Kennan Cable No.25: A Wake-up Call for Ukraine’s Civil Society
By Kateryna Smagliy
See here for a response to this article.
When U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid his first official visit to Ukraine on 9 July 2017, he met with a small group of Ukrainian civil society activists prior to his meeting with President Poroshenko. The sequence of Tillerson’s conversations in Kyiv was not coincidental. It sent a clear signal: the U.S. government values Ukraine’s civil society’s efforts and urges our leaders to strengthen cooperation with anti-corruption groups and reform activists.
Ukraine’s vibrant civil society played a crucial role in safeguarding its democracy during the Euromaidan. To paraphrase Alexis de Tocqueville, it was the time when Ukrainians of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions got busy forming associations. However, if Ukrainian society now boasts a new layer of democratic paint, the old oligarchic colors are peeking through in places. Three years after Petro Poroshenko assumed the presidency, the consensus is that a new Ukraine remains out of reach. Numerous experts now warn that a counter-revolution is on the horizon and that Ukraine may slide back to authoritarianism.
Ukraine is at serious risk of following its own footsteps in the failure of its 2004-05 Orange Revolution, when civic activism failed to achieve enduring political changes. There is evidence that today Ukraine’s anti-corruption activists are subject to wiretapping, surveillance, searches, smear campaigns, and even death threats. The state authorities increasingly sideline reformers, while volunteers are fatigued. Ukraine’s society is noticeably returning to political apathy.
The big question is how could Ukraine end up here again? What happened to the energy of its civil society? Is it still capable of keeping the government in check? The 2004 Orange Revolution provides a cautionary tale for the risks of a failed revolution, it may also provide us with a map of the pitfalls to avoid.
What Went Wrong after the Orange Revolution?
The West hailed the Orange Revolution as a triumph of Ukraine's civil society. In 2007, Freedom House assigned Ukraine, for the first time in its history, a rating of “free” in the categories of political rights and civic liberties.
The number of officially registered NGOs grew from 40,000 in 2004 to almost 80,000 by 2014, but this leap of activism did not equate to deeper citizen engagement or political transformations. The impact of civil society organizations stayed small - just 8-9 percent of them were truly active. By 2011, only 29.9 percent of Ukrainians could name a single NGO in their town or village, while 85.2 percent had never participated in any voluntary activities. On the eve of Euromaidan, NGO leaders characterized their organizations as “mostly ineffective” in addressing policy issues.
After the Orange Revolution, Ukraine's civil society mistakenly presumed there could be no backsliding to authoritarianism. Activists spent too much time at international conferences instead of town hall meetings. Western donors, not local independent advisory boards, judged NGOs’ effectiveness and impact. The leaders of elitist NGOs, the so-called "NGO-cracy," were busy networking with Western embassies rather than engaging with their fellow citizens. NGOs often failed to cooperate to create cross-regional networks.
As a result, the work of revolution remained unfinished. The lack of vigilance and civil society’s inability to hold the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko government accountable subsequently led to disillusionment with Orange leaders and the victory of revanchist forces in the 2006 parliamentary and 2010 presidential elections.
Civil Society after Euromaidan: What Went Right?
Ukraine paid a high price to restore its democracy in 2013. The scope of innovation and civic engagement at the 2013 Euromadan was truly unprecedented. There are at least four areas where civil society achieved particularly strong results:
1. Ukraine experienced a remarkable growth of nationwide volunteer groups that provide humanitarian support and social assistance to the victims of the war in Donbas and other populations at risk. Volunteers became the most trusted group in Ukrainian society (replacing the church).
2. Civil society groups influenced the post-Euromaidan reformprocess. The largest and most visible reform network – the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) – is comprised of 80 NGOs, 22 reform groups and 300 experts, who develop, promote, and in some cases even implement judicial, anticorruption and economic changes.
3. Anticorruption initiatives became much more systemic and institutionalized. NGOs continuously monitored the process of constructing two major anticorruption agencies, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC). Under public pressure, the government launched a publicly available online system for tracking the declared assets of politicians, civil servants, and judges.
