Ukraine’s Reconstruction, the Berlin Conference & Elephants in the Room
24 October 2022
As delegates head to Berlin for tomorrow’s International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernisation of Ukraine tomorrow there are at least 2 elephants in the room with a third glowering down on proceedings from Moscow.
Who is in charge?
The first of these is the question of who will take charge. Who will lead of the international community’s response to Ukraine’s reconstruction?
It’s still up in the air with a range of plausible candidates being touted this week including the G7, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EU and the US. This question needs to be resolved, fast, not least to prevent a mass of competing plans and priorities overwhelming the Ukrainian Government.
What about the money?
The second concerns money: both where it will come from and how it will be accounted for. It’s the latter point that needs to be considered with some urgency: the question of corruption needs to be confronted now rather than swept under the carpet and addressed later as an awkward afterthought.
The agenda for the Berlin conference looks to have been drafted in the ‘swept under the carpet’ camp so as not to spoil the atmospherics.
But The Washington Post doesn’t beat around the bush on this. Its editorial on 20th October – written against a backdrop of fraying bipartisan support for unconditional and open ended aid to Ukraine in Washington – states that:
“Transparency International ranks Ukraine as Europe’s third-most-corrupt country, behind only Russia and Azerbaijan. When a top advocate for reform in Ukraine was asked recently how corruption was faring in the country after months of war, he responded dryly: “The good thing is, there’s no money.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, rightly lionized as an inspirational wartime leader, was ineffective at best during his first three years in office in rolling back graft, the very promise that got him elected in 2019. His second prime minister, dismissed in 2020, said Mr. Zelensky fired him because the government’s own anti-corruption efforts were threatening wealthy power brokers close to the president. Hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds and foreign aid have been siphoned off in recent years by oligarchs, who have used Ukraine’s several thousand state-run companies as ATMs, with the government’s connivance.”
Brookings makes the case for early action on corruption in its paper – also 20th October – that draws lessons from reconstruction efforts in three diverse jurisdictions where grand corruption played a role in undermining post-war reconstruction efforts: Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Czechoslovakia.
These lessons reinforce their overarching recommendation to ensure that anti-corruption programs are prioritized.
‘Ukraine and the international community must learn from past reconstruction challenges. By building strong transparency and oversight mechanisms; developing conditions for aid; coordinating among international financial institutions; and amplifying support for civil society, including investigative journalists, Ukraine and its partners have an opportunity to advance sustainable anti-corruption efforts and secure Ukraine’s future.’
The international community needs to address the question of who leads the international response to reconstruction now to avoid overwhelming the Ukrainian Government with competing plans, programmes, working groups and steering committees.
Dealing with the issue of graft now will be uncomfortable but it is essential to realising the central pillar of the West’s long-term strategy for Ukraine: its accession to the EU. Failure to confront it now will play into the hands of Putin and his long running and effective campaign to portray Ukraine as a lawless mafia state.
MetricsLed in Ukraine 2022
MetricsLed’s platforms are being used to deliver British aid and humanitarian supplies across Ukraine with our partners at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Palladium, Crown Agents and Chemonics International.