How SI supports Ukraine two years after the full-scale invasion

The Swedish Institute has extensive experience in cooperation with Ukraine and is now launching its largest-ever Ukraine initiative – the SI Ukraine Cooperation Programme. At the same time, the important work of SI continues in financing exchanges and cooperations for both individuals and organisations in Ukraine.

On February 24, 2022, Russia initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The war has led to enormous devastation and tens of thousands of casualties. The Swedish Institute’s cooperation with Ukraine dates back more than 20 years. Now, as Ukraine fights for its survival, the Swedish Institute is contributing to urgent efforts during wartime but also investing in the future, in Ukraine’s reconstruction and EU integration.

Russia’s military aggression is also a hybrid war with extensive disinformation. Through the website and social media content targeting Russian-speaking audiences, SI creates long-term informative narratives about Sweden, promotes dialogue and relationships, and counters disinformation. Continuous analyses of Sweden’s image from the region also enable SI to work knowledgeably with this.

SI meets Ukraine’s needs in the short term

SI’s broad network of contacts and extensive experience working in the region enabled the agency to quickly supplement existing support by announcing special crisis support for Ukraine. This included crisis support for cultural actors, where projects within literature, film and photography, residency programs, architecture, and urban planning were granted funding.

In 2022, SI also opened a call for proposals to support academia in Ukraine. One of the projects granted funding focused on how modern modular technology could be used to build wooden houses as a large-scale element in the reconstruction of war-torn residential areas in Ukraine.

The SI Baltic Sea Neighbourhood Programme had a special call for Ukraine in 2023. Many good examples of how actors contribute to strengthening Ukraine’s resilience and rebuilding the country can be found among the projects that were granted funding. For example, Dalarna University works to help young people in Ukraine affected by the war. Professionals such as doctors, psychologists, and social workers are trained to provide support to young people in sexual and reproductive health.

SI’s alumni network maintains contact with former students and participants in leadership programs. To assist SI alumni in and outside Ukraine affected by Russia’s invasion, SI granted several applications from the local SI alumni network in Ukraine in 2022. The funds were used to purchase and distribute sleeping bags and mats to shelters, first aid kits, books for children and local libraries, and individual financial support to SI alumni who had been acutely affected by the war in various ways.

SI supports Ukraine’s EU integration

When the government’s strategy for Ukraine was presented in the summer of 2023, SI was tasked, together with FBA and Sida, to contribute to the reconstruction and reform work in Ukraine to make the country freer, safer, greener, more democratic, resilient, and economically prosperous. Ukraine’s EU integration is also a central part of the strategy.

The work to support Ukraine’s reconstruction and EU integration continues, not least through the new SI Ukraine Cooperation Programme, which is aimed at Swedish actors and their partners in Ukraine. The country’s needs in terms of democracy, human rights, and economic development are significant and need to be addressed both in the short and long term. Therefore, the program aims to contribute to inclusive economic development, entrepreneurship, and trade, as well as human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and gender equality.

Many challenges also require multilateral cooperation. SI finances the SI Baltic Sea Neighbourhood Programme projects that enable Swedish organisations to work on cross-border challenges together with actors from EU countries around the Baltic Sea and countries in the EU’s Eastern Partnership. The partnerships for the projects always consist of at least three countries, but more countries are often involved in partnerships that are granted funding within the program.

An example of a project involving Ukraine is Clean Baltic Source – Wastewater Treatment in Lviv and Volyn Oblasts. Within the project, Svenskt Vatten, Polish State Water Holding Polish Waters, and several local and regional Ukrainian organisations cooperate to improve the ecological status in the Vistula River basin. Inadequate wastewater treatment in the region poses a significant environmental risk to the Vistula and thus also to the Baltic Sea. By utilizing Sweden’s and Poland’s expertise, Ukraine can pave the way for sustainable water management practices, benefiting the environment, local communities, and the entire Baltic Sea region.