4. Euromaidan ushered in a new type of political organization: membership-based political parties detached from oligarchic funding. These civil society-based political forces, like Democratic Alliance, Power of the People, Civic Movement “Khvylya” (the wave), and Mikheil Saakashvili’s The New Forces Movement, engage well-educated Ukrainians and focus on anti-corruption.
What Went Wrong (Again)?
The human toll of the Euromaidan was so high that most find the current cynical restoration of the old system truly incomprehensible. As Novoe Vremya editor Vitaliy Sych wrote: “I thought that after the killing of 100 people on the Maidan, after the deaths of thousands of people in the East, Ukraine would never be the same, and that politicians would understand the level of responsibility and the importance of the moment. But we still witness corruption, schemes, and political deals at the highest level.” However, the incomprehensible is unfolding before our eyes. Ukraine’s political class once again patiently waited for the revolutionary fervor to pass before starting its “sweet counter-revolution”.
The first warning light for Ukraine’s civil society should have been the “business as usual” approach of Ukraine’s NGO community. While volunteers emerged as the most trusted group in Ukraine after the Euromaidan, the NGO leaders continued to prioritize relations with Western donors over engaging with its citizens, even the passionate army of volunteers.
Certain NGOs resumed working with Ukraine’s financial elites. Ihor Kolomoisky, Viktor Pinchuk and other oligarchs started employing financial, media, and political resources to promote various activists and NGOs. The oligarchs predicted, correctly, that their support would buy a certain amount of influence and protection. Social scientist Mikhail Minakov observed, “In 2014…oligarchic groups recognized the functionality of civil society organizations and attempted to use them—sometimes through coercion—either to increase their rents or to defend their existing power and property.”
In many ways the cultural codes of Ukraine’s top NGOs mirror the patron-client nature of the country’s oligarchic power structures: many Kyiv-based NGOs operate in a rather closed network of people who have been friends for a long time, who have a long history of cooperating with one another, and who built clientelistic networks either with government representatives or international donors.
Consider the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) group. Donors rewarded RPR for its effectiveness and success in advocating post-Euromaidan reforms. From 2015-17, it received millions of dollars in support from Ukraine’s key donors: USAID, Pact, the Swedish SIDA, the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), UNDP, and the EU Delegation to Ukraine. Although RPR is officially comprised of 80 NGOs, all Western funding has been channeled through a select group of NGOs—such as the Center for Democracy and Rule of Law (more than 70 percent of total funding), Centre UA and the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research - all of which were already longtime recipients of foreign aid.
The funding flow not only created conflict between recipient and non-recipient groups—it created something of a “warm bath” effect for the recipients. RPR turned its focus on donor reports and applications, rather then sustaining and growing citizen participation. RPR’s office, opened in 2014 with zero donor funding, looked like a beehive of civic activism. Today, the drive is gone and bureaucracy prevails over innovation. When asked what made him most proud of the network, Artem Mirhorodkyi, chief of RPR’s secretariat, responded he was “particularly glad that RPR’s reform bulletins were received and read by all foreign embassies and foreign organizations.”
Over time, results-oriented activists started leaving the network. As Viktor Griza, a former member of RPR’s group on cultural reform, told me: “RPR grew into a club of beneficiaries [vygodopoluchateli]. Many RPR activists only use the RPR ‘brand’ to boost their personal capital – to meet foreign diplomats, get media opportunities, get invited to international conferences, or win prestigious fellowships in the United States. For some, RPR is a ticket to power corridors, where they can make friends with government officials or politicians and maybe get elected to the Verkhovna Rada during the next election.”
