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Navigating narratives in Ukraine: humanitarian response amid solidarity and resistance

Working papers

Written by Zainab Moallin, Karen Hargrave, Patrick Saez

Hero image description: Photo: Protesters wave Ukrainian flags in London, March 2022. Karollyne Videira Hubert on Unsplash Image credit:Karollyne Videira Hubert on Unsplash Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and the flow of refugees from Ukraine that followed it, have triggered extraordinary levels of solidarity and generosity from governments and civil society in Europe and elsewhere. The humanitarian response is taking place amid immense geopolitical tensions between Russia and Western countries, which actively support Ukraine politically and militarily and which are also the main bilateral humanitarian donors.

Aid organisations face acute dilemmas: how to navigate a context where humanitarian assistance is positioned as part of a wider political stance on the war? Should international organisations establish new operations to deliver assistance directly when they could instead support strong governmental and civil society responses?

This project focuses on the conflicting narratives arising from these dilemmas, and their role in influencing policies and decisions. Focusing on the war in Ukraine itself, and the responses of Poland and the United Kingdom, the project aims to raise awareness of the role of frames and narratives in shaping the humanitarian response to the war so far, and to contribute to future discussions about the next phase of the response and relevant policy implications.