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Ukraine, Committed to Transparency

In March 2018, IRI held its fourth annual Ukraine Democratic Governance (DemGov) Conference in Kyiv to spotlight the various anti-corruption programs going on at the municipal, oblast and national level.

Presentations also highlighted the implementation of the Institute's Vulnerabilities to Corruption Approach (VCA) in the cities of Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Mykolaiv. The theme of the conference was "Committed to Transparency," as the event served as both the capstone to IRI's two-year VCA engagement in the country, and as a reflection of the polling data, which indicates the supremacy that corruption occupies in Ukrainians’ primary concerns for the future of their country.

Seen here with the VCA Reports, IRI’s Senior Governance Specialist, Eguiar Lizundia presented on the VCA process as well as the successes found in each of the municipality in making service-delivery more transparent.

To guide the Institute’s program in the three municipalities, in 2016, IRI collaborated with the mayors’ offices in each city to analyze vulnerabilities to corruption in particular local government sectors or services and come up with a series of findings and recommendations based on interviews with key stakeholders. These recommendations were then actualized based off of a subsequent action plan and manifested in a variety of different activities depending on the recommendations.

The Ukrainian government is well aware of the vulnerable institutions to local corruption (notably hospitals and medical institutions), and is working on a response. For instance, in late 2017, Acting Health Minister Ulana Suprun (above) was able to pass sweeping healthcare reform legislation to tackle this issue. Here she may be seen holding a sign that reads, “Here you can choose your doctor.”

In Chernivtsi, IRI’s ongoing program, "Supporting Local-Level Efforts to Combat Corruption," utilizes the VCA to bring together citizens and elected officials surrounding housing and communal services, a sector within the city that has been identified as vulnerable to corruption. A reoccurring housing challenge in Ukraine is between the management of housing blocks by either city-managed Communal Enterprises, or citizen-managed housing associations (known by their Ukrainian acronym, OSBB). Because of their citizen-managed nature, OSBBs enable lower costs in maintenance and energy than direct communal management, though their creation and maintenance is up to the residents themselves, and most lack the technical expertise or experience to manage an apartment complex. OSBBs nudge citizens to utilize democratic practices through direct participation in governing their communities and working with their neighbors.

By educating both members of the Department of Housing and Communal Services on citizen-focused processes and citizens on property management, private ownership and apartment unit maintenance, citizens in Chernivtsi have become empowered to create privately managed housing associations. Through IRI’s current program, citizens in Chernivtsi are empowered to create OSBBs and are planning to create a citywide association later this year.

Iryna Ozymok, from the Western NIS Enterprise Fund shares the opportunities for Ukrainian municipalities to share best practices and learn from one another through both the International Mayors Summit, and popular TV program, Undercover Mayors, which sends mayors in disguise to learn more about the challenges in service-delivery in their cities.

As the vulnerabilities to corruption for Ukraine’s local governance expand with decentralization, so too do the opportunities for empowering a new generation of leaders committed at all levels to transparent and accountable democratic governance. Since 1994, IRI has been working in Ukraine to strengthen multi-party political systems, enhance civil society, promote democratic governance and foster unity efforts in Ukraine. IRI’s current anti-corruption program is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.