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD, the approach has been more firmly integrated with other existing budget tools. It has thus become much more common as a standard technical budget instrument in numerous developed and developing countries (For more details on the development of GRB theory and practice see for example: Budlender et al. 2002; O’Hagan and Klatzer 2018, and Kolovich 2018). Currently over ninety countries around the world apply some form of GRB. While in most of them its use has not been systematized and fully integrated in the overall budget process, countries such as Australia, Austria, Canada and the Spanish province of Andalusia apply GRB consistently across all levels of government and systematically monitor its execution. Ukraine is also among the countries that in recent years have made rapid progress towards comprehensive integration of GRB in its public policy (see Box 2).
The Ukrainian government firmly upheld the principles of GRB after the Russian invasion in February 2022, at a time when one might think that gender equality considerations would lose priority in the management of public finances. Throughout the war the Ministry of Finance has continued to ask line ministries to provide gender responsive budget requests, and fiscal policy has been monitored to ensure informed policies with regard to the distribution of the limited crisis-budget funds among different groups in society. These policies together with the State Strategy for ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men for the period until 2030 and approval of the operational plan for its implementation for 2022-2024 (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2022), adopted in August 2022, reaffirm the Ukrainian government’s commitment to gender responsive policy making and lay the foundations for the application of such an approach during the post-war recovery process. Effective implementation of GRB principles requires specific knowledge and expertise, and the lack of which has often been a key challenge in meaningful integration of gender analysis in financial processes and documents. Competence in finance among civil servants in line ministries and the Ministry of Finance needs to be combined with gender expertise in sector budget analysis. Development of the combination of these competencies in Ukraine in recent years bodes well for integrating the GRB principles in the process of recovery and reconstruction.
At different stages of the reconstruction process the needs of various social groups along the gender dimension as well as others such as age, disability or religion, ought to be taken into account. To ensure fair and effective use of recovery funds the process should consider the following principles:
- Participation: consultation with different population groups by gender, age, disability, profession, and other characteristics should enable assessment of the priority objectives for reconstruction in specific localities.
- Equity: there is always a risk of neglecting the needs of different categories of people (e.g. people with disabilities) while focusing on the needs of the majority of the population.
- Addressability: it is important to realize that a reconstruction program aimed at “everyone” risks significant misallocation of funds, reaching “no one”. A careful approach needs to consider different economic, cultural, recreational, educational and service needs of well-specified groups of individuals.
The planning and execution of the reconstruction process could follow the lines of intersectional gender budgeting analysis which focuses on the analysis of how different budget measures impact different groups of citizens – women and men – taking into account their disability status, age, place of residence and other variables. Taking as an example a foot bridge reconstruction, a gender responsive analysis would enable information on the citizens in the area, their needs, and their use of the infrastructure. The reconstructed bridge should benefit pedestrians, often women who might sell their products at the marketplace, or whose access to various services requires to cross the river. The analysis would also consider employment levels among women in the reconstruction of the bridge, etc. Considering the example of a school reconstruction, the process needs to consider if there are children in the area and/or whether they will return to that area with their families; whether there is/will be sufficient access to transportation and whether – in case the school is not reconstructed – the children can conduct their education in other schools in the area. Reconstructed educational institutions should consider gender-sensitive infrastructure and account for design of facilities, such as ramps, to address the needs of individuals with disabilities.
The Ukrainian government is strongly committed to supporting gender equality trough, among other means, gender mainstreaming processes with well-established legal frameworks for gender budgeting. Reconstruction efforts shall acknowledge and use the existing analytical tools in Ukraine to ensure that donor funds, projects and initiatives achieve their objective of sustainable and equitable development. Effective and fair distribution of the reconstruction funds will require that substantial care is paid to the analysis of the beneficiaries at the stages of planning and during reconstruction.
3. The Gender Perspective on Governance in Post-war Reconstruction
The institutional arrangements adopted both at the national level in Ukraine and at the international level for the administration and distribution of reconstruction funds will be of crucial importance to the success of recovery efforts and their translation into rapid and sustainable development of the country. In this Section we take the gender perspective on these two dimensions of governance. First, we argue that, at the national level, improvements could be made in the Ukrainian electoral system to extend women’s access to elected political positions in order to increase women’s influence in the overall process of policy-making. Drawing on international evidence we argue that this would not only further ensure support for the application of the gender budgeting approach, but it would also help selecting more competent and non-corruptible politicians. Second, we build on the proposal in Mylovanov and Roland (2022) to create an EU-affiliated agency that would manage the funds from multilateral donors (the “Ukraine Reconstruction and European Integration Agency” – UREIA) and examine how the GRB principles should be applied to efficiently integrate them with other dimensions of such an agency’s activities.
3.1 Increasing Women’s Representation in Ukrainian Political Institutions
In international comparisons, Ukraine lags behind in terms of women’s representation in politics, with gender gaps persisting in national as well as local institutions – in spite of some recent progress. It is likely that a large presence of women in political institutions would help addressing concerns regarding the effective implementation of the gender budgeting principles. Local and central politicians could promote ex-post evaluations of local and national projects to verify that the intended gender-breakdown of beneficiaries were reached, and they could consider and implement corrective measures when unintended balances were found. In this respect we note, once again, that key decision-makers in Ukraine have shown strong commitment to the principles of gender-budgeting, by supporting and prioritizing its implementation – even during the dramatic circumstances of the Russian invasion (see Box 2). However, the commitment to gender-budgeting among policy-makers in Ukraine would likely become even stronger with a larger presence of women among them. The gender composition of political institutions has been shown to affect the allocation of public funds. For example, Chattopadhyay and Duflo (2004) find that female village chiefs in India tend to spend more money in budgetary areas that appear to be especially important for female villagers. Similarly, an analysis of the bills proposed by French legislators shows that women tend to work more on so called “women’s issues” (Lippmann, 2022). We would therefore expect female politicians to be more likely to support an effective implementation of gender-budgeting principles. Moreover, we expect project proposals crafted by more gender equal groups to be more representative of both women and men’s needs and priorities, which in turns should make the reconstruction process more balanced across different areas and allow it to address numerous inefficiencies of the pre-war status quo (see Box 1).
It is also worth noting that some literature in economics and political science documents that, as more women are elected to political institutions, the average “quality” of elected politicians tends to increase (Besley et al., 2020; Baltrunaite et al., 2018). Moreover, female policy-makers are less likely to engage in corruption and patronage (Brollo and Troiano, 2018; Dollar et al., 2001; Swamy et al., 2001), a dimension which will certainly be closely monitored at an international level, and one which is key in ensuring international public support for the reconstruction. Policies that increase women’s representation in politics could thus also help improve the quality of democratic institutions, a development that is of utmost importance in the face of Ukraine’s ambition to join the EU. While the existing empirical evidence does not unanimously link women’s representation in politics to more women-friendly budgetary expenditures or better institutions, it is worth noting that there is also no evidence of any major drawback from policies that help women accessing political institutions. Increasing women’s representation in Ukrainian political institutions would also be in line with the argument that bringing a critical mass of new people in politics will help counteracting “oligarchizing” tendencies (Mylovanov and Roland, 2022) in the development of Ukrainian democracy. Numerous options are available in terms of changes in the political ‘rules of the game’ to help address the current underrepresentation of women in Ukrainian political institutions. In Box 3 we list a few of these options.
3.2 Gender Budgeting in the Work of UREIA
Gender-budgeting in the reconstruction process requires an ex-ante gender-analysis of the different projects being financed, which relies on the availability of sex-disaggregated data and specialized skills. Given that gender-budgeting has been part of Ukraine public finance system for a number of years, there is likely a good supply of trained personnel who can work together with international experts right from the beginning of the reconstruction. Conducting the ex-ante work of gender assessment within the reconstruction agency should speed up the process that we envision, as the tasks involved will be routinely sourced to the same teams of skilled individuals who will analyze different projects through the gender-budgeting lens. The agency should then also be in charge of a centralized evaluation of the various gender-analysis results. This work of overview will provide a comprehensive picture of who is reached by the entire pool of available reconstruction funds, thus allowing to distinguish project-specific gender differences – which can be justified by specific needs being targeted at project-level – from a systematic bias toward one of the genders in the overall reconstruction process. A clear picture of who are the beneficiaries of specific reconstruction initiatives, including statistics disaggregated by gender and potentially by other characteristics, may play a key role in reassuring the Ukrainian society that the recovery funds are used to benefit a broad spectrum of the population, as well as in legitimizing the use of these funds in the eyes of the international donor community.
