As the Ukraine Recovery Conference begins in Lugano (Switzerland), 25 NGOs from Ukraine and across Europe have sent a letter to the European Commission urging them to ensure that there are strong social and environmental conditions attached to the RebuildUkraine effort, and in particular the Ukraine Solidarity Trust Fund:
On behalf of 25 environmental organisations from Ukraine and across Europe that focus on biodiversity, forest and land issues, we are writing to ask that the crucial RebuildUkraine initiative and the Ukraine Solidarity Trust Fund incorporates strong environmental and social criteria.
In recent months, during the chaos created by this horrendous war, vested corporate interests have attempted to weaken Ukrainian environmental regulations, to the detriment of communities, the environment and climate. In response, four Ukrainian organisations working on forestry issues have proposed the attached criteria for the EU to take into consideration as part of efforts to set up and disburse the Ukraine Solidarity Trust Fund.
Ukraine can be rebuilt on greener and more sustainable principles., especially if the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal become the guiding policies for the post-war recovery programme and preparations for accession to the EU.
Situation in Ukraine
In March, Ukraine’s Parliament passed Law No. 7144, cancelling an important environmental regulation that prohibits cutting timber in protected areas and forests from early April to mid-June, a critical time for animal breeding. Foresters had long opposed the law, and recently lobbied for its cancellation under the pretext of “supporting the country’s defensive capabilities”. Although it is indispensable for biodiversity conservation, the law was annulled as part of ongoing martial law. Since then, authorities have developed other legal amendments to simplify logging.
Ukrainian NGOs’ campaigning efforts had managed to thwart one of the proposed new legal acts intended to weaken environmental protection, but others remain a problem. For this reason, more than 30 Ukrainian NGOs have called for Ukraine’s Parliament to urgently pass seven critical environmental laws to help counter those “cynically using Russia’s invasion of their country to water down environmental controls”.
Among the laws that they want passed is one on Timber Markets, which would reduce corruption during timber sales and allocate more funds to forest protection. A 2020 investigation by the organisation Earthsight highlighted the need for such a law, revealing how illegal timber from some of Europe’s last old-growth forests in the Ukrainian Carpathians was being used to make furniture giant Ikea’s most popular products.
The EU's own audits of the Ukrainian forestry sector, EU’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX), found an “ineffective system of law enforcement to tackle forest crime.” In response, the EU called for increased transparency, and an end to the situation where the Ukrainian State Agency of Forest Resources (SAFR) polices itself. The report recommended that a separate, independent, agency be created to take on that role, so as to end conflicts of interest, and reduce corruption in the logging sector.
These reforms would ensure that wood sold by Ukraine's state-owned forest enterprises (for which the EU is the major market) does not contribute to illegal degradation.
We would welcome a call between environmental organisations in Ukraine and the European Commission to discuss these matters further.
Category: NGO Statements