By Ken Bikoff
Pictured: Members of the Ukranian government with O’Neill faculty during their 1994 visit to the Indiana Statehouse
A history with Ukraine
When Ukraine broke away from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs took an active role in shaping the newly sovereign country, including helping to draft its constitution. Professor Emeritus Charles Wise led the effort with the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Parliamentary Development Project.
The relationship has deepened over the years with O’Neill faculty serving as consultants for the Ukrainian parliament, aiding in legislative reform to curb corruption, and helping to develop and implement academic programs at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has severely damaged the infrastructure of the country and thrown the future of Ukraine into turmoil. What’s next from day-to-day is an ongoing open question, but Professor Robert Kravchuk, an expert in Russian and Ukrainian public administration and political economy, says the school has the opportunity to play a critical role in assisting, rebuilding, and reshaping Ukraine when the time is right.
“This is going to take potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure investment,” Kravchuk said. “That’s just the physical structure. Then, there’s the brain drain. There’s an estimate that some 12 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes, and 7 million have left the country. Some of them aren’t going to come back. Universities have been decimated.
“That’s an area where the O’Neill School can help. First is general help in reestablishing the higher-education system in Ukraine. We can help them with subject matter and curriculum and building capacity of educators. Higher education is an area where we can have a lasting and important impact. We also can help develop specific skills to create the trained cadre of public administrators and policy analysts that will be sorely needed.”
Beyond the educational realm, the O’Neill School can make an impact from an environmental standpoint.
“There is nothing dirtier on this planet than a battlefield,” Kravchuk said. “People who serve in combat, if they’re in pitched battles for extended periods of time, they will test as having excessive levels of lead in their systems because of all the expended gunpowder. They will breathe it in. It will get on their skin and in their eyes. You have fires with synthetic materials burning. That’s a clear issue. But then all that stuff is in the ground now. It’s in the water. In urban settings, there is pulverized concrete and other materials. And you have unexploded ordinance that buries itself in the ground and will explode.
“Detonating and defusing ordinance is not what we do at the O’Neill School, but we know something about environmental cleanup. It’s an area that I think is ready-made for our environmental science and policy colleagues to have almost immediate impact. It will be a massive land reclamation project. It’s a humanitarian issue, and we can bring our expertise to bear.”