Ukraine: how are cooperatives helping those affected?

10 Mar 2022

Cooperatives from around the world have stepped in to support everyone affected by the developments in Ukraine. The conflict, which started on 24 February, had by 8 March led to the loss of more than 1,300 civilian lives and more than 2 million refugees, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

To support those most affected by the war, cooperative organisations have launched several initiatives: from supporting relief efforts on the ground, to volunteering to help those displaced by the conflict or donating to fundraising appeals.

In Finland ICMIF member LähiTapiola donated EUR 300,000 to the Finnish Red Cross and Unicef Unicef to help those affected by the war. Likewise, Danish ICMIF member LB Forsikring announced on 1 March that it has expanded the coverage on its contents and liability insurance so that Ukrainian refugees who move in with one of the insurer’s policyholders will also be covered. 

Similarly, the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions (WFCU) has launched a Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund to support Ukraine’s credit unions. As the charitable arm of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), WFCU works to improve lives and communities through credit unions.Mike Reuter, executive director of WFCU, said credit unions from around the world have been reaching out to ask how they could help their colleagues in Ukraine.“Our global credit union community stepped forward immediately with both concern and support for their Ukrainian peers,” he added. “Proceeds from the Cooperative Voices Event, as well as donations provided to the Displacement Fund, will help Ukraine’s credit unions in the short and long term.”

In Canada the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) has launched a Disaster Recovery Fund for the people of Ukraine while calling on the cooperative community across Canada to help. The funding raised will go to more than 2,000 vulnerable women, including Internally Displaced Persons living in the Kyiv, Kharkov, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts of Ukraine.

In the UK, apex Cooperatives UK along with other members of its International Working Group are recommending donations to be sent to the Disasters Emergency Committee(DEC) Ukraine appeal, which launched on 2 March.

The IWG has also reached out to cooperative networks in Poland and Romania to find out how it might support the local movements in these countries, which are currently welcoming large numbers of refugees from Ukraine.

CEO of Co-operatives UK Rose Marley said: “We have been heartened by the show of solidarity from the UK co-op movement and will provide our support through the International Working Group,” adding: “Communication with our Ukrainian and Polish counterparts has been established but as you can imagine this is patchy and it may be a while before we can determine what practical support they need from us. We will continue to keep our members updated as soon as we know more.”

Similarly, worker-owned John Lewis Partnership announced it is donating £100,000 to the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal and will also match public donations up to an additional £150,000.

Chair Sharon White said: “I am deeply distressed by the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine – innocent people losing their lives, their loved ones, their homes, and families being separated.

A group of Israeli cooperators and volunteers joined an IsraAid emergency response trip to Moldova on 27 February.

Mully Dor,  the chair of the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation (AJEEC-NISPED), said: “This week, we opened a ‘Mother & Baby Space’ tent in a Palanca crossing, providing urgently needed items like diapers and baby food, children’s activities, blankets, and seating. The tent, operated together with volunteers from the local organisations, serves Ukrainian families in urgent crisis as they wait for several hours to continue their journeys. We are committed to responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis in the long term.”

In the USA the National Co+op Grocers (NCG), while Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) and NCBA CLUSA have launched a fundraising drive to support the Ukrainian cooperative community’s immediate and on-going needs during this time, including the All-Ukrainian Central Union of Consumer Societies (COOP Ukraine), a network of 15,000 enterprises, 3,000 restaurants, seven hotels, 300 manufacturing businesses and shops, and 300 markets throughout Ukraine.

In a letter to ICA Director General Bruno Roelants on 1 March, Illia Gorokhovskyi, Chairperson of the Board of COOP Ukraine said she was “sincerely grateful for your care, concern, letters of support and the powerful strength that you have exerted through your position and actions.  

“Bombardments and fighting continue, the infrastructure is destroyed in many cities, production, education, logistics and other social processes are destabilised.

“In these circumstances, enterprises and consumer cooperation organisations make efforts to provide the population with the necessities of life, primarily food, and deliver them to where it is most needed. Volunteer work, cooperation to help refugees and work with humanitarian organisations is underway,” she added.

A team of cooperative developers from Ukraine has also launched a fundraising initiative to support the country’s agricultural cooperatives. The funding raised will be used to acquire equipment that helps our community to survive staying in the bomb shelters and to keep working in difficult conditions.

The campaign is coordinated by Iryna Volovyk and Sofia Burtak from Cooperative Academy from Dnipro with logistic help from Katarzyna Kalinowska from Food Co-op Dobrze in Warsaw) and Sara Vicari from in Rome, who will be responsible for organising the shopping and transferring goods to Ukraine. Those wishing to donate can do so using the following link:

Photo credit: IsraAid