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The report “HUMANITARIAN ACCESS IN EASTERN UKRAINE: REVIEW OF THE SITUATION” was presented in Kyiv. This monitoring was carried out by the Charitable Fund «Right to Protection» (R2P) under the project «Provision of Multi-Sectoral Humanitarian Assistance to Conflict-Affected Populations in Eastern Ukraine» which is implemented by R2P with the financial support of the European Commission, within the framework of civil protection and humanitarian assistance of the European Union within the ACCESS consortium. The purpose of this study was to highlight the real situation with humanitarian access in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and to assess the effectiveness of existing mechanisms for ensuring such access. Also during the presentation, R2P representatives outlined the most acute problems in this area and voiced their vision of possible solutions and recommendations.

Non-governmental organizations representatives also participated in the discussion on monitoring results: Samuel Marie-Fanon, ECHO Ukraine office’s Head, Camilla Corradin, Advocacy expert (PiN) and Stuart Kent, Head of  ACCESS consortium (PiN).

The issue of free humanitarian access is vital for the residents of both GCA and NGCA, – the R2P representatives noted during the presentation. Daryna Tolkach, Advocacy coordinator, commented on the situation with humanitarian access in Ukraine today: ”Humanitarian organizations aid sometimes is the only help for the conflict affected population. Therefore it is extremely important to avoid politicization of the humanitarian access issue for non-governmental organizations in order to assist the population.”

Daria Dmytrenko, Legal analyst, described how the study was conducted: “We analyzed the legal regulation of humanitarian access issues in the context of the conflict, available mechanisms for humanitarian coordination, communicated with providers and recipients. The data we gathered are good examples of common problems and often different approaches to their solution.”  – she noted that the geography of the study covers Donetsk and Luhansk regions. (Donetsk region: Bakhmut, Volnovasky, Yasinuvatsky districts, Luhansk oblast: Zolotye, Novoajdarsky, Stanychno-Luhansk districts). Still unresolved security problems, high risk of exacerbation of the situation, infrastructure violations, formal restrictions on movement, lack of training of security forces personnel on humanitarian standards, mine pollution, coordination weaknesses and unfair or unequal distribution of humanitarian assistance, limited access of population of front-line territories to information on assistance.

The participants discussed the humanitarian situation in the country, as 3,5 million Ukrainians today are in need of assistance. So this question is overwhelming. As for today, it is clear that the response structure to the humanitarian crisis needs to be optimized in order to make humanitarian assistance effective. It should be based on the real needs of the affected population, provided on time, which requires transparent and effective procedures for the recognition of humanitarian assistance in accordance with generally accepted standards, including standards for the security of civilians and humanitarian workers.

Camilla Corradin commented: “Access consortium includes a number of NGOs implementing activities on the ground, both in GCA and NGCA. We can therefore bring field evidence to the findings of the R2P report. Our experience confirms indeed that physical access to GCA is overall acceptable. However there are regulatory burdens which make the implementation of our projects less effective (funding- and time-wise). On the one hand there are issues related to difficulties in VAT exemption for humanitarian aid, and beneficiaries incur the risk of having to pay personal income tax on humanitarian support, both of which we find inacceptable. On the other, the legislation related humanitarian interventions is so complex, inconsistent, and non-adapted to the nature of humanitarian aid that it is easy for organizations to fail to comply with rules. Humanitarian actors are therefore hostage of this lack of clarity, as they can easily be accused of wrongdoings. This is particularly true when they also operate in the NGCA, which is often perceived as a potential threat and non-legitimate intervention by state institutions. Therefore, in this time of political changes in Ukraine it is important that we, with the support of the diplomatic community, take the opportunity to engage with new and old actors in the government of Ukraine to stress the need to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access to relief actors, in line with IHL provisions, both in the GCA and NGCA.”

“As for access to NGCA, it remains a major concern, and related-risks for humanitarian organizations operating there are likely to increase as the focus of humanitarian donors increasingly targets this area. We want to stress that the issue is not only about the possibility or not of accessing the NGCA. It is also about the type and level of access that agencies can obtain from the de-facto authorities. We are there, but limited in the number of staff, the selection of beneficiaries, the type of activities—since trainings, capacity building, mental health and psychosocial support cannot be implemented.”,- Stuart Kent expressed an opinion.

The report can be downloaded from the links below.