Voice of NGOs on reforms in Ukraine
“We take not just "people from Georgia", we take practicians, who faced difficulties, made mistakes, but, eventually, succeed” – Oleksandr Nosal, International Center of Reforms co-founder
In December 2014, Oleksandr Nosal founded the "International Center for Reforms"(ICR), NGO, whose mission is to promote governmental reforms in Ukraine. ICR members are experts, and representatives of the younger generation, who have proven themselves during the Maidan. In this interview, Oleksandr tells us why civil society is the main driving force behind the reforms in Ukraine, speaks on the difficulties faced by foreign experts, and highlights the spheres, which need the urgent changes.
Oleksandr, please, tell us about your Center, and which distinctions it includes.
Our organization is engaged in reforms. The state needs a radical, comprehensive, and integrated reforms. The system can rarely reform itself; it does not need to. First of all, we, the citizens of Ukraine, need these reforms. Now there is a situation when the civil society is the “customer” of the reforms, the developer, and even the performer. With the beginning of the war, volunteers movements started, as well as lustration and fight against corruption; all these things show that our society has already matured. And now I find it even more powerful than the state. Maidan also proved it. Our goal is to channel all this energy in the right direction. The main driver of reforms is civil society, and we are one of these institutions.
Why the things are the way they are?
The establishment of democracy, separation of powers, civil wars - all these processes took place in the classical democracies in the 19th century and developed rapidly in the 20th. Unfortunately, Ukraine has been suffering from the imperial values for 300 years, be it tsarist Russia or the Soviet Union. 19-20 centuries were lost to us, and now it's time for us to catch up. That’s not very good, but on the other hand, many things were invented before us and we have just to take advantage of the other countries experience. It is also important to understand that not every foreign practice is appropriate for us. Consequently, our work with foreign experts focuses mainly on Georgia, Poland and the Baltic countries.
Why these countries and not the others?
In 2004, Georgia faced a similar situation, in some respects even worse than we do face now. At that time, they had one third of their territory occupied. The provocations on the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia took place. Over 10 years, Saakashvili's team showed an excellent result. And this result is not just recognized by themselves, but by the world, international banks, doing business; international organizations in their corruption ranking put them almost at the very top. For example, Georgia has been topping the doing business rating in registering property for the fourth year already! The same situation is with the Baltic countries and Poland; they had been under Russian sphere of influence, but they had successfully overcome the difficulties, showing good results. At the same time, Western experts who work for us do not always understand the depth of our problems. They are too detached from our reality. No problems with some conceptual things, but if we talk about the practice, here comes all the problems.
You’ve set an example of Georgia and Saakashvili’s command, and do you have some of them in your organization?
Of course! Our primary goal was to engage those experts. In addition to some common conceptual things, they have implemented the real reforms and do have a real-world experience. For example, Georgi Baramidze, now he’s the vice-speaker of the Georgian parliament, and in the government of Saakashvili was the Minister of Defense, and then Minister of Eurointegration. David Bakradze used to be a Minister of Foreign Affairs and a speaker. And of course, Jaba Ebanoidze, who worked for reforming the Registration Service and the Revenue Service of Georgian Ministry of Finance. He hasn’t put his root in our government, but he didn’t left Ukraine and joined our Center. As you may see, we take not just "people from Georgia", we take practicians, who faced difficulties, made mistakes, but, eventually, succeed.
Civic organizations do not have the resources, as the government does, so you must be choosing a specific area to be reformed. Please, tell us what are you concentrating your efforts on right now?
We want to reform the system of registration. Now it is not working at all. That is, you have two options to get something: the first one, you slowly and painfully collect some documents, make mistakes, go with these papers into different institutions and face some unpredictable difficulties; the second one, you pay a certain amount to a specific person, and get a quick and good service. We have created our own bill, our own vision of the reform. And Jaba (Ebanoidze) has really helped us with it, as he had already implemented the same reform in Georgia. We like his approach, automation of the process, the creation of Front-end and Back-end offices. You bring the documents into a special building, "House of Justice", where some person registers your request, you leave the needed documents, pay the money, and then your request is leaded to the Back-end office, which may be located in another part of the country.
Why couldn’t these documents go into one center?
We need to minimize the participation of the officials in this process. When there is a person, responsible for your question, you want to influence on him somehow. We also want to transfer the initial registration power to notaries; that’s a very remarkable approach. Ukraine is the country second-highest number of notaries in the world, why don’t we take an advantage of it? Now they are involved in the secondary registration. As we exclude an official from this algorithm, the notary would be personally responsible for his actions. Our bill 80% coincides with the government’s one. The main difference is that they want to give the right of initial registration to local authorities. Why? Looks like some local chieftain wants to pin down the registration system. What’s the difference between the official, who receives money from the local budget from those who gets his money from the state?
Why have you chosen registration specifically?
We are not dealing only with registration, recently we have talked to Balcerowicz on judicial reform. Also we are taking part in the tax system reform. The benefit of registration is that every citizen of Ukraine will sooner or later face it. The present reform of the prosecutor's office is really effective. Let us take into consideration the resistance of the prosecutors! But it is implemented somewhere on the high levels, and the average citizens does not know about it. When it comes to the registration, all the people face it! What are the profits of the police reform? Everyone witnesses the results: well-dressed polite policemen driving the new cars. People can easily see it, they see that something is changing. The most important thing is that people feel these positive changes. The law enters into force in October, and we will do everything possible for it was our version of the law.
So, there is some civil initiative, some bill, but the government trying to resist. Why?
I think that somebody may benefit from it. When an official gets a small salary and always looks for an additional source of making money, it is very easy to control him from above saying "we know everything; if you refuse to do what we say, we'll just put you into jail". The same situation is with the business. If you make everything transparent, the business will be strong and independent. Unfortunately, the system is not working well. But I'm sure that it wouldn’t take long for civil society to unite and make something truly effective. The most essential now is to make the next step - to reform the courts and the prosecutor's office. If there is a law, one law for all, the further reforms will go a hundred times faster. Ukraine has a great potential, both human and economic, and we, Ukrainians know that.
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