The preservation of Ukraine’s civil society institutions is the key to continuing Ukraine’s democratic development

Since the onset of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the life and work of Ukrainian CSOs, analytical and research institutions, and, in particular, our member-organisations in Ukraine and our Office in Brussels has changed dramatically. Our first and most important task in the first days of the war was to make sure our families and colleagues were safe. Some of our member-organisations relocated their families and staff members to safer places in Ukraine, whereas some stayed in Kyiv, Kharkiv, or other cities under Russian attack. Every morning started with an SMS/message asking “How are you? How is your family?”.

When safety (or rather, relevant safety) was achieved, our member-organisations fully restarted their work by producing analysis, conducting monitoring, and engaging in humanitarian work, while simultaneously joining or helping the territorial defence and the army. Our experts did not leave and have no intention of leaving the country. Our common goal today is to contribute to the winning of the war, save people’s lives and preserve institutions of Ukraine’s civil society, analytical and research communities.

Preserving the institutions of civil society means maintaining institutional memory, the continuation of policy work, and keeping the watchdog function over public policies. And in such a way – saving the possibility to correctly and swiftly restore public life, administration, and policies implementation after winning this war. When the “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine will be provided, with a maintained civil society, we will have the internal forces necessary to conduct work inside of the country, monitor the actions and advise the authorities, and most importantly – preserve the democratic development of Ukraine.

Support is extremely important today for the preservation of civil society, as well as the analytical and research institutions of Ukraine. This effort should aim at supporting institutions and achieving the security of their personnel.

Today, as donors and partners consider how to best support civil society, analytical and research structures in Ukraine, here are some of our ideas and suggestions:

  • Follow the proposals of Ukrainian organisations to determine which priorities, topics, and actions are to be taken, as they know the situation on the ground better;
  • Provide these organisations with direct institutional support;
  • Give them more liberty to decide how to spend funds during times of war;
  • Remove the heavy bureaucratic requirements connected with project implementation and reporting;
  • Plan long-term institutional assistance in the next circle of programming for the support of civil society. Shift the focus from the project to institutional support!
  • Make the inclusion of civil society structures in the fulfilment of the “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine compulsory. The CSOs will play a crucial role as watchdogs in the preservation of democratic procedures in the country after the war.

We also rely on the support of our peers from civil society organisations, research, and expert communities of the EU and the countries of the Free World to stand with us together.

Let us join our voices and forces together in supporting Ukraine’s civil society!


By Olena Carbou, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Think Tanks Liasion Office in Brussels