The Policy of Ukraine Local Self-Governance (PULSE)
PULSE, their benefactors, and donors are allowing citizens and Ukrainian community leaders to have more democratic control over local governments. PULSE propels cohesion between community groups and local leaders. The organization creates ties between democratic activist groups and local governments and assists citizens in analyzing community problems needing to be addressed, and then implement their own democratic policies by means of public policy education and financial support.
PULSE’s innovative vision of expanding local community engagement is based between three broad actors, the media, civic engagement groups, and existing local government. Moreover, PULSE has the potential to facilitate democratic dialogue and help decentralize local policies all over Ukraine. The end goal of PULSE is to create more transparency and accountability with local governments and their citizens. The program is implemented by IREX partnering with the Association of Ukrainian Cities that execute policies in pursuit of decentralizing local policies; awarding the ability to democratically affect countrywide elections and other socio-economic facets of local Ukrainian communities.
The results PULSE delivers in decentralizing local policies is partially accredited to the “voluntary creation of self-sustaining ‘amalgamated territorial communities’” (ATC). ATCs make decentralization policies possible by providing funding for the “developmental planning at the local and regional levels, as well as by comprehensive technical and financial support from Western donors.” ATCs provide funding for the “developmental planning at the local and regional levels, as well as, by comprehensive technical and financial support from Western donors.” Lastly, PULSE can work because of local taxation authority and providing more domestic and international funding opportunities, and by spearheading the decentralization process all over Ukraine.
- PULSE’s engagement with local media outlets is an important and innovative way to democratize local Ukrainian governments, and local governments in other centralized countries, especially post-Soviet countries by utilizing different actors working in different areas of democracy promotion.
- Another lesson learned is how the benefit of PULSE’s use of community officials, local knowledge of citizens, external policy experts, and the expansion of the media, together, will create healthy foundations for local governments to democratize in the wake of national decentralization.
- IREX should continue its efforts with PULSE and similar projects because of the successes in policy changes at the local level representing changes in national policies by making laws and the socio-economy more democratic.- The upheaval of transparent governance in local Ukrainian politics has urged citizens to become more involved in policy creation and implementation. Moreover, citizens are an important resource in the decentralization process due to their willingness in work with external and internal reform agents.
- When spearheading a project similar to PULSE, a staff must include national and local actors. It is necessary to utilize those with present power in communities and connect them with other national government representatives, foreign NGO representatives, and local/national committees specifically working towards democratic promotion.
- Self-sustaining municipalities (ATCs) are more economically sound in comparison to local governments under a centralized regime. The ability for local governments to be in control of their own taxation policies benefit community needs and reflects what particular areas in said community needs to be funded.
- National governments cannot conduct beneficial oversight on community needs through centralized taxation. Moreover, taxation under local self-governance is beneficial for local economies and citizen livelihood
The Policy for Ukraine Local Self-Governance (PULSE) addresses the negative impact socially centralized policies have had on the autonomy of local governments in Ukraine. One goal of PULSE is to help local governments revitalize former authoritarian type policies into more democratic policies. They also elucidate on promoting extensive visibility of government reform and action taken from within the community by the people. In addition, with the assistance of local media, PULSE lifts censorship and portrays information urging community members can politically get involved, allowing for a more informed local demographic. Some quick facts regarding the effectiveness of PULSE in Ukraine Oblasts:
- More than 5,500 participants have attended 312 community engagement events in libraries that the program supported in 60 communities throughout Ukraine.
- 60 new Community Reform Groups have been established in 15 oblasts of Ukraine. The groups work with their elected officials on citizen-driven initiatives.
- IREX has trained more than 340 press officers on how to effectively communicate with media outlets and how to create engaging informational posts about local decentralization efforts.
IREX and PULSE monitor and help stimulate local media. The mentorship of local press clubs and local media outlets reaches new audiences and enhances attention to local self-governance reform. It is important in creating opportunities for local self-governance in former centralized countries, such as Ukraine. The success of PULSE’s presence in Ukrainian districts (Oblasts) reshape policies and gives communities more control over their local policies has “strengthened Ukraine’s resilience against Russian hybrid warfare, and demonstrates compliance with EU democracy and subsidiarity principles.” It helps citizens engage by debating different ideas on what is best for their local society. PULSE program promotes community events and helps local governments reinvigorate their socio-political atmosphere. The problems PULSE helps Ukrainians with in operating local governments is educating citizens on decentralization policies and helping replace these policies with long standing democratic policies. With the assistance of grants and international NGO partnerships, citizens are individually educated on establishing policies that would benefit their communities and empowers them to change and fight centralized policies that conflict with the interests of the community.
The disconnect between local and national government will halt democratic ideas becoming a reality in certain communities. But, PULSE’s “efforts are filling a gap in communities where there has traditionally been a disconnect between civil society and local governments. Applying the knowledge and skills gained in training sessions, CSOs and libraries have organized 312 community engagement and informational activities for Ukrainians throughout the country in support of decentralization reform.” Knowledge on democratic policies and ways to live by them and put them to practice, domestic and international funding, and utilizing community leaders, are three main reasons that express PULSE’s success in Ukraine. The concept addresses the issue of citizens not having control of the well-being of their communities. PULSE eradicates this anti-democratic notion of government by creating national and local partnerships.