The conclusions of the international literature on the implications of women’s representation in political institutions for the scope of realized public initiatives mentioned in Section 3.1, pertain also to the functioning of the UREIA. The very design and composition of the agency’s staff ought to ensure gender diversity in its ranks at all levels of seniority to safeguard both the highest quality of the work being carried out by UREIA, as well as the appropriate scope of projects undertaken by the agency, most preferably supported by the principles of GRB. Recent empirical studies indicate that the personal traits of public procurement actors, such as their abilities or competencies, may play a key role in influencing procurement practices and outcomes (see, e.g., Best, Hjort and Szakonyi, 2022 or Decarolis et al., 2020), and gender-based variations in personal characteristics such as risk aversion, ethical values, and others have been demonstrated to be significant, including in the context of corruption (see a review in Chaudhuri, 2012).
4. Post-war Reconstruction: the Gender Perspective on Rebuilding the Physical Environment
The physical environment provides the background for the functioning of societies and at the same time, through its physical durability, imposes a long-lasting legacy that may determine the dynamics of social processes well beyond the time of construction. It shapes the organization of cities, the location and efficiency of public infrastructure, as well as the transport networks and it is also an influential precondition and determinant of behavior and outcomes. There is plenty of examples of how the physical environment affects economic outcomes, both at the individual and societal level. The presence of large infrastructures such as ports or highways determined the process of agglomeration (Ganapati, 2021; Faber, 2014), while paved roads and irrigation canals affect local development and structural transformation of rural areas (Aggarwal, 2018; Asher et al., 2022). Availability of urban green spaces has implications for health outcomes and violence (Kondo et al., 2018) and the safety of commuting routes affects girls’ college choices (Borker, 2021). Moreover, elements of the built environment may also affect social norms (Josa and Aguado, 2019; Baum and Benshaul-Tolonen, 2021).
The post-war reconstruction of the physical environment will shape the structure of Ukrainian cities and villages for decades to come, and hence the process ought to consider very broad aspects of influence of the built environment, with a clear focus on the identity of its users and beneficiaries. We firmly believe that the application of the principles of GRB will facilitate effective use of recovery resources and at the same time help address the inefficiencies of the pre-war status quo to create an environment which fairly takes into consideration the interests of both men and women. With respect to the physical environment in particular, obvious path dependencies limit swift changes to benefit women and other marginalized groups (Hensley, Mateo-Babiano, and Minnery 2014) and from this perspective the post-war recovery process can be thought of as a unique opportunity to address a number of imbalances.
4.1 Gender Mainstreaming in Urban Planning
It has been pointed out that gender mainstreaming in urban planning remains inadequate, which has been linked to the gender bias in the planning industry, both in terms of representation – who plans the cities affects how the cities are planned (Beall, 1996) – and the dominant culture (Sahama et al., 2012). It seems intuitive that a planning approach which takes into account how beneficiaries of the design are disaggregated by gender, and how the design affects the functioning of different groups, would result in an environment much more suited to the needs of these groups. The design should take into consideration different preferences with regard to employment, leisure, housing, open spaces, transportation, and the environment. Gender is relevant across all these issues in urban planning. Including more women in planning and decision-making might be the easiest way to ensure that such perspective is accounted for.
As we argue in Section 5, the effective use of Ukraine’s human capital will be essential for the success of its recovery process and further development. The built environment has important consequences in this realm and so, when rethinking cities, questions such as zoning, connectivity and mobility, as well as the quality of sidewalks and lighting need to be considered in relation to the necessity to juggle work, care for household members, and other daily duties (Grant-Smith, Osborne, and Johnson 2017). The rebuilt physical infrastructure will affect the lives of those who are particularly limited by safety concerns, and it will affect the quality of life of those who walk pushing a pram or supporting elderly relatives. These aspects have been shown to be particularly important for women, increasing their actual and perceived vulnerability when they travel around the city, cutting them off from after-dark activities (Ceccato et al., 2020), but also affecting life choices with a long-lasting impact (Borker, 2021). Utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS), satellite imagery and open data sources holds the promise of creating more effective methods for observing patterns of utilization of the city and incorporating a gender responsive approach along these lines in urban planning of reconstructed areas of Ukraine (Carpio-Pinedo et al., 2019).
4.2 Gender Sensitivity in the Design of Transport Infrastructure
Transport infrastructure is crucial to the development of society. When a large share of the infrastructure capital needs to be rebuilt or updated, as will be the case in Ukraine, this opportunity may be used to lay new foundations for both economic and social development. To make the most of such an opportunity, attention ought to be paid to a number of identified risks. Unequal resource distribution has been observed both in connection with new construction of infrastructure (MacDonald, 2005) and relocation of the same (Chandra, 2000; Unruh and Shalaby, 2012). The large stakes inherent in these projects can generate high incomes and rent-seeking leading to a deepening of inequalities and further marginalization of those already vulnerable from the conflict. As women have been particularly strongly affected by the war and the resulting internal displacement (Obrizan, 2022a), the reconstruction process ought to pay particular attention to the risks of exacerbating some unequal developments that emerged with the war. Women’s representation in budgeting, procurement, and decision-making might make these aspects more salient and facilitate their integration into the recovery process.
Mobility is connected with social inclusion, more general well-being and a higher quality of life (this literature is reviewed in Josa and Aguado, 2019). The transport infrastructure is particularly important from the point of view of gender equality as usage of transportation and transport mode preferences significantly vary across socio-economic groups, including by gender (Grieco and McQuaid, 2012; Ghani et al., 2016). In the reconstruction planning and rebuilding process the prioritization of public funding for roads, highways, and railways compared to slow modes, such as walking and cycling, should be put in relation to usage and preferences in different groups of the population. One way through which women are excluded, from mobility itself and from other economic outcomes that mobility would help to reach, such as education (Borker, 2021) and employment (Das and Kotikula, 2019), are safety concerns. In dozens of cities around the world, lack of safety and prevalence of sexual harassment in public transit has resulted in the creation of safe spaces to facilitate safer travel conditions for women (Kondylis et al., 2020). The reconstruction could put significant emphasis on the safety of public transportation which would benefit women in particular and facilitate their effective integration in the future aspects of socio-economic development.
4.3 The Gender Perspective in Increasing Energy Efficiency
One of the key focus points of post-war reconstruction will be rebuilding the energy infrastructure, which has, over the course of the war increasingly been a target of Russian bombing. This process will have to be accompanied by considerations of reorientation, in terms of the energy mix, with a focus on self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability, but also most likely of relocation. At the same time the country should pay significant attention to energy efficiency, which may significantly influence both the energy self-sufficiency of Ukraine and the environmental aspects of power and heating.
It is worth noting at this point that natural resources and their exploitation have significant implications for local communities with consequences from projects often spilling over to local attitudes, leading to gender inequalities through channels such as labor and marriage markets, environmental quality and health, fertility and violence (see a review in Baum and Benshaul-Tolonen, 2021). Both exploitation and new energy infrastructure projects – similar to other aspects of the build environment – will have to consider effective connection to the new urban and production mix, so that the energy infrastructure serves the new cities and the updated geographic distribution of various productive sectors, but also the impact that infrastructure positioning can have on surrounding communities. The presence of infrastructure may generate rents and inequality, and the same is true also for energy infrastructure.
The post-war reconstruction will also present a chance to substantially improve energy self-sufficiency through increased efficiency in energy consumption. Ukraine currently has an energy intensity in production that exceeds the EU average by a factor of 2.5. Although energy efficiency in industry and buildings represents the lion share of such gains, households’ consumption behavior has the potential to contribute substantially, both directly through the consumption of fuel and electricity, and indirectly through the consumption of goods and services (Bin and Dowlatabadi, 2005), as well as through the support for a green policy agenda (Douenne and Fabre, 2022). In this area women and gender-related attitudes might be particularly important. Recent literature claims that women tend to be more environmentally friendly than men, partly due to individual characteristics and attitudes considered more prevalent among women, such as risk aversion, altruism, and cooperativeness – important for environmental behaviors (Cárdenas et al., 2012 and 2014; Andreoni and Vesterlund, 2001). There is also empirical evidence that households where women have more decision power display higher energy-efficiency and energy savings (Li et al., 2019), while firms with more women in their board source significantly more energy from renewables (Atif et al., 2020). It might therefore prove instrumental that energy-efficiency policies directed to households (nudges, information/education, financial incentives) and firms respectively (including gender quotas in boards) take these aspects into account.
