July 5, 2006 – A press conference was held today at UNIAN introducing the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy’s new Center for Local Democracy. (*read more about the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy)
The press conference was run by the Center’s Director Oleksandr Mosiuk, and Nadia Diuk, Senior Director for Central Europe and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy - the Center's sponsor.
The main goal of the newly formed Center is to support changes to legislation on local self-government. A significant number of communities aren’t represented in the government, local councils are overly politicized, and in many communities the government hasn't been completely formed, or formed at all. The main reasons for such a state of affairs are the ill-thought out and untimely political reforms, and elections that were held according to a proportional system.
The Center’s work will include roundtables, public appearances by experts and government representatives. A print and electronic library covering the history and current state of affairs in local self-government will be set up in the Center’s premises and will be open to all. Specialists will study the Ukrainian and foreign experience.
“Ukraine has a great experience with local democracy,” said Mosiuk. From the early 1990s, the most powerful democratic processes took place with active participation by local communities. The first to support the Orange Revolution were bodies of local self-government, which sent people to Maidan and passed resolutions not recognizing the results of the elections. Mr. Mosiuk stressed that for 15 years there has been talk in Ukraine about reform of local self-government - that local councils should have their own exclusive competencies, that they should have their own budgets, that power should be divided among different levels of self-government, that the central government shouldn’t illegally interfere into the activities of the local government, and that local communities should themselves allocate funds which belong to them. But, so far, nothing has come of this. A paradox emerges: on one hand we have a strongly democratized society, and on the other we have a system of local government that hasn't changed.
The reform that the Center intends to initiate is extremely complicated and complex. It requires reform of the administrative-territorial order and redistribution of power in government. In order to resolve these problems, believes Mr. Mosiuk, local community members must gain the political will and the ability to defend their rights. “Our Center will work in this direction; it will become an active civil player in moving forward local reform,” says Mosiuk. "The instruments for this are given to us by the legislation of Ukraine and our own experience. We will work with the committees of the Verkhovna Rada. We will conduct expert analysis of the draft laws so that future laws are understandable by those who will be implementing them. We will collaborate with all existing structures related to local self-government, mayors of Ukrainian cities, local administrations and deputies." Ms. Diuk also urged that more attention be given to the regions, creating a strong connection between them and the central government.