By Tatiana Krivobokova
The awful war in Ukraine, that causes unimaginable human suffering, will have devastating effect on Ukrainian economic and humanitarian situation, and most probably will have long-term consequences for all of us. It is not just about a conflict between two neighbors or an escalation within Eastern Europe, it is rather a disturbing process that will affect the entire continent if not the planet. Our collective future is now at risk.
To start with Ukraine itself, it is still unclear how disastrous the reverberations of the war will be. Early predictions show that up to 90% of Ukrainian population could be facing poverty or vulnerability to poverty within a year should the war prolong (UNDP, 2022). In addition, the International Monetary Fund predicts up to 35% decline in GDP by the end of the year. This potentially can send the country and the entire region back decades, provoking political instability, protracted economic crisis and social unrest.
Humanitarian organizations have a challenging task to complete. They have to combine long-standing humanitarian goals with immediate responses to the rapidly unfolding crisis, with nutrition, sanitation and water scarcity remaining the biggest problems for millions of displaced people, mostly women and children. However, while Ukraine will face the most devastating damage to its sustainable development process, the rest of the world will witness severe consequences.
According to the UN data, over 100 countries are estimated to face negative effects on their sustainable development goals (UNSDP, 2022). Nations which have close ties with Russia and Ukraine, including their neighbors, are most likely to share detrimental impact first. Additionally, it should not be ignored that many of them are developing states with limited economic capacities and resources. For instance, the region of Central Asia heavily relies on remittance payments from Russia, which initially have been disrupted by the COVID19 crisis and now, by war. Certain nations will have to tackle social unrest, provoked by economic hardships. It has been quite recently when Kazakhstan, a key player in the region, saw unprecedented political upheaval with massive and violent protests, hence, the situation is very unstable and inflammable there.
Apart from political turbulence, the rise in financial crime rates is likely to happen due to financial market and exchange rate volatility. As it has been said, many Russian neighboring countries have been dependent on their partnership with Moscow in terms of trade and labor market, which now has been disrupted. As there are no flights from Russia to any EU country now, transportation routes in Caucasus region and in the Middle Asia have been extremely overloaded and marked with skyrocketing prices. Stagflation is also highly possible – as a stagnation in economic growth combined amid increasing inflation. With massive migration flows of Russian dissidents to the countries whose borders are still open for ordinary Russian citizens local prices for housing, basic products and services have been peaking, causing social discontent.
However, there are two factors that are listed among the most worrying threats to the global sustainable development – hunger and refugee crisis.
Food crisis and hunger.
The world was already struggling after two years of COVID19 crisis, with supply chains disrupted and food prices dangerously high (Claeys, 2021). Some lessons have been learnt and certain response mechanism to tackle the upcoming crisis are being implemented, but the scale of it seems to be too staggering.
Russia and Ukraine together account for around 30% of world’s wheat and barley exports. Russia and Belarus make up about 40% of world’s share of fertilized production, and therefore, the shortages and supply chains disruption are already causing the food prices spiraling (HRW, 2022). As Russia and Ukraine are leading exporters of agricultural products to certain African and Middle East countries, this disrupts the entire region, potentially leading to hunger, increasing poverty and widening inequality.
Probably, one of the most devastating consequences of the war is the unprecedented refugee crisis unfolding in Europe right now. Over four million Ukrainian refugees have been seeking protection in neighboring countries, mainly Poland, Romania, Moldova and Hungary (UNHCR, 2022), and even more are internally displaced. The escalation forced people to leave their homes in the desperate effort to find safety and assistance, making it one of the worst refugee crisis in recent history.
The neighboring countries, which became the main destination for the refugees, are now struggling with the lack of space and many Ukrainians are reluctant to go further abroad to other European countries, as they prefer to stay close to their home and within a familiar cultural and linguistic context. This, creates pressure within local communities in big cities due to the security issues, resource scarcity and tensions.
The looming food crisis, European refugee emergency as well as increasing social tensions and chances of political turmoil in the regions affected by the war make it obvious that a global coordinated response is needed, which should not be limited to solving immediate problems, but also target long-term objectives to support sustainable development.
Written by Tatiana Krivobokova
Edited by Noemi Nardi
Tatiana is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in European and Global Studies at University of Padua. Tatiana’s expertise lies in the region of Eastern Europe, specifically Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. A former international political journalist, she is also interested in gender studies and feminist research now. In addition, she is passionate about academic freedom and is actively advocating for it.
Follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tatiana-krivobokova-83436b82/
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Claeys, G. el. (2021). The Great COVID-19 Divergence: Managing a Sustainable and Equitable Recovery in the European Union. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep32249
Group, U. S. (2022, March 18). UN teams around the world brace up to support authorities to tackle impacts of Ukraine crisis. Retrieved from https://unsdg.un.org/latest/stories/un-teams-around-world-brace-support-authorities-tackle-impacts-ukraine-crisis
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2022, April 1). Ukraine Refugee Situation.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Retrieved from https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine
United Nations Development Programme. (2022, March). The Development Impact of the War in Ukraine. Retrieved from United Nations Development Programme: https://www.undp.org/publications/development-impact-war-ukraine-initial-projections#modal-publication-download
Human Right Warch. (2022, March 21). Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Exacerbates Hunger in Middle East, North Africa. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/21/russias-invasion-ukraine-exacerbates-hunger-middle-east-northafrica