“Hromada for Everyone” – experience for all
To effectively complete the process of capable hromadas’ formation, we need to establish systemic communication, said Alyona Babak, Minister of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine, during the “Hromada for Everyone” conference held today in Kyiv by the U-LEAD with Europe Programme with participation of a number of organisations that helped nearly 400 hromadas implement local development initiatives.
“At present, the cooperation of the Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine with the regions takes place through oblast state administrations and the Association of Ukrainian Cities. During the meeting of the AUC Board, I heard from the mayors of not only small but also large cities, that they lack systematic communication with MinRegion regarding their problems. That is why we will work out a system for creating a hotline for communications with the regions so that the Ministry can receive requests and promptly respond to them online,” said the Minister and informed that another mechanism for building communication would be visits to the regions, which would already have perspective plans of the formation of hromadas’ territories that cover 100% of the regions.
"Before approving the boundaries and the list of hromadas that will be part of an AH, we need to find out if there are any problems. By the end of November, we expect OSA to deliver perspective plans of capable hromadas. After that, it will be possible to plan trips to each region already to communicate with hromadas,” said Alyona Babak.
Welcoming the head of MinRegion and her colleagues from the line ministries, as well as 150 AH representatives from all over Ukraine and U-LEAD international partners, who gathered for a conference to discuss the results of the U-LEAD local development initiatives, Annika Weidemann, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, noted: “It is necessary to give a bit more time for voluntary amalgamation before moving to enforced amalgamation. The process should involve sufficient consultations with citizens and authorities. Therefore, a final round of voluntary amalgamation will ensure popularity of the reform. Talking about Kyiv as capital city: the EU welcomes readiness to clarify the competence amid local, regional and national levels. One needs to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to be careful that local self-government in Kyiv continues and is not influenced by players in the backroom.”
Responding to this, Alyona Babak, Minister of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine, assured that the process of voluntary amalgamation of hromadas would continue until at least February 2020, when amendments to the Constitution on the new administrative-territorial structure could be approved.
"We are not completing the process of voluntary amalgamation of hromadas, we are continuing it, no one is pushing anyone into any amalgamated hromada. When can this process be completed? It can be completed when amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine are adopted that will display the new administrative structure and definition that hromada is the first administrative and territorial unit and that we will move to new elections on the new administrative and territorial base,” said Alyona Babak. She added that the amalgamation process will last until at least February next year, when “the relevant amendments to the Constitution can be realistically carried out and actually voted by Parliament.”
Bastian Veigel, GIZ Programme Director of U-LEAD with Europe, welcoming the participants of the conference, stressed that U-LEAD is pleased to support the empowerment of all Ukrainian hromadas, not only 963 amalgamated, but also those committed to amalgamation. U-LEAD with Europe is approaching its Phase I “finish line”, which gained considerable impact on the capacities of hromadas’ development. And already starting from the next year, Phase II of the Programme will continue working at national, regional and local levels, bringing benefits to ALL citizens of the country, creating hromadas for everyone.
Yulia Sokolovska, Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine, noted that now cooperation between different Ukrainian ministries is already established, so coordination of reforms will be easier and faster. She also spoke about her department's new approaches to working locally and cooperating with hromadas.
Lubomyra Mandziy, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, who is responsible for pre-school and secondary education sector, said at the conference: "While forming hub schools, we have somewhat avoided responsibility for the decisions made. We have 800 hub schools and over 200 do not meet the current criteria of a hub school.”
Olena Symonenko, Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine, presented the vision of the reform by the new MoH leadership and called on the hromadas “not to ask for funds but provide proposals on how to solve common problems at the country level”. She also spoke with the AH representatives during a separate session, attended by Natalia Husak and representatives of the Shyrokivska, Klyshovetska, Nedoboyivska, Khotynivska and Chudeyska AHs, as well as Vasyl Vysochanskyi and Valeriy Mykulych, municipal service adviser of the Rivne Local Government Development Centre of U-LEAD with Europe. Participants of the session also discussed the tools and approaches in the healthcare sector that can be used by hromadas to improve local health sector and quality of life of their residents.
Other conference sessions also covered best practices and lessons learned. In particular, the issues of implementing educational reform at local level, financing the educational sector, creating a viable educational network and strategic development of education. Hromada heads and leaders of the AH educational departments shared their own experience in addressing challenges and achievements with the support of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme and its initiatives.
