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Alex Farrow

Director of Influencing and Engagement

How charities and civil society can support Ukraine

Alex Farrow

Director of Influencing and Engagement

The situation in Ukraine is devastating and urgent. Civil society organisations are on the frontline of this war – inside Ukraine, in neighbouring countries supporting refugees, and in countries around the world lobbying governments and raising funds. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and all those against the war in Russia and Belarus. This war is not in their name.

Prior to joining NCVO, I worked with youth activists and organisations in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. They were fierce, determined, and hopeful. But if Ukraine falls and a new government is installed, we know what the Russian government has planned. Civil society leaders, journalists, and minority groups, particularly the LGBTQ+ community, will be attacked, imprisoned, and harmed. It will mean enormous repression inside Ukraine and huge numbers of refugees fleeing.

What can we do to support Ukraine?

Many organisations are figuring out how to best support Ukrainians and the BBC has produced a guide. Financial and political support could not be more critical.

Some of the options listed here are not organisations that we can verify. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider them – they’re likely to be grassroots, on the ground, and able to put money immediately to use.

Whatever action you take, do it now. The situation could change very quickly and our future ability to get support to those inside Ukraine could become constrained.

What could the impact of the war be on charities in the UK?

  • Costs are going to rise: We wrote about the economic challenges facing charities in the Road Ahead 2022, including higher taxes, increased energy bills, and reduced public giving. As the economy worsens, demand for charitable support will increase. Things will get worse with the war, and we’ve already seen petrol and crude oil rise, and the cost of gas quadruple. Economic sanctions are right, but there will be consequences to that solidarity for communities in the UK.
  • Be cyber prepared and resilient: Part of modern warfare is cyber attacks and our way of life, particularly how we run organisations, is vulnerable to malicious disruption. Join our free webinar on 16 March on cyber security and resilience and check out our online resources.
  • Check your disaster recovery plans: This is a plan for how your organisation would respond in the event of a disaster, such as a fire, terrorism, or IT failure. This is about minimising disruption. Consider how you’d contact people if messaging and email providers stopped, if you couldn’t access your building, or if a critical number of staff and volunteers were unavailable. Watch our short video on what to consider.
  • Staff and volunteers: The distress, concern, and emotional toll on those with families, friends, and colleagues immediately affected by the war will be great. Their wellbeing must be a priority. Mind has shared a thread with advice on how to support mental wellbeing through this difficult time. Coalitions, like the Emergencies Partnership, are already starting to prepare for future impact, such as a surge of Ukrainian refugees, which will require enormous engagement of volunteers and charities.

Strength of civil society

NCVO was founded in the horrors of war. Our founder, Captain Edward Birchall, died from wounds sustained at the Battle of the Somme. Through World War II, we built village halls across the country, organised evacuations of children from cities and concentration camps, and launched the ‘Make Do and Mend’ campaign. To help people get advice and to respond to concerns about older people, our projects were the forerunners to Citizens Advice and Age Concern.

I list these as a reminder of where we can draw power. War is unbelievable suffering. Whether in Ukraine, Syria, or Afghanistan, we must draw hope and strength from civil society’s role in helping and demonstrating our humanity.

Our intention is not to be alarmist. But there are threats being made that the world hasn’t heard for 40 years – a time when most of our staff team weren’t even born. While threats aren’t prophecies, we can’t take for granted that they’re empty.

At such overwhelming moments, it’s easy to feel powerless. Our mission now is to channel worry and anxiety about the future into collective action, to support Ukrainians and prepare our organisations.

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