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EBRD partners with Croatian NGOs on employment for Ukrainian refugees

By Svitlana  Pyrkalo

  • EBRD launches project to aid the economic integration of Ukrainian refugees in Croatia
  • Taiwanese donor support to boost work on inclusion initially started by volunteers
  • Two NGOs, SVOJA and Solidarna, to jointly implement the initiative

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched a project to support the economic integration of Ukrainian refugees in Croatia. The initiative, in partnership with two Croatia-based civil society organisations (CSOs), the SVOJA Association and the Solidarna Foundation, will target the broader participation of Ukrainians in the labour market with a focus on the private sector.

This technical cooperation project builds on previous initiatives by EBRD retail and food-industry clients in Croatia to offer jobs to Ukrainian refugees, mainly women, who started arriving in the country a year ago following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The project is part of the EBRD’s Civil Society Capacity Enhancement Framework, an innovative grant-based programme to establish partnerships and provide support to a wide range of civil society stakeholders in the Bank’s countries of operations.

Under the project, Solidarna, an established Croatian non-governmental organisation, will work with SVOJA, formed by displaced Ukrainian women last year, to increase the provision of skills training and assistance to Ukrainian refugees looking for work. Employment for displaced Ukrainians will also benefit the Croatian economy, especially by filling vacancies in sectors such as retail and hospitality, but also by growing the local IT sector.

The project, the “Private Sector for Ukrainian Refugee Integration Initiative”, is being supported by the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund. The chief of mission of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Katherine Chang, announced the fund’s backing at the launch event in Zagreb. In Croatia, the fund already provides donor support to the EBRD’s flagship Women in Business programme, while in Ukraine, Taiwanese donor funds have supported cross-border mail and parcel delivery.

The SVOJA Association will work together with the Solidarna Foundation not just to support Ukrainians’ economic integration, but to build its own organisational capacity.

Initially supported in 2022 by a grant from the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, SVOJA has already built a network of more than 1,200 Ukrainian refugees in Croatia, to whom it has provided employment advice, assistance with CV preparation and free Croatian language courses. It has held numerous events across Croatia, as well as online webinars and other activities, to support the economic empowerment of Ukrainian women and their families affected by the war. One of the most sought-after training courses was provided through the Women in Tech programme by a Slovakian NGO, Female Algorithm. 

The project was announced at an event in Croatia, opened by EBRD Director for Central Europe Victoria Zinchuk and included a presentation by Illia Borovynskyi from the EBRD Civil Society Engagement Team.

Top managers from two private-sector employers and existing EBRD clients, the Studenac retail chain and the Mlinar bakery, shared their experience of employing Ukrainian refugees and helping them improve their language and other skills.

“The EBRD is committed to promoting equal access to opportunities, with a special focus on boosting private-sector competitiveness,” said Victoria Zinchuk. “This initiative will not only help Ukrainian refugees to integrate more successfully in Croatia, but will also broaden the opportunities for Croatia’s private sector and the labour market.”

To date, the EBRD has invested more than €4.4 billion in Croatia, €300 million of it last year. Some 72 per cent of the cumulative investment was extended to the private sector.

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