The stagnation in Ukraine’s NGO community was matched only by the ambition of many civic leaders to take advantage of their newfound influence. In 2013 Ukraine's activists represented a potent and vigorous force. Authorities were forced to reckon with activist power and cooperate with its leaders on reforms. This opened a window of opportunity for Euromaidan leaders to go into politics, and many took advantage of the opportunity to convert their standing into attractive parliamentary or governmental positions. As a consequence, the leaders on the street failed to form a united political force to run for parliament in 2015. Instead, they allowed the country’s old elites to split their ranks and co-opt them into different political projects.
The Euromaidan spirit was not the only loser in this exchange—the leaders themselves now face the consequences of their actions. According to polling by the International Republican Institute, today even the most active civic leaders remain largely unknown to most Ukrainians: 81 percent of Ukrainians don’t know who Svitlana Zalishchuk is, 58 percent are unfamiliar with Serhii Leshchenko, and 30 percent have never heard of Euromaidan’s hero, Mustafa Nayyem. 
Reformers try to increase their visibility online through Facebook, but in a country with low internet penetration, “Facebook democracy” is not the most efficient instrument to attract supporters or mobilize voters in a sustained manner.
The unraveling of the Euromaidan spirit through NGO stagnation and activist ambition helped open the door for Ukraine’s oligarchic economic elites to regain their influence. To win back the revolution, the veterans of Euromaidan, groups and individuals alike, must re-consider their priorities. Even that will not be sufficient: they must offer a clear action plan of reforms.
Winning the Revolution
Winning the revolution will take more than winning the Maidan. To win the Maidan, it was sufficient to marshall popular support against the massive corruption of the Yanukovych administration and stand for “European values,” without providing much in the way of specifics. After the new government took power, the effectiveness of anti-corruption as a platform declined. A wave of nationwide anti-corruption forums that Mikheil Saakasvili, the Democratic Alliance party, and other activists organized failed to pay dividends with the electorate. The most recent opinion poll indicates that Democratic Alliance enjoys only a 0.1 percent popularity rating, while Saakashvili’s New Forces Movement is favored by only 1.4 percent of voters. The prospects for Mikheil Saakashvili’s party are even grimmer after President Poroshenko’s decision to strip the former Georgian president of his Ukrainian citizenship.
The people of Ukraine may know what civil society activists are against, but they are unaware of what they stand for. Do they have a reform plan and a team to implement it effectively? Yanukovych is gone, and the signing of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement and adoption of the EU visa liberalization regime are achievements largely seen as success stories of Poroshenko’s presidency. To succeed going forward, NGOs and civil society must not only issue the anti-corruption rallying cries, as they did during the Euromaidan, but also offer specific reform proposals on topics that matter to Ukraine’s citizens: healthcare, education, culture, pensions, and social security. At the moment, these are precisely the areas where they have almost nothing to offer.
Yet the key first step for Ukraine’s pro-democracy activists and groups is to renew their focus on honesty and integrity, and stand for those principles in full public view. For example, many activists and public intellectuals think that criticism of the government automatically undermines Ukraine’s international standing and weakens its position vis-à-vis Russia. But reforms that do nothing to build Ukraine’s rule of law do not deserve defending. Ukraine’s war in the East is no excuse for its leaders to assault activists, silence investigative journalists, or harass reformers. It is dishonest to extoll Ukraine for protecting European values against Putin’s aggression if Ukraine’s political leaders smash these very values at home. The longer civil society turns a blind eye to government violations against the civic space, the longer it will take to win this space back.
The reformers are slowly losing the very positions they conquered at the height of their influence. The National Reform Council (NRC), which originally had four represenatives of civil society, is now comprised solely of people loyal to President Poroshenko. The most recent additions to the NRC include MP Iryna Lutsenko (the prosecutor general’s wife) and Artur Herasymov (the leader of Poroshenko’s parliamentary bloc in the Rada). Elswhere in government, at least 22 top reformers were forced out in 2016. MPs Svitlana Zalishchuk and Mustafa Nayem were kicked out of Ukraine’s parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe. They were replaced by an ally of former Presidnet Yanukovych, Vadim Novinskyi (a Ukrainian oligarch of Russian origin); a move met with little outcry from civil society.
