Decentralisation in Ukraine: navigating the pandemic digitally

In Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with the process of municipal reform. Despite challenges, the move towards local self-government is continuing.

The Ukrainian Government wants to press ahead with decentralisation and regional development. Even though it has already implemented key legislation and guidelines to this end, the process is still ongoing. The outbreak of COVID-19 poses completely new challenges to this reform: How can the mayors of different municipalities hold meetings? How are draft laws negotiated during the pandemic?  

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been supporting Ukraine with regard to decentralisation reform since 2016. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU), the programme operates throughout the country and uses training courses to support local authorities by providing expertise in the areas of regional development and decentralisation. Since the start of the pandemic, GIZ has already helped to conduct more than 760 online training courses for around 6,000 participants. Draft legislation at municipal level, both related and unrelated to COVID-19, is just one of the issues addressed in these courses. In order to enable the passage of legislation in spite of the pandemic, committees, for example, are continuing their work online. In addition, discussions between Ukrainian and European municipalities on the approaches used in the fight against the virus are taking place on digital platforms. 

All Ukrainian municipalities also receive weekly information regarding current legislation: What programmes are in place to support traders and business people? What digital resources are available to local authorities? When and where do municipalities have to mandate the wearing of masks? The answers to these and other questions are set out in the ‘Letter for Leaders’. 

The exchanges are also used as a way to manage the practical provision of resources during the pandemic. Following a digital meeting between local decision-makers and health care facilities, almost 1,000 Ukrainian municipalities receive additional protective equipment for medical staff. Small textile firms were also commissioned to sew respirator masks. As well as helping to preserve jobs, this also means that the population gets access to urgently needed protective coverings for the nose and mouth.

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