Aid to Ukraine and it’s challenges

Sweden is one of many actors supporting Ukraine. The challenges are unique and many: support to defend and maintain a country at war; short- and long-term assistance with reconstruction; and support to drive the necessary reforms to combat corruption and bring the country closer to EU membership.

The world’s assistance to Ukraine is military, humanitarian and financial, the two latter defined as development assistance. Financial support is both short-term budget support and long-term assistance to rebuild the country. The needs are enormous.

In addition to assistance provided via international organisations, some 40 donor countries also contribute. The largest contributions since the outbreak of war in February 2022 have been made by the EU and United States.

No one knows when and how the war will end, only that reconstruction will be necessary. The cost of rebuilding will be huge. Development assistance will fall far short of this sum but, used properly, it can mobilise private investment. Compared to other recipient countries, Ukraine has a relatively robust administration and financial sector. This raises the possibility of using aid as a catalyst for private capital (Olofsgård and Perrotta Berlin, 2023).


Link reconstruction to EU membership

Rebuilding has already started, and planning is underway for how Ukraine can be assisted in this regard now and in future. Coordination is key but, thus far, the G7’s coordination initiative has failed to deliver. A more stable and distinct organisation is required. Since the EU opened the way for negotiations on Ukrainian membership, it has been argued that the EU is well placed to take a leading role in coordinating donors. Rebuilding and societal reforms can then be more clearly linked to the demands placed on future EU membership, incentivising the necessary but difficult reforms (Olofsgård and Perrotta Berlin, 2023).

A legal system plagued by corruption is one striking example of the need for reform in the country. Since before, Swedish development cooperation with Ukraine is targeted at reform, including supporting decentralisation, and may have an important role to play in this field also for the years to come.

EBA has previously evaluated reform efforts in other countries hoping to accede to the EU. he lessons learned here should be highly relevant to cooperation with Ukraine. EBA’s evaluation concerned cooperation between Swedish and domestic government agencies in four countries in the Western Balkans (Allen et al., 2020). There, reform efforts were generally deemed to be cost-effective and cooperation between Swedish and domestic civil servants was highlighted as positive. Contributions to sustainable results were especially clear in initiatives related to highly prioritised areas for assession to the EU. Cooperation was most successful in interventions that took an explicitly system-wide approach rather than those focused on a single agency.

The authors of the evaluation also levelled a number of criticisms. Parts of the organisation should have been more focused on important success factors. Good results would have required extended periods of preparation to create under-standing and commitment from all involved. It was important to have ready access to the right expertise for sufficient lengths of time. Broad support from embassy staff was another success factor.

Aid increases the risk of corruption

The reforms that Ukraine must implement include combatting deep-seated and extensive corruption at a time when international aid is flowing into the country. Previous experience tells us that, while corruption is difficult to measure, it tends to be more prevalent in countries with significant needs, vulnerabilities and poverty. When large quantities of aid are thrown into the equation, the risk of corruption increases further. Infrastructure, water supply, public procurement and healthcare are particularly vulnerable sectors (Hede Skagerlind, 2021).

In order to identify strategies that can minimise corruption, it is important for aid donors to under-stand the dominant societal norms in the recipient country and the impact of their own interventions, identify agents of change and develop functioning theories of change (Mungiu-Pippidi, 2017). EBA is also currently evaluating Sida’s efforts to combat corruption that hinders development.


Involve local organisations

The war in Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis. In addition to rebuilding society, refugees from the war need help to survive and eventually to return to Ukraine. Long-term measures need to be planned at the same time as short-term humanitarian aid is designed and distributed. As far as possible, local organisations should be involved in humanitarian efforts, including local councils, as these will remain on the ground after international organisations have left the country. An ongoing EBA evaluation is looking at how the localisation agenda has been implemented thus far, and how it can be strengthened. A field study is being conducted in Ukraine.



  • Ukraine is receiving a large amount of aid in a number of vital areas implemented by many actors. Sweden needs to ensure that there is good coordination led by the EU, motivated by bringing the country closer to the EU.
  • Development assistance to rebuild the country must be a supplement to other finance flows. Strenuous efforts are required to mobilise private capital and private investment.
  • In Ukraine, combatting corruption is key. Swedish and other actors need to understand Ukrainian societal norms, their own role as donors and how the two interact.
  • Humanitarian aid must be designed from day one with the long-term challenges of rebuilding and the return of refugees in mind.

This text is an extract from EBA’s annual report The EBA aid review 2024.



Allen, R., G. Ferrari, K. Loshi, N. Östlund & D. RaziŁ IliŁ (2020), Institution Building in Practice: An Evaluation of Swedish Central Authorities’ Reform Cooperation in the Western Balkans, EBA 2020:04

Hede Skagerlind, H. (2021), Korruption i biståndet: En litteraturöversikt, EBA Working Paper, July 2021

Mungiu-Pippidi, A. (2017), Seven Steps to Evidence-Based Anticorruption: A Roadmap, EBA 2017:10

Olofsgård, A. & M. Perrotta Berlin (2023), Åter ur askan: det svenska och globala bidraget till Ukrainas återuppbyggnad, EBA Working Paper, March 2023