Learning by listening: the Ukraine crisis as a case study in shifting power to local humanitarian actors

Publication date: 21 June 2023
Author: Oxfam

Sixteen months ago, war escalated in Ukraine, causing a mass displacement of civilians unprecedented in Europe since the Second World War. The conflict triggered a geopolitical and humanitarian crisis.

Because the scale of suffering was so large and threatening, most agencies, like Oxfam, decided very quickly to mobilize in support. The immediate question Oxfam among others had to answer was: how could we best move, at speed, to provide the most appropriate support to those people who needed it most urgently?

We decided that the most principled and sustainable approach was to build a humanitarian response that was led by local civil society organizations on the ground in Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Moldova. We considered that it had to be consistent with our commitments to the sector-wide reform to ‘change’ the way that international aid agencies work and that it was the most effective way to get our resources to those people who most needed help.

From March 2022 to February 2023, our partners have provided food, hygiene products, legal and psychosocial and cash assistance, organized safe transport and shelter, repaired damaged homes and restored livelihoods. Together we have supported more than 1.1 million people with vital humanitarian assistance across Ukraine, Poland, Romania, and Moldova.