Decentralization: the way forward for Eastern Ukraine

Decentralization: the way forward for Eastern Ukraine

“I Am the Community” UNDP information campaign, funded by the European Union, started in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts

Why amalgamate into a community?

Sartana, Ukraine – About 100 women and men of all ages and backgrounds gathered on Oct. 13 in the town hall of Sartana in Donetsk Oblast to discuss how this conflict-affected area could gain a prosperous and robust economy.

Experts from the “I Am the Community” UNDP information campaign, sponsored by the European Union, who had travelled to Sartana with the information roadshow, argued that the way forward was decentralization.

They said the locals should break away from post-Soviet reliance on subsidies from the central government and take their future into their own hands.

“Hundreds of Ukrainian communities have amalgamated, benefiting from the opportunities triggered by decentralization,” said Tetiana Voronina, who mediated the discussion.

"If others could do it, we're sure you can do it too."

Decentralization reform envisages granting more powers for local communities, which can unite and elect their own local governments. Most of the taxes collected in the area would remain in the community and could be used for its development.

Sartana is now a part of a large district with its centre in the city of Mariupol. If it becomes the centre of a new community, it could unite with the town of Talakivka and three villages located next to the conflict contact line.

However, many residents doubted the rural and conflict-affected community could live on its own taxes.

“We have no companies that pay taxes here. We have no more than 10-15 businesspeople. How would we survive?” asked Varvara Uzbek, an 80-year-old pensioner.

The taxes of the residents who live in the area but commute to work in Mariupol would remain in Sartana’s community, said Yulia Onyshchenko, the secretary of Sartana town council and one of the proponents of the decentralization.

To show that the new system is effective, “I Am the Community” campaigners invited Tetiana Karakuts, the secretary of the council of Lyman town, to speak to the people of Sartana.

Karakuts said people in Lyman had the same fears before they amalgamated into a new community in 2016. Now they can boast repaired roads, and new emergency, medical and administrative centres.

“This is all possible with your own means. It's all a reality,” Karakuts said.


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