During the crisis of modern economic and political situation in Ukraine its society also facing difficulties. Some Ukrainians have lost faith in a bright future and try to keep aloof from the politics and the process of governance, and even to leave the country. At the same time foreign experts believe that exactly in this difficult period, the civil society active participation will greatly help Ukraine to overcome the crisis.
Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs (2001-2009) and defender of the Ukrainian side in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, gives her opinion of how social activism contributes to the political will to fight corruption, implementing reform and build strong, prosperous and democratic country. She also convinced that the crisis in Ukraine has consequences not only for Ukraine but for the CIS region and the whole world.Russian aggression, according to the expert, calls into question the respect for international law, including the principles of inviolability of borders and territorial integrity. US as a strategic partner of Ukraine should play a leading role in providing political and economic support for Ukraine and cooperation in the military and energy sectors. But Ukraine’s future is in the hands of Ukrainian civil society and their voice is crucial.
So here are the 6 most important efforts that Ukrainians can undertake and should focus on today to make Ukraine’s transition toward security, independence and democracy:
- Civil society mobilizing process
A mature organized civil society is absolutely crucial in holding national leaders accountable, demanding reform, insisting on good governments. In an active civil society people take the initiative, voting for good legislatives, forming non-governmental organizations, writing articles and speaking to the media. Now Ukrainians are more mobilized than ever playing a great role in determining what direction the country takes and in many ways redefining public life. Independent media have now new enterprises shining a light on important social, political and economic trends. So Ukrainians can make a difference in their countrywith their desire and efforts.
- Continuing to take the path of non-violent resistance
Ukrainian civil society has thrived because Ukrainian people in the face of incredible provocations have chosen the voice of non-violence, of quiet force. Civil resistance movements require discipline and an extraordinary degree of cooperation. Even when people have differences it naturally strength the base of their society and lays the foundation for democracy. Non-violent action creates a democratic culture and attitude that ensures a focus not only on relations between governments but also on the role that average people have on history. The demonstrations in the Maidan underscore this very point. There was a focus, there was unity of purpose, and it was a non-violent demonstration and its outspokenness was about there was the desire for change.
- A national dialog between government and civil society about their path forward
What can make a difference? In the US many times when NGOs (as part of civil society) listen to the views of politicians sometimes NGOs’ members criticize politicians directly, sometimes they say – we don’t like what you put forward, how about another ideas? I found that US policies strengthens because of that exchange of opinions, because of that transparency of purpose, critics and debates over issues. That provides a strong foundation for going forward. It’s a very good one.
- Promoting economic reform
That’s not better example of what privatization and austeritycan produce and how it can improve standards of living than the example of our Western neighbor Poland. When comparing and contrast the decisions Polish and Ukrainian leaders made after independence, Poland has now outperformed Ukraine in terms of an economic growth and also controlling inflation. What were the differences? The two countries different economic policies were a factor. Namely Poland pursued a quicker aggressive implementation of fiscal monetary policies, price and currency globalization and privatization of the banking sector. So Ukrainians should dialog and have conversation with their Polish neighbors and ask how their experience with entrepreneurship and economic policies might apply to circumstances here in Ukraine. It’s a benefit hearing what are the lessons learned. What experience might be applicable or not. What kind of change can make a difference and provide that firm foundation for going forward.
- Enforcing the rule of law
Ukraine’s strong civil society can provide the impedance for fostering accountability, providing checks and balances and defending basic rights. Ukraine has had a commendable record in striving to protect minority rights. Much more needs to be done to transition from a system of politicized courts to a genuinely independent judiciary and legal institutions. I want to underscore of how important it is for Ukraine to have a Prosecutor General’s Office which does not obstruct government reform and government reform efforts. It is not simply enough to have just good laws in the books. And opening the transparent process to arbitrate legal disputes and contracts and property rights will advance general rule of law in the society. Corrupted businessman and politicians have to be ruled out of the process. And it’s difficult for any society to make such a transition. Many have achieved this like Ukrainian neighbor Poland did deal with many similar problems. There are number of initiatives which could help to entrench the rule of law in Ukraine. There are some examples and Ukrainians should decide what is best for them:
1) Programs for political party development according with the rule of law
2) Internships and fellowships for young Ukrainians from Western media organizations and law schools, exchange of young scholars and parliamentarians
Our Assistant Secretary ofState for European affairs Victoria Nuland, she said: “Like Ukraine’s police force, the Prosecutor Office has to be reinvented as an institution that serves the citizens of Ukraine. That means it must investigate and successfully prosecute corruption”. Creation and reinvention of governmental institutions – that’s what Ukrainians should be thinking about – to ensure enforcement of law as a central. It’s good to have good laws in the books but enforcement is essential.
- Demanding actions against corruption
There is perhaps no greater challenge to fight against injusticethan here in Ukraine with many opportunities for corruption. Transparency International corruption perception index rates Ukraine 130th in the world. Ukraine is beside Iran and Nicaragua in this list. Corruption in Ukraine is a critical reason why the country remains vulnerable to attack. President Poroshenko’s decision to sign legislation providing public financing for political parties – it is a promising step in improving transparency. But the extend to which it is implementing will depend on everyone in this regard. Again it goes back to the point – Ukrainians don’t need only good laws or good legislation, but the implementation. Here civil society on that one part of legislation alone can really be commited to ensuring that there is transparency and accountability in political sector. One initiative in particular is that Ukrainian citizens should support an esteblishment of Anti-Corruption Bureauwhich with enough pressure could bring genuine change to many of the kinds of habits of the country’s political class.