Crosscutting theme of Brussel’s conference: The human face of Ukrainian conflict

On the 23rd January 2017, the conference “Ukraine – The Human Face of the Eastern Conflict” organized by Action Contre La Faim took place at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. The conference aimed to raise the awareness of the continued humanitarian needs in Ukraine and the challenges that civil society and other humanitarian actors continue to face within the Ukrainian context for more than 3.8 million people in need in Ukraine. 

The conference brought together nearly 80 participants. NGO Forum Ukraine was presented in Brussels together with 8 both international and national organizations responding to humanitarian crisis in Ukraine: Action Contre la FaimPeople in NeedDanish Refugee CouncilNorwegian Refugee CouncilVostok SOSCrimea SOSRight to ProtectionDonbass Development Center, who are some of orgabrusselsaid1nizations working to meet the most vulnerable and  affected by the consequences of the humanitarian crisis on a daily basis.

An estimated 3.8 million people in Eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance, and their protection needs remains a key concern. Most of them, 2.9 million, live in areas beyond Government control.  The Ukrainian Government has officially registered more than 1.7 million people as internally displaced people (IDPs). Ongoing violence makes life challenging and dangerous for people living along the ‘contact line.’ Since the beginning of the conflict, some 23,000 people have been injured and some 9,700 killed (according to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, as of 15 November 2016).

As Mamar Merzouk, head of the Ukrainian office of ECHO stressed that there is a significant need to raise the awareness about the crisis in the center of Europe amongst European politicians. Further stressing that as the conflict continues, a humanitarian need remains, something which is very real, especially for those directly affected by violence and for the communities that host displaced people. Also, highlighting that while conflict continues it also creates long-term financial burdens on the state, especially when the time frame for peace is uncertain.

The primary focus of the conference was for many to highlight the individual, beyond the numbers and statistics, and provide the human face to the humanitarian crisis. Speakers emphasized that here in Ukraine what we need is a political will to apply solidarity and remain cognizant of the fact that we are speaking about real humans, 3.8 million people in a huge need.

Brussels conference panel included the following experts:

Topics, presentations, and discussions were devoted to the overall impact of humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, its main challenges, the need for an integrated approach, cooperation with Ukrainian Government, political dialogue, partnership with international donors, engagement of different institutions of civil societybrusselsaid for responding to humanitarian needs in the Donbass region, and importance of considering.

Following the panel discussion there was an open question and answer session which offered the opportunity to bring together participants visions, expertise and knowledge with questions raised by representatives of media, local Ukrainian as well as and international NGOs: about strong need of building synergies  between humanitarian and development initiatives, gender based and sexual violence in Eastern Ukraine, protection and support to humanitarian workers in Ukraine especially related to burnout.

‘Looking ahead we jointly need to ensure that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is neither ignored nor forgotten. Civil society was the first, second and third responder to the crisis in Ukraine; we also need to recognize the enormous sacrifices many brave individuals, women, and men, has made to assist those most in need. Protection and adequate support of humanitarian workers should never be forgotten in this context, without it we lose the basis for effective response’ convinced Fredric Larsson, director of Ukraine NGO Forum.