A year after the elections: the challenges to civic society. Can democracy survive?
A nationwide conference held on 23 March in Kyiv on the challenges to civic society a year after the parliamentary elections attracted around 100 participants from the mass media, state institutions, donor and civic organizations involved in monitoring and analyzing the activities of elected public officials.
The conference was aimed at developing a strategy for civic society under the present conditions to raise the level of accountability of elected representatives and at assessing their level of openness and whether they have kept their pre-election promises.
In his opening address, the Director of the International Renaissance Foundation Yevhen Bystrytsky said that “dialogue between civic organizations and state executive authorities has been virtually stifled, and the media do not devote attention to this issue. We need on principle to ask sternly: “You promised, so what has been done?” Im afraid that many leaders of the elected authorities would have no answer. However the question must be put”.
Iryna Bekeshkina from the Democratic Initiatives Foundation in her address: “Ukraine at the crossroads: will it choose democracy and civic society?” expressed the view that: “both the government and the opposition suffer from the illness of standing up for economic interests. We have yet to see a strategy for development either from the government or the opposition. Nor is this discussed in society. People dont have the experience of exerting influence on the authorities during the period between elections”. She spoke of a survey of Ukrainian specialists that the Democratic Initiatives Foundation had carried out. 85 political scientists, analysts and journalists were surveyed between 22 February and 6 March 2007. and asked for their assessment of the socio-economic situation in Ukraine and the work of the Ukrainian government on a scale of zero, the worst rating, to a top of 10. The ratings overall were very low, with the average score for the government formed from the ruling coalition in the Verkhovna Rada being 3.2. Positive ratings (higher than 5) were given over for the situation with freedom of speech (5.2) and the level of democracy (5.2).
Natalya Ligachova from “Telekritika” suggested that civic organizations change their focus, concentrating more on establishing links with business, and also “moving towards the people” and supporting local initiatives.
The participants drew up and passed a resolution affirming their commitment to democratic values and their intention to further these in order to achieve social development. “The task we set ourselves during the period up to the next elections is to strengthen influence on the formation of state and local policy in order to create democratic institutions and procedures for direct and representative democracy, involving Ukrainian citizens in decision making by the authorities and bodies of local self-government, as well as in exercising public control over their implementation”.
The conference was organized by a working group which included representatives of UCAN, the International Renaissance Foundation, the Independent Centre for Political Research, the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, the International Centre for Policy Studies, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and others.