Kyiv, 12 December 2018 – The results of the 2018 wave of the UN Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index for eastern Ukraine (USE) were released today, on 12 December 2018, at use.scoreforpeace.org. The findings show that while inter-group relations are improving, satisfaction with the quality of life has worsened in eastern Ukraine.

Over 6,000 residents in five oblasts in eastern Ukraine (Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia), including those living along the ‘contact line’ of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, took part in the survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The survey was carried out under the overall direction of the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator and with financial support from the European Union.

The findings provide a unique insight into the state of social cohesion, and also identify entry points for strengthening social cohesion in order to support recovery efforts and build a foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine.

Key trends 2017-2018

Compared to 2017, people in the five oblasts of eastern Ukraine increasingly support a peaceful resolution to the conflict and show a higher readiness to engage in dialogue with various groups in society – in particular with people living in the non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Trust in central institutions has increased in all five oblasts, but remains significantly lower than trust in local institutions. At the same time, however, there was a deterioration in assessments of personal security, in particular in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, and residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts have an increased wish to leave their place of residence.

Increased readiness for dialogue

Willingness to engage in dialogue with different social and political groups increased since 2017. Residents of eastern Ukraine are more willing to engage in dialogue with internally displaced persons (IDPs), and report the biggest improvement in readiness for dialogue with people living in the non-government controlled areas, people who support closer ties with the EU, and Ukrainian nationalists. The overall increased readiness for dialogue with most political and social groups in society is in line with the increased and widespread support for a resolution of the conflict by peaceful means. At the same time, people are reluctant to engage in dialogue with people who hold strong political views (e.g., those who support the separation of non-government controlled areas and those who are perceived as being nationalists).

Tolerant and active citizenship driven by inter-group contact and sense of empowerment

Civic participation is at the core of a cohesive, vibrant and democratic society but civic participation remains low across eastern Ukraine, especially along the ‘contact line’ in Donetsk Oblast. People report higher levels of engagement through informal collaboration with fellow citizens or civil society organizations than for activities that involve the authorities. Tolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities is much higher than toward LGBTQI communities and drug users. Younger individuals demonstrate higher levels of social tolerance than older residents, although young people are less active as citizens. Women and residents aged between 35 and 60 are the most tolerant and active in eastern Ukraine. Personal contact and interaction with different political and social groups and people’s sense of empowerment (i.e., the belief that they can make a difference to their communities) has a positive impact on tolerant attitudes and active behavior.

Increased desire to migrate in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts

The desire to leave one’s place of residence in eastern Ukraine remained overall unchanged compared to 2017, with the exception of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where migration tendency increased significantly. Migration intentions are particularly strong among young people. The strongest factors contributing to a person’s desire to leave is the lack of civic empowerment and dissatisfaction with a locality. In other words, the less a person participates in community life and the less they feel that they can make a difference to the development of their communities, the more likely they are to want to leave. Similarly, satisfaction with one’s place of residence in terms of leisure activities and prospects for raising a family provides a strong incentive to not consider migrating.

People living along the ‘contact line’ in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts an untapped resource

People living along the ‘contact line’ in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts experience distinct vulnerabilities and strengths. Due to the poor state of the transportation network and several basic public services, many people have a sense of isolation and even abandonment. Compared to other parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, people along the ‘contact line’ have a more pessimistic outlook regarding job opportunities, and have less opportunities to engage in community activities. At the same time, however, this group of people demonstrates greater readiness to become active citizens, as well as a stronger sense of self-reliance and interdependent skills, revealing an untapped potential for increasing social capital in eastern Ukraine.

What is USE?

USE is implemented on an annual basis and is designed to improve the understanding of societal dynamics in government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and neighbouring Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. USE is jointly implemented by three UN agencies – UNDP, UNICEF and IOM, under the overall direction of the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator, and with financial support from the European Union. USE is one of the UN’s evidence-based knowledge products for joint analysis and programming in Ukraine. USE data, analysis and information briefs are available in Ukrainian, Russian and English at use.scoreforpeace.org.

For more information contact us at use.ua@one.un.org