Global Aid Response to Ukraine too Short-Term and Uncoordinated, Says Study

Bilde av Giuseppe og Veronika
One problem was that Lviv was sent enough diapers to supply the whole of Ukraine for the next ten years. This could have been avoided if the help had been more coordinated.

​​​​​Professor Giuseppe Grossi and Associate Professor Veronika Vakulenko at Nord University have mapped the international support Ukraine has received after the Russian invasion on 24 February. 

«What is being donated should be connected to what the Ukrainian population really needs. The donor countries need to be better co-ordinated, and also to be informed of the real needs of Ukraine'', says Vakulenko. 

International organisations and governments offering aid to Ukraine are not targeting their assistance effectively, according to the research published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Money and Management. 

Quick list of what they uncovered in the article:
  • ​Lack of long-term planning
  • Coordinated responses from the international organisations
  • Uncoordinated responses from the supporting countries 
“We wanted to make a detailed picture of the first month of global responses to the war in Ukraine”, says lead author Giuseppe Grossi.​

Quick response to the crisis 

​A comprehensive analysis of 35 national governments including the US as well as half a dozen international organisations such as the World Bank shows they were swift to respond. 

The study provides evidence that their actions have been neither cost-effective nor appropriate and too focused on the short-term. Instead, the experts say help must prioritise sustainable goals such as rebuilding the country post-invasion. 

“Our initial analysis shows paradoxical responses that give priority not only to humanitarian aid but also to military aid, and focus primarily on short-term measures. This is rather than addressing the long-term impacts and the reconstruction of a free and democratic Ukraine. Governments possess the ideas and political tools to handle the immediate effects of a human-made disaster”, says Grossi and adds: 

“However, they may lack both the capacity to use these tools cost-effectively and the appropriate strategies to meet the various needs in a responsible and accountable way. This is especially from a long-term perspective.” 

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank must come in with support 

“This is an exceptional event. A lot of research has been done on natural disasters. On floods, earthquakes and pandemics. We found in our field, public management and accounting, that only a few studies have been done on human made disasters, and we want to contribute to this literature with this study, which shows a detailed overview of the global response to Ukraine”, says Grossi 

How can accounting mitigate a human-made disaster? 

“The big problem that few people are talking about is the central Ukrainian government budget. Because this is a disaster budget. How Ukraine will deal with a huge reduction in revenues and high increase of expenditures is a big question. One of the most important issues when it comes to accounting is transparency in order to prevent and avoid corruption”, says Grossi and continues: 

“Another important question is how the Ukrainian government is going to sustain the drastic reduction in tax revenues. I am expecting that the IMF and the World Bank will increase their financial support to mitigate the destructive economic damage done to Ukraine”, says Grossi and adds: 

“The role of accounting is not just to be a rational tool, but also to be a human tool. Transparent accounting can prove that all the resources sent to Ukraine are actually used for humanitarian and necessary purposes for the Ukrainian population.

” A lot of damage has been done to the Ukrainian infrastructure, shopping malls, schools,  hospitals, churches, private homes and so on. 

“A very important question is who is going to pay for the re-construction of all this? This is definitely an accounting issue”, says Vakulenko. 

Grossi and Vakulenko say their research provides insights in assessing and re-evaluating support packages for human-made disasters and subsequent humanitarian crises. The report shines a spotlight on whether humanitarian help benefits those in crisis and highlights lessons that can be learned for future events. 

Responses by countries, non-governmental organisations and international organisations are individually documented in the report which includes actions taken by the European Commission, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations. 

Information from official websites and press releases was used by the authors to assess the multiple responses to the invasion. Types of humanitarian aid are detailed per country as well as military support such as drones and fuel, and other assistance e.g. legal assistance. 

Findings reveal that help and donations were launched almost instantly but that tensions exist in the multiple international responses to supporting Ukraine.

Important but uncoordinated help 

The response was more coordinated when it came to support packages, the study shows. 

“This applies, for example, to support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They implemented this policy very quickly“, says Vakulenko. 

When it comes to military support, each country took its own initiative based on how the war developed, it goes​. 

Furthermore, the study shows that the interaction of humanitarian and other support took place between the international organisations of which the countries are members. 

“We found huge diversity in the support we categorise as 'other support'. Several countries were supporting scholars, students and refugees”, says Grossi. 

Lack of long-term planning 

More than $15 billion overall has been pledged so far in financial, technical and humanitarian support since Russia’s invasion in February triggered a human-made crisis. 

However, a rough estimate on the damage done to the country is over $100 billion. 

“This amount is probably underestimated. Ukraine still needs more long-term oriented help. Only a few donor countries are laying long-term plans for helping the country”, says Grossi. 

“Ukrainian decision-makers must increase expenditure for health care and humanitarian purposes. Additionally, Ukraine is experiencing an internal refugee crisis. In the beginning of May more than 7 million people fled their homes in areas of active war and are now forced to move to western regions.” 

What do you think can be done better to help Ukraine? 

“Balancing short-term emergency resources for military purposes related to the war with long-term policy considering the increasing number of people coming to the Western countries. The West needs a long-term plan for integrating all the Ukrainian refugees”, says Grossi. 

Short-term and long-term crisis packages 

“Our research is not yet concluded, a lot more work must be done. The practical implications of our findings are useful for politicians. We think the countries are helping. Ukraine should plan and think in a more long-term manner”, says Grossi, and adds: 

“One of the issues we are seeing is that international governments should introduce better solutions to balance short-term and long-term crisis packages and provisions for the aid to Ukraine. It is also crucial to find a way to assess the impacts of these global responses in the future. 

“We need to think not only about what we do today, in a month, or in six months. Several scenarios should be developed on what could happen and then make forecasts, so fast and effective responses can be initiated”, says Vakulenko. 

The researchers agree that this is not an easy task. In their study, accounting is a useful tool for assessing the economic ripple effects of the man-made disaster. 

“The main limitation in our study is that we cannot say much about the social consequences that the Russian invasion has had on people in Ukraine”, says Grossi. 

The research article shows that openness about military support has varied from country to country. Some countries have been more open than others, such as Italy and the United Kingdom, while countries such as France and Poland have been less transparent. 

“We see that the mobilisation is great, but we do not know if it is really sufficient. The war is still not over“. 

They add that more research is needed on the experience of Russia's invasion, also to draw important lessons from different countries on budgeting, humanitarian policy, accounting and auditing.