From SAGs to a Council – Reforming the reformers

July 24, 2014

Following on from the entry yesterday, wherein there is a paragraph or two that relates to the necessity to continue with undiminished energy regarding reforms in Ukraine, despite the issues in the east, perhaps a glance toward how that reform is progressing is in order, and more pointedly, the structures behind reform input.

“…..The EU is far better at assisting in the delivery of softer solutions than it is in making hard choices. As such, the EU is far more at ease in supporting Ukraine than it is at sanctioning The Kremlin.

This is clearly seen by decisions such the creation and deployment of a civilian mission to advise on sector security reform (rule of law) at today’s European Council meeting – a wholly welcomed outcome it has to be said…..”

That well crafted reforms move along swiftly and are implemented effectively is crucial not only for the internal workings of Ukraine, but now as something of a bolt-on national security issue to Kremlin driven events in the east.  After all, those events are designed to act as an anchor, at the very least slowing – if not preventing – Ukraine’s path toward European norms.  Thus events in the east cannot be allowed to prevent or stall the reform process granting The Kremlin an unnecessary or easy win.

To be entirely blunt, Ukraine’s victory will come when effective reform across government, institutions and society – despite the hurdles of doing so generated internally or externally of the nation – are achieved.  When it becomes everything that The Kremlin’s present day Russia isn’t, and stand shoulder to shoulder in the democratic world.

Of course Ukraine doesn’t need to join the EU or NATO to achieve that – but it certainly needs the help of the EU to reform – and sadly any comfort NATO can give Ukraine would not be turned away, be it intelligence sharing, military planning etc., in the current situation.

Whatever the case, and however it gets there, Ukraine’s greatest victory will be to transform itself from a Soviet hangover to a far more modern,  democratic, rule of law driven, construct.  There will be no more important a victory than that.

So, how is Ukraine looking at reforms by way of existing structures – over and above those State departments and institutions already tasked with such issues?

Currently, external of those official State structures mentioned above, there are SAGs – Strategic Advisory Groups – working along side the ministries of health, culture, The National Bank of Ukraine, regional development and economy.  They are Ukrainian led – by the resident Ukrainians or in some cases diaspora as well, with a sprinkling of input from Georgia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, who already have the “been there, done that” T shirts.

The SAGs work under the guidance of the SAGs Steering Committee – currently chaired by Alex Pivovarsky, Senior Adviser for Corporate Strategy at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and  Oleksandr Sushko, Board Chair of the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF).

The overarching theme being good governance, anti-corruption, law enforcement and macroeconomic development across a range of sectors including energy, infrastructure, finance, health and education – a lot to go at, and all in desperate need of robust reform.

Needless to say relevant Ministers interact with the relevant SAGs.

It seems however, there is to be a reform of the reformers – at least by way of structure.

There is now to be a National Reform Council to be run by senior government officials, with Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Dmytro Shymkiv calling upon civil society, businesses, international donors and political allies to contribute to the creation of the new council.

As such the question becomes, how long does it take to reform the reformers into this new structure – and expand it – before much needed reforms begin to occur – and as importantly, are seen to occur – considering just how important the reform issue truly is to the survival of the Ukrainian State?

Well considered reforms and effective implementation of them is an absolute priority.  How much time will be lost in (re)creating bureaucratic structures for the sake of (re)creating bureaucratic structures vis a vis delivery of solid reform – ro are the current SAGs failing in their role?  If so, why?


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