President Poroshenko established a new state agency, the Civil Society Coordination Council, to serve as a mediator between the state and civil society. Tellingly, it is modeled on a similar body established by Viktor Yanukovych in December 2012. To the surprise of few, the Council is not led by a representative from civil society, but by two state officials: the deputy chief of presidential administration and vice-prime minister for regional development.
So far, the Council has done little to represent the interests of civil society within the government. It failed to challenge legislation requiring activists of anticorruption NGOs to file publicly accessible electronic asset declarations as if they were state officials. It issued no critical assessment of Poroshenko’s ban of Russian social networking sites Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki – a decision Reporters Without Borders described as a “disproportionate measure that seriously undermines the Ukrainian people’s right to information and freedom of expression.”
Yet if the Council lacks in effectiveness, it is not short on civic star power. Several prominent figures, like Yevhen Bystrytskyi, director of George Soros’ International Renaissance Foundation, serve as members.
None of the Council’s members resigned in protest over state actions. By participating in the state’s game of sham reforms and ignoring its abuses, reformers “turn into back-up dancers in government’s starlight ritual dance with the Civil Society Council to demonstrate its pseudo engagement in the reform process,” criticized Bohdan Maslych, director of the oldest civil society information and support center, GURT. If Ukraine’s civic leaders are to stand for the European principles they fought for on the Maidan, they need to shed their timidity in standing up to, or resigning from, the current government and its “Potemkin village” civil society councils.
No doubt, Ukraine’s civil society faces numerous challeges. President Poroshenko is busy reconstructing his power vertical before the 2019 elections. The EU and United States are busy with their own priorities, and a return of “Ukraine fatigue” and declining assistance is a real possibility. The oligarchs are more than ready to lead again and Moscow’s capacity to stoke or escalate the military conflict in Donbas is not remotely diminished under Western sanctions. The combination of a weakening economy and war without end is paving the road for populists and hardline nationalists.
To win this revolution, Ukraine’s civil society leaders must remember and learn from the lessons of the past. The Orange Revolution and Euromaidan have shown that the solution can only come from within. Our NGOs and activists must move beyond the victory in the street, and pursue victory in town halls and elections. It is long past time to leave the comfort zone of “semi-opposition.” It’s time to unite and stand up for dignity once again.
“Golovakha: Ukraine is leaving the Soviet pattern behind, but it does not necessarily move towards democracy”, [in Ukrainian], Bigmir.net, May 29, 2017, http://news.bigmir.net/ukraine/1079276-Golovaha-Ykraina-yhodit-ot-sovka-no-ne-navernyaka-k-demokratii-ly)
 Halayna Korba, “Harassment of Anti-Corruption Activists”, [in Ukrainian], Novoe vremya, issue 27, July 28, 2017, http://magazine.nv.ua/article/post/64142-travlya-borcov-s-korrupcyey
 Freedom House, 2007 Freedom in the World report, https://freedomhouse.org/report-types/freedom-world
 Official statistical data from the National State Registry of Ukrainian Enterprises and Organizations is available at: http://www.ukrstat.gov.ua; The 2004 NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, USAID, (May 2005), at: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnadd432.pdf
 Liubov Palyvoda, Sofia Golota, “State and Dynamics of Development of Non-Governmental Organizations of Ukraine, 2002-2010”, [In Ukrainian], Kyiv, 2010, p. 18.
 “Civil society sector and politics: cooperation, neutrality or confrontation?’ [in Ukrainian], Democratic Initiatives Foundations, July 13, 2013, http://dif.org.ua/article/gromadskiy-sektor-i-politika-vzaemodiya-neytralitet-chi-borotba
 Orysia Lutsevych, “How to Finish a Revolution: Civil Society and Democracy in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine,” Briefing Paper, Chatham House, January 1, 2013, p. 17.
