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Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. Ukraine borders the Russian Federation to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the largest country entirely within Europe.




The medieval state of Kievan Rus was established in the 9th century as the first historically recorded East Slavic state. It emerged as a powerful nation in the Middle Ages but disintegrated in the 12th century. By the middle of the 14th century, Ukrainian territories were under the rule of three external powers—the Golden Horde, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Kingdom of Poland. After the Great Northern War (1700–1721), Ukraine was divided among a number of regional powers. By the 19th century, the largest part of Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire, with the rest under Austro-Hungarian control.


A period of incessant warfare ensued, with establishment of internationally recognized independent Ukrainian People's Republic in 1917. Then Soviet intervention followed, which resulted in Soviet rule for more than 70 years. After 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR's territory was enlarged westward. In 1954 it expanded to the south with the Crimea transfer. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the founding members of the United Nations.


Ukraine became independent again when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. This dissolution started a period of transition to a market economy, in which Ukraine suffered an eight-year recession. Since then, however, the economy has benefited by a steady increase in GDP growth. Ukraine was impacted by the worldwide economic crisis in 2008 and the economy plunged. GDP fell 20% from spring 2008 to spring 2009, then leveled off as analysts compared the magnitude of the downturn to the worst years of economic depression during the early 1990s. The country remains a globally important market and, as of 2012, is the world's sixth-largest grain exporter.



Ukraine is a middle-income country which since attaining independence in 1991 has made progress in reforming its economic and social systems.  With a highly educated labour force, a wealth of natural resources, a unique geographic location and a quite developed industrial base, Ukraine is working towards translating its resources and potential into a competitive advantage in various sectors of the economy.


The country is ranked 78th out of 186 countries according to the Human Development Index 2013, trailing other countries in the region.  Despite economic growth until mid-2008, progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remains uneven.  Absolute and relative poverty have decreased, but poverty levels in rural areas are almost twice as high as in urban areas.  The MDGs on maternal health, child mortality and education have already been achieved.  The goal for HIV/AIDS and TB remains a major concern though in 2012, for the first time, a 1.6% decrease in newly diagnosed HIV cases against 2011 was recorded.


Since 2005, Ukraine has made progress in the area of democratic governance and human rights, most recently actively engaging in the Universal Periodic Review. The country still needs to overcome institutional challenges, including weak public sector governance. Despite progress towards improvement of local governance, policy and legal frameworks do not provide clear mandates, division of responsibilities, or access to resources for improved public service delivery between different tiers of government. Further decentralization and optimization of local administration is hindered by slow progress in administrative and territorial reform.


While the constitution and the law on gender equality are very progressive, representation of women in the Parliament at 9.4 percent remains well below the nationally set MDG target. The exclusion of women from decision making at the highest political level contrasts with relatively high participation indicators at lower levels. The gap between incomes of women and men remains significant, at around 23 per cent.


Ukraine is the world’s most energy intensive country and the sixth largest per capita CO2 emitter, requiring investment for modernization of production processes and policy changes. Ukraine has a rich biota with more than 25,000 species of plants and fungi and 45,000 animals many of which are endemic.  Some 80 thousand hectares of arable land are lost to erosion each year. Protected areas form 5.6 percent of Ukrainian territory, in comparison to the international average of 10 percent. Rivers in Ukraine are experiencing accelerated erosion due to the lack of poor embankments along danger zones. Obsolete pesticide storage facilities in flood-prone areas pose a major environmental threat. As the water table is very close to the surface across much of the country, small amounts of abnormal rainfall can carry toxic pollutants over large areas.


Since 1991, Ukraine has experienced over70 disasters, which have affected over 2.7 million people and caused over $2.5 billion in economic damages.  While emergency responses to these disasters have been commendable, recovery efforts show that disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities could have considerably reduced the number of casualties, injuries and damages. Thus, implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, the UN’s 10-year plan for DRR, has become of crucial importance in Ukraine.


Today Ukraine is facing its most serious challenges since achieving independence in 1991. The conflict in the east forced more than one million people to leave their homes to save their lives. Recovery and Peacebuilding of the conflict-affected areas, as well as support of internally displaced people (IDPs) are among the top priorities for UNDP in Ukraine.

There is an urgent need for systemic response to the needs of internally displaced and people living in conflict-affected areas that goes beyond provision of short-term shelters. Working in close partnership with international partners and Ukrainian government UNDP Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme employs a holistic approach responding to the needs of the people in need and strengthening social cohesion and mutual understanding, at the same time preventing excessive social pressure on the host communities

UNDP is helping to restore critically important social and economic infrastructure and effective work of local governments in eastern Ukraine; to create jobs and spur entrepreneurship among IDPs and host communities; and to promote peace and reconciliation.


Alt text for sample imageMillennium Development Goals - Ukraine

Ukraine has managed to achieve certain progress in reducing absolute poverty, ensuring access to primary and secondary education, improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. However, despite the progress achieved so far, poverty remains an acute problem. Other areas of concern are education quality, absence of  progress in gender disparity reduction, and large income gender gap,  the substantial growth HIV/AIDS and TB spread and aggravation of environmental problems.

Fast Facts

  • Our infographics are based on data drawn from the UN, government, and other public sources

Brown Environmental Issues in Ukraine


Ukraine has the unique status of being home to some of the richest natural environments and resources in Europe while at the same time being one of the most heavily polluted countries in the region. Ukraine is one of the least energy efficient countries in the world.

Social Exclusion in Ukraine


Social exclusion goes beyond the issue of material poverty as it is also seen as encompassing other forms of social disadvantages such as lack of regular and equal access to education, health care, social care, proper housing. Conceps of social exclusion/inclusion and human development complement each other. High levels of human development cannot be achieved when some groups and individuals are excluded socially and face barriers to their participation in economic, social, cultural and political life.

Acute social exclusion is experienced by 37.7 percent of Ukrainian households. Extremely high risks of social exclusion (2.2 times higher compared with the average and 2.5 times higher compared with families consisting solely of working-age people) exist for families with many children and pensioners. Higher education is the most important factor determining social inclusion.


Critical exclusion is experienced by 16.9 percent of households. The risk of critical exclusion is very high for families with children: 2.7 times higher than the average in the country and 2.8 times higher than for families without children. The presence of at least one unemployed person in a household results in a 1.7 times higher risk of critical exclusion than for the average and a twice higher risk than for families without unemployed people. Critical exclusion is much more present in rural areas, especially when compared with large cities.

Decentralization and Regional Development


By promoting local self-governance and community-based initiatives UNDP has significantly contributed to creating an enabling environment for long-term social-economic and community development at the local level (both rural and municipal). About 1 million people in the rural area of Ukraine benefited from social infrastructure improvement including primary health care points, water supply and energy efficiency measures.  Energy saving resulted in reducing energy costs on average by 45% through repair of street lighting,  heating systems, window insulation, roof repair in schools, kindergartens and health-care centres. Level of participatory decision-making in UNDP partner communities is by 34% higher then Ukrainian average.