Donbas conflict: Taking stock of peacebuilding

This report analyses research findings on perceptions of peacebuilding efforts by local, national and international actors in the context of the armed conflict in the Donbas region. It considers the main gaps, risks and challenges, and then explores opportunities for improving policies and practices aimed at transforming the conflict.

Essentially, the report argues that instead of being driven by vision and strategies to address the conflict’s root causes, peacebuilding in the Donbas is defined by donor-driven project activities that focus predominantly on its consequences. The cumulative effect of these shortcomings can be seen in disillusionment and burnout within the sector, sceptical attitudes both towards and from external actors (donors and policy-makers) and a shared feeling of dashed expectations.

Building on these findings, the report advocates for the reform of conceptual, methodological and structural approaches to peacebuilding in the Donbas context, and in Ukraine more broadly. The primary aim is to stimulate reflection and debate among key stakeholders which would help build a shared sense of priorities and momentum in the peacebuilding community in Ukraine.

The analysis draws on data from a qualitative study examining the views and experiences of 22 experts and civil society activists. International Alert carried out individual semi-structured in-depth interviews in early 2021 with representatives of national and international civil society, and experts from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (including non-government-controlled areas – NGCA). The study also includes extensive desk research, internal reflections and a series of consultations with a wide range of stakeholders led by International Alert in Ukraine in March 2021 as part of the Interpeace Principles for Peace initiative.

The main gaps and challenges identified are the lack of fundamental elements of best peacebuilding practice, such as:

  • participatory context analysis
  • strategic and conceptual coherence of policies and interventions
  • inclusive programme design that responds to jointly identified peacebuilding needs