If not Now When?

Publication language
Date published
30 Aug 2023
Accountability and Participation, Conflict, violence & peace, Funding and donors, Humanitarian Access

An open letter to international donors and NGOs who want to genuinely help Ukraine

We are Ukrainian CSOs and allies who are actively working to ensure that local civil societies have the ongoing resources and power they need to respond to short-term and long-term needs in our communities.

Many of us have already been taking a leading role in the humanitarian response, both in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. From the outset of the Russian military attack, we have been at the forefront of the response to ensure people are safe and looked after in this conflict, and that systems are in place to rebuild our communities when, hopefully, the conflict subsides. In Ukraine, almost all humanitarian aid has been provided by 150 local NGOs, church associations and 1,700 newly created volunteer-based CSOs. Many of these informal volunteer groups are now permanent active organisations operating in the region.

In spite of the fact that the international humanitarian sector has raised many millions of dollars, we have failed to see resources coming our way. In May, the UN Financial Tracking Service (FTS) showed that UN agencies received about two-thirds of humanitarian aid funding to Ukraine. International NGOs received 6% of the funding, while national Ukrainian NGOs received a scant 0.003% of the total amount. This doesn’t factor in the many millions that INGOs have been securing through direct appeals to the public. Yet we are the ones with access, local knowledge, connections, language and - most important of all - the personal commitment to saving lives and delivering help no matter what.

During the past four months of full-scale war, our members and colleagues have faced considerable challenges in order to gain access to the system of international funding that, even in the midst of a crisis and with local human resources and know-how at the ready, prioritises international organisations over local ones.

We call on donors and INGOs to rapidly consider a different approach in this war – one that builds on successes elsewhere, but that can also be used to model the behaviour we know will nurture stronger civil societies everywhere. Many of our allies in the #ShiftThePower movement hashave already pioneered the knowledge on how to do this in other contexts.

The call enumerates a simple list of the immediate things that can be done to shift the power to local organisations, where it is most needed.