Ця стаття також доступна українською мовою тут.
Peace, as anything more than the absence of war, doesn’t simply arrive. It must be won in the skillful management of war’s aftermath. But knowing what to expect in the aftermath is critical to success. The toll of war is typically expressed as an estimate of casualties, vanished economic potential, and damage to a country’s essential infrastructure. By these standards, the Kyiv School of Economics currently estimates such losses in Ukraine at $80.4 billion, with an additional $8 billion to $12 billion added each passing week. If the current Russian military focus on Ukraine’s east and south results in an entrenched and prolonged war, this figure will soon surpass the $135 billion present-day value of the U.S.-led Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe after World War II and the $145 billion in reconstruction funds spent in Afghanistan.
As a contributor to recent World Bank studies on the impacts of war on populations in Syria and Ukraine and in 25 years of field work and research on post-war transitions since WWII, I have argued that factors beyond casualty counts, economic shocks, and infrastructure losses amplify traditional damage estimates. These include the longer-term developmental impacts of forced displacement, the debilitating psychological consequences of violence on former combatants and civilians, the punishing legacy of explosive remnants of war, and the sacrifices associated with deferred education, healthcare, and livelihoods.
As I departed Ukraine’s eastern territories known as the Donbas for the last time in 2021, local administrations still struggled with consequences such as those from the violence that began in 2014, unaware of the tragic escalation in violence that lay ahead. Taking these legacy impacts and the comprehensive consequences of the current conflict into account, the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) places the cost of the war in Ukraine between $220 billion and $540 billion.
The overall impact of war on societies ultimately depends on the state of their economies, levels of development, governance, geography, demographic considerations, and cultural factors. Each transition, whether from war to peace or from fragile peace back into war again follows a distinct trajectory. Anyone who has worked in post-conflict environments will tell you, if you’ve seen one war-to-peace transition you’ve seen one war-to-peace transition. Yet in comparatively successful instances of post-war recovery such as Germany, Japan, East Timor, and even Kosovo, a comprehensive understanding of the consequences of war and preparations for the “day after” in the days before proved indispensable. In some cases, like Colombia and Lebanon, recovering from war can begin while fighting continues elsewhere in a country’s territory.
Ukraine’s wartime environment makes it one such place. Social solidarity in government-controlled areas of the country, or “social cohesion” in the jargon of development professionals, is extraordinary. As recently as late 2021, measures of social cohesion revealed declining trust in institutions, high levels of civic fatigue, and persistent suspicion between populations in the west and east of the country. While disillusionment may return as the violence subsides, the unity of effort Ukrainians have displayed since Russia began its all-out assault in February sets Ukraine apart from countries fragmented by civil war and ethnic identities. Ukraine also has a relatively intact and accessible financial sector, functioning central and regional government institutions, free and vibrant media, developed transport capacities, freedom of movement throughout much of the country, and previous experience navigating recovery during wartime. Moreover, nearly 1.4 million Ukrainian refugees have returned to cities such as Kyiv where more stable conditions now exist.
Complex Humanitarian and Development Challenges
There are abundant reasons why a transition will not be easy in Ukraine, however. Despite returns, the country is facing the largest rapid-onset forced displacement crisis since World War II. Since the end of February, 5.6 million refugees (9 of 10 are women and children) have fled Ukraine, and at least 7.7 million residents are now internally displaced. This creates profoundly complex humanitarian and development challenges for local authorities and communities. And as Ukrainians look to their government for social payments, livelihood support, and restoration of services, the country’s economy will shrink by 45 percent this year. Kyiv will also struggle to provide rehabilitative and trauma-related services to the million or more Ukrainians who will rightly be considered “veterans” of this new conflict as well as assistance to the 70 percent of the population expected to slip into poverty as a result of the war by the end of 2022.
Other challenges will complicate post-war recovery. The tonnage of land mines and unexploded ordnance on Ukrainian soil grows each week. While efforts to remove these hazards have begun in some areas, many more years of expensive, painstaking clearance operations are required. Fair and transparent means to adjudicate property losses and to provide compensation must be developed. Measures must be put in place to prevent the spread of disease – Ukraine’s scourge of drug-resistant tuberculosis is one of the worst in the world. Misinformation must be countered, care given to the memorialization of the war, retributive violence must be checked, and any political fragmentation resulting from an imperfect settlement to the war will need to be managed. Resentment of the West over slow and inadequate military support may strain Ukraine’s relations abroad. Kyiv will need to develop a compelling vision for Ukraine’s future, repatriate its citizens, reverse the brain drain of recent months, generate political support for needed democratic reforms, and persuade the public and the donor community that the days of judicial corruption, oligarchical mischief, and opaque finance in the country are over.
