The focus of post-war reconstruction efforts must be not simply on the rebuilding of what has been destroyed, but rather on investments for the future that are transformative and sustainable. Civil society in Ukraine and other European countries have been calling for a Green Reconstruction in Ukraine1 through-out the past months, during the internal work in Ukraine on the Recovery Plan.
The limited participation of civil society, businesses and media in government decision making on the Ukrainian Recovery Plan raises concern that the corruption2 and sidelining of accountability mechanisms prevalent before the war will continue in the post-war era. State capture by political and economic entities, entrenched throughout public institutions, as well as disrespect towards good governance principles is not acceptable and must be firmly opposed by all international supporters of post-war reconstruction. Failure to do so risks the misuse of reconstruction funds, poor allocation of support and further entrenching a system and culture of corruption and poor governance.
In the preamble of the Ukraine Recovery Conference3, we call on governments, development banks, financial institutions and aid agencies to join efforts for ensuring that post-war reconstruction efforts in Ukraine are designed in partnership with the Ukrainian authorities and civil society, while aligning with the Open Government Partnership principles and supporting climate smart, nature positive and inclusive reconstruction. As a candidate country to the European Union, Ukraine must align to EU objectives in the realm of good governance, climate change, nature protection and technological innovation, as well as live up to previous international commitments on good governance and accountability.
1. Ensuring transparency, inclusiveness, participatory and accountability principles are applied in post war reconstruction efforts
The planning of Ukrainian Reconstruction efforts should be based on a strong participation of civil society, independent experts and institutions, local communities and municipalities in all stages of the planning, implementation and monitoring of post-war reconstruction programmes. Ukraine must live up to its international commitments including the Open Government Partnership4, the Aarhus convention5 and the Espoo convention6 and uphold transparent, participatory, inclusive and accountable governance principles.
Ensuring that the developed Recovery Plan is subject to independent review through a Strategic Environmental Assessment is crucial, given that the plan will be a cornerstone for the international community and the support provided to reconstruction of Ukraine. At the same time, participatory budgeting of reconstruction programmes and projects, especially at the municipal level, can ensure better transparency over public resources and reduce the risk of corruption.
Furthermore, the donor community should ensure the application of the Partnership Principle in line with the European Code of Conduct on Partnership to ensure involvement of independent experts and institutions, including civil society, businesses and media, throughout the stages of decision-making and implementation. The European Commission can play a leading role in applying the partnership principle through the recently established Ukraine Reconstruction Platform7, including when coordinating other donors and governments for supporting reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. The European Commission should play a role in setting accountability and transparency standards for all donors involved in reconstruction efforts to exclude potential corruption risks.
2. Driving capacity development for innovation and use of best available technologies
The war is causing serious administrative and governance loopholes as well as a drain of expertise from the country.
Relevant aid agencies, governmental development cooperation agencies and EU institutions must provide rapid technical assistance support to the Ukrainian government for the purpose of developing reconstruction programme frameworks that are truly transformative and support building a sustainable, energy efficient, climate smart and nature positive future. Such technical assistance programmes can support the embedding of best available technologies and the streamlining of progressive policies and standards for sectors such as energy, heavy industries, natural resource usage, agriculture, water and sanitation, transport infrastructure and the buildings sector. Technical assistance should streamline safeguarding of ecosystem services for achieving specific recovery objectives.
Capacity development on public sector reform for the purpose of integrating progressive standards and technologies in governance frameworks should be priorities as well through technical assistance programmes.
3. Streamlining a nature positive and climate-smart approach in all sectors
Reconstruction efforts must be directed towards a sustainable development of economic sectors without jeopardizing the environment and natural resources that are equally necessary for all, such as water or land, clean air, and biodiversity. Sectoral reconstruction objectives must guarantee lasting access to needed natural resources, while being climate neutral and supporting restoring nature for people. Specifically:
- Reconstruction should lead towards the energy transition and decarbonization of all economic sectors, with decreases in energy intensity, the establishment of the best available energy efficiency standards for buildings, industries and transport as well as ensuring the transition to decentralized energy production from renewable sources that respect principles of biodiversity conservation; Energy transition must be based on scenarios drawing from sound energy system modelings.
- The relaunch of key industries should be based on circular approaches, and investment in cleaner and best available technologies, in order to decrease pressure on natural resources, increase the use of renewable energy and increase energy efficiency.
- Reconstruction of municipal infrastructure should be based on available best practices, including the development of sustainable urban mobility systems, high-quality water treatment and supply, proper air quality, and nature-based solutions implementation for healthy environment and climate change adaptation;
- Transport infrastructure planning, including for rail, road and waterway navigation, should be based on strategic environmental assessments, integrated spatial planning, including mapping of crucial ecological corridors and biodiversity hotspots. Also, green infrastructure elements have to be integrated into project design to mitigate possible environmental impacts.
- The reconstruction for the food and agriculture sector should aim to be resilient to environmental, socioeconomic, and war-related risks while reducing its impact on the environment, also through safeguarding of ecosystem services and the integration of nature-based solutions into agricultural practices in Ukraine for post-war recovery and further climate change adaptation.
- Reconstruction efforts should embrace evolving challenges, including climate change, water and food security and ecosystem services loss and ensure socio-economic resilience through nature protection, sustainable management and restoration.
- Future plans, programmes and projects designed have to be examined through the criteria lens of how they add to solving immediate and evolving environmental and climate challenges and install safeguards for not accumulating new ones.
- Ensuring socio-economic resilience through strengthening environmental security. Post-war recovery should be focused not just on the restoration of the troubled landscapes and ecosystems, but on strengthening the capacity of the nature protection system, safeguarding of ecosystem services and sustainable natural resources use.
- All projects and activities must be implemented in accordance with national legislation and international obligations. National legislation directly connected to environmental requirements, as well as norms aimed at complying with international obligations, must not be canceled or weakened. Such changes of legislation can subsequently lead to significant problems in future and instability in decisions.
4. Approximation of EU legislation and setting the best available standards and safeguards
Reconstruction efforts should support Ukraine in fulfilling its international commitments and harmonization with EU legislation (acquis communautaire) including the EU’s Green Deal objectives and provisions from the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement8. The specific legislation including EU directives from the Association Agreement should be a cornerstone for setting objectives, standards and safeguards for the Rebuild Ukraine plan.
- Green Reconstruction of Ukraine: Position of Civil Society, 5 May 2022, https://en.ecoaction.org.ua/green-reconstruction-ukraine.html
- Ukraine ranks 122 from 180 in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index