Conference in Lviv, Ukraine 2016

Conference on the Issues facing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Ukraine 

Internally Displaced Persons – Integration or Differentiation?

12-13 May 2016

BEARR Trust joint event with the Institute of Management and Leadership, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv.

The BEARR Trust, in partnership with the Ukrainian Catholic University’s Institute of Leadership and Management, and with financial support from UNDP in Ukraine, was proud to bring together more than 90 Ukrainian NGOs, international experts, social scientists and donors for a two-day conference on the question of the Integration or Differentiation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The conference forms part of BEARR’s ongoing mission to support networking between organisations working with vulnerable groups in the region.

The conference was organised and chaired by Natalia Bordun, Director of the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Approximately 1.5 million IDPs fled to other parts of Ukraine following the Russian occupation of Crimea and intervention in the Donbas. Although the experience of IDPs can be differentiated by the level of violence and trauma they have suffered or witnessed in the conflict which gave rise to their forced migration, participants broadly agreed that the focus should now be on integration. No single model of integration will be possible in Ukraine, but what is urgently needed is an agreed strategic vision adapted at regional level. This formed the basis of conference discussion.

A particularly interesting dimension was that many of the NGOs present were either run or founded by IDPs themselves.  Their personal experiences, coping strategies and real determination to drive change for other IDPs in Ukraine strengthened group discussion and acted as a motivating force throughout.

Participants agreed that, after two years of conflict and forced displacement, there is now a stark realisation that most IDPs are unlikely to return home. Francesca Giordano, from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, stressed that this realisation is an important aspect of the process of integration. When IDPs begin to focus on a new future in their host community and no longer solely on returning home, the process of integration really begins. This was reiterated by the experiences of many of the IDPs present.

There was broad consensus that integration is not a result, but an ongoing bilateral process involving both IDPs and new host communities trying to integrate with each other. A change in attitude and deeper understanding about the trauma suffered by IDPs is greatly needed in some regions. Yaroslav Minkin, Chairman of ‘STAN’, shared his NGO’s research and experience of how to counter the impact on communities of negative media propaganda and stereotyping of IDPs and gave some practical examples. It was also highlighted that many people from the Donbas were suspicious and hostile to people who had fought for the Ukrainian armed forces and still clung to stereotypes fostered by Russian media propaganda, thus making them less willing to integrate.

Finding employment for IDPs is a particular challenge. SMEs and self-employment are less common in the East of Ukraine, which is industrial, and men who had worked as coal miners in the Donbas were used to salaries of 6,000 UAH per month, while jobs available in the Lviv region, which has no heavy industry, pay no more than 1600 UAH. Miners will not accept jobs at that salary, and can quickly lose their will to either work or study. This was why quite a number of older workers have returned to their homes in the Donbas, having found it very difficult to adapt. While some participants were adamant that the government had to find jobs for IDPs, most had little confidence in the government’s willingness or ability to do much for IDPs.

Many of the NGOs invited by BEARR had not met each other before. As a result of the conference they will now work more closely together, not only to avoid duplication but to unite as a more powerful and necessary advocate of the issues facing IDPs across Ukraine. Old and (very) new NGOs came together with the same goal, to learn, to exchange experiences and to find shared solutions to the biggest challenge facing Ukraine in recent years.

There was a great spirit of hope throughout the conference, one that many participants expressed real gratitude for. With all of the talk of supporting IDPs, it was evident that much more needs to be done to support the NGOs themselves as well, and BEARR hopes that this conference was a first step towards doing that.

Overview of the main sessions

Day 1: Thursday 12 May 2016

  • Opening remarks

The integration of over a million IDPs is the most important challenge facing Ukraine today. The theme of this conference and the topics for sessions came about as a result of a survey completed by 71 NGOs. These results can be found on page 5 of the conference programme. Aside from economic issues, integration and adaptation clearly came through as the main themes. There was a strong message about the self-realisation of IDPs and the responsibility of host communities to support this process. Everyone in Ukraine has a responsibility. This conference comes at an important time, as we realise after two years that this is not a temporary crisis but an ongoing unresolved situation. But we need to look for the ray of hope, and it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of this situation for Ukraine. Lviv in particular has benefitted greatly from the flow of migrants westward, many of whom are highly skilled and who bring with them a new energy and spirit that is reinvigorating the city.

  • IDPs in Ukraine – resettlement, strategies and integration challenges

Viktoriya Sereda, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology at UCU

Viktoriya is an expert on integration and resettlement strategies and her research is based on many in-depth interviews with IDPs from Crimea and the East. The IDPs interviewed were those who had been able to choose their host community and not been relocated by the state. This was important because Viktoriya’s research is based on their vision for the future. What the research found is that the experience of IDPs depends very much on both their outlook and resilience, and also an ability to visualise a future in their host community. Those IDPs who are focused on eventually returning home do not socialise or engage with their new communities in the way that those who seek to permanently resettle do. There are a number of reasons for this but what is key here is the process of forced migration. Many IDPs from the East left it until the last possible moment to flee their homes in the hope that the situation would improve, others packed up a week’s worth of clothing and went to visit relatives leaving all documents behind. For those IDPs the adaptation experience is quite different to that of people who came from Crimea. But for both, the most important aspect of integration and adaptation is developing an ability to visualise a future and having access to the opportunities that can make that vision a reality.