If Ukraine is prepared to negotiate such adversity and thrive in its post-war transition, it will further underscore the futility of the Kremlin’s aggression and become a powerful role model for countries in the region that are now constrained by Russia. And if history is a guide to what a successful war-to-peace transition will require, several moves are necessary even now, in the heat of ongoing violence.
First, a comprehensive inventory of the war’s ongoing impacts must get underway now. This baseline can be updated over time, but an understanding and anticipation of the full impact of the war (beyond a calculus of infrastructure damage) is a precondition for winning the peace. A good place to start will be to renew the joint effort by the United Nations, the European Union, and the World Bank that produced the thorough Ukraine Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment in 2015. It will be time-consuming, difficult, and necessary.
Second, the recently established Ukraine Recovery Fund, led by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, requires technical expertise to achieve its goals. While no resource level has yet been attached to the establishment of this fund, it will help attract the expertise and analysis necessary to identify needed reforms (in line with Ukraine’s application to join the European Union), develop rehabilitation plans, and coordinate intragovernmental requests for assistance. This will help to keep the Ukrainian government in the driver’s seat as recovery and reconstruction priorities are identified. In parallel, the World Bank should split its existing Multi-Donor Trust Fund mechanism in the country in two. One window should continue to receive and manage foreign funds that support Ukraine’s line budget commitments for the continuation of government payments and services. The other window should be administered by an independent secretariat composed of Ukrainian and international partners that will manage the substantial foreign aid required for Ukraine’s reconstruction. Properly designed, this second window can function much like the successful Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) that directed the Marshall Plan, providing essential support for Ukrainian government priorities without the delays associated with working through the Ukrainian Treasury.
Third, coordination of effort is one of the biggest challenges in post-war environments, as witnessed in the poorly conceived assistance delivered in post-conflict Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Germany has recently proposed the creation of a multi-donor “Integrated Response Hub” based in Poland that will work with Ukrainian authorities to assist in postwar planning, provide ongoing technical assessments, prioritize response options, and track recovery operations across hundreds of implementing organizations. It’s an ambitious scheme, conceived in the wake of difficult lessons learned about earlier post-war engagements. It just might work if bilateral donors can overcome their own barriers to participation.
Fourth, transparent and effective contracting mechanisms can be designed now for use as conditions permit. The Center for Economic Policy Research recommends open contracting (with documentation publicly available), framework agreements (using pre-qualified and vetted suppliers), fixed price contracts (with clear deadlines, specifications, and outcomes), and protections for whistleblowers as measures to reassure donors and citizens over corruption concerns. Formulating these instruments and protections is laborious and best-done well before the pressure to respond curtails careful consideration of effective post-war procurement options.
Finally, the self-organizing power and critical roles played by civic actors and professional media outlets in Ukraine’s recovery should not be underestimated. Aside from holding recovery and reconstruction implementers accountable, clear and consistent information about the Ukrainian government’s vision for recovery, rehabilitation priorities, timelines, compensation arrangements, and access to services is critically important to traumatized populations – many of whom are making the biggest decisions of their lives amid the wreckage of war. Civic groups play a similar role in sharing information outward and upward to local and national authorities about conditions, concerns, and opportunities to respond. The importance of these actors is often overlooked by governments and donors fixated on large-scale reconstruction. Yet identifying new, effective civic groups and supporting existing networks in advance of any resolution to hostilities helps ensure their stabilizing influence will be fully available as recovery begins.
As Russian forces continue their assault on the east and south of Ukraine, the need to prepare for an end to war may seem premature. Yet not only do such endings rarely come all at once, the vestiges of war can disrupt societies long after the fighting ends. Making peace out of war is as much the result of resistance to aggression as it is the heroic effort required to prepare for and endure its aftermath. One of Ukrainian literature’s most iconic poets, Lesya Ukrainka, wrote, “He who has not lived through a storm does not know the price of strength.” It is in knowing the wrath of the storm that we understand just how much strength is required.