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How the Legal Development Network is responding to the challenges of full-scale war and building recovery strategies 2023

Author: Halyna Kolesnyk, communications manager of the Legal Development Network

For a year, Ukraine has been resisting the full-scale aggression of the russian federation against Ukraine. Civil society also became part of the resistance, in particular, the Legal Development Network (LDN, Network). Almost from the beginning of the invasion, the LDN initiated the creation of the “Solidarity and Justice” Coalition, bringing together 22 organizations from both the Network and partners to respond as effectively as possible to the challenges of the war.

Photo: Olga Nastina, executive director of the Legal Development Network

“At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the state legal aid system was paralyzed. She could not do what was absolutely necessary. After all, everything in the country, including legislation, was rapidly changing and adapting to the requirements of martial law. Ukrainians needed prompt counseling on many issues because the observance of their rights and decision-making depended on it. After we helped the representatives of our organizations and their families to move to safe places, we began to intensify the provision of legal assistance. It became the basis of the #StandWithUkraine crisis response program and 15 organizations of the Network united in the “Solidarity and Justice” Coalition. In order to strengthen the ability to respond to other challenges as well – to provide humanitarian and psychological assistance, help with the settlement of internally displaced persons, socialization, and much more, we involved partners in the Coalition: volunteer association Ukraine Alive 2022, NGO “Ttriangle” from Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, which later joined the LDN, Ukrainian Educational Platform, Ukrainian Paralegal Association, NGO “Center for Economic and Legal Development” from Kamianka-Buzka, Lviv oblast, NGO “Legal Innovations”, Ukrainian Women Lawyers Association “JurFem”, says the executive director of the Legal Development Network Olga Nastina.

Let’s talk about what we managed to do together during the year and what to expect in 2023. 

Legal aid

In 2022, lawyers of the Legal Development Network provided legal assistance to 113, 818 persons. In addition, legal advice was provided to 68, 614 Ukrainians abroad.

If at the beginning of the year, requests to human rights defenders were mostly related to the rules for the departure of Ukrainians abroad, issues of receiving humanitarian aid, protection of internally displaced persons, observance of labor rights in conditions of martial law, then by the end of 2022, in addition to these issues, requests regarding:

  • restoration of lost documents;
  • compensation/restoration of destroyed or damaged housing;
  • collection of alimony and appeal of a court decision on collection of alimony;
  • issues related to military personnel (transfer to another part, performance of military duty, payment of benefits in the event of the death of a serviceman, rights during mobilization, delivery of summons, termination of contract, etc.);
  • the procedure for concluding marriages abroad;
  • establishing the facts of death/birth in the occupied territory;
  • evacuation from the temporarily occupied territory, including businesses;
  • land issues (lease, registration, alienation, etc.).


Since the start of the full-scale invasion, the Legal Development Network has announced a fundraiser to support the humanitarian response program #StandWithUkraine, which it implemented in 2022 and continues to support individual strands of it now. Yes, last year it was possible to collect a total of UAH 297,091. Funds came from 30 benefactors from Ukraine, the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, and Cyprus. The smallest contribution was UAH 50, and the largest was UAH 100,000.

UAH 197,091 collected by LDN was transferred to the volunteer association Ukraine Allive 2022 for fuel.

Ukraine Allive 2022 still collects and delivers essentials to affected cities, towns, and villages: food, generators, clothes, and much more.

Dry borsch kits were purchased for UAH 100,000 for victims of hostilities, especially those who did not have the conditions and time to fully prepare food. UAH 25,232 remained unused and will become part of meeting the needs of the victims in 2023. We will talk about how exactly these funds will help later.

Humanitarian response

Photo: mine safety training for children in the “Murashnyk” (Anthill) humanitarian hub, Khmilnyk, Vinnytsia region. The hub was created and administered by the NGO “PRAVO” since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the russian federation on the territory of Ukraine

As part of the work of the “Solidarity and Justice” Coalition, the Legal Development Network also helped to overcome the humanitarian catastrophe. From April to September, together with the Ukrainian Paralegal Association and Ukrainian Educational Platform, 574 tons of humanitarian aid were delivered and distributed to residents of 145 communities.

Photo: the “Vulyk Zmistiv” (Beehive of Meanings) team, Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, equipped a shelter for internally displaced persons with the support of the Ukrainian Educational Platform. The opening of the shelter is planned for the beginning of March 2023

Since March, we have been coordinating the implementation of the social initiative “Vulyk Zmistiv” (Beehive of Meanings), which is still being implemented today in Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, Kamianka-Buzka, Lviv oblast, and Khmilnyk, Vinnytsia oblast. As part of the initiative, 571 families (1718 internally displaced persons) managed to find housing. Beehives take care not only of settlement but also of providing legal and psychological assistance, establishing interaction in the community, and much more. Noticing that after finding housing, employment became the second need for displaced persons, a procedure for employment was developed within the framework of the work of “Vulyk Zmistiv” in Kolomyia, which can become the basis for implementation in other communities.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the demand for psychological help has also increased in importance. Coalition members have already provided it to 1,583 Ukrainians.

