Photo: UNDP Ukraine

January: Stories of resilience despite conflict

Elderly women from Zolote, a village near the “contact line” in Luhansk Oblast raised our spirits and their own with their folk choir, singing amid shelling, while in Svatove women have banded together to practice traditional sewing and embroidery, passing on their skills to local schoolchildren.

Every week a group of schoolchildren comes to the women's club "Assistance" in Svatove to learn Ukrainian traditional embroidery, a project supported by UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, with funding from Sweden and Switzerland. Photo credit: Anastasia Vlasova / UNDP Ukraine

After its dance halls were damaged during fighting in Sloviansk in Donetsk Oblast in 2014, the Gratsia Dance School was forces to take a break. But it’s now back on its feet with the help of a grant from the government of Poland via the United Nations Development Programme, and taking new steps to expand. And help for the people of eastern Ukraine is even coming from some four-legged friends – a group of civil activists has recruited friendly dogs to treat children badly affected by the ongoing conflict in the area.

February: Building an inclusive society

Children play together in a kindergarten in Bilokurakyne, Luhansk Oblast. Recently, the kindergarten opened an inclusive group to allow children with disabilities to learn together with their peers. Photo credit: Anastasia Vlasova, Viktoria Verveiko / UNDP Ukraine

Everything we design and produce should be done in a way so that every person is able to use it, and the Universal Design Forum showcased the best ideas for developing infrastructure, objects, services and information that is accessible to all. But sometime inclusion just means making sure children with disabilities, like four-year-old Vova from Bilokurakyne in Luhansk Oblast, get the chance to learn together with their peers in inclusive classes. Meanwhile, UNDP has been helping make sure cafes and cinemas in Ukraine are more accessible to people with disabilities.

March: Energy efficiency to save money, and the planet

Ukraine is growing country, but until recently, large amount of agricultural waste was underutilized. That is changing, and now biomass makes up 80 percent of renewable energy supplies. Still, heat and energy produced from agricultural waste shouldn’t itself be wasted, and so UNDP has helped introduce new practices to improve energy efficiency in public buildings.

Watch a series of videos on energy efficiency measures initiated by associations of co-owners of multiapartment buildings in Ukrainian cities.

Of course, there are plenty of energy savings to be made from Ukraine’s residential buildings as well: experts estimate energy consumption has the potential to be cut by 75 percent. We’ve seen lots of examples of how to do it. The European Union and UNDP’s two-year project “Home Owners of Ukraine for Sustainable Energy Solutions (HOUSES)” is focusing on this area. 

April: Encouraging business, strengthening the economy

Ukraine has a strong and growing tech sector, and innovative new ways of funding that growth, such as crowdfunding, are coming to the fore. UNDP has also been helping small businesses get together in business associations to better lobby for their interests.

The participants of the UNDP-supported Crowdfunding Academy in Sviatohirsk, Donetsk Oblast, learnt about the operation of the crowdfunding platforms and the trends at the Ukrainian market, as well as about communication, public relations, SMM, and design. Photo credit: Stanislav Ratynskyi, Artem Hetman / UNDP Ukraine

To encourage economic recovery in the east, UNDP helped organize the third East Expo exhibition for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where they showcased their achievements. A huge variety of products was presented at the exhibition, including food, fabric, salt-based products, ceramics, IT and even 3D-printers.  All products can be found in an online catalogue here.

May: Renovating infrastructure, making lives better

The European Investment Bank’s Early Recovery Programme or ERP, the implementation of which is overseen by UNDP, celebrated the completion of a series of projects in May, opening six renovated medical facilities in Kharkiv. The renovated facilities will help take the pressure off Kharkiv Oblast’s infrastructure, which is must now serve over 130,000 internally displaced persons from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Two kindergartens opened in Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and Mariupol in Donetsk Oblast after large-scale renovation and modernisation work. Photo credit: Oleksandr Ratushnyak / UNDP Ukraine

Elsewhere in the region, on the Azov Sea coast, the ERP has also renovated two kindergartens and reconstructed two hospital facilities and a public library this  year. In total, 35 public facilities are being or will be restored under the ERP in Melitopol, Prymorsk and Mariupol. 

