Japan’s unflagging support for Ukraine, in peace- and wartime

February 16, 2024

Workers clearing debris at the site of the destroyed kindergarten in Makariv, Kyiv Oblast – winter 2022.

Photo credit: Oleksii Ushakov / UNDP Ukraine

In early 2024, as Ukraine wearily approached the beginning of a third year of full-scale war and invasion by Russia, a large G7 country was demonstrating unflagging support for Ukraine – Japan.

Japan and Ukraine have maintained a strong relationship since the country’s independence in 1991. The partnership involves extensive engagement in diplomacy, economic collaboration, and cultural exchanges. Japan has consistently supported Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, while also contributing significantly to Ukraine's development through investments and economic cooperation in sectors like infrastructure, energy, and technology.

Support since 2014

Since the outbreak of the conflict over Ukraine’s Crimea and the Donbas in 2014, Japan has been a crucial partner in supporting Ukraine through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For instance, Japan, through contributions to the UNDP, played a vital role in providing aid to those affected by the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, including internally displaced persons or IDPs. Japanese aid funds were allocated to various projects aimed at addressing IDPs’ immediate needs, such as shelter, healthcare, and livelihood support.

Japan's support through the UNDP in Ukraine not only addresses immediate humanitarian concerns but also extends to long-term development initiatives, including infrastructure projects, economic recovery programmes, and capacity-building efforts. This commitment to sustainable development aligns with the UNDP's goals and recognizes the importance of multilateral approaches in addressing complex challenges.

Response to invasion 

Japan provided significant financial aid to Ukraine after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, with core funding supporting the UNDP’s agile response to the evolving situation in repositioning its programming to address new challenges and begin early recovery efforts.

By 2023, Japan was the third largest donor of financial aid to Ukraine, having provided $3.7 billion worth of concessional financing and grants over the year, and a total of $4.2 billion since the start of the full-scale invasion.

The government of Japan is now UNDP Ukraine’s largest government contributor, having provided a total of $169.4 million in support since 2022. This support has been crucial for immediate citizen needs and planning a comprehensive, inclusive, and green recovery.

Key projects funded by Japan are aimed at comprehensively promoting human security in Ukraine, including through explosive ordnance clearance and debris removal, mine victim assistance and rehabilitation of people with disabilities, support to the Government with crisis response and management, inclusive and transparent recovery processes, human rights and rule of law, and support for winterization and repair of energy infrastructure. Japan’s aid has been key to ensuring around six million Ukrainians – households, hospitals, schools and businesses – have continued to have heat and power supplies after Russia launched a ruinous bombing campaign over the winter of 2022 and 2023 to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. 

In early 2023, the UNDP’s Energy Damage Assessment revealed that attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure had severely reduced power generation ­– by 51% – and transmission capacity by 45%, emphasizing the need for energy investments. 

In response, in October 2023 UNDP in Ukraine, with funding from the Government of Japan and working closely with Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy of Ukraine and national power company Ukrenergo, procured and delivered two new powerful autotransformers to Ukraine. It has since supported the transport of a further seven autotransformers. 

The aim is to safeguard families from the risks of unsafe water sources, potential sewage backups, and the dangers of resorting to hazardous heating methods. Speaking at the handover ceremony for the first new autotransformers, Kuninori Matsuda, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Ukraine, emphasized Japan’s determination to support Ukraine for as long as necessary, which includes providing various kinds of support to keep the people of Ukraine warm and provided with power this winter. “The purpose is to contribute to the Ukrainian people's stable and undisrupted power supply through a winter season during which they may face Russian aggression,” Ambassador Matsuda said.

Ambassador Matsuda also announced additional support, saying, "Today, as we mark the installation of the first batch of autotransformers, Japan pledges its support for the procurement of two additional autotransformers and more support through the UNDP."

Aid into the future

Japan is actively working with international partners to provide Ukraine with the necessary financial support for 2024.

Following the March 22, 2023, visit to Ukraine by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the Government of Ukraine and the Japan International Cooperation Agency launched the Emergency Recovery Programme, which provides for the implementation of 19 projects totalling approximately $573 million (grant). The programme is aimed at providing support for infrastructure development, and strengthening the energy system, restoring the agricultural, healthcare and education sectors by purchasing equipment and materials necessary for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

On 6 December 2023 in Tokyo, during a G7 online summit, Prime Minister Kishida pledged a further $4.5 billion to Ukraine, including $1 billion in humanitarian aid to help support recovery efforts. The $1 billion humanitarian and recovery aid includes funding for generators and other power supplies for the Ukrainian people to survive the winter, as well as measures to clear mines and unexploded ordnance. The remaining $3.5 billion includes funding for credit guarantees for World Bank loans to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in a further boost to Ukraine’s recovery, Japan is to host the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction on 19 February 2024. The conference aims to advance Japan’s further support in economic area via public-private cooperation. The impetus for the event came from the highest political level – Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida and Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy.

The Ukrainian delegation will be headed by high-level officials such as Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Yulia Svyrydenko, who will also be joined by representatives of the Ukrainian private sector. 

The UNDP is supporting the Government's efforts to help businesses remain and thrive in Ukraine, providing a range of targeted livelihood support measures – from small grants and re-skilling programmes to training for women-led businesses and human rights due diligence for enhanced competitiveness on the global market – and is grateful for Japan’s involvement and engagement at all levels of Ukrainian society. Aid from Japan is helping foster innovative solutions at the community level, strengthening the social fabric and creating more robust foundations for withstanding and recovering from crises.

The UNDP is also grateful for the steadfast support given by the Japanese government and people to the people of Ukraine, as demonstrated by events such as the conference, and looks forward to more fruitful cooperation with Japan for the benefit of Ukraine.