Iryna Bekeshkina: Society has changed but the citizens don’t desire to change their behavior much. People are of better opinion about society, than of themselves


Kyiv, January 12, 2016. Ukrainians believe that society has changed, but the citizens don’t desire to change their behavior much. People’s willingness to protect their dignity has significantly increased, but they lack tools to do so. Also, Ukrainians note growth of civic activity, although the majority is still passive. These are the main conclusions of the opinion poll “Who do we believe ourselves to be and who we really are?” conducted by the International Renaissance Foundation together with Ilko Kucheriv Democratic initiatives Foundation. Iryna Bekeshkina, Director of Ilko Kucheriv Democratic initiatives Foundation, presented results of a study crisis at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

The task was to understand what changes had taken place in the society after the Maidan uprising in 2013-2014. The aim of the survey was to find out how people perceive changes in the society and in themselves. And this perception proved controversial, said Oleksandr Sushko, Chairman of the Board of International Renaissance Foundation. “Society is quite optimistic about society changes around them, there is even euphoria. On the other hand, it does not automatically convert into people’s willingness to act in a new way,” explained Sushko.

Commenting on sociological research data, Iryna Bekeshkina stated that people have an optimistic picture of the society and its activities. “50 percent of respondents believe that people’s willingness to defend their rights has increased, and 33 percent personally believe that their willingness to defend their rights and freedoms has increased. This is a very important outcome of the Revolution of Dignity,” commented Bekeshkina. A half of respondents believe that willingness to unite in civic organizations has allegedly increased, but only 18 percent of those surveyed felt their personal commitment to the union, said the sociologist. Iryna Bekeshkina called citizens’ willingness to participate in political life an important factor. “Up to 43 percent believe that it has increased in society and 12 percent personally feel such will, and 19 percent, on the contrary, believe that it has decreased,” she said, adding that society is not interested in politics. Also, they fixed a gap in the issue of citizens’ control over the government. 44 percent of respondents believe that such participation is growing but only 16 percent of respondents are personally ready to control the authorities. According to the sociologist, active citizens have become even more active but it is necessary to involve more people. Ms. Bekeshkina noted that confidence in the authorities has decreased, however, the Armed Forces, volunteers and civic organizations enjoy confidence. “A new kind of paternalism is being formed. If the government cannot justify expectations, then public organizations should do it,” summed up Ms. Bekeshkina.

Sociologist Victoria Bryndza noted that the country encounters a transition of initiative from the state to the society; and in the new Ukraine, it is the civil society that should make a decision. “The level of people’s participation is still low. But this is a development, a certain process, she said. “People are of a better opinion about the society, than about themselves. And this is an interesting phenomenon.” This opinion was shared by Olga Aivazovska, coordinator of election and political programs of the Civil Network OPORA. “Trust in the collective at self-criticism of the individual still generates prospects,” asserts Ms. Aivazovska. Besides, she does not consider that that the institutionalization of volunteer movements and consolidation of all activists in NGOs would be appropriate. The strategic work is needed to develop volunteering into a sub-culture, into a large layer instead of just a reaction to external threats. The media society should  contribute largely to this work.

According to Artem Mirgorodsky, head of the Secretariat of the Reanimation Package of Reform, now there is a need to strengthen the analytical capacity in the society. An extended discourse should involve a wide range of experts in the discussion of socially important issues in the state. “Now the civil society plays an extremely important role. It did not play such a role over the last 25 years,” says Artem Mirgorodsky.

Ihor Kohut, director of USAID RADA Program, which is implemented by the “Eastern Europe” foundation, believes that society should urge the public institutions to perform their function rather than replacing them in this process. People are willing to pay taxes, but to the institution they can trust. “If volunteers today effectively perform certain functions, replacing the state, people give them money. If the state was effective, people probably would have paid more taxes,” said Mr. Kohut. However, Oleg Rybachuk, chairman and co-founder of NGO “Centre UA”, believes that in many cases civil society should substitute the power if it is ineffective. “In Ukraine, the changes occur because society urges them and not because that elites have agreed. This is a fundamental difference of the Ukrainian scenario,” said Mr. Rybachuk. However, he noted that if civil society had not acted in place of power at the beginning of military aggression, there would be no Ukraine. Now corruption brings the threat. So, society should focus on fighting it, said Oleg Rybachuk.
According to Volodymyr Yermolenko, Director of EU-related media projects at Internews Ukraine, theme of the Maidan is outdated for the world. And a problem for Ukrainians today is that we ask the world how they can help us. And we should ask what we can do and offer the world. With this in mind, believes Volodymyr Yermolenko, we should support initiatives that did not exist in other countries. “It is important to think in terms of radical innovation and creativity, because the world increasingly values the idea of ​​what never existed before,” emphasized the Director of EU-related media projects at Internews Ukraine.

Yevhen Bystrytsky, Director of the International Renaissance Foundation, noted that the poll “Who do we believe ourselves to be and who we really are?” will help find out in where the civil society should move on to. “We support the establishment of the agenda for civil society when it can “urge on” and directly affect the decision-making process which is important for the whole society,” said Ievhen Bystrytskyi. In particular, this year it is important to support the implementation of the elaborated reforms. First of all, it is about administrative reform and civil service reform, involving new leaders, because without this it is impossible to move forward, said Yevhen Bystrytsky. And the Foundation’s task will be to provide a greater public’s participation in reforming the country, concluded Director of the International Renaissance Foundation.