Reintegration of veterans of ATO/IFO on a community level in Ukraine
In 2016, the Folke Bernadotte Academy, in partnership with the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), for the first time supported a study of the needs of veterans and recipient communities in the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) project in Ukraine that was conducted by the experts of the Ukrainian public organization "Institute for Peace & Common Ground" (IPCG).
At that time, there was almost no institutional infrastructure and legal framework to meet the needs of veterans. Based on the results of the study, IPCG experts together with partners prepared recommendations for the Government of Ukraine, which were based on international practices of DDR programs. Many changes have taken place since then. There is a profile program, a concept for rehabilitation and re-adaptation, there is a new Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs of Ukraine (since September 2019 – the united Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs, Temporary Occupied Territories, and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine), and a single state register of veterans is going to be created soon. It seems that the prerequisites for the successful reintegration of veterans already exist; however, on the ground veterans and other relevant groups complain about the government's lack of attention to veterans' needs and feel that the state is indifferent to them. At the regional level, there are constant tensions between these groups and local authorities. Social workers are forced to work under constant pressure from veterans who do not understand why they cannot receive certain benefits guaranteed by the state for which they fought.
Therefore, a new study was conducted in 2019 to understand why the issue of meeting the needs of veterans is still quite conflictogenic, to identify the dynamics of conflicts in target communities, the existing needs for reintegration of former combatants and to develop recommendations for reintegration programs to better meet needs of veterans during the reintegration process. This time the study was implemented within the framework of the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) project "Local Self-Government and the Rule of Law in Ukraine” financially supported by Sweden (2014-2020) and performed by experts and partners of IPCG. The main direction of the work was to study the problems of reintegration of veterans into the community, taking into account the principles of the rule of law and identifying possible solutions through dialogues conducted in communities.