The Ukrainian state apparatus turned out to be too inert and not able to work effectively in the conditions of armed aggression. If not civil society that was motivated enough after the Revolution of Dignity, the country would have collapsed and would have suffered military defeat.
The volunteer movement which arose after the Euromaidan protests became widespread in the beginning of the military conflict in the eastern Ukraine. Thousands of large and quite small voluntary groups that deal with evacuation of people from the conflict zone, providing assistance to IDPs, treatment and rehabilitation of wounded, release of prisoners, reburial of victims appeared across the country. Moreover, they help to provide the Ukrainian army with everything needed – from food to ammunition, tactical equipment and transport. According to the research commissioned by the UN in 2014, 23% of Ukrainians somehow participated in the activities of volunteer initiatives and 63% provided them with financial assistance. Thanks to the efforts of these people, not government agencies, hundreds of thousands of IDPs have found temporary shelter and received the necessary support, thousands of families managed to find their missing relatives, and Ukrainian Armed Forces which over the last two decades were completely destroyed have become combat-ready and well-equipped. Volunteer organizations have collected and distributed almost 9 billion UAH, which is comparable to the budgets of the whole ministries. Being more flexible and financially transparent than government agencies civil society organizations have proved to be more efficient in providing international humanitarian assistance.
The work of volunteers who help the Ukrainian army is rather risky. The volunteer convoys have been several times attacked by criminal groups, the police put stroke into the wheel making it impossible to deliver goods. Dozens of attacks have been made on the offices of voluntary organizations in 2014/2015. At least 10 volunteer centers were undermined.
Civil society activists had a hope that their active participation would be necessary only in the first months of the conflict. Unfortunately, the state apparatus didn’t manage to recover and to fulfill obligations to the Ukrainian citizens. The reforms haven’t been implemented and the bureaucratic structures remain ineffective. Civil society is still playing a key role in providing assistance to the Ukrainian army and victims of the conflict in the east of Ukraine. All the resources of the society are still concentrated on stopping the military conflict in the east of the country and elimination of the consequences of armed aggression. It slows down the process of implementation of reforms – activists simply do not have time and energy on it and the government is not interested in changing the system.