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Policy Brief / Civil Society in Chernihiv Oblast: Resilience Factors, Urgent Needs, Participation in Reconstruction

Updated: Jul 7

This research has been conducted by the team of the German-Ukrainian Bureau as part of the “Local Resilience & Reconstruction: Capacities of Ukrainian Civil Society in the Chernihiv Region” project with the financial support of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb). Its content is the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

Research Summary

Chernihiv Oblast is a highly relevant example for studying  Ukrainian civil society and its response to the daily challenges of war while simultaneously contributing to the reconstruction of destroyed communities.


The full-scale Russian aggression has devastated Chernihiv Oblast, which borders Russia, making it one of the most affected regions of Ukraine. However, the partial occupation of the region in 2022 and the artillery shelling that still regularly claims civilian lives have become a powerful impetus for social cohesion, volunteer activities, and cooperation between local governments (LGs) and civil society organisations (CSOs). These partner relationships have gone through several stages of development and are an essential part of the communities’ reconstruction.


400 new charitable and public organisations were registered in the region after the outbreak of full-scale war.  Simultaneously, many volunteer initiatives ceased their activities shortly after the de-occupation or continued to operate without registration. At the same time, effective public initiatives are unevenly represented in the oblast, mainly in urban-type communities: Chernihiv, Nizhyn, Koriukivka, Horodnia, and Mena. The social capital of settlement and village communities is rather limited, and active residents  often work simultaneously in LGs and have their own CSOs.


Undoubtedly, the full-scale war has made adjustments to the public sector work. Organisations that were registered before 24 February 2022 have at least partially redirected their activities to address humanitarian needs and military volunteering. Some of them (including the respondents to this research), have been involved in the urgent reconstruction of damaged facilities in one form or another.


Research respondents see the secret of their own resilience in the values they are willing to defend and their professionalism. Flexibility, horizontal connections and personal motivation helped them adapt to new challenges and working conditions. At the same time, the sustainability of public initiatives in the context of limited access to funding is questionable.


The main challenges for CSOs in Chernihiv Oblast are financial insecurity, insufficient technical equipment, burnout, and lack of human resources. Institutional funding of local public initiatives could be a response to these challenges and may help raise reliable partners for community recovery in the medium term.


The first reconstruction experience in the oblast has shown that LGs and CSOs are natural allies and should work together for the community’s benefit. At the same time, LGs often act as drivers of reconstruction, while CSOs are the implementers or actors that attract grants. Such partnerships are mutually beneficial. Therefore, LGs should encourage and promote the development of capable local CSOs. It is doubtful that local CSOs will be able to fully perform the function of independent watchdogs of reconstruction. Their potential in the fight against corruption lies more in education, popularization of corruption whistleblowers, and prevention of embezzlement during reconstruction. 




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