Information support

The #StandWithUkraine program was supported by a large number of Ukrainian and international partners of the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), the Mott Foundation, the DLA Piper Foundation, the international charity platform GlobalGiving, and the Legal Empowerment Fund (Fund for Global Human Rights program). They also created opportunities for information support, both for the Coalition and for its individual representatives. Thus, the coordinator of “Beehive of Meanings” in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, Solomiia Zinets-Matsyshyn, became a participant in the fundraising campaign “Local heroes – global changes” of The fund for global human rights. As part of this campaign, the foundation collected $403,905, which will support the heroes of the campaign. American journalist and lawyer Bob Ambrogi spoke on several resources about the launch of the platform to help Ukrainians abroad, the creation of which was initiated by the Legal Development Network in cooperation with Paladin and the NGO “Legal Innovations” because more than 6 million Ukrainians were forced to leave Ukraine in search of safety.

The experience of how Ukrainian human rights defenders in individual communities respond to the challenges of a full-scale war was shared by the NGO “Legal Unity” with the audience of the American Bar Association. And for the international organization Pathfinders for Peaceful, human rights defenders of the Legal Development Network talked about crisis strategies for restoring access to justice and the main challenges that grassroots organizations and Ukrainians have faced since February 24, 2022.

Challenges 2023

Representatives of the Network’s organizations shared what challenges we will have to deal with in 2023.

Photo: Natalia Kulikova, project manager of the Chernihiv Public Committee for the Protection of Human Rights

“In 2023, we predict another problem related to military personnel, which will arise as soon as the active phase of hostilities ends. After all, the majority of military personnel did not receive the allowances that are guaranteed by the state, starting from February 24, 2022. We can see this trend very clearly in Chernihiv oblast. When the active phase of hostilities ends, they will all go to the court en masse to collect these funds. Another problem is related to the arbitrary leaving of the military unit. As a result, the military is in an unknown legal position on the battlefield. Official investigations in this regard last for more than a month, one and a half, or two months. The question arises especially acutely if a serviceman goes missing or is captured. There will be no information about him in any documents, and it will be impossible to prove that this person was physically on the battlefield. Every second appeal to our organization concerns this. The issues of compensation for destroyed or damaged housing also remain relevant,” says Nataliia Kulikova, project manager of the Chernihiv Public Committee for the Protection of Human Rights.

Photo: Nataliia Yesina, head of the NGO “Northern Human Rights Group” 

“From the experience of 2014-2020, situations for illegally received payments to internally displaced persons even reached the point of opening criminal proceedings. So far, the state is only making attempts to identify these IDPs, to find out what and where they receive. But as soon as the right mechanism is found, the termination, suspension, renewal, and recovery of illegally paid funds will begin,” says the head of the NGO “Northern Human Rights Group” Nataliia Yesina.

Photo: executive director of the NGO “Podillia Legal League”, Khmelnytskyi, Anastasiia Ploshchynska

The executive director of the NGO “Podillia Legal League”, Khmelnytskyi, Anastasiia Ploshchynska also draws attention to the fact that the territory of Ukraine is dangerous, and therefore the return of children to Ukraine in war conditions can be recognized as contrary to the “best interests of the child” in the sense of international law. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that the return of children to Ukraine is against the convention. That is, the communication of both military and civilians with children is now very difficult, especially if the parents are in a state of conflict. This is a violation of their rights.

Photo: program director of the Network of Legal Development Vitalii Okhrimenko

“We understand that 2022 was the year of crisis response, and 2023 is the year of implementing systemic solutions to overcome existing problems. Our initiatives will be based on this approach. We continue the systematic work of the Legal Development Network to restore access to justice. At the same time, in 2023, within the framework of the Coalition, our work will be aimed at overcoming social challenges – helping internally displaced persons not only with a settlement but also in their integration into the community, including finding a job using the developed employment procedure. In addition, we supported the work of regional coordinators from 14 organizations, which will implement complex initiatives related to the provision of legal assistance to war victims and other types of assistance to IDPs,” says Vitalii Okhrimenko, program director of the Legal Development Network.

P. S. More relevant information on legal and humanitarian issues – is in the special section #StandWithUkraine. It accumulates materials that may be useful to those who suffer, whose rights are violated as a result of the war between russia and Ukraine.

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