Oksana Harnets, head of the Swiss-Ukrainian project "Decentralisation Support in Ukraine" (DESPRO), spoke on the air of the Ukrainian Radio about opportunities provided to hromadas by international donor support.
Oksana Harnets has been head of DESPRO project devoted to decentralisation for more than 10 years. Thus, she knows everything about the reform. Besides, during this period, DESPRO has also financed a number of development projects throughout Ukraine: DESPRO supported the implementation of 152 projects in hromadas in the areas of water supply, sewage and solid household waste management. 173,000 people from 6 regions received access to better quality services. 1111 km of networks have been built over 10 years. Oksana Harnets told the Ukrainian Radio about the way hromadas can get donor funds.
Why do international organisations invest in Ukrainian cities and villages, as well as in support of the decentralisation of power in Ukraine?
“You have immediately asked the most difficult question in this domain. In my opinion, there are several answers. First of all, richer countries are interested in wealthy neighbours. Secondly, after the Revolution of Dignity, the European Union, the United States and Canada committed themselves to helping Ukraine in its development. And the reform of decentralisation of power is a comprehensive reform to radically change the life in the state. It includes the reform of local self-government, the reform of the administrative-territorial structure, etc. It approaches power, funds to every hromada resident, and this resident begins to directly influence the authorities and spending of these funds. Thus, he/she participates in the development of the state as a whole.”
Aren’t grant funds in fact a long-term investment? Apparently, donor countries plan to build their business in Ukraine over time…
“I do not really want that hromadas receiving grants confuse them with investments, because grants are the funds provided on a non-refundable basis. And investments must make a profit in future. Thus, these are different things. Grant funds are provided for the projects important to people and, above all, for high-quality projects. And if the hromada has implemented such a project, then it can be considered, first of all, to be able to write and submit project proposals, and secondly, to be able to distribute funds correctly and report on their use. Therefore, such a hromada becomes quite ready to submit investment projects. That is, the provision of grants is an element of hromada’s learning and a way of its involvement in a particular culture.”
There is a viewpoint that it is very difficult to get a grant, that is why many hromadas do not even try getting it.
“Yes, it's really not easy. For example, our DESPRO project works in only five regions of Ukraine. Thus, it is already a certain limit. In addition, the hromada willing to receive funding should develop a high-quality concept, project budget, etc. However, the practice shows that when hromada receives one grant, it can easily get the next one, as it already knows what is needed.”
It resembles a credit history when getting a loan or visa history when getting a visa: if it is good, then next time you are trusted more.
“It is almost like this. You always have to play according to the donors’ rules. DESPRO has never implemented projects solely on its own: hromada had to add its own funds – budget ones or raise them among people. This approach disciplines the hromada and increases its responsibility for all costs. It also adds magnitude to a project, because donors always limit their funds. But when additional sums are added from the oblast and local budgets, as well as funds raised in the hromada, this greatly enhances opportunities.”
Have there been cases of projects’ termination, when the hromada could not pay its share?
“In any case, the hromada did not return the money. We had three such cases, and we just stopped funding one of them. Though, frankly speaking, it was at the very beginning of our work, and later we allocated funds only after the hromada transferred its share to the appropriate account, and the oblast administration provided a guarantee letter on the funds’ allocation. I must say that implementation of this commitment requires a lot of efforts, including from our experts working directly in the hromadas.”
How often are projects funded on a competitive basis, that is, when several hromadas compete for one budget?
“Quite often. Over the past few years, we have been cooperating with oblast administrations and councils that have their own competitions, supporting local self-government projects. We join these competitions by choosing the best projects under completely transparent rules.
Is there a methodology that increases the chances of receiving donor funds?
“An understanding of what the hromada needs is the first and foremost key to success. People have to clearly understand what they want and why. Partly for this, a rather complicated grant-obtaining scheme was created: the funds should not be scattered, but should be clearly assigned. That's why every donor has its own requirements for writing projects, reporting, budgeting, etc., but this is not even the case. The main thing is that the hromada can prove that what it asks for is necessary for its development. In recent years, roofs and windows have already been repaired in most hromadas, so it's time to create real development projects.
What do you exactly mean?
“The project must have added value. For example, construction of water supply system in the village should be considered as an opportunity to develop small business, as there are many villages where agricultural projects began to develop after the emergence of water supply – with our help. For example, berries’ cultivation projects. The same applies to the treatment of solid household waste. This should not be simply the organisation of a household waste collection system, but a system that will replenish the hromada budget. Development projects are supported by donors much more actively than any other ones.”
Will the donor support of Ukraine grow in the future?
“I must say that many AHs already have enough own resources to finance projects, and they do not need donors anymore. Such hromadas need only to be trained in project thinking, peculiarities of project creation, etc. We had several occasions when the hromadas we cooperated with stated that they would finance everything on their own and requested only methodological assistance. In general, it’s high time for Ukrainian hromadas to move away from the habit of waiting for donor funds. They should develop their own economy, promote business development, and prepare sites for investors. The task of donors is to help a specific hromada to get on its feet. And then it has to move on its own."
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