Local officials explain the need for active engagement of residents into life and decision-making of community and emphasize the need to amend respective legislation to enhance decentralization on local level.
Decentralization is not only about new roads, better schools and hospitals. The process is first of all about being responsible for your life and for the life of your community. The conclusion was voiced by Hrygoriy Vanzuryak, head of Hlybotska community in Chernivtsi region speaking via Skype at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC) in the framework of UCMC’s project “Community spokespersons”. “Decentralization is not just about uniting territories. Its main outcome is increased activity of the village population. They need to map themselves as part of a certain community. Locals need to understand that they are its integral part, and along with advantages of decentralization, they need to take up its risks as well,” emphasized Vanzuryak.
In this regard Volodymyr Chobotar, village head (‘starosta’ in Ukrainian) at Hlybotska community, named people’s inertia as the main problem. He said not everyone is ready to act for changes. Majority keep waiting for someone else to do everything for them. “Decentralization is not only a legal issue, it is first of all about the human factor. People need to understand that they are a united community. Everything depends on them and they are the ones to decide. This process goes bottom up, like oceans and seas that fill trickles,” said Chobotar. He emphasized that establishing civil society will take long, but it has already started. “Decentralization is not only about uniting territories, it is also about community’s understanding of the need of self-development. It needs to have a leader to develop. At the local level village heads are the leaders. We immediately conducted elections of the village heads. Voter turnout at these elections was 15 percent higher than at parliamentary and presidential elections. It shows that people are not indifferent to their fate and they believe in decentralization,” Vanzuryak said.
Community head and village heads are making efforts to engage local residents into community affairs. An example of such efforts may serve publishing of a newspaper “Our community”. Village head Volodymyr Chobotar also wrote an appeal to fellow villagers on the need of joint action.
Another challenge that united territorial communities face is the fact that towns and villages that would like to join the already formed united territorial communities do not have such an opportunity. Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) has not adopted the draft law no.4772 that needs to enable this opportunity and establish respective procedure. Hlybotska community of Chernivtsi region united not using the approved perspective plan as basis. The reason for that is lack of trust to decentralization. “Many did not believe that decentralization would make a change. In Ukraine reforms do not always reach their logical conclusion. […] People trust practical things and precise actions. When they see them in place, decentralization will proceed faster,” emphasized Vanzuryak.
He said Hlybotska community had already negotiated with neighbor villages and got two positive decisions as to the further joining. “Our community same as probably half of Ukraine’s united territorial communities is waiting for the law to be adopted since May. We do not have a mechanism to add the communities to ours and merge our budgets. Next year there will be more of such communities,” said head of Hlybotska community. He emphasized that it is important to give these communities a chance to continue merger without restarting the elections mechanism.