Unprecedented crises are now reshaping our world. In Europe, governments are grappling with COVID-19’s aftermath as well as confronting climate change amidst escalating geopolitical tensions and a humanitarian crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine.
The Reshaping Europe series provides insights on Europe’s current challenges, bringing together stakeholders from across the globe to discuss how to build a greener, more digital, and more resilient post-pandemic Europe. Leaders will focus on reconciling EU priorities with the increased need for defense & security as well as the need for effective and united humanitarian approaches.
Reshaping Europe | Inaugural webinar: Stronger together to build a more sustainable future
The inaugural “Reshaping Europe” webinar aired live from the European Parliament in Brussels on 30 June 2022, focusing on the responses to the current humanitarian crisis. The webinar covered the challenges and actions at all levels of governance as they work to support Ukraine and its people.
- In order to address the full scale of this crisis—“One of the largest displacement crises in Europe, but also in the world, since World War II”—unprecedented and united responses and actions across all levels of governance are needed. As stressed by Shabia Mantoo, Global Spokesperson for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, cooperation among the EU, national governments, local governments, international humanitarian organizations, corporates, and civil society is critical to helping the more than 5 million refugees from Ukraine.
- At the EU level, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, asserted that in response to this act of aggression, “Europe spoke with one voice when it mattered the most.” EU support to Ukraine has been unprecedented, from supplying military weapons and providing humanitarian aid to launching six packages of economic sanctions against Russia. Priorities for the EU now include building a Defense Union, reducing energy dependency on Russia by achieving a green transition, and ensuring food security.
- For the Ukrainian government, receiving the EU’s political support with its assignment of Ukraine as an EU Candidate was more than symbolic: it was recognition of the country’s efforts to implement the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement of 2014 to build new economic and political ties between both parties. Natalie Forsuyk, General Director of the Government Office for Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, emphasized the importance of the EU-supported reconstruction platform as critical infrastructure will need to be rebuilt. This platform, said Forsuyk, will “manage in a sustainable and transparent manner the help that will come not only from the EU and member states but also from international financial institutions and other countries in the globe.”
- Local governments in Ukraine are under immense pressure to respond with the limited resources they have to evolving needs on the ground. “We, as councillors and active people, every day from early morning to late night, are trying to find a way to help soldiers on the frontline,” explained Dinara Habibullaieva, Member of the Kyiv City Council. This includes supplying equipment as well as such simple items as power banks, medicine, and tourniquets while at the same time drawing on support at the international level to help displaced citizens. Concerned about “war fatigue,” Habibullaieva urged the audience to remember that “Kyiv is not fighting for just Ukraine, but for all Europeans and for freedom.”
- Communities and networks of young people have been important to the quick mobilization of support for Ukraine. Ievgeniia Bodnya, from the core team of Support Ukraine Now, a World Economic Forum Global Shapers initiative, said the Global Shapers network was instrumental in amplifying the platform, which assembes “all information resources together” to help people navigate their support for Ukraine, including how to host refugees.
- International organizations have been paramount in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees. As a level 3 event, the highest in a humanitarian emergency, UNHCR activated financial resources and dispatched material relief such as shelter items, cash assistance for refugees, and counselling on issues like gender-based violence. The protection of the women and children that account for 90 percent of all those fleeing from Ukraine also needs special consideration. UNHCR’s Mantoo made a strong plea to “ensure that there is the same support and solidarity for others that are affected by conflict and war, because the Ukraine situation has illustrated what it really means to be a refugee.”
- Businesses are important partners in the global response to address this humanitarian crisis but also to address the climate crisis. There is increasingly the expectation that leading organizations across the globe step up and do their part. “The business of business is not just business; we certainly need to turn a profit, but we must do it with purpose,” stressed Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global CEO. Governments alone, he pointed out, cannot make the transition to a sustainable economy.