5. Post-war Reconstruction: the Gender Perspective on Rebuilding and Strengthening Ukraine’s Human Capital
The human cost of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the implications from the Russian occupation of Ukrainian territories since 2014, is immeasurable. The loss of lives, as well as the consequences of disabilities, physical injuries and mental trauma will scar the Ukrainian future for decades to come. The invasion has resulted also in massive displacement and emigration, as well as in the loss of numerous aspects of individual capacities. From the point of view of Ukraine’s reconstruction and future development, all these losses, apart from demonstrating dramatic individual human tragedies, need to be perceived as loss of an essential building block of socio-economic growth – human capital.
Successful post-war reconstruction of Ukraine and its long-term sustainable development can only be ensured if sufficient care is taken of areas which are key to the development and effective utilization of human capital. These cover, in particular but not exclusively, the areas of healthcare, education, research and the labor market and all of them have been extensively covered and discussed in Gorodnichenko et al. (2022, see chapters: 10, 11, 12, 13). Drawing on their general conclusions, we particularly focus on some of the gender aspects of human capital development in the context of planning Ukraine’s reconstruction. Highlighting gender aspects is sometimes misunderstood as being focused on achieving gender equality in numbers across domains. This is not our focus here. The starting point is to look at a number of empirical facts about actual conditions and, based on this, point to the importance of taking the gender dimension into account to achieve efficiency in the reconstruction process. Gender sensitivity seems particularly important in the area of human capital development, and given the fundamental role of human capital for growth (e.g., Barro, 2001; Squicciarini and Voigtländer, 2015; Goldin, 2016) it is essential for an effective use of reconstruction resources as well as for ensuring a cost-efficient, sustainable and fair process of redevelopment.
The reconstruction interventions we address in this Section are those in which the gender aspect is particularly salient. We categorize these under three broad overlapping headings: 5.1; supporting internally displaced individuals, returning international migrants, war veterans and other victims of conflict, 5.2; providing effective education and training to younger generations, and 5.2; reducing institutional constraints on labor market participation.
5.1 Supporting Internally Displaced, Returning International Migrants, War Veterans and Other Victims of Conflict
Forced internal displacement and international migration – apart from the resulting direct consequences for physical and mental health – comes with separation from family and local social networks, from jobs and schools as well as loss of physical and financial assets. According to UNWomen 7,9 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave the country and 90 percent of them are women with their children. Of the more than 5 million internally displaced 68 percent are women (as of Jan 2023; UNWomen, 2023). Many of those forced to move will either not be able to return home or will return to their localities devastated by the war along a number of dimensions.
Effective rebuilding and reconstruction will strongly rely on the input from these hundreds of thousands of individuals. We ought to bear in mind that a great majority of international war migrants are women, and supporting them in returning to Ukraine and in reintegration – often in places other than those they had left – will be of vital importance to the process of reconstruction. Significant care will also have to be taken of returning war veterans – most of whom are men, as well as victims of war related sexual violence – mostly women. Ukraine already counts more than 300,000 veterans from different armed conflicts on Ukrainian territory since 1992 – including 18,000 women or about 6 percent (Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine, 2022). According to the head of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, about 1 million are currently mobilized, with roughly 5 percent being women (Boyko, 2022). The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine (2022b) expects the number of veterans and their families to amount to 5 million. To support their involvement in the reconstruction process, short run interventions ought to address the following critical areas: housing and safety, physical and mental health, and active labor market policies. All these areas involve significant gender considerations.
a) Housing and safety
As many of the internally displaced and those returning to Ukraine from abroad will not be able to return to their homes, provision of safe and good quality housing will represent a major challenge in the reconstruction efforts. While ‘roof over your head’ is equally important for everyone, some aspects of the housing infrastructure, especially local safety and safe connectivity with other key locations, are of particular relevance to the wellbeing of women. Although already mentioned in in our discussion of reconstruction of the physical environment in Section 4, it is important to bear in mind that good quality housing and access to critical infrastructure and effective transportation networks have substantial implications for the effective ways of participation of different members of the society in its socio-economic activities. If the human capital of men and women is to be efficiently engaged in the reconstruction process and further developed, the physical context in which it will happen must be adjusted with the objectives of different groups in mind. Housing, neighborhood conditions, and safe transportation translate into access to jobs, training, education, and local services. The design of the physical reconstruction after the war ought to take these different perspectives into account along the lines of gender responsive budgeting to clearly delineate and correctly identify priorities for the allocation of recovery funds.
b) Physical and mental health support
It is clear that experiences from threat to one’s life and safety, the need to flee one’s home and search refuge, continued experience of insecurity, the direct exposure to terror and violence – including sexual violence – and war atrocities will leave a significant proportion of the Ukrainian population traumatized and in need of specialized mental health support. Additionally, numerous individuals will come out of the war with life-changing physical injuries, while to countless people the period of war will result in substantial neglect of common health problems which otherwise would have been taken care of. These dramatic consequences of war will have to be comprehensively addressed as part of the reconstruction effort to support the affected and vulnerable groups, with the aim to address both their physical and mental health deficiencies. The issues involved are too complex for a Policy Paper to deal with in detail – we can only highlight health as an area to be prioritized in the allocation of recovery funds. With that in mind it is important to stress that there are numerous examples in the public heath literature showing the significance of the gender perspective with regard to the efficient use of public resources and appropriate design of health interventions, taking into account the specific requirements of men and women both in physical and mental health (Abel & Newbigging, 2018; Chandra et al., 2019; Diaz-Granados et al., 2011; Judd et al., 2009; Oertelt-Prigione et al., 2017).
War veterans – primarily men – will be a group in need of particular concern and a comprehensive approach with regard to physical and mental health. Specific specialized support will have to be offered also to victims of conflict-related sexual violence – mostly women. The direct health support will often need to go along with education and training as well as assistance in such areas as housing and material conditions.
Already before the full-scale Russian invasion Ukraine had rolled out several programs in support of veterans from the ongoing 2014 conflict. These included establishing private or publicly co-funded therapy centers for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (Colborne, 2015) and creating organized groups of psychological and psychiatric specialists providing psychological assistance (Quirke et al., 2020). They also included conducting special trainings for general practitioners to provide mental health consultations to increase the overall capacity of Ukraine’s health care system to address mental health issues (Kuznetsova et al., 2019), and broadcasting national TV/social media awareness campaigns such as ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ (Quirke et al., 2021). Since 2017, as part of the broader healthcare reform program, a thorough reform of the mental health services provision has been underway. The key identified challenges targeted with the reform were: securing human rights protection in mental health legislation, improving regulation of the mental healthcare sector and expanding delivery of mental health services outside of the institutionalized settings (The Ministry of Health of Ukraine, 2018; Weissbecker et al., 2017).
c) Active labor market policies (ALMP)
In precarious conditions in particular, women tend to be those responsible for care of elderly and children, which additionally contributes to disconnecting them from the labor market. It seems that large scale ALMP programs for displaced individuals and returning migrants will be essential to improve the match between skills and the local post-war labor market conditions.
With greater war time labor market disconnect among women, many of whom will have spent months without employment or in various forms of war-time subsistence work, ALMPs will be critical for many in the process of post-war reconstruction. Overview studies show that effectiveness of labor market interventions is generally positive for men and women (e.g. Card et al., 2010). These are often similar in size even though in settings with high employment gaps – such as in the case of Ukraine – the programs tend to be more effective for women (Bergman and van den Berg, 2008). Appropriate identification of skill shortages and provision of training can be an effective way of supporting the post-war Ukrainian labor market and the integration of women in particular. The design of these programs ought to pay special attention in order to avoid labor market stereotyping, to provide broad and integrated routeways to deliver the greatest pool of talent, and to ensure that men and women are appropriately matched to jobs suitable to their skills and abilities. Significant training programs should also be directed towards war veterans.
