Ukraine: Promoting Change at the Local Level

Water pipe construction
Local community members building a water pipe. Photo: UNDP Ukraine

Until recently, the inhabitants of Pavlovka, a small town in Ukraine, had access to piped water for only three hours a day and sometimes not at all. Every day, the people of this community in Crimea had to carry buckets to a canal to retrieve water, just as the previous generations of the town did. However, in 2008, UNDP’s Crimea Integration and Development Programme became a key mover for change for the little town. Together with local authorities, it helped to organize people in Crimea into community organizations that gave them a voice and a platform. Also in the town of Pavlovka, citizens came together to put once and for all an end to the water problem that was affecting their every-day life. They held a public meeting to discuss the water problem, and decided to develop a plan to pipe in clean water. The water tower and piping system took eight months to build, but dramatically improved people’s lives. “Now we feel like human beings,” proudly proclaimed one inhabitant the day the water tower was inaugurated. “I don’t understand how we lived before".

Project results

  • 2,000 communities assisted
  • 1,700 projects implemented
  • 10,000 people trained

Not long ago, such local initiatives were rare in Ukraine. In 1991, when the country gained independence, it inherited top-down governance that tended to exclude citizens from decision-making processes. However, people in Ukraine have again started to come together, also thanks to UNDP’s Community Based Approach to Local Development Project (CBA), an EU-funded programme that aims to create and encourage sustainable socio-economic development at local level by promoting local self-governance and community-based initiatives throughout the country. The project includes activities such as the rehabilitation of basic social infrastructure and services, enhancement of professional skills and knowledge of community organizations and local authorities’ development of priorities and strategies as well as empowerment of local communities through public dialogue mechanisms.

Local development, national scale

Today, the community-based development approach is active in all of Ukraine’s twenty-five regions. Through these efforts, UNDP has assisted 2,000 rural and urban communities across the country, benefitting over half a million Ukrai­nians. It has supported the implementation of 1,700 projects, training more than 10,000 local officials, teachers and health workers, leading to real improvements in people’s lives.

In the Chernobyl-affected areas, for instance, some 279 community organizations have been established, bringing together over 20,000 people. Inhabitants have created action plans to repair schools, refurbish water supply systems, and improve medical facilities. Another example is the village of Hornostaipil, which was able to establish a vital marketplace with the support of local government bodies and UNDP. Moreover, these initiatives have developed national capacity, as local governments must compete with one another for the opportunity to implement projects with UNDP. To demonstrate commitment, they must put forth 45% of the project funding and appoint a person responsible for representing the local authority on a given project. This innovative approach encourages local communities to identify problems and devise solutions jointly.

A new generation of local leaders

When people are empowered, many remain active long after the outside support ceases. Over two-thirds of community organizations continue to operate after the first project is completed. Furthermore, citizens continue to give a portion of their income to community organizations for future projects, indicating that they trust the leaders of these organiza­tions. In Crimea, every third territorial community has gone on to imple­ment one or more additional projects without UNDP support, demonstrating local commitment. The people of Pavlovka - and many other communities in Ukraine – now grasp their ability to promote change.

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