Poverty and economic instability continue to drive perceptions of justice and security in eastern Ukraine: UNDP survey findings

Ensuring citizens’ security and free access to justice within communities is crucial for building trustworthy and accountable public institutions. This is why UNDP Ukraine has launched its second report on “Justice and Security: Perspectives of Communities in Three Oblasts”. The report aims to explore needs for obtaining security and accessing justice, and to measure the changes that have occurred since 2017.

The survey focused on six crucial aspects of security and justice in the three oblasts in Ukraine where the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme is active, with a particular geographic focus on conflict-affected areas in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, as well as the control region of Zhytomyr.

According to Janthomas Hiemstra, UNDP Country Director, this assessment is expected to serve as an important tool in planning initiatives to bring justice and stability to the people of Ukraine.
Photo: Artem Getman / UNDP


The survey findings showed that the most pressing issues are poverty and unemployment along with corruption. These are followed by health issues, including alcoholism and drug abuse.

For the second year in a row, poverty and economic instability continue to be the drivers of perceptions of justice and security in Ukraine. More than half of respondents said they did not have enough money for clothes (in Luhansk Oblast 69.1 per cent; in Donetsk Oblast 61.1 per cent; and in Zhytomyr Oblast 56.5 per cent).


Photo: Anastasia Vlasova / UNDP

Women have stronger feelings of danger and greater concerns than men, particularly when it comes to feeling unsafe at night: only 38.2 per cent of women said they feel safe walking through their communities at night, while the figure for men was 63.4 per cent. Perceptions of security at home do not differ that much: 70.5 per cent of women and 83.5 per cent of men respectively feel safe at home at night.


Photo: Anastasia Vlasova / UNDP

The degree of feeling safe, as could be expected, depends on how close the ‘contact line’ is.

In Donetsk Oblast, only 40.3 per cent of residents living within 20 kilometres of the contact line feel safe after dark, compared to 49.3 per cent of those living further afield. While, the gap in Luhansk Oblast is even more significant, with only 35.3 per cent of those living close to the contact line feeling safe, compared to 55.8 per cent of those living in other parts of the oblast.

Moreover, residents of areas close to the ‘contact line’ have greater concerns about hard security issues, such as the presence of mines and shelling (especially in Luhansk Oblast), and crime (principally in Donetsk Oblast) than other residents surveyed across the three oblasts.


People generally perceive justice sector institutions to be more effective than before. Over half stated they would get justice if they were victims of a crime, a substantial increase from last year.

However, despite overall positive scores for approachability of the police, prosecutors and courts, the respondents see these institutions as lacking in integrity and efficiency. The institutions most trusted by respondents are their local administrations.

Provision of legal aid is very important but is not widespread enough, with nearly half of victims who lack money even for food having to hire private lawyers.

Notably, members of vulnerable groups (persons with disabilities, members of the LGBT community and internally displaced persons) report relying heavily on strong internal communications when resolving disputes rather than on justice sector institutions.


Photo: Artem Getman / UNDP

There has been improvement in public awareness of legal service providers. The most notable rise occurred in Luhansk Oblast (where the level of awareness of legal aid offices doubled from 19 per cent to 38.5 per cent) and Donetsk Oblast (from 26 per cent to 39.9 per cent).

Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement: with approximately two-thirds of the population unaware of the legal aid hotline, legal aid offices and the role of local administrations.

Therefore, the gap that exists between rural residents and urban ones concerning accessibility of legal services should be bridged. This could be done by making legal aid offices more mobile or scheduling contact time in rural areas.


Photo: Oleksandr Ratushnyak / UNDP

The police and bodies of local administration are seen as having a useful but somewhat passive role in addressing safety concerns and problems. Only a quarter of those surveyed said that the police (23.9 per cent) or local administrations (29.2 per cent) regularly or occasionally hold meetings with community members about their safety concerns.

It is worthwhile to note that those with the lowest levels of formal education and persons living in rural areas are least likely to believe that the police are successful in solving or preventing problems in their communities.

The police should also focus their attention on assisting more people from the lowest socio-economic rungs and people in rural areas. Local administrations should attempt to target these people more proactively when providing services to them.

The report was funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.