The third Ukraine Reform Conference on 2 – 4 July gave Ukraine and Canada the chance to strengthen ties and honour Ukraine's recent reforms. For 24 elected heads of amalgamated hromadas, the visit also let them see Canada's decentralisation in action.
On 4 and 5 July, the municipalities of Chatham-Kent and Prince Edward County were selected for study tours for the hromada heads, whose visits to Canada were supported by the U-LEAD with Europe and DOBRE Programmes, as well as DESPRO and PLEDDG Projects.
Addressing the audience of the Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto, Peter M. Wagner, Head of the Support Group for Ukraine at the European Commission, noted: "We look at the heads of new hromadas and city mayors as the backbone and lead innovators of the decentralisation reform. Our respect for their achievements. Each of them is a political start up. When they started to work in the last three years, nobody knew, how it would end. It’s to their efforts that the reform became the success it is now. The European Union will continue to support this reform."
At the 3rd Ukraine Reform Conference, Hennadii Zubko, Vice Prime Minister – Minister of Regional Development, Construction, Housing and Communal Services of Ukraine, said that decentralisation is the most successful reform in Ukraine: "Among some key points that reflect our results in recent years – the reform, in the first place, has changed the management system. There are currently 920 amalgamated hromadas with clear responsibilities, finances and powers. Capable hromadas cover 45% of Ukraine's territory, with almost 70% of the population living there. And 40 successful AH leaders, who in future will yet take their seats in the Parliament, are with us in Toronto today.”
Denys Korotenko, Shyrokivska rural AH, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, stated: I liked the approach of community deputies in Canadian villages. They are completely aware of the state of affairs in the community, each is in charge of his/her own direction, commissions penetrate in the needs of people and are jointly working on their solution. Many decisions are made together with the residents, who are actively involved in the processes. For example, the Prince Edward County community in Canada we had the chance to visit records statistics and sees that its population is aging and they decided to leave 4 out of 6 schools for 25,000 people. Residents support this decision and, by optimising costs, the community gets the opportunity to develop schools technologically and professionally, to raise the quality of education.
Oleh Omelyan, Kamyanka-Buzka urban AH, Lviv Oblast, outlined: I am grateful for this trip to Canada. I am full of marvellous impressions, first of all, of the openness in the local self-government work: live broadcasts and access to these broadcasts do not allow for speculation, but show transparency of the council’s work. I am also impressed by continuous consultations with the public through the creation of working groups of residents and specialists on acute issues, discussion of that or another problem and attempts to preserve traditions and identity of amalgamated communities. Absence of fences near the houses shows the openness of the residents and all Canada. To improve life in Ukraine, the views and attitudes of people in their hromadas should be changed to make them take responsibility for decision-making – in conversation with Prince Edward County inhabitants, I often heard “our community” and “we jointly decided”.
Nila Ostrovska, Krasylivska urban AHm Khmelnytskyi Oblast, noted: For me it was very important to get acquainted with the publicity and openness of local authorities, as well as involvement of non-governmental organisations in management processes in the hromada. The decision-making process, engagement of all categories of local population is of great importance to all residents. Discussion of the Ukrainian decentralisation reform at the international level indicates support of local authorities in Ukraine from the part of our foreign friends. Our trip to Canada was a new opportunity to see the decentralisation success and move forward with confidence. For the Krasylivska AH with a population of about 27,000 people it is important to attract investments to create processing industry of agricultural products, fertile Ukrainian land enable production of clean-label food not only for Ukraine, but also for other countries.
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