Oct. 4, 2022
Yuliya Panfil co-wrote an article for Slate with Jon Unruh and Michael Cholod, outlining the technological and policy innovations that the Government of Ukraine should adopt to more efficiently help refugees return home or compensate them for damaged or destroyed property.
Getting war survivors back into their homes—otherwise known as property restitution—is a daunting process. When refugees return, they often can’t prove they are the rightful occupants of the homes they left behind because their property records are missing, destroyed, or inaccurate. Indeed, Ukraine’s property registry is only 40 percent complete, meaning that more than half of Ukrainians are unlikely to have formal records of their property rights. Sometimes, the homes themselves have been destroyed or occupied by new families—the latter a disturbing reality in Eastern Ukraine, particularly now that Putin has staged sham annexations of occupied Ukrainian territories.
The result is that mass dislocations can last decades and even generations. In the meantime, homes can change hands several times and become legally held by others, including political elites or opposed ethnic, sectarian, or religious groups. Meanwhile, the grievances of displaced families build, sometimes erupting into political or insurgent movements.
And yet, despite the unprecedented devastation it faces, Ukraine has the potential to transform this tortuous postwar return process. With its digital sophistication, smartphone penetration, and a government willing to innovate, Ukraine might become the first postwar country in which millions of displaced citizens can return to existing homes quickly and be compensated promptly and fairly for homes and other property destroyed in the war.
Read how Ukraine can become a model for rapid and transparent post-war construction here.