The results of a half-year research of public awareness on decentralization and public attitudes towards reform of administrative and territorial organization, conducted as part of Swiss-Ukrainian project “Decentralization support in Ukraine” DESPRO, have been published in Ukraine. The research demonstrated that during the six months considerable progressive changes took place in the mentality of people, representing different regions of Ukraine, in terms of understanding and acceptance of the reform, which was so important for the country.



" /> Decentralization: how public opinion changes. DESPRO published the results of a series of focus-group research and their comparisons in half-year dynamics (2014-2015)
07.07.2015

Decentralization: how public opinion changes. DESPRO published the results of a series of focus-group research and their comparisons in half-year dynamics (2014-2015)

The results of a half-year research of public awareness on decentralization and public attitudes towards reform of administrative and territorial organization, conducted as part of Swiss-Ukrainian project “Decentralization support in Ukraine” DESPRO, have been published in Ukraine. The research demonstrated that during the six months considerable progressive changes took place in the mentality of people, representing different regions of Ukraine, in terms of understanding and acceptance of the reform, which was so important for the country.

Research of public opinion was conducted in the form of in-depth interviews with representatives of different population groups, including representatives of local self-government bodies and media in different regions of the country. The first phase was conducted from October till December 2014, the second continued from April to May 2015. This allowed the researchers to compare the results in dynamics and draw respective conclusions, regarding public opinion.

While during the first phase people, mostly, did not understand the essence of decentralization, doubted the relevance of reforms of territorial and administrative organization and local self-government, in half a year the lead motive of the discussions was not “WHAT” decentralization was, but “HOW” to conduct reforms, ensuring this principle of authority organization. While several months ago the knowledge of the discussion subject was unsystematic, there was no thorough understanding of the essence of reforms, much confusion was witnessed between the concepts of decentralization, separatism, and federalization, in spring 2015 the lead motives of the respondents were understanding of the essence of decentralization as the principle of delegation of authority and funds to the basic level, and of making the authority closer to people. An important issue was the acceptance of decentralization as a link in a whole chain of reforms, without which Ukraine would be unable to move on and become a full-fledged European state. People feel that every provision of the reform will concern every citizen personally.

In contrast to 2014, in 2015 the respondents could be divided not into supporters and opponents of decentralized authority principle, but into so-called “democrats” and “economists”. “Democrats” are mostly young people, seeing decentralization as a chance to build a democratic society and change the mentality of people. “Economists” are mostly older people with experience (sometimes, negative experience), who see decentralization as an opportunity to arrange the economical activity more effectively at the local level and resolve specific everyday issues in local communities.

Most respondents mentioned certain problems of implementation of the reforms. Particularly, they noted the lack of significant results achieved during the year of the new authorities’ work, low level of trust to these authorities, and certain disillusionment. They also mentioned the lack of professionals in self-government and state management, non-transparency, when “creators” of the reform did not have effective contact with the lower level, as well as negative impact of future elections to local councils.

The obtained results indicate that, in spite of the general stereotype, according to which people do not understand or are unable to perceive the reform of administrative and territorial organization and local self-government, the majority of people clearly understand its basic advantages and necessity, but they have specific questions concerning particular steps of its implementation and realize the key problems which await them on the way of reform.

There is a sharp need for information on specific steps of implementation of the reform and expected results. People conduct targeted search for necessary information and analyze it. Lack of specific information and answers to specific questions leads to disillusionment, resistance to the reform, fears regarding its consequences. People are irritated by general phrases, lies of high officials, inconsistencies in the interpretation of certain provisions, and populist promises. Financing, authority, and control are the three basic questions, which people want to get answers to.

 “We have tried to study the attitudes of average citizens towards the reform and the understanding of the reform as such. Decentralization is necessary and irreversible. We need people to understand and see their place in these reformed conditions of local self-government, administrative and territorial organization, and in the life of our country as a whole”, said the manager of Swiss-Ukrainian project “Decentralization support in Ukraine” DESPRO, Oksana Garnets. 

Facts about the research:
Phase 1: October-November 2014 (6 focus-groups); phase 2: April-May 2015 (8 focus-groups). Participants: women and men (1/1), aged 18 to 70 including representatives of different population groups – cities and oblasts (Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Cherkasy, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Donetsk, Lugansk oblast (refugees/migrants)). A separate survey was conducted among represtntatives of local self-government bodies (mayors of small cities, oblast council heads, settlement council heads) and journalists/bloggers. Number of people in every focus-group – 9 to 12. Duration of every interview 1.5 to 2 hours. Research conducted by Olga Dancheva, social psychologist, head of the Society of Independent Experts, commissioned by the Swiss-Ukrainian project “Decentralization support in Ukraine” DESPRO.

http://uacrisis.org/ua/28101-detsentralizatsiya