The skills training aspect of ALMPs has other important gender dimensions – women represent a large majority of Ukrainian teachers, and their skills can be utilized not only in schools but also in adult education and retraining, taking particular advantage of the extensive network of vocational education institutions. Similarly, around 83 percent of the country’s healthcare workers are women, and skills upgrading in the healthcare sector – especially focused on increasing the competence and skills of nurses to take over greater responsibilities for primary care – will constitute an important reform element in the Ukrainian healthcare sector (see Gorodnichenko et al., 2022, chapter 12).
5.2 Providing Effective Education and Training to Younger Generations
Ukrainian youth have in recent years faced a double blow to their educational development. The first one in the form of numerous Covid-19 pandemic related restrictions, followed by the disruption in their education process due to the Russian invasion. The latter especially affected those who had to flee their homes and leave their local schools, as well as those whose schools have been destroyed and rendered dysfunctional. However, many Ukrainian schools opted for or were forced to limit the extent of provided classes and/or provided some of the instruction online. According to UNICEF, the war in Ukraine has disrupted education for more than 5 million children (UNICEF, 2023). 60 percent of children have experienced different traumatic events such as separation from family and friends, moving to another region, shelling and bombing, having witnessed the death of relatives or loved ones, etc. In early 2023, 42 percent of children aged 3-17 studied online, 29 percent both online and in school/kindergarten, 26 percent attended educational institutions while 3 percent studied at home (Sociological Group Rating, 2023). As mounting evidence from the Covid-19 pandemic shows, such disruptions accumulate in the form of significant human capital losses (e.g., Gajderowicz et al., 2022, Contini et al., 2021) and post-war recovery will have to address these to minimize the losses to the pool of skills of the future Ukrainian work force.
Home schooling and school routines disrupted in various ways might, in particular in communities characterized by traditional gender norms, impose additional limitations on the education of girls who may be tasked with greater home and care responsibilities. Thus, while emphasis on catching up on effective learning will be of utmost importance for all students, from the point of view of gender equality, it will be particularly important to closely monitor the school coverage and return to standard school attendance among girls. As post-pandemic evidence from developing countries suggests this may be of particular relevance with regard to teenage students (Kwauk et al., 2021). Post-war recovery initiatives aimed at financial support for households ought to ensure that households with older children in particular do not need to trade off material conditions and schooling opportunities. This might call for programs designed to incentivize school attendance in particular among children in displaced families and for returning international migrants (Aygün et al., 2021).
The post-war reconstruction initiatives in education might also be a chance for the education system to be more forthcoming in promoting high skilled occupations among female students. The 2018 PISA study demonstrated that while Ukrainian 15-year-old girls and boys do equally well in mathematics and science, their objectives with regard to occupation – in particular in STEM areas – differ significantly (OECD, 2019).
5.3 Reducing Institutional Constraints on Labor Market Participation
In order to make most of the potential of the Ukrainian labor force in the process of post-war reconstruction, the plans ought to target various institutional constraints to labor market participation. In this respect the gender equality literature has stressed in particular the provision of early and pre-school childcare to facilitate employment of parents, and in particular of mothers (Addati et al., 2018; Attanasio et al., 2008; Azcona et al., 2020; Gammarano, 2020). Although much has been done during the past decades to improve women integration in the labor market, attitudes in the home and in the family care realm remain traditional and unbalanced (Babych et al., 2021; Obrizan, 2022b). This translates into an unequal division of care and work at home as well as participation in the labor market.
While childcare facilities have been shown to play a key role in supporting female participation in numerous contexts, they are going to be of particular importance to displaced families and returning international migrants, who may lack family support and social networks to organize informal care. Before the full-scale invasion, a relatively high proportion of children aged 3-5 and 5-6 (88 and 97 percent, respectively) were covered by institutional childcare (Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 2021). Returning to such high levels of coverage will be an important element of the reconstruction process. Additionally, authorities should extend the coverage of childcare available to younger children, which in 2019 was much lower (18 percent).
Similarly, welfare arrangements in a broader sense are important to facilitate employment of all working age individuals, men as well as women. It is well established that in situations where government support is cut in various ways, it is typically the women who withdraw from the labor market to manage not just childcare but elderly care and other welfare functions (Mateo Díaz and Rodriguez-Chamussy, 2016). While a high proportion (54 percent) of people in Ukraine before the 2022 invasion declared that care duties should be equally divided between spouses, as many as 41 percent thought that it is the woman’s responsibility (Babych et al., 2021). This implies that it is still likely that, when faced with institutional and informal care constraints, it will be women who will be more likely to drop out of the labor market.
To facilitate effective reconstruction, high participation rates among both men and women will be of utmost importance. To achieve this, substantial reconstruction funding ought to be committed to ensure adequate care support directed both to parents of young children as well as to those with care responsibilities of older family members. Such support will be particularly important in localities with high numbers of internally displaced and returning international migrants. These needs should be correctly accounted for when planning the reconstruction process and allocation of funds, and the GRB approach is likely to be an essential instrument to ensure that objectives of different groups of the Ukrainian society are appropriately addressed.
Over the last few years, the Ukrainian government has introduced substantial reforms in the management of public finances with the aim of developing gender responsive procedures to ensure greater gender equality in the delivered outcomes. The government’s commitment was confirmed in August 2022 with the adoption of the State Strategy for ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men for the period until 2030 and approval of the operational plan for its implementation for 2022-2024 (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2022). The implemented legislation and the experience from practicing gender responsive budgeting at different levels of government can prove to be an invaluable platform to be utilized in the post-war reconstruction process. Pre-war statistics from many areas of life in Ukraine demonstrated a high degree of inequality along the gender dimension. Gender gaps were high in employment, pay levels, the allocation of home and care responsibilities, and it could also be seen in senior positions in politics, company management, and academia. One of the many tragic consequences of the full-scale Russian invasion and the ongoing war is that these gaps are likely to grow.
If the post-war reconstruction process is to take the principles of “building-back-better” seriously, then, apart from many other dimensions which need to be considered (see Gorodnichenko et al., 2022), recovery planning and execution will also have to address various social inequalities, especially that along the gender dimension. As argued in this Policy Paper, to ensure fair and effective use of recovery funds, the reconstruction process should pay close attention to the identity of its beneficiaries, as well as the way decisions are being made. The authorities, including the central agency responsible for the reconstruction (e.g., UREIA, see Gorodnichenko et al., 2022), should take full advantage of existing tools and instruments of the gender responsive budgeting approach, as well as of an equitable representation within their ranks, and build on the basis of existing Ukrainian legislation and practice of gender budgeting (see Box 2). The reconstruction process will offer a unique chance to set Ukraine on the path of inclusive, stable and sustainable development. We have pointed out a number of areas in which the gender dimension will be particularly important – these include both the reconstruction and rebuilding of the physical environment as well as support and recovery of the full potential of Ukrainian citizens – old and young, men and women. The reconstruction of Ukraine will be a hugely challenging task, and it will have to involve massive resources. International support for channeling those funds to Ukraine and their effective use will depend on how effectively and how fairly they will be used. The application of gender responsive budgeting can help both in ensuring efficiency of allocation of the funds, and in strengthening the legitimacy for the provision of support by the international community.
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If the reconstruction of Ukraine is to result in sustainable development and bring tangible benefits to all Ukrainians, the principles of “building-back better” need to take into account the specificities of gender in the reconstruction process.
Researchers from the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and the Forum for Research on Gender Economics (FROGEE) together with other gender economics experts are releasing the policy paper “Rebuilding Ukraine: the Gender Dimension of Reconstruction” on International women’s day 2023 to highlight the importance of a gender perspective in some of the focus areas of the CEPR Report on rebuilding Ukraine.
The authors argue, that if the reconstruction is to result in stable, sustainable development and bring tangible benefits to all Ukrainians, the principles of “building-back better” need to take into account the specificities of gender. Arguments build on the growing literature developed initially in the area of public sector budgeting, which highlights the crucial role of the gender focus to achieve economically efficient as well as a socially just allocation of public resources.
The Gender Dimension in Budgetary Planning
The principles developed in the gender budgeting approach have in the past decades been applied to central and local budget expenditure planning as well as in other extraordinary contexts involving public funding, such as conditions of post-disaster and post-conflict reconstruction. Before the Russian aggression in February 2022, Ukraine was one of the countries which took a number of initiatives to include the gender dimension in budgetary planning. The concept of gender budgeting is well rooted in Ukrainian public policy making and its principles should thus come naturally to key policy making institutions in the discussion of plans for the country’s reconstruction.
