Profilbild Andreas Berg
Andreas Berg 25 juni / 2024

Adaptation and Adversity: Peace and Security Efforts in Ukraine  

Working in Ukraine as it fights to survive a full-scale invasion is a humbling experience for those of us in peace, security, and development. It challenges our methods and assumptions, and reinforces the need for adaptable, innovative solutions. 

Many of FBA’s tools focus on long-term reform processes, inclusive dialogue, policy advice, mentorship, and education. But how can these be useful in Ukraine, where every new day requires adaptation to military developments on the front line and innovation to provide short-term solutions to attacks on basic services like electricity and heating? In a conflict setting where resilience is essential to endure constant alarms and attacks by Russian missiles, drones, and bombs targeting military and civilians, how do we adjust? 

For my colleagues and me in the FBA Ukraine Unit, our ability to listen, learn and adapt our methods and experiences from other countries and continents is put to test. The quest to find practical tools and relevant approaches to support Ukraine is not merely a challenge – it is an imperative. 

Partnership with Dnipro State University 

Our most recent visit to Kyiv at the end of May was a reminder of the importance of listening and adapting. Following some months of planning and discussion, we advanced our agreement to partner with one of Ukraine’s regional state law enforcement universities, Dnipro State University of Internal Affairs, which trains police cadets and civilians in eastern Ukraine, only a few hours drive from front-line warfare and areas recovering from Russian occupation. Over the coming months and years, we will develop a practical pilot course focusing on “Community Security in Wartime” with the university, working closely with local communities affected by the war. This approach aims to strengthen the ability of law enforcement providers, local governments, non-governmental organizations, and individual citizens to work together towards the common goal of preventing crime and conflict while identifying, analysing, and responding to the specific stresses caused by the war in local communities. 

At FBA, we call this “human security”, a human-rights-based approach that focuses on the individual security needs of men, women, boys, and girls. Applying this approach in the context of Ukraine, while adapting it to the broader needs of Ukrainian security institutions and involving more partners and expertise, will be a complex but necessary process. It requires identifying both the needs of our university partner and the needs and challenges of the communities that current and future police cadets will be patrolling for years to come. 

Navigating Challenges in Wartime 

Today’s challenges in Ukraine are numerous and partially hidden by the effects of a society unified in the effort to fight against invasion. Police officers in Ukraine must develop effective and preventative methods to support civilians as well as current and former military members dealing with psychological trauma and stress caused by the war. This is compounded by the likely proliferation of weapons in society. Trust – both between citizens and between citizens and the state – is integral in building resilient and secure countries and environments. However, distrust arising by experiences during occupation and wartime will have to be understood by those seeking to re-establish and enforce law and order in war-affected areas.  

The displacement of millions of citizens, both within Ukraine and abroad, brings its own challenges as communities, businesses, and individuals struggle to live, work, and succeed in a disrupted society under continued pressure from its neighbour. While trust in law enforcement has increased significantly in wartime as citizens rally around state institutions facing a common threat, we and our partners understand that such trust will not remain strong forever without the difficult but necessary work of creating institutions and individual tools and skills to rebuild and reform a resilient Ukraine. 

A ceremony in Kyiv celebrates Ukraine’s EU accession process in front of an enthusiastic crowd.  
At an EU-sponsored fair in Kyiv, children are taught about mine safety and detection, a challenge to daily life in Ukraine for decades to come.

Strength in Adversity  

After our meetings concluded, walks around Kyiv and conversations with Ukrainian and international friends and colleagues gave me much to ponder. Kyiv can feel both close to and distant from the war. The proximity is undeniable when air alarms pull you out of bed and into a hotel basement at 3 a.m., yet the war feels distant when you are sitting with friends around a restaurant table or sipping coffee in the sun on a beautiful day. Ukrainian friends spoke of their lives being on hold, their focus on the present day feeling both meaningful and meaningless, with long-term planning rendered impossible. 

An experienced and dedicated international friend shared with me the daunting task of helping to decontaminate Ukraine’s rich agricultural soil in demined areas near the front line, all while grappling with her own psychological stress amid mines, artillery barrages, and claustrophobic shelter spaces. In a local park, the hope of a future peace anchored by European Union membership was celebrated at a fair for Ukrainian civil society organizations, where children’s activities included lessons on identifying and avoiding deadly mines. 

All of it – past, present, and future – exists together, intertwined in the daily life of Ukrainians as they resiliently navigate the challenges of their reality. As we witness the strength and determination of the Ukrainian people, we are reminded that our mission must both respond to immediate needs and contribute to a foundation for a more secure, peaceful, and hopeful future. And that can only be done by continuously listening, learning, and adapting to provide relevant and impactful support. 

Wall of tribute in Kyiv.
Honoring Sacrifices and Looking Forward: In Sofiivska Square, a familiar group of captured or destroyed Russian military vehicles serves as a popular backdrop for selfies taken by Ukrainians and international visitors alike. I find myself far more intrigued by the graffiti and messages left on the rusted and wrecked vehicles by passers-by. Amid the Ukrainian flags and calls for victory, most inscriptions do not reference Ukraine or Russia directly but instead list the names of cities and towns – some occupied, some recaptured, some successfully defended – and the names of people, men and women. Are they the names of soldiers killed in action? Friends and family lost to occupation? Abducted children taken by force for “resettlement” in Russia? Perhaps someone to whom current and future struggles will be dedicated, and for whom all of this will ultimately be worth it. 

Photos: Andreas Berg.

av Andreas Berg
Profilbild Andreas Berg

Skrivet av Andreas Berg

Andreas Berg has worked for FBA in several capacities since 2010, including as Political Adviser, Security Sector Reform Advisor, Strategic Planner, and Coordination & Cooperation Officer, in locations including Kosovo, Georgia, Brussels, and Ukraine. From 2022 he is based in Stockholm, working as Security Sector Governance and Reform Specialist in FBAs Ukraine Unit.

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