 “Who Are the Most Trusted Groups: The Government, Civil Society, or the Media?” [in Ukrainian], Democratic Initiatives Foundation, August 3, 2015, http://dif.org.ua/article/komu-bilshe-doviryayut-ukraintsi-vladi-gromadskosti-zmi
 Vitaliy Sych, “Three years of reforms: in short, I am dissapointed’, [in Ukrainian], Novoe vremya, June 7, 2017, http://m.nv.ua/opinion/sych/tri-goda-reform-esli-korotko-ja-razocharovan-1254874.html
 The term “sweet counter-revolution” was introduced by Ukraine’s historian Yaroslav Hrytsak, who sarcastically hinted that Ukraine’s President Poroshenko owns the biggest confectionary business in the country. See Yaroslav Hrytsak, “Sweet counter-revolution,” [in Ukrainian], Novoe vremya, June 11, 2017, http://nv.ua/ukr/opinion/grytsak/solodka-kontrrevoljutsija-1288921.html
 Reanimation Package of Reforms, Annual Reports for 2015 and 2016, http://rpr.org.ua/richni-zvity/
 Melinda Haring, “Can Ukraine's New Liberal Party Succeed?,” Atlantic Council, October 17, 2016, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/can-ukraine-s-new-liberal-party-succeed.
 “Citizen's attitudes to political situation, elections and political parties”, [in Ukrainian], Democratic Initiatives Foundation, July 27, 2017, http://dif.org.ua/uploads/pdf/11837777675979e41751cad8.18422987.pdf
 “RSF Urges Ukraine to Scrap Ban on Russian Social Media Sites,” Reporters Without Borders, May 23, 2017, https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-urges-ukraine-scrap-ban-russian-social-media-sites
Kyiv, 12 Sep 2017
Letter to The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
It would not be an exaggeration to say that after the Revolution of Dignity Ukraine’s civil society and its rising influence over the process of the country’s transformation have been in the spotlight of the international community. Along these lines, the recent article ‘Wake-up Call for Ukraine's Civil Society’ by Ms. Kateryna Smagliy, published by the Wilson Center, about the current challenges that Ukrainian third sector is facing - both from outside and from within - has gained a lot of international attention. However, while Ms. Smagliy had undoubtedly good intentions, a number of serious claims made in the article, particularly, about the Reanimation Package of Reforms, do not correspond to reality. Therefore, reason for writing this open letter to the Wilson Center - the organization that I deeply respect - is to respond to Kateryna Smagliy's assessments and judgments, which she expressed in the above-said piece and which we find misleading.
For more than three years, Ukrainian society has been experiencing a difficult period of reformation. The path turned out to be more complex than it seemed in March 2014, when the first constituent meetings of leaders of NGOs, the founders of the coalition the Reanimation Package of Reforms (hereafter - RPR), took place. The conclusion reached unanimously after the first two years of promoting reforms is that this process resembles more a marathon distance than a sprint race, which requires a precise estimation of our resources and concentration of efforts.
It is not a secret that at the time of establishment of the RPR coalition after 24 years of Ukraine’s independence, there was not a single сivil society platform capable of working on the common agenda and being an influential player among stakeholders for a long time. Some similar initiatives were created to solve specific problems and did not last long. It was for the first time in 2014, on Maidan, that a motivation to create a multidisciplinary group of participants with expertise and ability to work in groups for the sake of development a joint action plan emerged. Although three years have already passed since then, this determination not only has not vanished, but was even solidified.
According to sociologists, today RPR is known by 39% of citizens. Members of the Parliament often publicly refer RPR’s position while discussing draft laws in the Parliament, while some ministries copy RPR along with government departments in communication of their decisions. When an attack on civil society took place through the introduction of the e-declaration for anti-corruption activists, it was the RPR that became the response centre and appealed to the President of Ukraine with the call for immediate action.
Due to the priorities focus of RPR expert groups, the coalition has been able to guarantee quality solutions elaborated in accordance with the full cycle of policy-making process. More than 110 laws in Ukraine, adopted by the Parliament over the past three years, were drafted or advocated by the Reanimation Package of Reforms experts.