The Paper Highlights the Following:
- Outlining the key principles of gender budgeting drawing on the existing literature and examples of successful implementation of gender budgeting at central and local government level.
- Examples of how gender budgeting has been applied in the case of allocation of public funds in extraordinary conditions of post-conflict and post-disaster reconstruction.
- The record of the Ukrainian government concerning the implementation of gender budgeting during peace times, prior to the Russian invasion. This is followed by a detailed discussion of how the principles of gender budgeting can in the future be applied in the realisation of the reconstruction and recovery plan for Ukraine, going through the physical environment, human capital, and governance.
Contact for Interviews
For more info, please contact the following researchers:
In 2019 the FREE Network initiated the Forum for Research on Gender Economics (FROGEE). The aim of FROGEE is to contribute to the discussion on gender inequality, with a specific focus on the region of Central and Eastern Europe. By highlighting different dimensions of gender inequality and its consequences for socio-economic development, FROGEE aims at bringing the issue of gender equality to the focus of both the general public and policy makers. These objectives are addressed through publication of reviews and policy briefs, organization of conferences, seminars, and workshops, as well as further development of research collaboration on gender economics with other institutions.
As of today, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has persisted for a year. While several countries have helped Ukraine with military, financial and humanitarian aid, Ukraine requires additional assistance to endure the conflict with Russia. What other forms of support and aid are needed for Ukraine’s survival? And how can the EU and Sweden support Ukraine’s victory?
The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) hosted a seminar in which Ukraine’s needs were discussed from an economic and political science perspective by several leading economists, including:
- Nataliia Shapoval, Director of the KSE Institute at the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE)
- Torbjörn Becker, IVA member and Director of the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics (SITE)
- Fredrik Löjdquist, Director of the Centre for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS)
- Maria Perrotta Berlin, Assistant Professor at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics.
Nataliia Shapoval, Chairman of the KSE Institute at the Kyiv School of Economics, joined the seminar from Kyiv to share her views. According to Shapoval,
“Tougher sanctions across the board, hefty sanctions on energy, additional sanctions on trade, and more control over financial transactions with Russia are required by the outside world right now.”
As Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has lasted for a year, seminar experts advocated for tougher sanctions against Russia and discussed Ukraine’s needs from an economic and political science perspective.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) is an independent academy with a mission “…to promote engineering and economic sciences and the advancement of business and industry for the benefit of society.” Read more: IVA website
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed during events and conferences are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.
The Russian war on Ukraine has turmoiled Europe into its first war in decades and while the effects of the war are harshly felt in Ukraine with lives lost and damages amounting, Europe and the rest of the world are also being severely affected. This policy brief shortly summarizes the presentations and discussions at the SITE Development Day Conference, held on December 6, 2022. The main focus of the conference was how to maintain and organize support for Ukraine in the short and long run, with the current situation in Belarus and the region and the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, also being addressed.
War in Ukraine, Oppression in Belarus
Starting off the conference, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of the Belarusian Democratic Forces, delivered a powerful speech on the necessity of understanding the role of Belarus in the ongoing war in Ukraine. Tsikhanouskaya argued that Putin’s war on Ukraine was partly a result of the failed Belarusian revolution of 2020. The following oppression, torture, and mass arrestations of Belarusians is a consequence of Lukashenka’s and Putin’s fear of a free Belarus, a Belarus that is no longer in the hands of Putin – who sees not only Belarus but also Ukraine as colonies in his Russian empire. Amidst the fight for Ukraine, we must also fight for a free Belarus, Tsikhanouskaya added. Not only Belarusians fighting alongside Ukrainians against Russia in Ukraine, but also other parts of the Belarusian opposition need support from the free and democratic world and the EU. The massive crackdowns on opponents of the Belarusian regime today and the war on Ukraine are not only acts of violence, but they are also acts against democracy and freedom. The world must therefore continue to give support to those fighting in both Belarus and Ukraine. Ukraine will never be free unless Belarus is free, Tsikhanouskaya concluded.
Johan Forssell, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Development Cooperation continued Tsikhanouskaya’s words on how the Russian attack must be seen and treated as a war on democracy and the free world. Belarus, Moldova and especially Ukraine will receive further support from Sweden, Forssell continued, adding that the Swedish support to Ukraine has more than doubled since the invasion in February 2022. Support must however not be given only in economic terms and consequently Sweden fully supports Ukraine on its path to EU-membership, which will be especially emphasized during Sweden’s upcoming EU-presidency. Support for the rule of law, democracy and freedom will continue to be essential and, in the forthcoming reconstruction of Ukraine, these aspects – alongside long term sustainable and green solutions – must be integrated, Forssell continued. Forssell also mentioned the importance of reducing the global spillover effects from the war. In particular, Forssell mentioned how the war has struck countries on the African continent, already hit with drought, especially hard with increased food prices and increased inflation, displaying the vital role Ukrainian grain exports play.
Andrij Plachotnjuk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Sweden, further talked about the need for rebuilding a better Ukraine, emphasizing the importance of involvement from Kiyv School of Economics (KSE) and other intellectuals and businesses in this process. Plachotnjuk also pinpointed what many others would come to repeat during the day; that resources, time and efforts devoted to supporting Ukraine must be maintained and persevered in the longer perspective.
Economic Impacts From the War and How the EU and Sweden Can Provide Support
During the first half of the conference, the Ukrainian economy and how it can be supported by the European Union was also discussed. On link from Kiyv, Tymofiy Mylovanov, President of the Kyiv School of Economics, shared the experiences of the University during wartime and presented the work KSE has undertaken so far – and how this contributes to an understanding of the damages and associated costs. Since the invasion, KSE has supported the government in three key areas; 1) Monitoring the Russian economy, 2) Analyzing what sanctions are relevant and effective, and 3) Estimating the cost of damages from the war. For the latter, KSE is collaborating with the World Bank using established methods of damage assessment including crowd sourced information on damages complemented with images taken by satellites and drones. According to Mylovanov, the damage assessment is crucial in order to counter Russia’s claims of a small conflict and to remind the international community of the high price Ukraine is paying to hold off Russia.
The economic impact from the war was further accentuated during the presentation by Yulia Markuts, Head of the Centre of Public Finance and Governance Analysis at the Kyiv School of Economics. Markuts explained how the Ukrainian national budget as of today is a “wartime budget”. Since February 2022, the budget has been reoriented with defense and security spending having increased 9 times compared to 2021, whereas only the most pressing social expenditures have been implemented. This in a situation where the Ukrainian GDP has simultaneously decreased by 30 percent. Although there has been a substantial inflow of foreign aid, in the form of grants and loans, the Ukrainian budget deficit for 2023 is estimated to 21 percent. Part of the uncertainty surrounding the Ukrainian budget stems from the fact that the inflow from the donor community is irregular, prompting the government to cover budget deficits through the National Bank which fuels inflation and undermines the exchange rate. Apart from the large budget posts concerning military spending, major infrastructural damages are putting further pressure on the Ukrainian budget in the year to come, Markuts continued. As of November 2022, the damages caused by Russia to infrastructure in Ukraine amounted to 135,9 billion US Dollars, with the largest damages having occurred in the Kiyv and Donetsk regions, as depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Ukrainian regions most affected by war damages, as of November 2022.
The infrastructural damages constitute a large part of the estimated needed recovery support for Ukraine, together with losses to the state and businesses amounting to over one trillion US Dollars. However, such estimates do not cover the suffering the Ukrainian people have encountered from the war.
The large need for steady support was discussed by Fredrik Löjdquist, Centre Director of the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS), who argued the money needs to be seen as an investment rather than a cost, and that we at all times need to keep in mind what the consequences would be if the support for Ukraine were to fizzle out. Löjdquist, together with Cecilia Thorfinn, Team leader of the Communications Unit at the Representation of the European Commission in Sweden, also emphasized how the reconstruction should be tailored to fit the standards within the European Union, given Ukraine’s candidacy status. Thorfinn further stressed that the reconstruction must be a collective effort from the international community, although led by Ukraine. The EU is today to a large extent providing their financial support to Ukraine through the European Investment Bank (EIB). Jean-Erik de Zagon, Head of the Representation to Ukraine at the EIB, briefly presented their efforts thus far in Ukraine, efforts that have mainly been aimed at rebuilding key infrastructure. Since the war, the EIB has deployed an emergency package of 668 million Euro and 1,59 billion for the infrastructure financing gap. While all member states need to come together to ensure continued support for Ukraine, the EIB is ready to continue playing a key role in the rebuilding of Ukraine and to provide technical assistance in the upcoming reconstruction, de Zagon said. This can be especially fruitful as the EIB already has ample knowledge on how to carry out projects in Ukraine.
