This case study is part of the Diaspora Emergency Action and Coordination Platform‘s (DEMAC) „Research study on diaspora humanitarian response and engagement“.
Ukraine has been blighted by unrest and conflict for decades with many Ukrainians leaving to seek a better life elsewhere. Over 1 million people have received humanitarian assistance in 2020, with the focus on the conflict-affected eastern Ukraine, in addition to the COVID-19 response.
Recent estimates put the size of the Ukrainian diaspora at some 7 million, although other estimates consider 12-20 million to be more realistic. There are approximately 1,000 Ukrainian diaspora organizations around the world.
This case study identified 23 Ukrainian diaspora organizations that were regularly active in humanitarian response. Nearly half were based in North America and the other half in Europe, Israel and Australia. The majority of diaspora organizations were created spontaneously after the unrest of 2013-14. Older diaspora organizations were initially created in order to promote Ukrainian culture in their countries of residence, with little focus on humanitarian response in Ukraine, with the exception of small-scale provision of support. With the outbreak of conflict in 2014, the main motivation for the humanitarian response was a wish to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine, driven by patriotism and empathy for fellow Ukrainians.
Most diaspora organizations focus their humanitarian response on health and rapid assistance such as providing food, cash, and clothes to those in need. A key feature of Ukrainian diaspora organizations’ humanitarian response is that they have tended to follow an initial response by those on the ground. Diaspora individuals have then picked up on the momentum from abroad and formed groups to firstly send cash to purchase basic assistance, before following this up with more complex forms of support, such as medical training and equipment.