New resolution on humanitarian aid. Why do volunteers demand a postponement?

New resolution on humanitarian aid. Why do volunteers demand a postponement?

What happened?

On September 5, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution establishing new rules for the import of humanitarian aid from December 1 this year.

The relevant Resolution No. 953, "On Some Issues of Passing and Accounting for Humanitarian Aid under Martial Law", is published on the website.

The new rules provide for greater accountability of humanitarian aid to prevent its theft and the importation of commercial goods under the guise of aid.

In October 2023, the State Customs Service of Ukraine reported more than three thousand cases in which military units did not receive the humanitarian aid supposedly imported for them.

At the same time, the voluntary organisations are calling for a delay in the entry into force of the new resolution and for it to be improved. This statement was published on the website on October 16.

On November 2, the website published a response de facto rejecting the petition.

What does Resolution 953 say?

Organisations importing humanitarian aid must register with the Automated Humanitarian Aid Registration System and prepare and submit declarations to customs.

Humanitarian goods can pass through customs with a declaration and a permit from the State Export Control Service of Ukraine.

The document also abolishes the requirement for letters of guarantee for humanitarian aid. 

Recipients who fail to submit data to the register on time may be blocked for six months. 

If the report is not submitted within 90 calendar days of customs clearance, the humanitarian aid is considered to have been misused. 

Why are volunteers calling for the law to be improved?

We, charitable foundations, NGOs and individual volunteers, recognise that the amendments in the rules for importing humanitarian aid to Ukraine are impossible to implement in today's reality,

the petition, submitted in October, says.

The volunteers note that the new resolution abolishes the activities of "individual missions of foreign volunteers who bring humanitarian aid and deliver it to dangerous regions to be handed over to the military and civilians". 

The amendments also make it impossible for small and medium-sized NGOs to operate because they lack the resources to comply with the new rules. Instead, the resolution creates a "monopoly of large foundations", which will still not be able to cover all the needs.

The authors of the petition are convinced that volunteers will not be able to deliver urgent humanitarian aid to the army. The new rules will delay the process two to three times.

"We are not asking for the resolution to be cancelled because we understand the reasons why it was created. There is a big problem with the misuse of humanitarian aid in Ukraine... We are asking to negotiate, to listen to the problems of the volunteers, to find ways to solve them and to regulate them together," wrote Veronika Mutsei, co-founder of the Zeilen van Vrijheid Foundation in the Netherlands.

The "December 1" initiative group also called on the government to suspend Resolution 953.

"... can nullify international support for Ukraine through small and medium-sized charitable foundations... eliminate the activities of private volunteers and kill the spontaneous volunteer movement," the volunteers' statement said.

What was the government's response to the petition?

The response to the petition states that reporting is not an amendment but is governed by the Humanitarian Aid Act. The principle of declaring was already established, and the new resolution merely "digitalises" the mechanisms previously introduced. 

According to the Cabinet of Ministers, the automated registration of humanitarian aid should regulate the accounting of this aid.

The Ministry of Social Policy has also set up a working group to work on the draft law. Its first meeting took place on November 3. 

"More than 200 people, online and offline, point out mistakes and shortcomings in the system, and this is presented to us as 'another improvement'," Veronika Mutsei commented on the working group's meetings.

In addition to the petition, volunteers wrote letters to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, appeals to MPs and other open letters. All of them have remained unanswered so far.

On November 12, Veronika Mutsei wrote on her social media that "the fight for the volunteer movement is lost".

In addition to the petition, volunteers wrote letters to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, appeals to MPs and other open letters. All of them have remained unanswered so far.

On 12 November, Veronika Mutsei wrote on her social media that "the battle for the volunteer movement is lost".

The petition has been rejected, there will be no postponement, letters are being ignored, the system has been presented as an ideal development, no one is carrying out normal tests, and the working group created is one-sided. No one wants to listen to us,

 wrote the volunteer.

What was it like before?

On March 5, 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers abolished the requirements for receiving, using, accounting and reporting of charitable aid from legal entities and physical persons under martial law.

The National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption reported on the corruption risks arising resulting from this decision.

The absence of accounting may be justified when humanitarian aid is received and distributed in the area of hostilities or in circumstances where, due to the operational situation, there is an objective lack of resources and conditions for accounting,

the NACP said in a statement.

According to the Agency, in regions where there are no hostilities, those in charge may take advantage of the situation and not carry out an accounting out of personal interest.

As part of its efforts to minimise the risks, the NACP proposed to:

  • Review information on the volume of humanitarian aid that has crossed the state border on a monthly basis;
  • Verify volunteers;
  • Ensure that humanitarian aid is unloaded in official warehouses with signed responsible storage agreements;
  • Establish the procedure for foreign volunteers to access such warehouses;
  • Include civil society representatives in regional humanitarian headquarters.

On March 22, the government issued a resolution requiring a single declaration to be filled out for the import of humanitarian aid into Ukraine.