Ahead of the Ukraine Recovery Conference hosted by the Government of Ukraine and the Government of the United Kingdom 21-22 June 2023 in London, ActionAid International, CARE, International Rescue Committee, NGO ‘Girls’, Oxfam International and Plan International call on participating governments and international organisations to prioritise gender equality and the leadership and participation of women, girls and marginalised groups in the recovery process.

Even though gender equality was one of the key principles of last year’s Lugano Conference, gender has received very little attention in the reconstruction conferences to date. Gender equality and the leadership and participation of women and girls are also largely absent from the various recovery and reconstruction plans that have been formulated by donor governments and international organisations.

Against a backdrop of reports of skyrocketing rates of violence against women and girls, critical priorities such as women’s rights and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response continue to be chronically under-funded in the response. This impedes the delivery of essential and lifesaving services for survivors whose needs will remain long after the war has ended. Despite their vital role in providing humanitarian aid, there has also been a persistent lack of quality funding to support women-led and women’s rights organisations (WLOs/WROs) and they continue to face significant barriers in participating in humanitarian coordination and decision-making fora led by international actors. This further affects the prioritisation of the specific needs of women, girls and marginalised groups.

To be sustainable, equitable and inclusive, reconstruction and recovery efforts must be grounded in gender equality and women’s leadership and participation. That means recognising that the war is impacting women and girls disproportionately and addressing their specific needs and priorities. It is essential that Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery does not inadvertently exacerbate harmful gender norms and perpetuate existing gender inequalities. Women, girls and marginalised groups face increased risks during displacement and heightened vulnerability to loss of income, violence, and trauma. They also encounter additional pressure to provide caring responsibilities for themselves and their families. LGBTQI+ persons are also among those facing increased risks of violence and discrimination, and experience additional barriers in accessing humanitarian aid, safe and dignified accommodation and GBV services.

The gendered dimensions of recovery and reconstruction must be integrated into recovery frameworks/roadmaps, the planning and delivery of programmes, funding allocations and monitoring mechanisms. The meaningful and direct participation of women, girls and marginalised groups in all decision-making processes is key to formulating and delivering a recovery agenda that is equitable, inclusive and gender-responsive. This is in line with Ukraine’s updated National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP) which sets a clear objective to ensure that Ukraine’s recovery and transitional justice systems are based on the principles of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men, that among others requires identification of women’s and girls’ specific needs and ensuring a gender perspective in the provision of administrative, health and social services.

Recovery must go beyond investment and reconstruction of infrastructure and economy to include a focus on rebuilding society that puts gender equality and inclusive peace at its centre. A focus on rebuilding society means including social cohesion, trauma care, long-term GBV response, gender-responsive public services etc. in the recovery efforts. The unique role and contributions of women, girls and marginalised groups in the response must not only be acknowledged, but most importantly, they must be reflected in representation and decision making at all levels, including within the government.

Recommendations for governments and international organisations:

In terms of programming and funding they should: