Youth as a driving force in the post-war rebuilding of Ukraine

The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for over a year now, but discussions on the topic of eliminating the consequences of the war have been carried out since its first months. One of the most painful topics has been the personnel issue: who should build a "new" Ukraine in accordance with the trends of our time? Changes in the geopolitical landscape, the crisis of the global collective security system and the need to reform it, structural changes in domestic politics, etc. - all these challenges are already being faced by Ukrainian society and, above all, by the political authorities. How to overcome them and put the country on the path of development without losing its leadership position among European countries?
Olha Yasmo
Activist SD Platform
There is no doubt that youth, as the most proactive part of the public, using various communication channels (primarily social media), could unite and instantly accumulate resources to help the state facing the enemy. In a digitalized and globalized world where there are no physical borders, information is spread and located in seconds.

Thanks to this feature, civic activists and other concerned citizens spread news about the situation in Ukraine, share tragic stories of their friends and their own, open fundraisers to help the military and the victims, etc. Many public and political figures, young scientists, and businessmen have reoriented their activities to meet the requirements of wartime: joining the Armed Forces, volunteering, researching the roots of the Russian-Ukrainian war, fighting Russian propaganda, opening centers to help victims, and so on. This created a solid foundation for Ukraine's resilience, which was led by young people.
This is also proven by the results of a study conducted by the Cedos analytical center and the Info Sapiens research agency, according to which the share of young people engaged in volunteering has increased from 20% to 42%, and the share of young people who have left the country and want to return is 76%. At the same time, young people are unanimous in their support for territorial integrity (86% of respondents), joining the EU (85% of respondents) and NATO (80% of respondents).
In the context of this topic, it should be noted the civic position of Ukrainian youth, in particular teenagers. Without much life experience, with a degree of naivety and vulnerability to unusual circumstances, teenagers express more optimism and enthusiasm about the future of Ukraine and their own. Surprisingly, the percentage of young people who express a desire to self-realize in Ukraine has increased compared to last year. According to a survey conducted by Kantar among teenagers aged 13-19 from all over Ukraine, 95% of young citizens believe in Ukraine's victory, while 70% want to study and live in Ukraine. What is really impressive is that 90% of teenagers express a desire to be useful to Ukraine, 43% of whom have already been involved in volunteering.
In addition to the above, it should be emphasized that the obstacles associated with the COVID-19 pandemic (distance education and work, lack of live communication) have been compounded by constant air raids, rocket attacks, unstable mobile and Internet communications, and a catastrophic power outage. It is hard to disagree that a number of these problems depress the morale of any person, regardless of age, gender, social status, worldview, etc. Although at first glance it seems that the combination of these factors paralyzes young people's planning for the future, including education and employment, the actual picture is quite different. Currently, 67% of young Ukrainian citizens are aware of what they want to become, 93% still believe in themselves and their abilities, and 90% believe they are making enough effort to achieve their goals.
It is fair to say that involvement in the reconstruction of Ukraine should begin with a sense of the necessity of one's own participation in this process, with a vision of one's role and scope of activity. A large part of Ukrainian youth came to voice their opinions after the start of the full-scale invasion. New NGOs have been formed to provide humanitarian aid and rehabilitation to the victims, centers for initiative and creative youth, and thousands of citizens have found themselves volunteering, serving in the military, or intending to start a political career. The educational activities of Ukrainian bloggers, opinion leaders, and ordinary educated citizens who cannot stand aside when the effects of Russian propaganda, remnants of Soviet templates, and lack of critical thinking are evident among the population. It should be recognized that young people are the most progressive, proactive, and aware of global trends due to their technological capabilities and quick adaptability to new living conditions. Finally, a positive signal in this regard is the desire of the majority of respondents (72%) to join the reconstruction process in their community.
Of course, the state is interested in developing and using the potential of young people who will work for the benefit of the country during and after a period of martial law. This thesis is confirmed by the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine for 2023-2025, which defines "creating conditions for the reintegration, adaptation, socialization and development of young people belonging to different groups and their participation in the country's recovery" as one of the strategic goals. This is supposed to ensure that young people have access to relevant programs and services provided by youth centers/spaces, organizations and professionals working with young people. It can be summarized that the executive authorities of the state are concerned with the personnel issue of post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, because sooner or later all positions in the country will be occupied by new faces, so it is necessary to promote their training and mobilize resources in advance.
Another positive development is the entry into force of the Law of Ukraine "On the Principles of Youth Policy," which provides legal guarantees for youth councils and organizations and introduces funding for youth projects through the Ukrainian Youth Foundation.

The Ukrainian Youth Foundation has now been officially established and its supervisory board approved, so the final step is to launch a campaign for youth to submit projects, which has been made possible with funds from international donors. It is important that the selection of projects takes into account both the opinions of independent experts and young people themselves, as participatory tools promote their wider involvement at various levels.
A similar example could be the Participatory Budget, which the government is currently working on implementing. Through the Diia app, citizens will be able to support regional infrastructure projects, which will contribute to the development of e-democracy and taxpayer control over the use of budget and international resources.

At the local level, participatory practices of financing youth projects have already been tested, as evidenced by the experience of participatory budgeting in Kyiv, Lviv, Chernihiv, Kryvyi Rih, and other cities. School participatory budgets have been introduced in a number of communities, which has helped to involve students in the allocation of budget funds.
In December 2021, the youngest city in the Kyiv region, Slavutych, approved a youth participatory budget, which allowed young people from 12 to 17 years old to support school and city youth projects through an online platform. This approach, which combines public and school budgets, was supposed to help broaden the horizons of young people and involve them in infrastructure development not only at the school but also at the city level. However, due to the Russian aggression, the city has lost significant sources of budget income, and therefore funding for such a program is currently impossible.

It is believed that young people, due to their energy and patriotic attitude, are open to being involved in the rebuilding process in various areas of public life. At the same time, such involvement should be accompanied by wider support for non-formal education and volunteering with recognition of their results in the formal education system, involvement of students in vocational and specialized education in economic processes with fair compensation for their time, development of a network of youth centers and spaces in communities, and implementation of programs to finance youth projects at the national and local levels using elements of e-democracy.
Unfortunately, Ukraine lacks proper funding to implement these and other measures, which is why sustained international support for youth initiatives, especially at the local level and in cooperation with local governments, is of great importance. Obviously, such a symbiosis would contribute not only to the development of youth policy and youth involvement in social and political life, but also to the processes of decentralization and European integration at the local level.
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