June: Caring for the environment

UNDP encouraged people to go a day without plastic to spotlight the harm done to the environment by throw-away packaging and bags. Carrying on with its efforts to raise public awareness of issues of environmental protection and climate change, UNDP also launched the school of environmental journalism, to help reporters produce more penetrating insight into such topics as European integration, climate policy, waste management, and renewable energy.

During the Day Without Polyethylene, customers were able to use paper or textile grocery bags instead of plastic ones, buy food in reusable containers and beverages in their own reusable mugs ­– often with a discount. Photo credit: Roman Baluk / UNDP Ukraine

Meanwhile, with support from UNDP work has been going on to introduce legislations supporting the growth of the electric car market. But a UNDP-funded survey of the Black Sea threw up more evidence of the seriousness of the environmental challenges Ukraine faces: according to the survey 83 percent of the marine litter found in the Black Sea is plastic, namely bottles, packaging and bags. The large rivers (in Ukraine the study included the Danube and the Dniester) bring to the sea from six to 50 items of litter per hour. UNDP Resident Representative Dafina Gercheva emphasized in an opinion article that getting organized is the key to beating climate change.

July: Reforming parliament for openness and accountability

Photo credit: Ihor Prysiazhnyi / UNDP Ukraine

Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada opened an Educational Centre, with the aim of attracting an audience of children aged from six to 18. The centre was opened under the EU-UNDP Parliamentary Reform Project, which has the goal of fostering the internal reform of parliament and strengthening its institutional capacity, making it more open and accountable. Meanwhile, UNDP and an environmental activism NGO, the “Society and Environment" Resource and Analysis Centre, held an event to encourage Ukraine’s political parties to turn the green agendas in their manifestos into legislation in parliament.

August: Beating corruption for a fairer society

Now there are more ways for the public to hold officials to account: With UNDP support, anti-corruption activists and investigative journalist Denys Bihus and his team have developed an online database – – that imports information directly from the  National Agency on Corruption Prevention registry and analyses it.

For two years in a row the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme has launched an anti-corruption campaign for youngsters. To test out their newly acquired knowledge, students and pupils took an anti-corruption quest and played an interactive game called “City against corruption”. Photo credit: Vitaliy Shevelev / UNDP Ukraine

Meanwhile, in Luhansk Oblast, UNDP organized a workshop where residents of one of Ukraine’s new amalgamated territorial communities (ATCs) were introduced to the "Islands of Integrity" methodology, which uses internationally-tested practices to overcome corruption, and shown how to analyse potential corruption risks in the activities of local authorities.

That resulted in the launch of Ukraine’s first Island of Integrity, in Novopskov in Luhansk Oblast, which now has an anti-corruption strategy for Novopskov ATC, to run from 2019 to 2021, in the development strategy for the ATC until 2025.

UNDP also launched an educational campaign among students of law faculties in Luhansk Oblast, aiming to empower young future lawyers with anti-corruption instruments, while civil activists in Poltava Oblast smashed a system of informal payments in the region’s hospitals. Civil activists with the help of UNDP developed an app to keep track decisions taken by the city council.

And in 2019 UNDP in Ukraine continued to support efforts to procure new, good-quality medicines at low prices, allowing more people in the country to be treated with the same budget funding. With UNDP help, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have joined forces to procure vital medicine to treat Hepatitis C at a fraction of the previous cost, saving lives. See how they did it here!

September: Innovation to meet sustainable development challenges

UNDP launched its Accelerator Lab – an exciting new approach to tackling rapidly evolving development challenges in Ukraine and the world. Using the latest techniques, such as collective intelligence and Big Data analysis, the lab will allow UNDP to identify local innovations and help broaden their potential to accelerate development.

