Community based development in Ukraine

Nurse in Ukraine
UNDP and EU support delivery of services, such as health care, at the local level in Ukraine. Photo: EU / Neighbourhood Info Centre.

During the final years of the former Soviet Union, several hundred thousand Crimean Tatars returned to the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine from which they had been forcibly deported in 1944 on Stalin’s instructions. In 1995, the Government of Ukraine and UNDP launched an integrated development programme in Crimea to improve living conditions and provide livelihood opportunities in areas where Crimean Tatars had settled.

From 2002 onwards, the programme rapidly expanded its activities across the peninsula, focusing on mobilizing ethnically diverse communities to plan and undertake jointly identified priority initiatives to improve basic community services, enhance income and employment generation and promote tolerance education in schools. Interaction between community organizations and local authorities helped to integrate community initiatives into district development plans and enabled local authorities to support such initiatives despite limited resources.

This resulted not only in tangible improvements in living conditions in hundreds of settlements – the true transformation resulted from increasing communication and collaboration between citizens of different ethnic background on issues of common concern to them, thereby decreasing negative perceptions of each other and increasing tolerance. Through practical working relations and increased dialogue, confidence and trust between communities and local authorities were restored. This set the stage for many community leaders, including Crimean Tatars, being voted into local councils during local elections following the Orange Revolution of 2004, which increased their political representation.

From 2007 onwards, the EU has been supporting UNDP’s work in this area, which has led to an unprecedented leap in nationwide up-scaling of the community based approach. It has created partnerships and cooperation between citizens and authorities for sustainable local development.

Almost 3,000 community projects in the area of health, water supply, environment, school transportation, energy efficiency and income generation had been supported by 2013, improving living conditions of almost 1 million Ukrainians from more than 1,000 villages. Over two-thirds of community organizations continue to operate after the first project is completed, which is testimony to the sustainability of the programme. The success of this community-based approach in Ukraine was recognized by the President of Ukraine in his State of the Nation address in 2013.

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