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Successful future of Ukraine – a challenge for civil society

With the assistance of international partners, a lot of processes have been taking place in Ukraine since its independence, from the formation of a market economy to the development of a democratic society and systemic reforms. Considerable donor assistance goes to educational programs, projects aimed at improving legislation, effective management, countering corruption, etc. In particular, the international partners such as WHO, UNICEF, USAID and others help Ukraine respond to health challenges (outbreaks of vaccine-controlled diseases, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, tuberculosis, etc.).

However, such a form of cooperation cannot last forever. The goal of international partners is not to implement reforms instead of us, not to decide on the issue of vaccination for us, not to fight against our corrupt officials. Their task is to help Ukraine achieve its independence in the process of its development, in order to protect stability and prosperity in Europe and in the world.

By setting the goal of living in an independent, democratic, healthy and prosperous country, recognizing European values, Ukrainian society must make commitments and take responsibility. Ukraine’s future development should be based on a high level of citizens’ and civil society’s capacity.

This idea is the basis of USAID’s Country Development Cooperation Strategy for Ukraine for 2019-2024.

“The assistance USAID will provide to Ukraine in 2019-2024 will be based on the development hypothesis according to which the European aspirations, democratic development, future prosperity and sovereignty of Ukraine can only be ensured provided that the problem of corruption is comprehensively addressed, subject to strategic mitigation of the consequences of Russian aggression, as well as the achievement of sustainable market-based economic growth, which should be inclusive (covering as many layers of society as possible),” the Strategy says.

Increase in transparency of the healthcare system and improvement of the health of citizens are defined in the Strategy as part of development goals, which are important in terms of Ukraine’s ability to move towards independence.

International partners note that Ukraine has an active civil society, an open space for the public sector and a strong resistance in the form of a volunteer movement.

Indeed, thousands of public associations in different fields have been registered in Ukraine, and volunteering has become a common and prestigious phenomenon. But are they able to implement large-scale social changes?

When it comes to the healthcare sector, the range of organizations that are actively cooperating with donors and international partners is rather narrow. And this is not because other organizations acting in this area are less able to manifest themselves or take responsibility. We have a vicious circle here. Donors and authorities avoid cooperation with associations without “grant” experience, and associations cannot gain experience because nobody wants to cooperate with them.

In fact, this is a very unfavorable phenomenon for the development of the country and the capacity of civil society. After all, after working out a scheme of cooperation with donors, experienced organizations are not interested in changing anything. On the other hand, this state of affairs satisfies authorities and does not motivate to move towards independence. This is an obstacle to continued change, to building Ukraine’s capacity to solve its problems by relying on its own strengths.

How do we eliminate this obstacle? In my opinion, the coalition of NGOs and experts, united by the common idea, should serve as the basis of the high capacity of citizens and civil society. In particular, this is Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition aimed at promoting and implementing reforms. This is “Vaccination Coalition” aimed at ensuring the proper level of vaccination of the population. This is the “Legal Development Network” – a community of civil society organizations that develop territorial communities through the provision of free legal aid. This is the “Infection Safety Coalition”, which aims to advocate the issues of infection safety in the provision of medical services.

International partners are interested in making Ukraine a stable country of the world in terms of military, infection, cultural and other security. However, it is not partners and donors that need changes in Ukraine. It is us, Ukrainians, who need changes. The contribution of the public sector to the success of the reforms over the past five years cannot be overestimated. However, in order to continue these changes, the public must learn to be independent and principled, to listen to each other and find common points for interaction.

Tymofii Badikov for the UP