The international community is interested in the progress of decentralisation in Ukraine. To this end, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe organised an informational event in Vienna for representatives of diplomatic missions of the OSCE member states. The decentralisation process in Ukraine, results and challenges of the reform were presented by the Vyacheslav Nehoda, First Deputy Minister of Regional Development, Construction, Housing and Communal Services, Olha Lishyk, Deputy Head of Luhansk Oblast Military and Civil Administration, and Maria Nikorych, Head of the Novoselytska AH of the Chernivtsi Oblast.
Decentralisation in a relatively short time provided favourable conditions for hromadas and regions’ development, and received high public support. Vyacheslav Nehoda cited the data from the sociological research conducted in Ukraine in 2018 with the support of the Council of Europe programme “Decentralisation and Territorial Consolidation in Ukraine”: 58% of the country's population, compared with 19% in 2015, believe that the local self-government reform is needed. 61% of AH residents noted improvements in the quality of services in hromadas, 80% of Ukrainians confirmed that they were aware of the reform of local self-government.
“When they say that forinformed is forearmed, that’s exactly the case. The more we could convey the essence and benefits of decentralisation to people, the more they received the basis for making important decisions. Understanding of the reform invokes its support by people and their direct involvement in the implementation of complex tasks. The state has created conditions for hromada development, has adopted the necessary laws, provided the resource base, attracted technical assistance from the international donor community... And people on the ground choose the responsible authorities and, jointly, step by step, bring to their hromadas all that was lost over decades through a rigidly centralised power system. Applying the decentralisation tools at their full capacity, the cities and villages are contributing to the struggle for Ukraine’s independence, they are building a stronger country,” said the First Deputy Minister.
878 amalgamated hromadas have been voluntarily formed so far in Ukraine. Of these, 72 AHs are waiting for a decision to appoint the first local elections, the rest are already actively developing. Fiscal decentralisation strengthened the capacity of local budgets, which increased from UAH 68.6 billion in 2014 to UAH 234 billion in 2018. And budgets of amalgamated hromadas increased from UAH 5 billion in 2016 to UAH 20 billion in 2018. In addition, the state has forty times as much increased financial support for local and regional development – UAH 20.75 billion in 2019, while in 2014 this figure amounted to only UAH 0.5 billion.
According to the information provided by Olha Lishyk, Deputy Head of Luhansk Oblast Military and Civil Administration, state support of the region today looks like this:
Over 2015-2018, more than 1900 facilities were restored in the Luhansk Oblast with the support of the state and international partners.
Using decentralisation tools, 22 AHs were formed in the Luhansk Oblast, despite external military aggression. More than 20 administrative service centres providing quality services in a short time have been opened in the region. In order for children to receive competitive education, 15 hub schools equipped with modern educational appliances and 15 inclusive-resource centres have been opened in the region.
The Novoselytska AH located in the Chernivtsi Oblast has personally demonstrated how decentralisation works. This hromada was formed at the end of 2017, having united 5 village councils (almost 23 thousand people). This hromada is multi-ethnic and sees it as an advantage. Maria Nikorych, Head of the Novoselytska AH, calls it a hromada of multiethnic culture and national and religious tolerance. According to her, Ukrainian, Romanian, Russian and Yiddish languages are freely spoken there, and national cultures cooperate and mutually enrich. Disciplines in a number of hromada’s educational institutions are taught in Ukrainian and Romanian.
And that is how, according to Maria Nikorych, the AH budget has changed:
Using the decentralisation tools, the hromada has the opportunity to develop sports culture and create special infrastructure facilities with financial support from the state and own funds.
The Novoselytska AH created a favourable climate for attracting investment – this is another decentralisation benefit, according to Maria Nikorych. She informed about the planned construction of a photovoltaic power plant in the village of Stroyintsi (with capacity of 4950 kV). “Bukovyna Energy Company” plans to invest EUR 6.8 million in the construction.
“We see not only the economy in investments. For our people, this is also an opportunity to work at home, to be with their families, a chance to realise themselves at their birth place and work for the development of their own hromada and country. Without decentralisation, we would not manage to change anything,” added Maria Nikorych.
The success of the reform attracts more and more supporters and participants. According to Vyacheslav Nehoda, this gave confidence in implementation of the second phase of decentralisation in the country, scheduled to be completed in 2020. It is then that regular local elections, as planned, will take place on a new territorial basis of hromadas. And this means that by that time the entire Ukrainian population will be able to enjoy the benefits of decentralisation.
The First Deputy Minister thanked the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe for supporting decentralisation processes in Ukraine.
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