On the 14th March 2019, a consortium of NGOs organized a conference in Paris, bringing together European, Ukrainian, French decision-makers to discuss the humanitarian situation in Donbas. From this exchange, several key messages and recommendations emerged.
The war in Donbas is the only active armed conflict in Europe. A 450km frontline, also known as the contact line, cuts in two each of the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which are industrialized, urban and densely populated. Currently, there are 2.2 million people live in the Government Controlled Area (GCA) and 2.3m live in the Non-Government Controlled Area (NGCA). The artificial separation of the two regions intensifies humanitarian needs.
Besides the permanent physical insecurity resulting from the daily fighting, people face other protection risks, including restrictions on fundamental rights, such as the freedom of movement. Other concerns include the right to pension, the compensation and restitution for those who have lost their housing, the protection of vital civilian infrastructure, as well as the contamination of the area with mines and other unexploded ordnances of war.
As the need for humanitarian assistance in the NGCA continues, the financial support will continue to be required. While the peace process is at a standstill, funding for humanitarian action is insufficient. The United Nations estimate that EUR 162 million is required to meet humanitarian needs in 2019. However, only 36% of the Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded in 2018.
The financial support remains unsufficient while humanitarian needs persist. The stakes are high considering the complete deadlock in the peace process. Ceasefire agreements are an example where despite the great efforts regularly employed to negotiate temporary ceasefires, engagements are quickly broken.
All discussion points addressed at the 2019 Conference highlighted the actions that France can undertake to improve the humanitarian situation in the conflict-affected area, are the following
1.Maintain engagement in negotiations in order to achieve a sustainable ceasefire. The use of humanitarian diplomacy can be an entry point to build trust among parties.
2. Financially support the water company Voda Donbasa in cooperation with other international donors, so that millions of people on both sides of the line of contact are given access to water.
3. Urge the government of Ukraine to granta special status to the Voda Donbasa water company to be allowed to continue its operations in NGCA safely and without violating Ukrainian legislation.
4. Call on all parties to the conflict to take urgent measures to improve the conditions for crossing the line of contact including opening at least one additional crossing point (i.e. Zolote, Luhansk region) and simplifying the crossing procedures.
5. Urge the Government of Ukraine to revise the current legislation on sexual and reproductive health, mental health and psychosocial support and gender-based violence; and revise the funding allocated to healthcare in order to improve and extend access of the comprehensive system of healthcare services to the conflict-affected population on the both sides of the line of contact.
6. Promote, support and continue investment in Donbas to ensure sustainable impact. The City of Mariupol example shows that it is important to invest much closer to the contact line. With continued support in this process, the state institutions will be able to face long-term regional challenges, such as providing for the needs of the population who have lost access to their service centers, which are now located in the NGCA.
7. Ensure that development and humanitarian initiatives are coordinated effectively, as per the humanitarian development nexus.
8. Continue and increase its contribution to the humanitarian interventions by: