Mapping a Sustainable Future: Why does Ukraine need a Sustainable Development Strategy

Jan 10, 2017

Ukraine is facing multiple challenges – continued economic decline in many regions, conflict in the East, large-scale displacement and related hardships, budget burdens. So is it really the right time to discuss a Sustainable Development Strategy for Ukraine?

Actually it is. It is in difficult times that proper planning is most needed, to firmly establish the country on a sustainable development path. Based on this assumption, UNDP has supported since mid-2016 the development of a draft Sustainable Development Strategy for Ukraine until 2030, which will be submitted to the Government in early 2017 for consideration and which may subsequently replace the current Ukraine 2020 strategy in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all members of the United Nations in September 2015.

The strategy is expected to have a practical application in many contexts, including tackling internal displacement crisis. “Recovery of the East is only possible based on sustainable development principles. We need new approaches to governance and local development,” noted Tetiana Tymochko, Head of Ecological League and Coordinator of consultations, during the national consultations in December 2016 which have supported the broad stakeholder engagement in the development of the strategy.

In the vision of its authors, the strategy will serve as a dashboard showing where Ukrainians want to be by 2030, and allowing them to monitor how much progress is achieved in certain intervals on each of its development goals. As stated in the Strategy, its objective is “to ensure a high quality of life for the Ukrainian population, creating the proper conditions for modern and future generations and counteracting the degradation of ecosystems, through the introduction of new economic growth models based on sustainable development principles.”

Decade-long resource- and energy-intensive manufacturing and technologies, raw materials oriented export and imbalanced industrialization resulted in an inefficient and eco-damaging governance structure in Ukraine. The strategy highlights the necessity for profound structural changes in governance approaches, based on a new mindset and ethics of respect to nature. In the words of Leonid Rudenko, an Academician of the National Academy of Science and one of the strategy drafters, “the democratization of society should also translate into eco-saving”.

However, it would be a mistake to think that the Sustainable Development Strategy concerns only the environment, energy efficiency and green technologies. Its overarching aim is to harmonize economic, social and ecologic development. As the UN Sustainable Development Goals themselves, the strategy also includes goals related to rule of law and inclusive governance, high quality education, healthy lifestyle and well-being, to list a few.

It is a fact that the current level of economic development and well-being of Ukrainians does not match the country’s capacities in scientific, technical, agricultural and industrial areas. This continues to create serious risks for brain-drain and labor migration. In response to this, the Strategy stresses the role of innovation. The success of innovation havens such as Singapore and Hong Kong, or closer neighbors Estonia and the Czech Republic, testify that this path is worth taking.

Another strength of the Strategy is its correlation with Ukraine’s international commitments and with the requirements of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Ukraine has much to learn from its EU and non-EU partners, who have been implementing sustainable approaches for decades and have expertise and best practices to share. The EU Sustainable Development Strategy was set up back in 2001. The concept of sustainable development has been reflected in many EU countries’ national development strategies, some of them dating back to 1990s, like in the UK, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland - countries that also happen to be in the innovation leaders list.

In Ukraine, the consultation process for the Sustainable Development Strategy started in mid-2016 with regional consultations in Odesa, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Kharkiv. National-level consultation followed in Kyiv on 8 December 2016 and gathered some 170 participants from all regions and various areas of expertise, including scientists and researchers, local and national authorities, civil society, UNDP experts, and business professionals.

The debate on the Sustainable Development Strategy was intense and highly participatory, with more than 200 comments submitted by different experts in half a year. The Strategy to be submitted to the President’s Administration in the first quarter of 2017 is a document that has been thoroughly discussed throughout the country and with the participation of all parts of society.


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