During a panel discussion on how Swedish support has, can and should continuously be deployed, Jan Ruth, Deputy Head of the Unit for Europe and Latin America at Sida, explained Sida’s engagement in Ukraine and the agency’s ambition to implement a solid waste management project. The project, in line with the need for a green and environmentally friendly rebuild, is today especially urgent given the massive destructions to Ukrainian buildings which has generated large amounts of construction waste. Karin Kronhöffer, Director of Strategy and Communication at Swedfund, also accentuated the need for sustainability in the rebuild. Swedfund invests within the three sectors of energy and climate, financial inclusion, and sustainable enterprises, and hash previously invested within the energy sector in Ukraine. Swedfund is also currently engaged in a pre-feasibility study in Ukraine which would allow for a national emergency response mechanism. Representing the business side, Andreas Flodström, CEO and founder of Beetroot, shared some experiences from founding and operating a tech company in Ukraine for the last 10 years. According to Flodström there will, apart from a huge need in investments in infrastructure, also be a large need for technical skills in the rebuild. Keeping this in mind, bootcamp style educations are a necessity as they provide Ukrainians with essential skills to rebuild their country.
A recurring theme in both panel discussions was how the reconstruction requires both public and private foreign investments. Early on, as the war continues, public investments will play the dominant part, but when the situation becomes more stable, initiatives to encourage private investments will be important. The potential of using public resources to facilitate private investments through credit guarantees and other risk mitigation strategies was brought up both at the European and the Swedish level, something which has also been emphasized by the new Swedish government.
Impacts From the War Outside of Ukraine – Energy Crisis and Other Consequences in the Region
The conference also covered the effects of the war outside of Ukraine, initially keying in on the consequences from the war on energy supply and prices in Europe. Chloé Le Coq, Professor of Economics, University Paris-Pantheon-Assas (CRED) & SITE, gave a presentation of the current situation and the short- and long-term implications. Le Coq explained that while the energy market is in fact functioning – displaying price increases in times of scarcity – the high prices might lead to some consumers being unable to pay while some energy producers are making unprecedented profits. The EU has successfully undertaken measures such as filling its gas storage to about 95 percent (goal of 80 percent), reducing electricity usage in its member countries, and by capping market revenues and introducing a windfall tax. While the EU is thus appearing to fare well in the short run, the reality is that EU has increased its coal dependency and paid eight times more in 2022 to fill its gas storage (primarily due to the imports of more costly Liquified Natural Gas, LNG). In the long run, these trends are concerning given the negative environmental externalities from coal usage and the market uncertainty when it comes to the accessibility and pricing of LNG. Uncertainties and new regulation also hinder investments signals into new low-carbon technologies, Le Coq concluded. Bringing an industrial perspective to the topic, Pär Hermerèn, Senior advisor at Jernkontoret, highlighted how the energy crisis is amplified by the increased electricity demand due to the green transition. Given the double or triple upcoming demand for electricity, Hermerèn, referred back to the investment signals, saying Sweden might run the risk of losing market shares or even seeing investment opportunities leave Sweden. This aspect was also highlighted by Lars Andersson, Senior advisor at Swedenergy, who, like Hermerèn, also saw the Swedish government’s shift towards nuclear energy solutions. Andersson stated the short-term solution, from a Swedish perspective, to be investments into wind power, urging policy makers to be clear on their intentions in the wind power market.
Other major impacts from the war relate to migration, a deteriorating Belarusian economy and security concerns in Georgia. Regarding the latter, Yaroslava Babych, Lead economist at ISET Policy Institute, Georgia, shared the major developments in Georgia post the invasion. While the Georgian economic growth is very strong at 12 percent, it is mainly driven by the influx of Russian money following the migration of about 80 000 Russians to Georgia. This has led to a surge in living costs and an appreciation of the local currency (the Lari) of 12,6 percent which may negatively affect Georgian exports. Additionally, it may trigger tensions given the recent history between the countries and the generally negative attitudes towards Russians in Georgia. Michal Myck, Director at CenEa, Poland, also presented migration as a key challenge. While the in- and outflow of Ukrainian refugees to Poland is today balanced, the majority of those seeking refuge in Poland are women and children and typically not included in the workforce. To ensure successful integration and to avoid massive human capital losses for Ukraine, Myck argued education is key, pointing to the lower school enrollment rates among refugee children living closer to the Ukrainian border. Apart from the challenges posed by the large influx of Ukrainian in the last year, the Polish economy is also hit by high energy prices, fuel shortages and increasing inflation. Lev Lvovskiy, Research fellow at BEROC, Belarus, painted a similar but grimmer picture of the current economic situation in Belarus. Following the invasion, all trade with Ukraine has been cut off, while trade with Russia has increased. Belarus is facing sanctions not only following the war, but also from 2020, and the country is in recession with GDP levels dropping every month since the invasion. Given the political and economic situation, the IT sector has shrunk, companies oriented towards the EU has left the country and real salaries have decreased by 5 percent. At the same time, the policy response is to introduce price controls and press banknotes.
Consequences of War: An Academic Perspective
The later part of the afternoon was kicked off by a brief overview of the FREE Network’s research initiatives on the links between war and certain development indicators. Pamela Campa, Associate Professor at SITE, presented current knowledge on the connection between war and gender, with a focus on gender-based violence. Sexual violence is highly prevalent in armed conflict and has been reported from both sides in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since 2014 and during the ongoing war, with nearly only Russian soldiers as perpetrators. Apart from the direct threats of sexual violence during ongoing conflict and fleeing women and children risking falling victims to trafficking, intimate partner violence (IPV) has been found to increase post conflict, following increased levels of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While Ukrainian policy reforms have so far strengthened the response to domestic violence there is still a need for more effective criminalization of domestic violence, as the current limit for prosecution is 6 months from the date crime is committed. An effective transitional justice system and expertise on how to support victims of sexual violence in conflict, alongside economic safety measures undertaken to support women and children fleeing, are key policy concepts Campa argued. Coming back to the broader topic of gender and war, Campa highlighted the need for involvement of women in peace talks and negotiations, something research suggests matter for both equality, representativeness, and efficiency.
Providing insights into the relationship between the environment and war, Julius Andersson, Assistant Professor at SITE, initially summarized how climate change may cause conflict along four channels: political instability and crime rates increasing as a consequence of higher temperatures, scarcity of natural resources and environmental migration. Conflict might however also cause environmental degradation in the form of loss of biodiversity, pollution and making land uninhabitable. As for the negative impact from the war in Ukraine, Andersson highlighted how fires from the war has caused deforestation affecting the ecosystems, that rivers in conflict struck areas in Ukraine and the Sea of Azov are being polluted from wrecked industries (including the Azovstal steelworks) and lastly that there is a real threat of radiation given the four major nuclear plants in Ukraine being targeted by Russian forces. Coming back to a topic mentioned earlier during the day, Andersson also emphasized potential conflict spillovers into other parts of the world due to the war’s impact on food and fertilizer prices.
Concluding the session, Jonathan Lehne, Assistant Professor at SITE, reviewed how war and democracy is tied to one another, highlighting that while studies have found that democracies per se are not necessarily less conflict prone, it is still the case that democratic countries almost never fight each other. As for the microlevel takeaways from previous research, it appears as if individuals and communities having experienced violence and casualties actually reap a democratic dividend in some respects, such as greater voting participation. On the other hand, while areas with a large refugee influx also experience an increased voter turnout, voting for right-wing parties also increase with politicians exploiting this in their communication.
