As the conflict in Eastern Ukraine enters its sixth year, addressing long term recovery needs in the Government Controlled Areas (GCA) of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts remains a priority for regional and national authorities, as well as for development actors.
The significant impact of this conflict is in part due to the separation of the contact line of large urban centres in non-government-controlled areas from their peripheries in government-controlled areas. The separation has impacted people’s ability to access basic services, employment and markets. Furthermore, restrictions of movement and significant changes in the dynamics of population flows have also altered the capacities to deliver these services.
In parallel, the Ukrainian government has mandated that decentralization reform will be implemented across the country in 2020. Although 31 Amalgamated Territorial Communities (ATCs or hromadas) have been formed in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, this reform remains significantly hampered by the conflict (see box on the right).
Furthermore, a recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study on decentralization in Ukraine highlighted the importance of planning using “functional urban areas” especially in the Ukrainian context where both population and economic growth have mostly happened in large urban centres since the early 1990s. The REACH area-based assessment (2017) and the Capacity and Vulnerability Assessment (2018), by looking beyond administrative units as a planning unit, showed how relevant this approach is by demonstrating for example how Mariupol acts as a health service provider beyond its city or planned ATC boundaries.
Overall, the joint effects of conflict, decentralization and urbanization makes understanding actual service access dynamics in eastern Ukraine critical to ensure that development support effectively targets the communities that are most in need of long-term recovery and sustainable development support.
By producing unique, community-level data on vulnerabilities and capacity gaps in service provision, this assessment addresses an important information gap and comes to support recovery actors to provide integrated and inclusive services to conflict-affected communities by informing the development of evidence-based recovery strategies and plans which build on community-level priorities.