Decentralization is a stated priority of Ukraine’s post-Euromaidan government, and should result in more decisions and policies being set at the local level, with more resources flowing from the central government down to local communities. As a first step, the government introduced a process through which Ukraine’s more than 11,000 towns, villages and settlements could consolidate into larger and more self-sustaining communities. Since 2015, nearly two hundred of a projected 1500 new communities have consolidated or amalgamated, and held local elections to set new leadership. Now these communities face the challenge of governing in ways they may not have had to in the past. Ukraine’s previous system of more centralized governance means that local governments, especially villages and rural settlements, have little or no experience exercising the new responsibilities given them under decentralization.
DOBRE intends to help those new local governments effectively manage these new responsibilities, and support the development of stronger community cohesion through citizen engagement in these new communities. DOBRE will focus on the lowest level, specifically enabling newly formed Consolidated Communities (CCs) to better manage resources, increase the quality of public services, stimulate the local economy, and improve citizen engagement. DOBRE will help CCs thrive and prosper through stronger local governance and better conditions for development, while serving as a model and motivation to other communities seeking to amalgamate.
DOBRE will work in seven target Oblasts: Dnipropetrovsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kirovograd, Mykolayiv, and Ternopil. DOBRE will provide direct assistance to 75 consolidated communities in these Oblasts, with cohorts of 25 at a time selected competitively. Showcasing the achievements of participating CCs and the benefit to community members will allow DOBRE to encourage adoption of best practices in other CCs and promote decentralization on a national scale.
DOBRE will support CCs in participatory strategic planning, emphasizing mechanisms for including citizen voices. Resulting strategic plans should then reflect what citizens want and need. In each community, DOBRE will then help CCs implement plans to address those needs. Projects to support local economic development or develop public-private partnerships, or plans to improve the management and delivery of public services or develop improved infrastructure will be supported with technical advice and co-funding.
DOBRE will also support improved operations and performance in local government, from individual staff capacity, council performance and transparency, permitting, planning and management systems, technology solutions, or inclusive processes to integrate the needs of vulnerable community members (such as, people with disabilities, displaced, women, or elderly). DOBRE will help CCs develop better budgeting and financial management to build trust with citizens.
Mechanisms for citizens to participate in local government and decision making will be emphasized throughout the program. DOBRE will support civil society and help the community better advocate for their interests and form a partnership with their CC, while also supporting anti-corruption, transparency and monitoring mechanisms to strengthen trust between CCs and their citizens. DOBRE will encourage innovative methods for improving broad participation, particularly through ICT solutions.
DOBRE will strengthen local governance, deepen democracy, build prosperity, and promote stability. DOBRE will build stronger communities through community-driven development, in which citizens work together with their local government to improve their lives. Partnerships across civil society, the private sector, and government will provide tangible results through new economic opportunities and better managed local services, as well as a foundation for future cooperation and development. The achievements of this model of governance will provide an example to other communities in Ukraine, and broaden the appeal and impact of decentralization.
In order to measure these results, and the performance and real improvements of partner CCs, DOBRE will evaluate a variety of indicators, including:
Global Communities leads the DOBRE Consortium. The All-Ukrainian Association of Villages and Rural Settlements (VASSR) serves as the convener and direct partner of participating communities, and the long-term partner for coordinating sustainable support. VASSR is working with Poland’s Foundation in Support of Local Democracy (FSLD) to provide technical expertise from the Polish experience in strategic planning, service provision and participatory budgeting. The Malopolska School of Public Administration at the Krakow University of Economics (MSAP/UEK) is helping strengthen educational and professional development opportunities in public administration.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) will elevate gender equity and promoting women’s empowerment in DOBRE activities. SocialBoost will promote innovative and demand-driven ICT solutions for inclusive and participatory local governance. The Ukrainian Crisis Media Center (UCMC) will lead a robust communications strategy that strengthens public awareness of the benefits of decentralization, trains stakeholders in effective communications, and maximizes dissemination of results achieved by CCs and the DOBRE program.
On September 19, 2016, DOBRE announced a call for applications for regional civil society organizations (RCSOs) in each target oblast to provide practical trainings, mentoring and consulting, and resources to local citizen based or civil society groups. Open to a wide variety of organizations, the goal of this solicitation is to find partners to promote citizen engagement in public decision making, and applying RCSOs must therefore have citizen engagement as a priority in their mission. Applying organizations should have a physical presence or direct experience in one or several of DOBRE’s targeted oblasts.
The detailed call for applications and the application forms can be found on DOBRE page on VASSR’s website here: http://vassr.org/RSCO_DOBRE. The deadline to apply is October 19, 2016.
On September 5, 2016, DOBRE launched a competitive selection process for the first 25 participating CCs. For more information on the selection criteria and application process, see the DOBRE page on VASSR’s website here: http://vassr.org/dobre
To download the application materials directly, click here.