Another project that was granted support was the Civil Protection Faculty. The Council of the Baltic Sea States is the main applicant for this project, which aims to create a platform and a network of experts in civil preparedness, crisis medicine, mine safety, psychologists, and educators to strengthen resilience in Ukraine but also in the entire region. The project builds on a successful cooperation between the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, Vovchok Folk High School, and a non-profit organisation in Ukraine that has trained 70 civilians and firefighters who in turn have trained 22,000 people. Through the project, Sweden and other countries also benefit from Ukraine’s important lessons in crisis preparedness.

Opportunities for cultural actors

SI is one of the few authorities that provide support to cultural actors in Ukraine. Among other things, the SI Creative Partnerships Programme grants funds for multilateral projects, one of which aims to create a platform to support the reconstruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine that has been destroyed or damaged in the war, with the help of a network of experts from Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sweden. The SI Ukraine Cooperation Programme also has a special focus on cultural actors.

Trade and economic development

Contributing to Ukraine’s economic recovery and development is of utmost importance. SI contributes to the country’s reconstruction through cooperations for entrepreneurship and economic development. An example is the TEX4YUA project where young textile workers and textile teachers in Ukraine acquire new skills to become the world’s next important centre for textile production.

Business and entrepreneurship play a central role in financing Ukraine’s reconstruction and economic development. The SI Global Executive Programme is a new global offering for business leaders. The program is tailored to help participants integrate sustainability into their businesses. It will start in 2024 and is expected to have significant participation from Ukraine.

Young Ukrainians develop in leadership and through studies

SI runs several leadership programs aimed at future leaders and change-makers. The war entails a brain drain due to mobilisation and people forced to flee the country. There is also a great need for reskilling, further education, and matching with the needs of the labour market. Life is also challenging for universities and colleges. SI attracts young people with further education and strengthens leaders from both the private and public sectors and civil society in their work for sustainable development.

SI also granted support to eight Swedish universities for the implementation of the Swedish Institute Public Sector Innovation Programme 2023. The program aims to provide training for officials and elected officials in innovation and renewal in the public sector, and here are some project examples:

• Södertörn University, Resilient and Strategic Decision Making for EU integration: Ukraine

• Lund University, Innovation in Governance for Urban Nature-Based Solutions: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine

• Stockholm University, Rethinking Cities in Ukraine: Ukraine

SI Scholarship for Global Professionals is a fully funded international scholarship program for master’s studies in Sweden. The program targets students and professionals from 42 countries. Seven Ukrainian students were granted SI’s Scholarship for Global Professionals 2023/2024. Applicants must demonstrate how the program can benefit their home country with the aim of promoting economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable growth and development in the region.

SI also supports former students and participants from leadership programs. The war makes networks and contacts even more important, and by supporting each other, the resilience of alumni increases. In Ukraine, there is an active alumni network that organised seven alumni activities in 2023 with a total of 195 participants. Among the activities were a meeting to strengthen alumni leadership skills, a physical networking event, as well as a workshop on first aid and an online lecture on Carl Linnaeus.

Swedish language education in Ukraine is well-established and extensive. About 100 students study Swedish at three universities in Ukraine – in Lviv, Kiev, and Lutsk. There is great interest in the Swedish language, and the demand for students’ skills is high. Every year, students from all three universities participate in summer courses in Sweden, organised by SI, and every autumn, they participate in visit programs in Sweden, also arranged by SI. Thus, SI also supports Ukraine’s human capital and contributes to strengthened relations.

The SI Leader Lab brings together influential civil society leaders, working for just, peaceful, and inclusive societies and who are open to new digital solutions and innovative methods. Ukrainian interest in participating in the program has proven to be significant.

SI Academy for Young Professionals (SAYP) is a leadership program for young professionals in the public sector and civil society who want to deepen their knowledge of modern sustainable governance. SAYP is conducted in cooperation between SI and Swedish universities, and in 2023, 27 Ukrainian leaders participated in the program’s various modules.