An article by Francis M. O’Donnell, UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine and UNDP Resident Representative, on the latest Blue Ribbon Commission Report, called “The State and the Citizen: Delivery on Promises” b_65_98_16777215_00_images_content_news_769.jpg An article by Francis M. O’Donnell, UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine and UNDP Resident Representative, on the latest Blue Ribbon Commission Report, called “The State and the Citizen: Delivery on Promises”
The latest Blue Ribbon Commission report “The State and the Citizen: Delivering on Promises” could not be more timely. The third in a series, it falls right into the lap of political ferment and policy debate at this time when Ukraine’s future directions seem to be questioned at home and abroad.
The intended audience is, urgently: the President, the Government and the Verkhovna Rada, and beyond that, the judiciary, media, and civil society, right down to local communities. Every Government department will receive copies. But we will also share it with parliamentarians, and judges, and the professionals, and many others. It can be accessed on the web, so every university, company, and internet café can see it too.
Mainly, this is a Ukrainian report, largely home-made, for home consumption, and not yet another foreign policy imposition. It is the product of a careful distillation and synthesis of Ukrainian realities, analysed mainly by Ukrainian experts, and clearly oriented towards building Ukrainian futures. Yet it benefits from the best available international experience, and the careful cooperation of international partners, both individual experts and global institutions, in the best tradition of UN support for national capacity and national development priorities.
It is also the latest fruit of a truly broad effort that has involved a multi-party consultation process involving all the main political parties and key authorities in Ukraine, hence it can be a cornerstone to political consensus-building. It is different from any political party campaign also in that it looks at hard realities of what Ukraine can afford, and at how best it can pursue it regardless of any geo-political alignment or preferences.
The report is the result again of a unique cooperation effort by an independent mixed team of top national and international experts. About 40 different mainly national but also foreign experts, many the top ones in their fields, made this report a tight and concise compendium of practical wisdom. Many helpful inputs also came from various national institutions, and from WHO, ILO, WB, IMF, IFC, and UNDP. The report reflects a considerable degree of consensus of think tanks and international community stakeholders.
It contains four main chapters covering state and institutions, economy and finance, business and investment, and social solidarity. It offers a robust set of recommendations for the attention of policy makers, but also for public understanding.
Not least, from a global and local perspective, the recommended measures will also contribute to enabling Ukraine to fully meet all the Millennium Development Goals, especially those where current achievements and trends should be better, such as in the health sector, itself in dire need of reform.
In due course, Ukraine’s emerging democratic maturity and prosperity will also enable it to become a strong development partner contributing ODA to less endowed countries. These are important considerations for the UNDP and UN system to be engaged in sponsoring the national capacity for developing and implementing such policy recommendations.
There is much that is consistent, already in national policies, so why produce this report now? Quite simply, because the country, economy and politics changed over past 2 years. Moreover, we are in an era of accelerating global change: the world will see 1 billion new consumers over next 10 years as many climb out of poverty in the emerging economies. Hence there are massive opportunities for Ukraine. But also risks of losing out.
Having said that, the problem in Ukraine is not a lack of advice on individual policies, but the absence of a broad-based cross-party political commitment to a coherent package. What this report provides is a holistic overview of the inter-relatedness of the various elements, and sensible explanations how one element influences another. It shows how a coherent package of measures can be optimized from convergent perspectives covering constitutionality, democratic quality, human rights, political cohesion, macro-fiscal sustainability, social solidarity, and international cooperation. The complementarity of these measures must be better understood, hence this report.
A second problem is the huge gap that often exists between rhetoric and reality, promises and performance, intentions and capacity. And that contributes unfortunately to the dramatic loss in public confidence in state institutions, and to the rise in political apathy, corruption, and eventually the risk of repression and poverty.
A third problem, and perhaps the most important, is the weakness of the effort to sustain, deepen, and broaden “the spirit of the Maidan” and build a more robust political and popular constituency of support for stable reforms. Ukraine must therefore strive to deepen popular awareness of and expectations for systemic far-reaching reforms. A critical mass of civil society demand is needed, demand for reform, as it was on the Maidan two years ago, and demand for public accountability, probity, and performance.
While freedom of speech and independent media now flourish better than before, a more vibrant civil society, including NGOs, continues to be essential. Whilst it is easy to think that the democratic transformation of the Maidan is irreversible, we cannot afford political complacency.
The victory of the people on the Maidan must reach out to the rest of Ukraine, especially several local areas, where small businesses, media and civil society groups remain fearful of various local forms of harassment. Very firmly, nothing should be done to dampen or constrain the development of a robust civil society in Ukraine, linked to international civil society movements, and engaging in global citizen democracy. To dampen that, or constrict the growth of efflorescence of civil society would be undemocratic, and contrary to the spirit of the world-wide consensus on what democracy is all about, as reflected in the global Millennium Declaration six years ago.
So this report is about that too: not only about economic democracy, which Ukraine has a sharp deficit in, but about political democracy and how the connection between the two is essential for social solidarity to prosper sustainably. Stability and reform are also not opposites – there will be little stability without meaningful reforms that benefit all Ukrainians. Choices must be made, and made sooner rather than later. Wise choices, not vested interest complicity; choices that benefit the country, not one’s own pocket.
An ethos of the highest standards must be upheld in public service. Citizens deserve nothing less from their elected leaders. This is therefore a unique opportunity for politicians and senior public officials to choose between being or becoming corrupt, and then forgotten or prosecuted in the future, or instead being selfless, courageous, heroic, historic, and being remembered for having broken with the past, restored public trust, and assured integrity.
It is about policy dialogue, and public accountability. It is about open, free, and transparent public consultation and people’s participation in decision making. It is about promoting public trust in the integrity of public servants and true professionals. It is about parliamentary engagement and the quality of informed debate in elaborating national strategy. It is about press enquiry and media scrutiny as watchdogs in the public interest. It is about promises and how to translate them into progressive performance and prosperity. It is about people, family, children, and future. It is about Ukrainian needs and aspirations and how to fill them optimally for Ukrainian prosperity.
And of course we hope this will also be about the quality of analysis, the character of partnership, the vitality of dialogue, the necessity of learning together, the indispensability of consensus-building, the scope of influence, the depth of impact, and the value of change and optimization of Ukraine’s trajectory to the heart of Europe.
It is an opportunity for a Ukrainian approach to Ukrainian challenges, responding to its priority needs, and promoting its vital interests. But no nation stands alone in this era of globalization, and it is also an opportunity to set Ukraine on a fast-track to Europe, to be not only geographically central, but more importantly spiritually, morally, and materially central to Europe’s civilization and future, and a major player in the world.
See the Blue Ribbon Commission 3rd Report
“The State and the Citizen: Delivering on Promises”