  • Results of research on needs of NGOs working with IDPs and other types of assistance connected with the situation in the East

Natalia Tserklevych, Program Coordinator of the Forum of NGOs in Ukraine

Natalia outlined the infrastructure gaps facing NGOs and the work that her fund is doing to address some of the most pressing issues. Government legislation relating to IDPs moves very slowly, especially concerning international humanitarian aid organisations, and there are still many bureaucratic hurdles to registering a new NGO. There is much lobbying still to be done at this level to streamline legislative processes relating to IDPs. Currently there is no single map of where NGOs are working and what they are doing and there is also a lack of cooperation between the authorities and the media.  Natalia thinks the international community should be doing more to teach Ukrainian NGOs about the principles of humanitarian aid, about how to access international training, to plan fundraising activities and to work better with partners.

  • Integration – as a process. Relevance of important aspects and features of Ukraine

Yaroslav Minkin, Chairman of the Board, NGO, Youth Organisation STAN

The integration of IDPs in Ukraine is still very much at the experimental stage, and Europe should watch this testing ground carefully.  Yaroslav described the integration successes and failures of Ivano-Frankivsk region, which despite having a small number of IDPs, learnt many lessons about stereotypes and working with the media. Hostility towards and negative language about IDPs in the media has a devastating impact on the process of integration. There was a case of a single state official using the media to spread negative stereotypes about IDPs that NGOs tried to counteract through positive storytelling of IDPs’ experiences through different media channels. A ‘living library’ of IDPs stories can help to promote positive messages, to deepen society’s understanding of the suffering that IDPs have been through, and to communicate their hopes and desires to have a positive impact in their host communities.

  • International experience in integration

Tamar Martiashvili, Former Georgian Minister for IDP Issues and Sheltering

Tamar described how Georgia reacted to Russian intervention between 1994-2006 and again in 2008. An important feature of the work of Tamar and the government was to develop a legal framework to protect the rights of IDPs and prevent further persecution. As important was the rapid development of a state strategy, leading to an action plan and cluster system for distribution of basic resources. It was this that enabled Georgia to receive support from all the major international humanitarian agencies. Temporary housing was built but always with consideration given to the type of livelihood IDPs had had before forced migration. A key feature of the Georgian experience was its focus on self-integration of IDPs, but only once all basic human needs and rights had been provided by the state. Despite the number of IDPs being much smaller in Georgia, it was the state strategy and action plan that made cooperation with international agencies possible, and this is what enabled the rapid and successful resettlement of IDPs after 2008.

  • Discussion panel: Is it possible to have a single model of integration in the whole of Ukraine?

Chaired by Yuriy Shyvala, Vice-Chairman, NGO Crimea SOS


  • Oksana Yakovets, Adviser to the Lviv Minister of Social Policy
  • Yaroslav Minkin, Chairman of the Board, NGO Youth organisation STAN
  • Tamar Martiashvivli, Former Minister for IDPs issues and sheltering in Georgia
  • Tetyana Durneva, Expert on IDPs, Institute of Social and Economic Research
  • Francesca Giordano, PhD in Developmental Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan

The number of IDPs in Ukraine and the broad variations in their forced migration experience were the two main reasons given by the panel to support the argument that a single model of integration is not possible for Ukraine. There was discussion of Tamar’s presentation of the Georgian experience which, although different for many reasons, offers the solution of a national strategy with variations at local level by region or community.

Currently Ukraine has no national strategy for IDPs, and only in past weeks has a Ministry been set up to deal with the issue. Debate centred around meeting the basic needs of IDPs whilst also coming up with a national strategy that is not just a declaration of intent, but a detailed action plan with stages and processes as in Georgia. There was some concern that the state officials tasked with this are not fully aware of the psychological trauma experienced by IDPs and their host communities and that a wider group of people should be involved. A change of language (from Russian to Ukrainian) is one factor that has contributed to the trauma experienced by many IDPs, and psychotherapy is needed for many if not all PTSD sufferers.

Public opinion is important here, as is debate and a giving a sense of agency to the 80% of the population who live outside Kyiv, who often feel very far removed from the legislative process. There also needs to be better provision for IDPs to help themselves. For example there is no map of where NGOs are operating, or what services they provide. This would be a simple and effective way to provide essential information for IDPs and donors whilst the detailed action plan is developed.