Book Launch – Reconstruction of Ukraine: Principles and Policies
The Development Day was also guested by Ilona Sologoub, Scientific Editor at VoxUkraine, Tatyana Deryugina, Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Torbjörn Becker, Director of SITE, who presented their newly released book “Reconstruction of Ukraine: Principles and policies”. Sologoub started off by giving an overview of the mainly economic topics covered in the book and pointing out that the main purpose of the book is to inform policy makers about the present situation and to suggest needed reforms and investments. Becker outlined the four key principles recommended to stem corruption during reconstruction; 1) Remove opportunities for corruption and rent extraction, 2) Focus on transparency and monitoring of the whole reconstruction effort, 3) Make information and education an integral part of the anti-corruption effort, and 4) Set up legal institutions that are trusted when corruption does occur. Deryugina focused on the energy sector and related back to what had previously been discussed throughout the day, the need to “build-back-better”. Deryugina mentioned that Ukraine, previously heavily reliant on coal and gas imports from Russia, now have the opportunity to steer away from low energy efficiency and bottleneck issues, towards becoming a European natural gas hub. The book is available for free here. There will also be a book launch on the 11th of January 2023 at Handelshögskolan.
Via link from Kiyv, Nataliia Shapoval, Head of KSE Institute and Vice President for Policy Research at Kyiv School of Economics closed the conference by emphasizing the urgency of continued education of Ukrainians in Ukraine and elsewhere to avoid loss of Ukrainian human capital. Shapoval also stressed how universities can act as thinktanks, support policy makers in Ukraine and Europe to come up with effective sanctions against Russia and provide a deeper understanding of the current situation – a situation which will linger and in which Ukraine needs continued full support.
This year’s SITE Development Day conference gave an opportunity to discuss the need for continued support for Ukraine and the implications from the war in a global, European, and Swedish perspective. Representatives from the political, public, private and academic sectors contributed with their insights into the challenges and possibilities at hand, providing greater understanding of how the support can be sustained, with the goal of a soon end to the war and a successful rebuild of Ukraine.
List of Participants in Order of Appearance
- Anders Olofsgård, Deputy Director at SITE
- Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of the Belarusian Democratic Forces
- Johan Forssell, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Development Cooperation
- Andrij Plachotnjuk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Sweden
- Tymofiy Mylovanov, President of the Kyiv School of Economics (on link from Kyiv)
- Yuliya Markuts, Head of the Centre of Public Finance and Governance Analysis, Kyiv School of Economics
- Jean-Erik de Zagon, Head of the Representation to Ukraine at the European Investment Bank
- Cecilia Thorfinn, Team leader of the Communications Unit at the Representation of the European Commission in Sweden
- Fredrik Löjdquist, Centre Director of the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS)
- Jan Ruth, Deputy Head of the Unit for Europe and Latin America at Sida
- Karin Kronhöffer, Director of Strategy and Communication at Swedfund
- Andreas Flodström, CEO and founder of Beetroot
- Chloé Le Coq, Professor of Economics, University Paris-Pantheon-Assas (CRED) & SITE
- Lars Andersson, Senior advisor at Swedenergy
- Pär Hermerèn, Senior advisor at Jernkontoret
- Ilona Sologoub, VoxUkraine scientific editor (on link)
- Tatyana Deryugina, Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (on link)
- Torbjörn Becker, Director at SITE
- Michal Myck, Director at CenEa, Poland
- Yaroslava Babych, Lead economist at ISET Policy Institute, Georgia
- Lev Lvovskiy, Research fellow at BEROC, Belarus
- Pamela Campa, Associate Professor at SITE
- Julius Andersson, Assistant Professor at SITE
- Jonathan Lehne, Assistant Professor at SITE
- Nataliia Shapoval, Head of KSE Institute and Vice President for Policy Research at Kyiv School of Economics (on link)
There is a risk that Ukraine’s war effort may be undermined by inadequate external support, leading to excessive reliance on monetary financing, which would drive high inflation, risk a currency crisis, and could undermine the war effort just as the military tide is turning in Ukraine’s favour.
The authors of the CEPR Policy Insight argue that donors should fund Ukraine next year and describes how best to do it.
- Torbjörn Becker
- Olena Bilan
- Yuriy Gorodnichenko
- Tymofiy Mylovanov
- Jacob Nell
- Nataliia Shapoval
Read the CEPR Policy Insight to learn more (see here).
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and reports, during events and conferences are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.
More than thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europe is struck with war following the Russian aggression on Ukraine. Russia’s war on Ukraine entails lost human capital, both in actual lives lost and due to major disruptions to key functions of the society, such as education and research. In light of this, the FREE Network, together with the Centre for Economic Analysis (CenEA) and the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE), hosted the public conference “Higher Education and Research in War and Peace“ in Warsaw on the 10th of September 2022. This policy brief is based on the presentations and panel discussions held during the conference.
The large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted an entire society, including the education system, with Ukrainian schools just recently partially welcoming back students to the classrooms for the first time since the 25th of February 2022. Closing schools has severe impacts on a population, as highlighted by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown and closure of schools around the world following the virus have had and will continue to have massively negative consequences globally, with severe losses in human capital due to lost years of education. This is especially in countries where access to online education is limited or of poor quality. Inequalities also rise following the closure of schools and girls return to school in fewer numbers than their male counterparts. The disruption to the Ukrainian education system will result in lost human capital and lowered levels of knowledge among the population. The war has further restricted access to relevant information for many Ukrainians but also for Russians, making people susceptible to the increased Russian propaganda and misinformation about the war on Ukraine depicted within and outside of Russia.
In light of this, the FREE Network gathered representatives from its affiliated institutions and other relevant actors in the region to discuss the relevance and necessity of continued support for higher education and research within social sciences in Ukraine, and more broadly in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries. The conference and the overarching theme related back not only to the original ambition of the FREE Network, namely to support outstanding academia within economics and relate it to policy work but also to the current situation in Europe and the existing threat from Russia to this objective.
This brief will initially cover the work carried out by the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) in response to the Russian aggression, followed by thoughts on Russia’s role in the evolution of knowledge and human capital in the region. The brief continues by covering the benefits and positive outcomes of investments into education and research and lastly concludes with reflections on the role of the FREE Network.
The Kyiv School of Economics’ Response to the Russian Aggression
The war on Ukraine put the spotlight on the importance of high-quality academic institutions as a safety net for the government to maintain vital functions to society. The Vice President for Policy Research at KSE, Nataliia Shapoval, gave a brief overview of how KSE’s work has changed since the Russian war on Ukraine and its implications. Shapoval initially painted a picture of the disruption to the Ukrainian society caused by the Russian aggression, explaining how KSE stepped up during the first months of the war, in some areas doing the work of ministries. While the government has mainly taken back some duties, the KSE is still providing policy advice in areas related to the effects of sanctions, estimates of damages, and food security among others. KSE is also highly active within the areas of education and health, working with Ukrainian schools through the KSE Charitable Foundation (KSE CF) to ensure students can safely return to the classrooms.
Another important aspect of the work carried out by KSE concerns spreading knowledge about and shedding light on the situation in Ukraine. Through the various networks, by talking to colleagues within academia but also to the media, KSE is trying to explain what has happened and is still happening in Ukraine. According to Shapoval, there is a need for delivering correct information and to keep attention fixed on the situation in Ukraine such that people are kept aware of what is going on in the region.
Shapoval also regularly returned to the role of education and research for the present and future Ukraine. According to Shapoval, avoiding brain drain and ensuring Ukrainians are equipped with the necessary knowledge is key to rebuilding a future Ukraine founded on well-functioning democratic institutions. To facilitate this, the KSE is offering two programs, Memory and Conflict Studies (a multidisciplinary field concerned with how the past can be understood and remembered, and how it might impact the present transformation of societies) and Urban Studies, both aimed at covering the future need for competence within these fields. Further mentioned by Shapoval is the fact that, due to the war, many Ukrainians have left the country and are being educated elsewhere. While this partially ensures intellectual human capital is not lost, these students must be kept anchored to Ukraine through networks to ensure they will return back to help rebuild Ukraine. This is especially important in order to counter the ongoing evolution in Russia.
