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Voices of reform: Ukraine Reforms Architecture injects fresh talent into the country’s governance landscape

By Nigina Mirbabaeva

The people who are driving forward reform in Ukraine

Launched in 2016 to give a boost to reform processes in Ukraine, the Ukraine Reforms Architecture (URA) project*: (detailed information about the project can be found in this document and infographic) now enters its third year of operation with a successful track record in attracting fresh talent into the Ukrainian public administration.

Following the project’s early achievements in piloting reform teams in a handful of ministries, URA now consists of three mutually re-enforcing components all geared towards stimulating systemic change in Ukraine’s public institutions. The Strategic Advisory Group Supporting Ukrainian Reforms provides high-level reform advice to the President, Prime Minister, Ministers and the Parliament of Ukraine, while the Reforms Delivery Office in the Cabinet of Ministers supervises the reform processes across the Ukrainian administration. The final component of the reforms architecture consists of seven Reform Support Teams embedded in the ministries and public agencies to manage the day-to-day implementation of sectoral reforms, as well as the transformation of Ukraine’s public service.

More than 150 young reformers are working across 18 key areas, ranging from public administration, privatisation and anti-corruption to sectors such as energy, state-owned enterprises and healthcare.

These reformers are determined, educated and inspired, bursting with energy and hope for change in their country. Here is what they have to say about the impact they feel they are making.

Nataliya Slysh, Reform Support Team Director, Ministry of Finance

A successful businesswoman with a decade-long career in the private sector, Nataliya decided to apply her knowledge and experience to the development of Ukraine. She says that building a successful business isn’t enough, there also needs to be reform in the government under which the business operates.

“The state lives in parallel with the business sector so no matter how successful your business grows to be, without efforts and desire to develop from the state, there won’t be success. This is where the reform teams come in – I am truly convinced that our civil service, just as much as our political institutions, needs many new forward thinking professionals at all levels to transform the country. It’s not an easy job – the public sector still shows resistance to change and we face it in different forms on a daily basis. But the reform team’s everyday efforts are improving the Ministry, allowing it not only to perform its functions more effectively but to become a change maker for the system of governance in Ukraine. In just over a year we managed to accelerate the reforms process in areas like public finance management, taxation, customs, state-owned banks and others. In particular, with our help the government launched one of the most important anti-corruption initiatives in 2017 - a single electronic VAT refund registry. Now companies get their VAT return in full, in half the time, and through a transparent procedure free of corruption. It’s a win-win for all.” 

Andriy Boytsun, SAGSUR

After a remarkable academic career in Belgium in corporate governance and state-owned enterprises (SOE), Andriy chose to return to Kyiv and is now advising the government on privatisation and SOE reform within the Strategic Advisory Group for Supporting Ukrainian Reforms. Andriy says that because reforms are always politically sensitive, with vested interests frequently instigating resistance to change, understanding and open dialogue are key to delivering successful reforms.

“The EBRD has a very strong policy component and I think this Reforms Architecture project plays a big role in sustaining policy dialogue with the Ukrainian government. Without consistent policy dialogue and an open debate there won’t be a shift in thinking towards reforms in the public sector and hence no progress. While some reforms are easy to justify – healthcare, education and pensions are all sectors in which reforms  are welcomed by the average Ukrainian – others, such as macroeconomic reforms or privatising state-owned giants, aren’t as easy to explain and reaping their benefits takes a long time. Raising awareness and creating understanding and a sense of urgency for change are therefore crucial.” 

Tetyana Kovtun, Deputy State Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers

Coming from the EU Delegation in Ukraine, Tetyana got involved with the reforms process in Ukraine on the civil service side. As the Director for Public Administration Reform, Tetyana is in charge of the reformers – the staff in ministries that are working on reforms delivery, ensuring that the Ukrainian state system is more aligned with European standards of governance. The end goal, she says, is using these “champions of reforms” to change culture in the civil service and hopefully encourage more trust in public institutions.

“I think one of our biggest successes has been the ability to engage some very bright and motivated people to join the civil service and bring about change to our public institutions. We’ve been able to integrate really enthusiastic and intelligent minds in ministries through the Reform Support Teams. With around 150 consultants working in Ukrainian ministries as the champions of reform, the project is able to work on changing the civil service culture and the views towards reforms from the bottom up. There are around 200,000 civil servants in Ukraine so these young reformers are our ‘agents of change’ on the ground.”   

The uniqueness of this project is its sustainability, says Tetyana. The young reformers in the Reform Support Teams will continue to be part of the public institutions, obtaining reform support positions and further improving the efficiency and quality of public service delivery for the citizens of Ukraine.

If you have any questions about the project, please contact Bojana Reiner.

*URA is supported by the EBRD’s Ukraine Stabilisation and Sustainable Growth Multi-Donor Account (MDA).The MDA donors are Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, the largest donor.

Building a capable state


The Ukraine Reforms Architecture (URA) project has attracted dozens of young reformers into the country’s public administration.

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