KIEV — Ukraine has long been central to the politics and development of Eastern Europe and indeed Eurasia at large. Kiev, now the capital of and largest city in Ukraine, was once the core of the largest and most powerful state of 10th- and 11th-century Europe: the Kievan Rus.’ Ukraine later became both the breadbasket of the Soviet Union and one of its major industrial regions, despite what might be charitably described as “problematic” relations with Moscow.
Following the fall of the USSR in 1991, Ukraine became independent, but struggled to overcome the legacy of Soviet rule. Even after the relatively progressive “Orange Revolution” in 2004, problems persisted and have arguably grown worse due to conflicts sparked by ethnic Russian separatist groups in the industrial east. However, these five development projects in Ukraine, supported by international partners, show that the people of that embattled country still dream of a peaceful and prosperous future.
1. Access to Credit and Financing
One of the development projects in Ukraine involves working with international partners to revitalize their economy through increasing access to credit and financing. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), for example, launched a program in 2016 expected to run through 2020 that is designed to aid Ukrainian credit unions in extending credit to farmers. USAID is also active in efforts to strengthen the financial system more broadly, including a project to spread confidence in local banks and expand availability of financing to small and medium enterprises (SME).
In addition to USAID’s initiatives, the World Bank Group has also launched a $150 million project to help build access to long-term finance for Ukrainian firms. This program is expected to reach its conclusion in 2020, as well. Not only will these programs help businesses improve their capital investments, but they should also help create new jobs for the people of Ukraine.
2. Commercial Law Reform
One constraint faced by businesses in Ukraine is the persistence of legal norms and processes left over from the Soviet era. The government, working with USAID, strives to overcome this hurdle and rework the country’s legal and regulatory framework for business. To facilitate this process, USAID launched the Commercial Law Center (CLC), a nonprofit organization, in 2003.
The CLC works in conjunction with the Ukrainian government to draft model legislation and provide technical assistance in implementing a more open, market-based economy. The CLC also works to help Ukraine align with European Union (EU) trade rules and regulations, which paves the way for productive integration of the Ukrainian economy into the broader western European market.
3. Healthcare and HIV/AIDS Treatment
Ukraine is home to the second-worst rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in its region. USAID is working with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Ukrainian government to develop a more sustainable, long-term solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This involves a push for more comprehensive testing and coverage for the most at-risk populations, such as intravenous drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men.
Beyond extending testing to people who may not know their current status, USAID and PEPFAR are also pursuing a program of de-stigmatizing HIV/AIDS in order to make it both easier and more socially acceptable for people to seek treatment in the event that they contract the virus.
4. Small Project Assistance Program
Part of USAID’s mission is to, in essence, help others help themselves. To this end, one of its development projects in Ukraine involves work with the United States Peace Corps and local partners throughout Ukraine to launch a “small project assistance program.” This is intended to train local communities and interest groups in Ukraine to develop and implement their own local initiatives. The program spans a variety of sectors, from small business to agriculture, education to public health. Peace Corps Volunteers work on the ground with local partners to build up these regional projects.
5. Conflict Response and Recovery
Ukraine has faced numerous challenges in the past occasioned by war and deprivation, from the Holodomor famine in the 30s which killed millions to devastation in the Second World War. Most recently, ethnic Russian separatists, possibly with the support of the Russian state, have embroiled the eastern portion of the country in civil war. The World Bank works on the ground assisting displaced people in settling into new environments and reestablishing themselves economically.
In this project, the World Bank partners with the Ukrainian Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons (MoT) to implement pilot programs to address the developmental fallout from the ongoing conflict. Their goals are capacity building and knowledge generation coupled with peacekeeping efforts; the program is currently projected to run through 2019.
Despite what some may consider an ongoing existential threat to the integrity and future of their state, Ukrainians are still fighting for a better tomorrow. These five development projects in Ukraine, implemented with help from foreign partners, are just a few of the steps these hardy and hopeful people are taking to secure a brighter future for themselves and their country.
– Joel Dishman