Thoughts on the Role of Russia in the Region
While the recent developments in Ukraine have of course disrupted education and research in more severe and tangible ways, the situation for independent researchers in Russia has also deteriorated. Torbjörn Becker, Director of SITE, emphasized how several Russian colleagues in exile still collaborate with the FREE Network on policy work and research. Becker also further stressed how they will be paramount once Ukraine wins the war, as will the role of partnerships for a future transformation of the Russian society. Acknowledging that there are many Russians (especially amongst academics in exile) who oppose the war, Shapoval however stressed the disturbing fact that many Russians do seem to support the Russian aggression and that the role of Russia as a destructive force in the region cannot be understated. This was seconded by Tamara Sulukhia, Director of the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET). Sulukhia argued that Russian politics slow down and disturbs the free states within the region, and hampers organizations and countries from moving in the right direction in regard to democracy, economic evolution and integration toward Europe. Both Shapoval and Sulukhia reminded the audience that even with a Ukrainian victory, and this in a war which is defining the future of democracy in the region, Russia will persist. Russia has proven time and again, by effectively occupying 23 percent of Georgia as of 2008, with the occupation of Crimea in 2014 and with the most recent war on Ukraine, to be a real military threat to post-Soviet countries. Even though Russia losing the war would shift the power dynamics in the region, the ever-present threat of Russia is not only of a military character. Russia also attempts to impact education, research and knowledge more generally by promoting a Soviet-style education and by altering reality through propaganda and false information.
While discussing the current situation of higher education within economics in Belarus, Dzmitry Kruk, Deputy Academic Director of the Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC), regularly came back to the negative impacts from Russia on the quality of education and research. Where the western style education is free but also differential, Soviet-style education is centred around learning how to fulfil instructions, according to Kruk. The Belarusian educational system is anchored to Russia and as a result Belarusians today have what Kruk referred to as a “spoilt mental map”. The necessity of free education and research outside the Russian alternative (which is mainly published in Russian and with a post-Marxist view of the world) is vital in order to equip people with the tools to respond to the new types of dictatorship evident in the region. Young people within academia who have experienced freedom and have had the opportunity of thinking for themselves will also be vital on the future path toward democracy. Kruk’s opinions were furthered by Shapoval stating how education must and should counter the risk of brainwashing in the region and in the world as a whole. Shapoval argued the necessity of countering propaganda with the help not only of education but also the legislation of media and social media and enforcement of international laws in general. The necessity of ensuring new values for intellectuals and students in times to come is of paramount value and, according to Shapoval, as important to halting the Russian imperialist visions today as it was some thirty years ago. Shapoval further argued that the threat from Russia’s ambitions should be met not only with education and research but also through installing a sense of hope and prosperity among young people.
Investments into Education and Research as a Safeguard and Development Driver
While countries within the turbulent region differ, not least in regard to overall political ambitions and structure, in most of them investments into education and research have been paying off. KSE’s expertise allowed it to work closely with the Ukrainian government, standing strong in their fight against Russia. The impact from investments into education and research in the region is also evident in both Georgia and Latvia.
Sulukhia argued ISET to be, and to have been, a key contributor to human capital among Georgians as well as others in the Caucasus region. Sulukhia argued this to be especially important when under occupation, mentioning how Georgia has, since the occupation of the two regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in all ways possible tried to ensure that the human capital of internally displaced people is not lost. ISET have ten folded its intake of students and is today providing world-class education in the Georgian language, effectively counteracting brain drain. Post-graduates are working in major institutions providing relevant knowledge and competence in key areas of not only the Georgian society but also other countries in the Caucasus. A similar picture was painted by Anders Paalzow, Rector at Stockholm School of Economics in Riga (SSE Riga). Paalzow specifically pointed out how the investments in education made in Latvia in the 1990s have truly paid off, with graduates having been absorbed into relevant parts of the Latvian society and the Baltics for decades.
Having previous students in key positions in society to ensure sound policy work (such as good fiscal and audit control of the countries in question etc.) is however not the only benefit of investing in education and research within the region. As emphasized by Sulukhia, institutes within the FREE Network and other networks alike are strategically vital in the sense that they ensure knowledge and evidence for policy makers and as they convey evidence-based messages for the general public. This is especially important in a time when the message of the developmental direction for the countries within the region has to be reinforced in order to stand against Russian misinformation and propaganda as well as voices questioning the benefits of European integration. Sulukhia emphasized how it is of importance that the relevance of education and research is rooted among the people and not only within academia to evade the risk of preaching to the choir. Vlad Mykhnenko, Fellow at St. Peter’s College at the University of Oxford, further argued it is necessary for academia to be much more policy oriented than what is the reality today. Researchers should comment on political events and public policy to ensure the outreach of knowledge and information, not just to help the public have a greater understanding of complex issues but also to help inform experts. According to Myhnenko, other researchers are keen on getting context-relevant knowledge and insights from economists working within the region.
The necessity of communicating the outcomes from investments within economics education and research and more broadly within social sciences was a recurring theme during the conference. Presenting the University’s engagement in various programs such as Erasmus+, Horizon Europe, The European Strategy for Universities etc., Professor Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak from the Warsaw School of Economics (WSE) outlined the importance of funding from the EU. Chłoń-Domińczak highlighted how EU support has enabled greater partnerships and internationalization and pointed out that while the transfer of knowledge and internationalization of students and researchers are of the essence, there is a need for also ensuring capacity building among other staff when building sound institutions. Internationalization through the exchange as a hedge against brain drain and as a means of improving the quality of academia was further emphasized by Michal Myck, Director of CenEA.
Chłoń-Domińczak, alongside Paalzow and the Swedish Ambassador to Poland, Stefan Gullgren, further argued the necessity to bridge between business and academia. This, especially as investments in social sciences, as compared to investments in natural sciences or technology cannot be commercialized. Additionally, the former havs payoffs in the long run which lowers investment incentives for firms making it even more crucial to communicate the large benefits to society of investments into the sphere. Ensuring consistent and continued support requires not only a good connection to businesses but also proper legal structures in place. As argued by Gullgren, the Swedish model with private businesses funding about 70 percent of research and education in Sweden, is made possible largely thanks to the fact that many investments are funnelled through foundations that are exempt from taxation when set up to finance research grants and education. Thus, one should consider not only business, academia and investors when thinking about future funding for research and education, but the legislative framework as well, especially in contexts such as the future rebuild of Ukraine.
As for how the benefits from investments into social sciences best are communicated, opinions shifted among participants throughout the day. On the one hand, Becker’s argument of being visible not only in traditional media but on social media alike was met by Shapoval, highlighting the need for a regulatory framework for both platforms. On the other hand, Myhnenko’s argument for more policy oriented and outreaching research was met by Kruk claiming there is a risk of researchers within economics deviating too far from research within the field. Kruk also addressed the argument of being available on social media by countering that in his view, researchers should refrain from work based on what generates clicks or reads.
The Relevance of the FREE Network in times of War
Considering the evidence brought forth during the conference by colleagues within the FREE Network, be it the suppression of BEROC in their efforts of founding a School of Economics in Belarus, the effects on the KSE from the war on Ukraine, or the rise of anti-European expressions in Georgia, the necessity of the network was at the end of the day perhaps clearer than ever. As highlighted by virtually all speakers during the conference, internationalization through networks such as the FREE Network fosters open minds, allows for improvements within all aspects of academia, and enables the exchange of thoughts, ideas and experiences. Although the heterogeneity of the region should not be overlooked and investments made in accordance with this, the similarities between the countries within the FREE Network outnumber the differences. The immediate threat from Russia must be met with knowledge and fact-based information as well as high-quality education and research being made available among the population in the region as a whole. To ensure a continued transition within the region, the risk of brain drain must be evaded through continuous support to the social sciences, as these have the power to truly transform nations.
The FREE Network public conference in Warsaw was the first in-person conference since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The benefits of meeting in person were however overshadowed by the ongoing Russian aggression on Ukraine and ultimately on democratic ideals, including those of independent academia. We hope to welcome all FREE Network institutes to next year’s conference in Kyiv, to further discuss how outstanding education and research can help rebuild a sovereign Ukraine.
List of Participants
- Torbjörn Becker, Director of SITE
- Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak, Professor at WSE
- Stefan Gullgren, Swedish Ambassador to Poland
- Dzmitry Kruk, Deputy Academic Director, BEROC
- Michal Myck, Director of CenEA
- Vlad Mykhnenko, Fellow, St. Peter’s College, University of Oxford
- Anders Paalzow, Rector SSE Riga
- Nataliia Shapoval, Vice President for Policy Research at KSE
- Tamara Sulukhia, Director of ISET