Ukraine has a lot to be proud of, although we often see and hear displeased citizens in social networks and in the streets. However, if we face the facts, three years ago we did not have an independent system of high-level corruption investigation bodies (National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office), public e-procurement system Prozorro, e-declaration system of assets and property of public servants, 413 amalgamated territorial communities, open government registers of ownership, a public broadcaster, obligatory disclosure of ownership structure and ultimate beneficial owners of TV channels and radio stations, etc. All these progressive changes, without exception, were introduced with participation of organizations that are members of the RPR coalition.
At the same time, the assertion that the RPR represents the entire Ukrainian civil society is not true: 82 participating organizations make up only 0.001% of the total number of registered NGOs. Unfortunately, it is precisely from this assumption that false accusations of certain expectations and irrelevant obligations, none of which corresponds to our mission and strategy.
Another point of distortion in Ms.Smagliy’s piece concerns the funding of the coalition. In contrast to the claims about ‘millions of dollars’ allegedly provided by international donors to RPR, the actual funds received by the coalition are far from extraordinary, given that they were allocated for the general needs of the coalition. The entire amount spent by RPR for the whole period of its existence does not exceed 0.007% of the grant money provided by the international community to Ukrainian NGOs in last two years. Since summer 2014, the total amount of RPR’s expenditures on the overall needs of the coalition amounted to a little over $ 1.6 million, received from the European Commission, USAID, SIDA and other international donors. This information is public and available from the RPR annual reports on our website.
Contrary to Ms.Smagliy claims about the RPR members enjoying the ‘warm bath’ effect, in reality we are facing increasing attacks on our address: RPR’s team is blamed for the donor's excessive attention, spending excessive amount of funds on "non-experts", using RPR’s reputation for individual purposes of its experts, such as participation in fellowships abroad or taking the personal advantage of the relationship with stakeholders and decision-makers. Needless to say that along with the general alarming trends to downplay the impact of civil society from the side of the authorities, such defamatory statements about its largest coalition play into the hands by no one else but the opponents of Ukraine’s democratic transformation. Therefore, we deeply regret that Ms. Smagliy has made the same groundless accusations against RPR without providing a constructive and well-balanced assessment of our work at this stage.
In fact, the missing part of Ms.Smagliy story concerns those aspects of RPR’s activity, its plans and prospects that can be highlighted. We are at the turning point of our further development, currently working on the RPR’s Strategy for 2018-19 years.
The coalition, encompassing more than 300 experts at the moment, is constantly growing, gathering even more new experts who are among leaders in their areas. It is true that several people left RPR. But in most of the cases it happened for reason other than described in the article. For example, because of the revealed plagiarism or violation of ethical standards. Only one organization in the entire RPR’s history has left the coalition, since it turned out that it did not have transparent funding and promoted legislative changes that may have been ordered by local oligarchs. This case has clearly shown that RPR is not a place for political lobbyists and dependent structures.
Almost every month we accept 1-2 new members from dozens of registered candidates. The latest example is the well-known team in the education sphere Prometheus, civil project for producing and promoting MOOCs, that joined RPR in early September 2017. In the response to my question about their motives to become a member of the RPR the founder of the organization and opinion leader Ivan Prymachenko replied: "We understand that as a separate organization we can provide access to the better education to hundreds of thousands of people (now, at Prometheus, there are 400,000 registered users), but to grant access to the better education for tens of millions of Ukrainians, we have to systematically change the institutions and work on legislative level. Implementation of these systemic changes on a national scale can only be achieved by pooling the efforts of all progressive organizations and people from the educational community".
At the same time, the advocacy work, carried out by RPR in the halls of power does not guarantee the effect of the reforms that would be felt by the majority of citizens. The fault for such a expectations-reality gap is unlikely to lie 100% with us. In most situation, it is the local executive authorities, responsible for implementation of the adopted laws, that serve as a stumbling block to tangible reform results on the local level.
