Ukraine's hidden tragedy: understanding the outcomes of population displacement

A shrine to the fallen heroes of Ukraine's 2014 Revolution of Dignity and the ongoing Anti-Terrorist Operation in the Donbas region, City of Lviv, Provincial Government Office, February 2017.

Ukraine's hidden tragedy: understanding the outcomes of population displacement from the country's war torn regions

This project, funded under the UK AHRC-ESRC joint Partnership for Conflict Crime and Security Research (PaCCS) Innovation Awards, will explore the experience of the Ukrainians displaced by the de facto annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

While a relatively large amount is understood about the political outcomes, both internal and external, there is little in-depth work on the social, legal, cultural, and economic impacts of the estimated 1.7 million people internally displaced by the conflict. Dr Vlad Mykhnenko (Co-Investigator), working alongside an inter-disciplinary international team of collaborators, comprising Dr Rilka Dragneva-Lewers and Dr Gulara Guliyeva (Birmingham Law School, the University of Birmingham), Prof Oksana Mikheieva and Dr Viktoriya Sereda (Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv), led by Dr Irina Kuznetsova (PI, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, the University of Birmingham), will explore the questions of economic adaptation and urban resilience of cities and local communities across Ukraine, hosting the internally displaced people.

Funded by: the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Funded Value: £79,149 

Duration: 1 November 2016 – 30 April 2018

Since the beginning of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and the annexation of Crimea, approximately 1.7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced and are facing an uncertain future. The majority have experienced a significant drop in living standards, problems in accessing services such as health care, difficulties in obtaining suitable work and an overall lack of support for their situation. Furthermore, the displacement has had a significant impact on individual identities with people forced away from their 'homelands' while at the same time feeling abandoned by their state. While the conflict has gained a great deal of international attention, this is mainly focussed on the actions of the Russian and Ukrainian states and the former's relationships with the rest of the world as a result of the war. Attempts at conflict resolution also focus on state level issues and thus the experiences, problems and voices of those internally displaced remain unheard. The project's overarching argument is that meaningful post-conflict reconstruction, and reconciliation, cannot take place without a full understanding of problems that people displaced by the war face and their full incorporation into social, economic and legal structures within the country.

This project addresses this gap by interviewing those displaced by the conflict as well as those charged with assisting them. The key areas it explores are centred on their legal and social status, their everyday experiences, ability to obtain work in their new locality and how they cope with their new challenges. This will involve over a 100 in-depth interviews in multiple locations in Ukraine. The research team is interdisciplinary, with investigators from social geography, law, politics and economic geography, ensuring that differing approaches and methodologies will be brought together throughout the research. As well as the individual experiences, the research also examines how local and national authorities have attempted to assist this group and the barriers they have faced in doing so. Once this has been fully understood, the project then looks to the actions of the international community, such as the EU, the UN, and how their actions have assisted/impacted upon the lives of internally displaced people. Together these research areas will provide deep understandings of the many problems that internally displaced people face in Ukraine and how institutions, both state and NGO, can best provide assistance. Importantly, the research will also explicitly explore how internally displaced people can be more meaningfully involved in civil advocacy and political decisions at central and regional levels

Given the scale and urgency of the issues that the research explores, its findings will be of interest to a wide range of policy makers, government/NGOs representatives and academics. Through its interviews and public engagement events, the work will also provide a voice and pathway into debates for internally displaced people who are far too often unheard. The ground level data that the project will produce, contextualised by a deep engagement with policy reports and legal documents, will provide the basis for evidence-based policy development by the Ukrainian government, the EC, the UN, and NATO. The project will also produce accessible guidelines for internally displaced people, based on the research findings, to help them access the services that they need. These outcomes will combine to improve the lives of this group and to ensure they have a voice in future policy developments.

Based around the concept of necropolitics, the research's theoretical base will ensure that the project has a broad academic engagement and will provide comparative elements to debates surrounding the problems internally displaced people face in other conflict torn regions.


For further details, visit the IDP Ukraine project website.