In regards to teaching citizens about the decentralization process, PULSE is utilizing hundreds of local libraries, “These representatives have received training on topics such as increasing communities’ access to informative on and facilitating engagement between local communities and government officials.” The purpose of education workshops is to increase awareness and spark an urgency to act.
IREX is a global development and educational organization focusing on helping people in many countries all around the world. IREX helps people and organizations to not be only for the individual actor, but also in making the world a more universally peaceful place. For example, IREX helps aid persistent problems such as poverty, repression, government and local injustices, and human rights issues. Their main organizational structure is centered around people and nothing else. IREX employees believe people are the best and only tool to enact change, and that is exactly what they are doing in collaboration with PULSE and with Ukrainian citizens. Ukrainian decentralization would not be possible without the use of education and empowering people to become a voice for change and in advocation of their own socio-economic well-being.
Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC) is advertised to be one of the most powerful non-governmental organizations in Ukraine. Similarly, their main purpose is to advocate for giving Ukrainian local governments more operating power. The organization was founded in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in pursuit of immediately spearheading democratic reform and restoring local governments that dwindled during the former decades. Specifically relating the AUC to PULSE, both organizations have the same goal in helping communities in all Ukrainian Oblasts in brainstorming strategies of development and implementing plans for community redevelopment and empowering small industries to propel local economies. The AUC consist of legal, financial, and communication experts. The AUC was also imperative to the decentralization process because of the connections between the AUC and Ukrainian National Cabinet Ministers. Support from the federal government plays a big role in PULSE’s mission, allowing waves of decentralization to progress and succeed.
USAID Forward is a key international benefactor working with, and for PULSE and supports various, unnamed community leaders. These actors include social groups, local advocacy groups, and individuals in the local government in support of amalgamation. USAID supports anti-corruption policies in Ukraine especially. These policies aid the decentralization process in improving legislative independence from the national government. One tool USAID uses in collaboration with PULSE is media outlets in “increasing journalistic professionalism, helping to produce high-quality news content, and increasing citizen resilience to propaganda” (USAID.gov). International NGOs such as USAID also oversee the electoral process. This type of oversight is imperative in the decentralization process. Moreover, the political oversight also entails “increasing accountability of political parties and elected officials to their constituents” (USAID.gov).
Education wise, Ukrainian local libraries also donated their facilities in allowing the education of decentralization policies and the way a community should independently change them to reflect their well-being. These libraries are a crucial source of information with easy accessibility for citizens to go and be informed about what is happening at the national and local level. Moreover, “Earlier this year, IREX trained staff at 25 libraries and 20 civil society organizations on ways to effectively inform and engage citizens in community initiatives. The teams that received training went on to implement more than 50 interactive events that involved over 1,000 Ukrainians. The work focused on 23 predominantly rural communities in eight oblasts of Ukraine—Khmelnytskyi, Lviv, Zakarpattya, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Volyn, Zaporizhzhia, and Sumy” (IREX.org)
PULSE also worked with Local Reform Representatives, who have knowledge in the field and have the ability to tangibly promote comprehensive decentralization reform. They trained citizens on what they needed to know reclaim political power from the national government and channel their ideas into local policy. For example, The Bar City Council worked in the Bar Library, making a “strategic plan for the city, integrating policies to create better roads, schools, healthcare-facilities, parks, and cultural institutions” (Irex.org)
With the help of the domestic and international Key Benefactors, PULSE is able to support long term collaboration between community groups. A foundation for successful local policies is set and then international organizations and PULSE eventually allow the communities spearhead their own unique policies without any more guidance. Nevertheless, this is after actors within local governments are trained to do so by the many resources available to them. PULSE and their benefactors allow for the reemergence of independent press clubs and library clubs, with vast amounts of outside information regarding democracy and political philosophy. Training materials in self democratization are of public access serving as a consistent reference for community leaders. Moreover, long-term community and political engagement is supported by these resources with a strong foundation aiding the democracy aid in Ukraine for decades to come.
Key Lessons Learned
The use of international and domestic actors with a prolonged time frame notes success in local democratization. If it were not for the diverse set of reformists and democratic experts, PULSE would not have been a success in local Ukraine. The advancing stages of decentralization in Ukraine can be accredited to PULSE and its benefactors due to the surplus of educational, financial, and political resources. The comprehensive training programs have taught local self-governance and local actors how they can implement democratic policies for years to come. Community leaders are left with educational resources and a solid foundation for continued self-sustainability after PULSE and benefactors are no longer needed in said communities.
Citizens and community leaders are willing to step up and voice concerns on what needs to be changed in the communities with the help of policy reformists. Decentralization and local democratization will take place if citizens have the desire for empowerment and have the resources allowing them to do so. If citizens have access to the types of resources PULSE provides, democratic chances will take place and will perseverein the long run.
PULSE and other local self-governance organizations will be benefit with the access to outside knowledge and support from the national government. Support from local and national governments secures success of municipal political and economic autonomy.