Civil society in Ukraine takes a stand for open government

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The building of the Cabinet of Ministers. Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo credit: Daniel Haußmann/Wikimedia Commons)

The 2014 Euromaidan revolution shook up Ukraine in an unprecedented way. The fall of the regime heightened the demand from citizens to eradicate decades of entrenched corruption that has long disabled good governance and stunted development in the country. Since then, civil society has been working hard to put pressure on the new government to make significant structural and administrative reforms that demonstrate a transformation in government openness and accountability.

As part of these efforts, Transparency International Ukraine, with the support of broader Ukrainian civil society, has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Arsenii Yatseniuk demanding that considerable adjustments be made in ensuring the implementation of the country’s commitments to the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Ukraine joined OGP in September 2011. Since then, the country has made significant commitments in the sphere of several key areas, such as access to information, fighting corruption, e-government, public participation and improving administrative services.

However, civil society in Ukraine has questioned the weight of the commitments, and experts suggest that they may, in fact, be paper thin. Transparency International Ukraine conducted research that demonstrates the gap between law and implementation as 68.4 percent of open government standards are upheld in law, while only 51.7 percent of these standards are translated into consistent practice. Further, the Coordination Board tasked with carrying out these initiatives has all but deteriorated. The makeup of the board has not changed since the recent government transition, and there are no more regular meetings happening at all. In response to these rather surprising revelations, a public convening was recently held in Kiev to discuss the stagnation in the implementation of OGP commitments and formulate a response.

The letter calls for Yatseniuk to take immediate action in constituting a new Coordination Board, instituting measures to ensure ongoing monitoring of the implementation of open government commitments and collaboration with civil society. It also warns the government that its failure to address these concerns will result in the exclusion of Ukraine in OGP — which could have disastrous results on the international community’s confidence in the country at this crucial time.

This action by Ukraine civil society demonstrates clear commitment to capitalize on the momentum of political reform that accompanied the transition, and Sunlight applauds their commitment to a more open and accountable government.