Volunteering during the year of full-scale war: how concerned citizens build a reliable rear for the defenders of Ukraine

February 22, 2023

One year ago, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a new powerful wave of volunteerism swept over Ukraine. Everyone – adults, children, and the elderly, regardless of their profession and capabilities, – took up helping to overcome the challenges of the war. 

Over the year, volunteers have become a reliable rear for the defenders of Ukraine. But they themselves also need support. First of all, they need legal support.   

The Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM) summarizes how the volunteer movement in Ukraine developed during the year of war and how the national legislation regarding volunteers has changed.

Volunteer cooperation

Almost immediately, Ukrainians began to bring their volunteer initiatives together for the sake of helping each other and the state. First, they were doing his through personal connections (friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, people they know). However, special platforms soon appeared where concerned citizens coordinated and joined their efforts, such as: https://platforma.volunteer.country/, https://palyanytsya.info/ https://spivdiia.org.ua/ etc.

Therefore, volunteering in Ukraine has become more systematic and effective.

New legislation regarding volunteers 

An important milestone for the volunteer movement last year was the adoption of two laws advocated by CEDEM. This is Law No. 2519-ІХ, which improved the legislative regulation of volunteering and updated the legislation on volunteering in connection with the invasion of the Russian Federation. And also this is Law No. 2520-ІХ, which concerns amendments to the Tax Code of Ukraine. In particular, it provides for exemption from taxation of certain expenses of organizations that engage volunteers in their activities.

CEDEM lawyers are confident that such changes will facilitate the work of NGOs and charitable organizations that engage volunteers with the conclusion of an agreement on the implementation of volunteer activities, and at the same time will contribute to the culture of creating sustainable volunteering in the future.

Simplification of the volunteer registration procedure

In December last year, the government simplified the list of documents to engage a volunteer in the ATO Volunteer Register. Thanks to this, volunteers who raise funds on their personal bank cards from different sources may not declare them as income and, accordingly, are exempt from paying personal income tax (under clause 165.1.54 of the Tax Code). 

Therefore, volunteers who registered before January 1, 2023 were able to avoid tax on funds raised after February 24, 2022.  Currently, the state and CSOs are working to extend the deadline for inclusion in the Register, because many volunteers did not manage to do so until January 1, 2023.

Rapid consolidation of citizens for volunteer purposes

Strong support from the public and willingness to help, help promptly, have become a distinctive feature of Ukrainian volunteering. For example, after the liberation of Kyiv Region from the occupiers, about 1,500 people volunteered to clean up Irpin. Ukrainians also actively respond to announcements about volunteer gatherings. And it is very important, because it is for the funds of citizens that volunteers buy necessary things for the army or the population.

For example, last year’s most large-scale project was the fundraising to procure Bayraktar-TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles. In just 3 days, the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation raised UAH 600 million. 

Children’s volunteer projects

Another feature of Ukrainian volunteering after the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation is the wide engagement of children. Children cook food, make postcards for the military, weave camouflage nets, join public actions in support of Ukraine abroad. 

For example, 13-year-old Sofiia Kozyr from Zhytomyr has been making balaclavas for the military with her mother and aunt since the beginning of the full-scale war. In 8 months, the girl sewed more than 15 thousand balaclavas on her own.

However, child volunteers are still outside the law, notes CEDEM. MPs have not adopted a regulation on volunteer activities by children under 14 years of age. Therefore, this legal aspect requires further advocacy. 

Challenges in the field of volunteering

Despite the success stories, there are still challenges that need to be addressed in the field of volunteering. For example, the update of Resolution No. 604 of the CMU dated August 19, 2015, which regulates the issue of one-time monetary assistance in the event of death or disability of a volunteer in a combat zone. 

According to CEDEM lawyers, in the now proposed draft amendments, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs has removed the clause on monetary assistance to volunteers who help civilians in the combat zone. The civic sector has already called on the Cabinet of Ministers to revise the draft amendments and bring back into effect the Regulation on volunteers who help civilians in dangerous areas. The joint statement to the CMU was supported by 33 NGOs and charitable organizations and communities.  

Another challenge is the inclusion of volunteers who raise funds on their personal bank card accounts in the ATO Volunteer Register. Not all volunteers managed to register by January 1, 2023, and many are not aware of the existence of the register and their rights. Therefore, it is necessary to look for further solutions to get out of this situation. This is what, among other things, the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law is working on today. 

This material was created as part of the Project Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity implemented by the Initiative Center to Support Social Action “Ednannia” in partnership with the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (UCIPR) and Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM) with the sincere support of the American people through United States Agency for International Development.