Khrystyna Holynska, mentor and trainer of the Kyiv School of Economics, presented the interim results of cooperation with 230 education managers in the development of a capable educational network in AHs with the support of U-LEAD.
Volodymyr Mitsuk, head of the Bilozirska amalgamated hromada of the Cherkasy Oblast, confirmed the results of cooperation with the Programme and told about the difficulties of establishing a hromada hub educational institution – the Bilozirka Secondary School of І-III degrees: “Since the beginning of amalgamation we have conducted an analysis of the educational sector. It was difficult to explain to people that we were reducing the degrees of hromada schools to create a hub institution. It was challenging to persuade deputies at sessions, but we managed to do that.” Mr. Mitsuk also outlined the problems that need to be addressed to ensure the effective functioning of hromada educational sector: “Of course, the main problem, as for many AHs, is the roads. Since it is necessary to bring children to the hub institution, it is not possible to do it within 20 minutes driving along a bad road. Another problem is the underfunding of the educational sector due to the lack of the educational subvention.”
Anna Uvarova, Programme Director of Pro.Svit, presented achievements of working with 11 hromadas with U-LEAD’s assistance. It was possible to significantly increase the motivation of teachers, create mini-teams for project implementation (each school in the hromadas cooperating with Pro.Svit has two or three such mini-teams), establish effective communication between teachers, parents and pupils. Currently, 12 out of 22 schools have identified and implemented strategic education related goals, and 6 have developed educational strategies per year.
Iryna Vus, head of the Department of Education of the Zhovtanetska AH, shared the achievements of her hromada in the field of education. Particularly interesting is the practice of teacher training: educators can choose their own advance training format (online lectures, experience-sharing seminars, etc.) as opposed to the open-door lessons used earlier. “I would like to mention the words of the eminent Ukrainian poet Ivan Franko: “The school stays because of teacher”. We need an innovative teacher, who constantly develops,” she stressed.
The session on “Managing Diversity for the Sustainable Economic Development of Local Self-Government in the Context of the Decentralisation Process in Ukraine” was rather interesting. According to Petro Bryzhak, deputy head of the Storozhynetska AH, ethnic diversity is an additional opportunity for hromada development: “Diversity is an added value and can be an advantage for the economy, tourism, culture, education in the hromada, because national minorities are not a problem, but a resource for establishing dialogue and strengthening the socio-economic potential of the AH.”
According to Zoya Rohachko from the Vylkivska AH, it is necessary to move from one vs another relations to cooperation with each other. “This approach will greatly help hromadas become more successful and wealthy,” she said.
Tetiana Palamarchuk, director of the Ukrainian Entrepreneurs’ Union, spoke at the session discussing business-and-hromada cooperation: “An important factor in business-and-hromada cooperation is a mutual understanding of the benefits of such cooperation, which is based on the responsibility of both parties and desire for a better life.”
Participants of the social service session shared their experience of improving services in hromadas and challenges they encountered along the way. The focus was on preventive services for families and children, early intervention services, and services for children and young people with disabilities. AH representatives noted opportunities for learning and communication with other hromadas participating in the respective U-LEAD initiative. Ensuring the sustainability of implemented projects has become another focus of discussion. If the Baranivska AH is considering possibility of introducing paid social services and expanding cooperation with charitable foundations to support the work of the social rehabilitation centre, the Bilozirska AH invites neighbouring hromadas to inter-municipal cooperation.
“Why did we participate in the U-LEAD regional initiative? In fact, we would have managed without the support of the Programme, though participation in the project helped us not only to implement the planned much faster, but also to realise that implementation of good initiatives is often more realistic for hromadas than it seems at first glance,” said Volodymyr Tsytsyura , head of social protection department of the Baranivka city council of the Zhytomyr Oblast.
Dmytro Rudnytskyi from the Novohrad-Volynska AH shared his experience: “Inter-municipal cooperation is a very interesting tool, but it was not as easy as we thought in our hromada. Dialogue began between the population, city council and local deputies, but it did not lead to concrete results. Thanks to the expert support of the Civil Society Institute and the U-LEAD with Europe Programme, we have received the necessary assistance and experience and were able to move forward. We started thinking more strategically and working on cooperative projects.”
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