Day 2: Friday 13 May 2016

  • Psychological aspects of the integration of IDPs

Francesca Giordano, PhD in Developmental Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan

Francesca’s specialism is resilience training for children suffering from trauma as a result of forced migration or war, which she terms ‘psychological first aid’. Using examples from her work in Ukraine, Lebanon and Syria, she described the primary and secondary psychological issues facing children as they try to process their experiences and cope with their new environments. It can be dangerous for IDP children to be supported in this by adult IDPs who have not themselves processed the trauma of forced migration or war. There is an important academic research component to the training that Francesca delivers worldwide, and she uses its results to further refine her work around coping mechanisms and types of trauma. For example, her research in Lebanon has found that tented settlements seem to increase post-traumatic stress disorder in IDP children and this learning should be shared between NGOs working with governments and agencies to rehouse IDPs in other countries.

Donors’ market

The donors’ market was a chance for the conference participants to meet and talk to representatives of grant-giving organisations. It was a highly valued activity for those participating as it was the first time that many NGOs had had a chance to ask questions to donors outside a formal application process. Most questions concerned feedback on unsuccessful applications but many were more broadly around how to write technically strong grant applications. Funds for IDPs in Ukraine are limited and with a growing number of NGOs working in this space, competition to secure funding is increasingly tight. In this environment donors are receiving more and more applications and need to make the process more efficient. Grant applications that do not meet the basic funding criteria or are unable to articulate impact and outputs cannot be considered by funders who are processing hundreds of applications with limited capacity. All of these issues were discussed with participants, who seemed empowered to write better quality grant applications in the future. It came as some surprise for many to realise that the grant-givers are often as small as the NGOs receiving the grant.

  • Knowledge factory group sessions

Effective strategies

Megan Bick, Trustee at the BEARR Trust

The aim of this session was to think about producing useful effective strategies, rather than huge unwieldy documents largely written by external consultants in order to please donors. Given the range of organisations represented, from large NGOs who had undergone organisational assessments and funded away days for strategic planning to totally new groups who were unaware of any of these terminologies.

Starting by questioning the need at all for a strategic plan we looked at the pros and cons of following a template or engaging external support. We then brainstormed ways of building in flexibility throughout to fast changing situations and being able to adapt. The need for a diverse group of stakeholders with differing opinions came through as being crucial to producing a strategy with the most resilience over time. Next we sketched out the broad spectrum of complementary levels of activity from influencing policy and legislation to promoting community awareness and strengthening individuals’ skills and knowledge. Then we concentrated on fostering coalitions and networks in putting together a joint campaign to educate state providers as a common theme facing all participants. In small groups the participants devised ways of collaboration on shared objectives.

Team building

Natalya Bordun, Director of ILM at UCU

This highly interactive session began with a team building exercise called ‘Labyrinth’. This exercise required the participants, who had not met before, to work together in silence to find a path through the ‘labyrinth’, or a 10×10 grid of tiles with only one possible route. The team had to file one by one in order through the labyrinth trying different route combinations until they found the correct way. If one team member made a mistake the entire team had to start again from the beginning. The exercise took some time to complete but by the end there was a depth of understanding amongst group participants that could not have been achieved otherwise in silence. After the exercise Natalia explained the purpose of this and similar team building exercises, how they foster creative and flexible thinking, strengthen understanding of different viewpoints and build stronger, more collaborative teams. Natalia asked the group to talk about other reasons as why such exercises are important and went on to give more practical examples that the group can take away with them to run within their own communities to help with the process of integration.

Effective communication

Janet Gunn, Trustee at BEARR Trust

Using the results of the pre-conference survey, three main issues were raised: internal communications (inside an NGO), inter-NGO communication and networking, and external communication with government authorities, donors and beneficiaries. The discussion on internal communication looked at issues of delegation and being too reliant on one person to drive the NGO forward. The issues of burnout came up, particularly for those working in this field who may also be IDPs themselves. Inter-NGO communication is hampered by the fact that NGOs are competing with each other for grants, and so can be reluctant to share information. There needs to be more joint bidding and matched grants to encourage inter-NGO collaboration rather than competition. Finally, it was the area of external communication with central and local government that participants found most difficult. The high turnover of state officials in the regions is highly problematic as key contacts can disappear quickly requiring a fresh start. A solution suggested for this is to target the deputy official who is less likely to move on than the top person.

Lobbying and advocacy

Tetyana Durneva, Expert on IDPs at the Institute of Social and Economic Research

Tetyana began with quotation from Margaret Mead to the effect that you can change anything. The session was very practical, using examples from Tetyana’s other highly successful campaigns concerned with the prevention of smoking in bus shelters and on public transport, and introducing cycle lanes in Donetsk. Tetyana’s expert advice and real life examples on how to effect change successfully through lobbying and advocacy were highly valuable for participants and she articulated some strong messages about the importance of keeping up momentum even at the point when the campaign appears to be succeeding. Tetyana’s presentation was a great aid to support all of the practical examples offered.

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