Keeping this in mind, we have been encountered with an important dilemma - how to work with the above-said obstacle. The first response was the new regional policy that we launched at the end of last year. New regional civil society coalitions as independent structures, formed with the help of our advice and guidance, intend to use the RPR organizational model and intensify push on the local authorities. Already 12 regional coalitions in various parts of Ukraine have been established, and the demand for such a grassroot reform advocacy is only increasing. Against this backdrop, the assertions that RPR neglects the issue of citizens engagement are either ignorant or purposefully misleading.
In November, RPR will organize the largest forum of civic organizations and activists from all over Ukraine, aiming to bring together all experts and activists who knows how to jointly set up the agenda of their cities and are willing to unite efforts in a single plan of implementation of changes. Being well aware about the decentralization process, we aspire to bridge leading NGOs in Kyiv and other key cities in order to combine their efforts for achievement of a common goal. The second response will consist in development of the updated Roadmap of Reforms in the beginning of 2018, which will take into account issues that are relevant to all regional coalitions.
In regard to our international cooperation, we will have to introduce some changes in our approaches of advocating reforms to our international partners (diplomatic corps, international organizations, foreign journalists and experts). We acknowledge and deeply appreciate their support of Ukraine’s reform process, since no major progressive systemic changes at the national level would have happened without their involvement and close monitoring of developments in Ukraine. However, at times, our fierce reviews of the inactivity of the Parliament or the President do not find support even within them, and we would not be ready to scale back our demands from the authorities. At the same time, we should remain partners who listen to each other's opinions - this is the only way to continue the work to succeed in making Ukraine a truly democratic, respectable and prosperous country.
We understand that the rush of the reforms of the post-communist country leading by the political elite, which was formed in that particular country, can not shoot forward easily. However, we are also aware that the reanimation process can not last forever. We are perhaps the most interested party of the results of social development.
Obviously, the next step will be the replacement of politicians and officials with representatives of our generation. Already in the upcoming 2019 elections, some activists may take part in political campaign, similarly to 2014, when six co-founders of the RPR became MPs and left the third sector.
This year, a new round of implementation of the public service reform is taking place. A number of experts have already either switched to government work or are seriously considering this opportunity. The inflow of these new people will fundamentally change the quality of public administration and bring the best practices of transparency and accountability, acquired during active work in the civil society sector.
The greatest achievement of RPR is a ‘bug-free’ system of joint decision-making and adherence to the "one voice" principle. However, the difference of organization’s structures and their styles of communications (from radical, almost hostile attitude to government, to a very moderate collaboration) challenges the coordination of a large number of the most successful teams within the coalition. The new strategy should help us to more clearly formulate our positioning and communication for the next two years.
It is important that we all understand our role at this historic moment. It is great that we managed not to run away, but to get together as one during the dramatic 2014 year. However, with the experience of collaborative work, the RPR became a major school of systematic interaction between people with state-building views. All those who went through this school did not step down because of small arguments and reluctance to negotiate with their colleagues, but felt the force of unity and the synergy that ensures the result.
To conclude with, I would like to share with you some observations from my recent conversation with the donors. They have obviously read the article and were astonished by many subjective assessments and negativism, expressed in Ms.Smagliy’s piece. However, the only risk that the donor community unanimously recommends us to beware - and we fully share this view - is that the RPR should not become an elite club, which closes itself on interaction with the authorities only, whose interest towards making reforms is constantly decreasing.
All of our best practices and expertise needs to be transferred to a wider range of agents of change in the country - and this is already an integral part of our vision for 2018/19 strategy. We have become the centre of knowledge and influence - now such centres should be developed in dozens of cities with the involvement of hundreds and thousands of citizens. While I’m finishing to write this letter, members of our team are 740 km away from Kyiv discussing reforms with the Severodonetsk community, which is one of the outposts of Ukrainian statehood near the line of contact with the military formations of the Russian Federation and other team is delivering a lecture on reforms at top cultural event of the year HoholFest.
Head of Secretariat
Reanimation Package of Reforms
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