Three weeks have come and gone since my initial arrival in Kyiv, Ukraine. In some respects, I feel like I have just arrived. In other ways, these three weeks have felt like three months. My evenings and weekends have, so far, consisted of a considerable amount of walking and exploring; there is always something to see or do in the city. And being situated in the political centre of Ukraine, there is never a dull moment. Kyiv is a lively city full of great architecture, delicious food, unique restaurants, and residents who are passionate about their city. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of international travelers, volunteers, expats, and fellow interns. Everyone I meet agrees on one thing: the city of Kyiv is truly remarkable. (And I would add very underrated).
This gem of a city has so much to offer. One metro line can take you to the beautiful beaches on Hydro-park and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, St. Sophia’s Cathedral and Pechersk Lavra. It also makes daily commuting here in the city very accessible and easy. The UNDP office is located right next to the Arsenalna metro station, which opened in 1960 and is located just over 105 meters below ground, making it the deepest metro station in the world. However, this became its worst feature one morning when the escalators broke on my way to work. Let’s just say I essentially got my work out in for the next week!
In addition to sightseeing and exploring the city, I am truly enjoying my work so far. I work with the Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (RPP) at the United Nations Development Programme. The RPP portfolio encompasses the nexus between humanitarian aid and development. The on-going armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has caused tremendous local economic collapse. Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts have been most affected due to the direct impacts related to the loss of territorial control, infrastructure, markets, and resources.
UN RPP addresses these issues with three core components of the programme: Component I: Economic Recovery and Restoration of Critical Infrastructure; Component II: Local Governance and Decentralization Reform; and Component III: Community Security and Social Cohesion. For example, many projects focus on the transition from recovery towards development. This requires creating synergies between the short- to medium-term needs for continued investment in recovery, and the medium- to long-term reform processes such as the relationship to the health sector, decentralization and local governance, and creating an enabling environment for economic development.
I have quickly come to appreciate the work that goes into project management or the “life cycle of a project,” from the formation of an idea, to funding, to planning, to implementation and evaluation. Learning the logistics of how these huge programs come to fruition is quite the educational experience, especially understanding the extensive process required to tailor programmes for a community’s needs. Through this process one can begin to see how these sorts of investments can better people’s livelihood. Specifically, this is being showcased through an upcoming business expo where more than 200 participants will show off their successful businesses that were made possible through UNDP business grants.
The weather in Kyiv is still holding up, and I’m trying to experience as many outdoor activities as possible before the cold Ukrainian winter arrives. Right now, the changing autumn leaves remind me of home back in Canada. There are still five months ahead, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for me next.