In the upcoming week, two strategic meetings will drive the next steps of the European response to the war in Ukraine. As the armed conflict has no end in sight, a harsh winter season looming on the horizon will again impact the lives of millions. 

On the eve of the third Senior Officials Meeting on Ukraine and the next Justice and Home Affairs Council, scheduled for 26 and 28 September, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) strongly urges policymakers to put conflict-affected communities at the heart of any discussions around Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction. It is crucial to ensure that the pressing humanitarian imperative, with 18 million people currently in need of aid, is not overlooked. Only by bridging humanitarian, recovery and development agendas, can governments and institutions achieve a more effective approach that meets the needs of all affected populations on the road to Ukraine's recovery.

Zoe Daniels, IRC’s Senior Director, Ukraine Crisis, said:

“A people-centred approach to Ukraine's recovery means ensuring that refugees, internally displaced people, and local communities are actively involved in the formulation of recovery and reconstruction plans. The IRC highlights the essential role of civil society as a key partner in these endeavours, with a continuous engagement of diverse groups, including women, youth, elders, and individuals with disabilities, each with their unique needs and priorities.

“It is impossible to speak of Ukraine’s complete reconstruction and recovery, however, when the attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure remain a deadly threat, and while an area of Ukraine approximately the size of Greece is riddled with land mines. 

“One of IRC clients, a farmer from Kherson, told us that the presence of unexploded mines is preventing him from sowing this year. It is a testimony to the fact that focus on Ukraine’s recovery should go hand in hand with investment in extensive demining, reestablishment of social infrastructure, and job creation. Humanitarian assistance must continue reaching people in need, wherever they are.”

Imogen Sudbery, IRC’s Europe Advocacy Director, added:

“It is crucial that people forced from their homes in Ukraine are at the heart of their country’s recovery. We know that four in every five of those displaced wish to return to their homes one day. However, they need to be supported for as long as necessary so they can make informed decisions about their own future, and also to actively contribute to the rebuilding of their homeland.

“We welcome the Commission’s proposal to extend the Temporary Protection Directive for people fleeing the war in Ukraine until March 2025, and we hope for the endorsement of this decision by the Justice and Home Affairs Council. We also call upon EU host governments to ensure the seamless extension of residence permits for refugees from Ukraine as a vital safety net offering people some measure of security and predictability.

“The EU’s response to more than 8 million people fleeing Ukraine proves that Europe is capable of welcoming refugees in a humane, dignified way. It not only benefits people fleeing crisis, but EU states seeking an orderly and predictable approach to asylum and migration. It's vital that the Temporary Protection Directive sets the standard, and that a similar welcome is extended to people forced from their homes elsewhere. This should be the norm, not the exception.”