Photo credit: Sergiy Minenko / UNDP Ukraine

In addition, the U-Inn 2.0: RELOAD youth innovations competition, supported by UNDP, produced six winning projects that will get financing and mentoring support. The six winners were selected out of 88 projects submitted that met the conditions and objectives of U-inn 2.0 – promoting the integrity and inclusiveness of democratic processes, building effective cooperation with government, and involving citizens in decision-making.

More than 150 people from the IT sector, business local government and civil society, got together at the Hack for Locals in Kharkiv, where they brainstormed smart approaches to empowering local democracies and tackling pressing social issues in Ukraine. After two days of intensive brainstorming, coding, pitching and discussing prototypes, three winning ideas were picked for further funding and support for their implementation in local communities.

October: Gender equality and women’s participation in decision making

This year’s parliament elections in Ukraine saw the highest ever number of women elected to parliament ­– the number of parliamentary seats held by women almost doubled, from 12 percent in the 2014 elections to around 21 percent now.

However, Ukraine still faces three big obstacles to gender equality, while experts have identified five things still standing in the way of greater participation by women in decision making.

Anna Telychko, who has a PhD in technical sciences, is helping to boost the inventive powers of preschoolers and schoolchildren. Her centre offers English-speaking clubs for children, as well as modern board games that foster logical and strategic thinking. Photo credit: Halyna Balabanova / UNDP Ukraine

Unlocking the potential of women could bring great benefits to Ukrainian society, as the example of this woman entrepreneur in a conflict-affected town shows.

November: Recovery and decentralization reforms

Regional Director of UNDP in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, visited Ukraine to see the work done by UNDP – the largest UN agency operational in Ukraine. Egger noted that the recent presidential and parliament elections had provided a window of opportunity to press ahead with reform in the country, and in an interview with Ukrainian media, she shared her view of the present state of Ukraine and the development advances that the country can make.

The Regional Director of UNDP for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Mirjana Spoljaric Egger paid a visit to the Ceramics Production Workshop in Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast. Photo credit: Artem Hetman / UNDP Ukraine

Visiting the east of Ukraine, Egger inspected new administrative service centres set up with UNDP support, which are making life easier for citizens in the conflict-affected parts of Ukraine. She also saw how UNDP-supported decentralization reform in Ukraine is changing the lives of Ukrainians for the better.

December: Human rights and human development

Human rights were in focus in December as the “Just Like You” photo exhibition opened in Kyiv, with support from UNDP. The exhibition told the stories, in pictures, of 10 human rights activists who stood up for their own rights and the rights of others.

Vitalii Pcholkin, entrepreneur, athlete, activist and Active Rehabilitation Group director, became one of the faces of the photo exhibition 'Just Like You'. Photo credit: Kseniya Kravtsova, Vladyslav Nechyporenko

Earlier in the year, UNDP, the National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service, the Human Rights Center “ZMINA”, and the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation conducted a survey of Ukrainian civil servants’ attitudes to human rights, which found that while civil servants value human rights, they understand that discrimination is still a big problem in Ukraine.

UNDP also helped organize a media festival on human rights, gathering together journalism students from all over Ukraine to teach them how to raise human rights issues and topics of social relevance.

Photo credit: Yevhen Yarmoliuk / UNDP Ukraine

The human development highlight of the year was official presentation in Ukraine of UNDP’s 2019 Human Development Report, which showed that despite the armed conflict in the east of the country, Ukraine is making clear progress in human development, its Human Development Index having increased from 0.705 to 0.750, a rise of 6.3 percent, between 1990 and 2018. However, the report warned that Ukraine, as the rest of the world, faced the problem of rising inequality in society, exacerbated by the twin challenges of accelerating climate change and the rapid development of technology, both of which threaten to leave excluded and marginalized groups behind.

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