Over the recent years a number of long-awaited, key reforms have been implemented in Ukraine more or less successfully, including reforms of decentralization, provision of healthcare and social services, pension, digitalization, land etc. The government-controlled areas (GCA) of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, having endured the consequences of an active conflict since 2014, have been facing serious challenges that undermine the reform process and could result in a situation when these regions fall behind the rest of the country. That being said, the implementation of reforms in the conflict-affected regions requires a specific attention, coordinated efforts at all levels and a robust response from the Government of Ukraine and its international partners.
Among the main conflict-related challenges and issues are the following:
- Persistent risks for civilians, as well as a degraded security situation and escalation of the armed conflict due to uncertainties of the Minsk negotiations;
- 3.4 million people in Donbas (1.7 million in GCA, including 340,000 IDPs) require humanitarian assistance and protection; among them every third person is elderly. $168 million of funding required in 2021 to respond to humanitarian needs only.
- The Donetsk and Luhansk regions in GCA register officially the largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs), 513,639 and 283,931 accordingly (as of 08 June 2021), which involves additional responsibilities and special programmes and policies for local authorities.
- A 450 km long Line of Contact (LoC) between areas controlled and non-controlled by the Ukrainian Government in Donbas (GCA and NGCA), which cuts hundreds of thousands of people from former oblast centers where they used to get qualified services and jobs, and, on the other hand, cuts NGCA residents from essential services, pension and welfare benefits in GCA, putting serious obstacles to realization of fundamental right to freedom of movement and other human rights of civilians.
- Over 200,000 people living in frontline communities in GCA continue to suffer from limited access to essential services and local markets due to insecurity, protracted absence of public transport network, lack of employment opportunities and other cumulative effects of the conflict.
- Heavy contamination of lands with landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) with around 2 million civilians exposed to this threat and high number of the related casualties. Inability to explore agricultural lands for many people which puts at risk their wellbeing.
- Regular attacks and shelling targeting civilian infrastructure in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts causing damage to hospitals, schools, as well as critical water infrastructure, putting at risk the water supply to hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the LoC.