The source of power is the people – the Constitution of Ukraine tells us. However, despite this, Ukrainians often do not know how this power can be exercised in everyday life. In many cases, local authorities use such ignorance to obtain an exclusive, unipersonal right for power. So how can you understand if you are in a position to develop your city every day?
The Institute “Respublica” has analyzed which cities contribute to the use of participation instruments by citizens. But do Ukrainians exercise this right?
Participation instruments of citizens
Public participation instruments are the methods which enable an active Ukrainian to exert influence on decision-making, among which the following can be highlighted:
- Local initiative;
- Citizens’ meeting at the place of residence;
- Public hearings;
- Electronic petition.
The right to use these tools is guaranteed by the Laws of Ukraine “On Local Self-Government in Ukraine” and “On Citizens’ Appeals”. However, it is extremely important that the right and procedure for implementing each of the instruments of public participation are described in the Charter of the territorial community, as well as enshrined in a separate provision of the city council. After all, the local council determines the detailed mechanism of using one or another instrument independently.
What to do if the local authorities did not implement the citizens’ participation instruments? – According to Oleksandra Skyba, deputy head of the Institute “Respublica”:
– If the city council has not adopted a provision or a charter with set in law participation instruments, then in my opinion there are at least 2 ways to solve this problem. The first option is to submit such a provision or amendments to be included to the charter by the citizens themselves through local deputies who do not turn a deaf ear to citizens. The texts of the documents can be developed by some lawyer you know, or you can resort to a public organization working in the field of local politics, for example, the Institute “Respublica”. Option two – if you are a “thrill-seeker”, you can use the participation instrument (community meeting, hearing, local initiative) without the provision, since such a right has already been provided by the Verkhovna Rada. In this case, you will have to rely on the adequateness of local authorities.
Ilementation of democratic mechanisms in Ukraine
The analysis showed that local authorities mainstream participation instruments. The sections of the Statutes of the territorial communities contain the procedure for implementing the local initiative – in 52.1%, citizens’ meetings – in 56.5%, public hearings – in 43% and electronic petitions – in 13% of cases. Alongside with this, local councils adopt particular relevant provisions. Therefore, the Provision on Local Initiatives exists in 26.1% of cases, the Provision on Citizens’ Meetings in 21.7%, the Provision on Public Hearings in 39.1%, as well as in 65.2% of cases the Regulation on Electronic Petitions is in force.
In the course of the research, it was found that Vinnytsia, Dobropilia (Donetsk region) and Sumy are the leaders among the cities selected for analysis. There, the local authorities allow the community to fully realize its own potential – in these cities, the participation instruments are enshrined not only in the charters but also in separate provisions.
However, there are also such settlements, where it is not so easy for the residents to exercise their power. In 22% of cases, local initiatives, citizens’ meetings and electronic petitions are not enshrined in the local regulations. As for public hearings, the situation is better – only in 14% of cases the instrument can be used effectively, only if local authorities are ready to hear and accept initiators.
Among the outsiders of the research, some settlements can be highlighted where it is difficult to implement each of the instruments. These cities include Dergachi of the Kharkiv region, Rubizhne of the Luhansk region, as well as Tarasivka village of Kyiv region.
In Bohuslav of the Kyiv region and Yuzhne in the Odesa region there are no provisions on local initiative and citizens’ meetings. In Skadovsk, the Kherson region and Zinkiv, the Poltava region, it is still not possible to apply an electronic petition for influencing the development of the city.
It should be noted that the lack of instruments is still not a cause for frustration. An heart-lifting opinion is expressed by the lawyer of the Institute “Respublica” Mykola Yatskov:
– The lack of participation instruments in the city can not threaten citizens in any way. It is more of a local government need to standardize the procedures for interacting with citizens. Citizens always have the opportunity to submit an appeal or request information, or apply a protest action. […] If the mayor or the authorities are collectively wise people, then they do not need formal instruments. It is enough for them to know people’s will, even on Facebook.
Use of public participation instruments by Ukrainians
Research of the Institute “Respublica” showed that Ukrainians most often use electronic petitions as an instrument of influence on power. Only in the first quarter of 2017 Ukrainian citizens in the cities under research applied this tool 1075 times. Interestingly, 50% of the indicator was provided by Zaporizhzhya residents who registered 576 petitions. The second and third positions among the leaders were taken by Zhitomir and Vinnitsa with the figures of 173 and 78 petitions, respectively.
Citizens in other cities, such as Zhytomyr, Kropyvnytskyi, Rivne, Sumy and Yuzhne in the Odesa region, did not use other instruments of participation besides electronic petitions.
The second-best instrument – citizens’ meetings at the place of residence – is significantly lagging behind the former one. In the first quarter of 2017, Ukrainians formally held 75 community meetings. The largest number is in Ternopil (25), Lutsk (20) and Zhmerynka (12) of the Vinnytsia region.
The use of public hearings to influence the authorities is not very frequent in Ukraine – 26 times in the first quarter of 2017. This instrument was the most used one by the residents of Kamyanets-Podilskyi – five times, and in Vinnytsia – four times. Tarasivka citizens in the Kyiv region held public hearings three times, even though this instrument is not enshrined in the Statute or in a separate position for the council in the village.
Local initiative is favoured by Ukrainians the least. Attempts of local government by means of local initiative were made only in Drohobych (5), Lviv region, Zinkiv (3), Poltava region, Vinnytsia (1) and Lutsk (1) of all the 23 cities that participated in the research.
Yuriy Sereda, a lawyer at the Institute “Respublica”, explains why Ukrainians choose electronic petition as a way of influencing power:
– Recently, citizens are increasingly using electronic participation instruments. This is primarily due to the speed of life and the development of the latest technologies. If even a few years ago, citizens did not even know about such an instrument of participation as electronic petitions, and collective appeals were filled through the multi-day collection of signatures by door-to-door method, now it is enough to register on the relevant website by entering your data and vote support for one or another initiative. Somewhere the necessary hundreds or even thousands of votes are collected in a day or two.
It is worth noting that at the time when Tarasivka citizens use public participation instruments in the absence of local regulations, residents of other settlements are leery of exercising their legal rights. For example, Bohuslav of the Kyiv region and Horyshni Plavni in the Poltava region did not exercise their right to influence authorities in the first quarter of 2017.
Advice on the part of the Institute ”Respublica”: Check to see if public participation instruments are implemented in your cities. Demand from the local authorities to enshrine the rights of citizens to local self-government in the Charter of the territorial community, as well as develop and adopt relevant provisions.
Note. 24 settlements of Ukraine: Bohuslav and Tarasivka village (Kyiv region), Vinnytsia and Zhmerynka (Vinnytsia region), Dergachi (Kharkiv region), Dobropillya (Donetsk region), Drohobych (Lviv region), Horishni Plavni and Zinkiv (Poltava region), Zaporizhzhya, Zhytomyr, Kamyanets-Podilskyi, Kropyvnytskyi, Lutsk, Rivne, Rubizhne, Ternopil, Sumy, Skadovsk and Kherson (Kherson region), Uzhhorod, Cherkasy and Yuzhne of the Odesa region participated in the research. The analysis was based on local authorities’ responses to information requests.