On 14 November Donetsk Oblast Council approved the oblast Programme to Promote Civil Society Development for 2013 - 2015 with the overall budget of UAH 2038 thousand.
While in 2010, Donetsk Oblast was the first one in Ukraine that developed a targeted programme for promotion of civil society development, the one developed with public participation and in response to a citizens' initiative, Donetsk Oblast Council was among the latest in Ukraine that managed to approve such programmes. So far, Ternopilska and Cherkaska oblasts still lag behind in the process.
So, what is the recently approved Programme for? Participants of the roundtable session held in Donetsk a few hours after its approval tried to answer this question. The roundtable participants included representatives of authorities and civil society.
It is necessary to note a number of events preceding approval of the Programme, including the Oblast Council's rejection of the program version developed by public activists, efforts of civil society representatives to lobby against approval of the programme version developed by the Oblast State Administration. Be as it may, the final version of the target programme became a compromise between the public and authorities, allowing them to agree key principal provisions of the programme.
Oleksandr Klyuzhev from Donetsk Office of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine CSO considers approval of the final version of the Programme to be "a victory of civil society". He believes that the public has managed to apply social pressure and to ensure that the finally approved document does not include measures prone to corruption risks. As Mr. Klyuzhev concluded: "We have managed to ensure that the Programme does not contain non-tendered measures".
In her turn, Iryna Mykhailenko, the deputy Director of the Internal Policy Department of Donetsk Oblast State Administration focused on main priorities of the Programme. The priorities included: involvement of the public into public discussion of oblast-level policies and facilitation of public participation in decision-making at the regional level, legal culture and legal awareness raising, information and communication measures. The Programme also stipulates that in 60 days the Contest Commission of 4 members should be formed, including representatives of CSOs, academic community, the oblast-level Council and the State Administration.
Anastasia Krasnosilska from the Ukrainian Independent Centre of Political Research also shares some reserved optimism. Referring to several best practices of development and implementation of programmes in other oblasts, she emphasized a number of aspects that, in her opinion, need some attention and adjustment. In particular, according to the expert, "due to high morbidity figures in the oblast, there is a need and demand for measures to prevent HIV/AIDS". As a positive example, she referred to incorporation of such measures into a similar programme of Kirovograd oblast.
Civic activists argued that almost a third of the Programme measures provide for opinion polls, so it is important to ensure that results of such surveys should be used to adjust local policies and to develop new initiatives. The same considerations apply to trainings for journalists stipulated in the approved Programme. It is important to ensure that such trainings for journalists should raise their awareness in the sphere of civil society instead of merely training them to produce press-releases. Referring to positive examples in programmes of other oblasts, the experts noted active use of social media for public involvement in Lugansk oblast, introduction of civic education in Lviv oblast, etc.
Despite their moderate expectations in connection with the new Programme, the coalition of seven oblast CSOs declared their "intentions to maintain a permanent monitoring of implementation of the oblast Programme to Promote Civil Society Development in Donetsk Oblast. The monitoring will be particularly focused on efficiency of use of budgetary funds".