By Sulamita Romanchik, MAGG Student
Conflict fatigue – the extent to which individuals living in conflict become disappointed and disengaged in relation to the conflict. For ordinary Ukrainians, particularly those living in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts near the contact line, this is their reality. SCORE, the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index, shows that four years into the eastern Ukrainian conflict Ukrainians are fatigued and growing disillusioned, disengaged, disconnected and disinterested.
A lot can be attributed to failure of high-level agreements in ending the fighting and finding a durable political solution. The usual eagerness for pro-European orientation decreased, separatist tendencies gained more traction, and indifference is evident in the “don’t know” responses to questions asked to citizens in the government-controlled area (GCA).
Curiously, though, this is not the impression I have had when visiting several government departments and engaging in conversations at the national level. It seems that while ordinary Ukrainians are experiencing conflict fatigue, politicians are motivated and looking for new partnerships in the pursuit of solutions and recovery.
One of the projects I am currently working on is producing a proposal for an innovative solution to a humanitarian or climate change challenge in Ukraine, to be sponsored by Innovation Norway. The project proposal calls for engaging in meaningful conversations and consultations with various governmental bodies, such as the Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine and The State Emergency Service of Ukraine.
Interestingly, the conversations revealed a different reality for those in government. Take for example The State Emergency Service of Ukraine. The First Deputy Head and his team had envisioned an elaborate technological Early Warning system, starting with the data collection and ending with the dissemination of warning messages. They were just waiting for someone to show up who can implement it. The same can be said of The Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine.
If there is anything that distinguishes the Ukrainian society from most other countries I’ve been to, it’s the keenness for, and prevalence of, IT and technology in everything. It is clear why even UNDP Ukraine focuses on innovation and can always find a way to dedicate a part of its budget towards the realization of innovative ideas.
Luckily, after deliberating with IBM and other IT companies, we were able to propose to Innovation Norway a product that encompasses the needs and interests of The State Emergency Service and the Ministry of Information Policy, while also incorporating our own ideas to produce a scalable and sustainable prototype.
But the challenge now remains to reignite motivation and interest in civic life for the rest of Ukrainians, especially those unfairly immersed in the conflict. Perhaps IT solutions and innovation need to be put on the backburner for a little while. Perhaps tending to conflict fatigue should take precedence.
Without engaged citizens, who will be left to implement the ambitious ideas of government agencies? The UNDP can only do so much. It is but an organization made up of the very people it also aims to serve. And as the nation is only as strong as its people, a durable agreement on peace must be concluded to eliminate conflict fatigue. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine has a different kind of emergency at hand – one that is not traditionally addressed by them, but must nonetheless be dealt with promptly.