25 November 2022

A sustainable ReStart for Ukrainian municipalities

As the Russian war in Ukraine continues, it is imperative that those outside Ukraine remember that, at the heart of the country, lie people, communities, and cities that have to rebuild. Alexander Shevchenko, founder of ReStart Ukraine, is helping to ‘ReStart’ the country’s cities and towns by mobilising a community of researchers and practitioners to explore the best ways to restore urban and rural areas after destruction at this scale.

Alexander recently spoke with ICLEI Europe’s Culture and Cultural Heritage team, laying out possibilities for sustainable reconstruction in Ukraine, and arguing for heritage protection.

Although a rapid response is needed to rebuild, Alexander advocates for smart answers to pressing challenges, such as sustainable temporary housing, recycling and upcycling of debris, and launching immediate efforts to calculate possible scenarios and bottlenecks in the rebuilding process.

The future strategic development of Ukrainian municipalities, he explains, must not return to old norms and accelerated economic growth. Strategies should strive instead for new approaches to energy grids, nature-reserves, transit corridors, and more. ReStart Ukraine sees the future as a new country in opposition to the traditional ‘Grand Style’, which is instead climate caring, carbon neutral, user-oriented, resilient to disruptions, responsible, energy- and cost-effective.

Furthermore, Ukrainian recovery efforts can mitigate and adapt to climate change in three ways, according to Alexander.

First, a new construction and recovery approach with high standards should ensure the lowest possible environmental impact. Second, systems and networks to address critical needs (energy, water, internet, food, heating, etc.) must be resilient and flexible, utilising, for example, green energy, responsible production, and smart infrastructure. Third, recovery efforts should care for and integrate the natural environment into cities. This includes less intensive agriculture, more nature-protected landscapes, and cultivating biodiversity linked to the recovery of fresh water deposits.

Alexander attests: the witnesses and symbols of this war are the Ukrainian people, the country’s built environment as a landscape, and courage itself. For him, this forms a new Ukrainian identity. Newly re-built and developed towns are not the sole symbol and driving force of new Ukraine; rather, people, memories, and national self-identity are at the heart of the country’s future. Protection of those heritage elements, in tangible and intangible ways, can avoid future violence and their root causes. In sum, Alexander is sure that heritage is critical to Ukrainian safety.

To discuss, ask about, and learn more on ReStart Ukraine, join an online Community Conversation taking place on 13 December, 14:00-15:00 CET. This conversation is organised by the UrbanCommunity project that ICLEI Europe leads. Click here to register.

If you wish to support people-centred, circular and resilient development through the work of ReStart Ukraine, you can find their donation page here: