For the future we are exploring a mass behaviour-change communications campaign that will seek to raise awareness of and inspire action towards more sustainable practices. Initial research has revealed that some people who continue to burn waste have indeed heard about the possible harm but still haven’t abandoned the practice. What is needed are creative and more effective ways to reach the tipping point towards widespread adoption of innovations – something Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell has likened to a positive spin on the spread of a virus.
“When a virus spreads, it starts with one person — Patient Zero — who gets sick and infects a handful of others,” he wrote in his famous book aptly called The Tipping Point. “Then each infected person passes the germs to more people, and with exponential speed and reach the virus spreads until it reaches epidemic proportions. Ideas, messages, behaviours, and products can spread through a population in a social epidemic in the same way that viruses spread.”
We hope to achieve this through a planned communications campaign on the health risks caused by open burning.
Avoiding the need for Noah’s Ark
Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast is one of the five western Ukrainian provinces that were the most severely affected by the heavy floods. As many as 276 km of roads and 95 bridges were destroyed and over 7,000 hectares of agricultural land were flooded, jeopardizing rural and remote mountainous areas. The national authorities estimated economic losses from the disaster at over 70 million USD.
Under the current project, UNDP Ukraine supports Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast in developing strategic tools that would improve adaptive capacity of local communities prone to flash floods and enhance their future resilience to hazards, disasters and extreme weather events.
In March-April 2021, UNDP Ukraine organized meetings of community representatives of the region along with regional environmental managers, civil protection authorities and academia to discuss principles, structure, and approaches for a common strategy. The participants highlighted as priority goals the need to set up a sound early warning system, conduct flood damage modeling and establish an efficient flood insurance system based on Build Forward Better principle in the Dniester River basin.
Along with the work on the regional disaster risk reduction strategy, UNDP will also support local branches of the state emergency agency to improve their capacities and knowledge for a more responsive disaster risk management.
Meanwhile, after a series of wildfires that had raged in the conflict-affected east of Ukraine and in the areas adjacent to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in 2020, it became clear that forest and water resources should be managed in an integrated way at the basin level and that forest logging must be balanced with reforestation. This is especially important for the Carpathian region in western Ukraine, which includes Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.
The climate and forests are linked together and winds are infamous for spreading fire across forests planted in the steppe, as was the case with Luhansk Oblast, which was severely affected by wildfires last year. Many of the forests in the region are located within the valley of the Siversky Donets River, which is the de facto contact line that separates the sides of the conflict in Donbas. This creates difficulties for environmental monitoring and emergency response for the disasters in this part of Luhansk Oblast. The local foresters say that the main problems for their work are limited access to the parts of the forest along the contact line and the invasion of pest species.
Prior to any plans for reforestation in a wildfire-torn area it is necessary to conduct a Post Disaster Needs Assessment, including an assessment of environmental impact. UNDP has developed an environmental impact assessment registry that helps local forestry departments obtain the knowledge necessary for a post-wildfire recovery.
Moving forward towards a green, robust, sustainable and lasting recovery
The complex factors that have contributed to the Anthropocene Epoch will need just as complex and integrated solutions that take in a holistic, whole-of-society “big-picture” systems approach. The 2020 UNDP Human Development Report indeed calls for a reimagining of development in the wake of the coronavirus – not just because it is a good idea, but because our very survival may depend on it. According to the report, development has relied too heavily on fossil fuels and linear models of production and consumption until now. The resulting benefits have often been ephemeral, putting at risk the lives and livelihoods of those affected by a deteriorating environment.
Many countries are now considering economic recovery strategies as they emerge from lockdown. One approach being called for by UNDP is to invest heavily in a green economy, a course of action reflecting the triple bottom line that offers equal benefits to the social, environmental and financial sectors. The COVID-19 recovery and economic stimulus process provides an enormous opportunity to introduce a new economic package to support an economy working closely with the environment, rather than against it, while providing decent, better jobs. In fact, if one wants to look for the silver lining in the darkest of clouds, this could be it.
UNDP is well aware that if the world falls back onto its old ways after the pandemic, it may revert to a trajectory that leads to ever-worsening global environmental emergencies with consequent impacts far worse than those caused by COVID-19. To avoid this, we believe all economic recovery packages should be built on principles of a green economy, and designed to build forward better than before.
The good news is the Government of Ukraine is currently implementing a broad policy agenda aimed at putting SDG-achievement efforts back on track while pursuing a resilient, inclusive and sustainable post-COVID recovery. The entire UN family in Ukraine is supporting these efforts, both individually and collectively, and will continue to do so until the Government’s vision of a green, peaceful and prosperous country is reached.
In one of these initiatives, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, UNDP, UNICEF and the World Health Organization are working together through a Joint Programme called “Promoting strategic planning and financing for sustainable development on national and regional level in Ukraine.” In another, UNDP developed and launched a tailored programme to update the European Green Deal framework in Ukraine. The US$ 1.2 million “Supporting Green Recovery in Ukraine” includes, among other things, a plan to unlock private green and sustainable finance. It also includes an analysis of the threats and opportunities for the Ukrainian economy associated with active participation in the European Green Deal.
Through these and many other programmes, projects, and initiatives, we at UNDP in Ukraine will continue to work tirelessly with our counterparts in the Ministries, our colleagues throughout the UN system, and civil society and academia. Our collective mission is to map out solutions that transform the dystopian dots of despair into emerging points with progressive patterns that lift all Ukrainians out of insecurity and poverty and onto the paths of shared prosperity.