Ukraine has no shortage of citizens who envision a better future for their country. They are the ones who led the 2014 Revolution of Dignity and continue to fight against corruption and for improved standards of living and freedom. Yet nearly four years later, preliminary reform efforts have not gained traction, as exemplified by the struggles of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU). Domestic and international organizations have flooded decision-makers with reform recommendations, however, there have been few tangible results.
The problem is not a lack of demand for reforms. Civil society groups and private sector organizations know what changes they want and need, especially in the context of decentralization of power from national to local governments. Many of these stakeholders are active advocates with strong suggestions or definite ideas.
The difficulty appears to be the reform process itself: designing policies that respond to Ukraine’s diverse stakeholder needs, making tough decisions, and successfully implementing those reforms. If domestic and international groups focus solely on demanding reforms, rather than fostering the ability of Ukrainian policymakers and their counterparts in business and civil society to lead the reform process, the window of opportunity for real change will close.
Why is policymaking, especially when it comes to reforms, so hard? Policymakers and other reform leaders must make complicated decisions involving numerous stakeholders with competing interests, not to mention in Ukraine’s case, endemic corruption and an armed conflict. For example, consider the number of stakeholders involved in developing a state-run project to construct a new railway line. National, regional, and municipal agencies all have needs and wants, as do environmental groups, domestic or foreign companies or suppliers, as well as individual citizens. Not all of the stakeholder interests can align with one another or the rationale of bureaucratic structures responsible for decision-making. Now look to a more contentious effort, such as fighting corruption, and factor in even more layers of public and undisclosed interests.
There is no clear solution to the railway project or any other policy issue, but it is possible to improve the process of reaching and implementing workable decisions. The skills needed for successful policy reform can be taught: stakeholder analysis, problem-solving, coalition-building, decision-making.
In mid-January, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) gathered over 30 Ukrainian government officials, businesspeople, and civil society activists for a weeklong program called the Leadership Academy for Development in Ukraine (LADU). LADU is the result of a partnership among CIPE, the School of Public Management at Ukrainian Catholic University, and the Leadership Academy for Development (LAD), a program housed at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law that trains reform leaders in developing countries.
Most participants have experience in multiple sectors. Thus, the LADU session focused on the needs of not only policymakers themselves, but also those who have a stake in how policies are made, as well as how to lead effective reform processes. Participants spent nearly a week discussing case studies, such as the railway project mentioned above and learning from LAD faculty about topics such as private equity in emerging markets. They also worked in groups to develop solutions to issues affecting private sector development in Ukraine.
The case study approach is unique in that it encourages participants to practice the skills they need as reform leaders. Few Ukrainians need to be told what decentralization is, or that a new anti-corruption agency’s first effort to prosecute an official will be contentious. However, by using case studies such as Peru’s administrative decentralization and the creation of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission, attendees can examine how other countries have dealt with similar problems, and begin to identify lessons that apply to, or contradict, their own experience.
Perhaps most important, after a week of debating critical issues and learning about one another’s roles in key sectors, LADU participants formed new relationships and some common perspectives. Participants came to view the LADU group as a network of like-minded colleagues, one that connects officials in Vinnytsia and Mykolaiv to business leaders in Sloviansk, as well as civil society activists in Kharkiv to employees of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers.
The January LADU participants also understand that effective reform work requires building coalitions with fellow citizens and they are not alone. They join graduates of a winter 2017 LADU program, who have kept in touch to discuss policy issues and presented their proposed solutions to local officials. Another LADU offering is scheduled for April.
The LADU program does not aim to fix Ukraine. The country is full of principled, well-informed civil society and public and private sector leaders who know what needs to change. Instead, LADU’s goal is to increase the chances that these Ukrainians, and the people they interact with in their daily jobs, work together to create and implement practical reforms.
Caroline Elkin is a Program Assistant for Europe and Eurasia at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).