Civic activists unite to lead civil society development at subnational level

Larysa Polska, a civic leader from Kherson oblast, was always looking for ways to support the community she loves.

14457383 4017026441739996 8911175575666871485 n"United by a strong sense of social responsibility, me and other activists stepped up together to overcome the 'poverty' of local budgets and help people improve their lives," Larysa said.

Kherson activists founded Zakhyst Charitable Foundation to raise money to support local citizens. Larysa, who now runs this charity, never stops seeking new ways to help her community. As a leader, she understood the need for sustainable policies for effective civil society development in order to strengthen NGOs that serve the community.

In early 2016, the President of Ukraine approved the National Strategy for Civil Society Development in Ukraine (2016-2020), which empowered NGOs to join the elaboration of subnational civil society development programmes.

12742088 737346159698926 5717148893915524421 nLarysa's foundation was one of four NGOs – civil society hubs – supported by UNDP in Ukraine to team up with their subnational authorities with the purpose to operationalize the recently adopted Strategy in Dnipro, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zakarpattia oblasts.

As it was presented at the thematic workshop organised by UNDP, these four organisations carried out a number of awareness-raising campaigns to inform public officials, civic activists, and journalists about the Strategy. They conducted roundtable discussions, information sessions, seminars, and presentations for over 1,230 stakeholders in more than 45 towns in their oblasts.

13492314 1199689430089889 7678394517639206815 nThanks to their joint efforts, Subnational Coordination Councils for civil society development were established and are fully operational in three oblasts. The process of setting up a council in Dnipro oblast is still ongoing. UNDP-supported NGOs took part in designing provisions on coordination councils, approved councils' members that represent civil society, and became members themselves.

In addition, the civil society hubs along with the Coordination Councils and subnational government facilitate the elaboration of subnational programmes for civil society development in abovementioned four pilot oblasts. In Kherson oblast, for example, Kherson hub's study on civil society conducted in their oblast has laid the foundation for developing their subnational programme.

15255957 1202140189851543 1391180173457033686 nIn its turn, Dnipro hub engaged over 130 civic activists, experts, scholars, journalists, entrepreneurs, and public officials to discussing and developing a programme for their oblast. Altogether, they came up with more than 240 recommendations to align with the 4 main directions of the National Strategy.

At the moment, the draft programmes in all oblasts are being finalised and considered by the coordination councils and are expected to be reviewed by the subnational state administrations by the end of the year.

The initiative is held with the support of the Democratization, Human Rights and Civil Society Development Programme, implemented by UNDP Ukraine and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.