Reanimation Package of Reforms: From Maidan to Policy Making

In 2014 the Maidan Revolution overthrew the government of president Yanukovich. Unlike after the Orange Revolution years before, many of the protesters decided that this time they would not go home and hope that things will change for the better – just because there is a new government. They had come to stay and help building a new country.

One of them is Artem Myrgorodskyi. After he had helped to evacuate wounded people in the Maidan Revolution, he founded REANIMATION PACKAGE OF REFORMS, an NGO that is working out a policy agenda for Ukraine. Since its establishment, the RPR was engaged in the adoption of 80 laws in Ukraine, says Mr. Myrgorodskyi.

Find Reanimation Package of Reform’s website here

Previous to working in the civic sector, Mr. Myrgorodskyi explained, he was a marketing manager in three different companies. His career changed when he participated at the Maidan1 movement, and helped evacuate 230 wounded people. In the chaos of the movement, he was the head of the initiative to help the wounded people, and soon after he formed an NGO which is still a functioning and prominent Ukrainian NGO. He decided to move on from marketing and work in the civic society because he found it to be necessary and required by the country that has to be changed in the nearest future.

The RPR is a coalition of 56 NGOs, mainly participants of the movement Maidan. While some of the Maidan participants went to practice politics, others decided to extend their activities to the civic sector and aim to coordinate activities and initiatives, tP1000920 (800x797)hus supporting the politicians, rather than taking part in the politics personally. That was why the Platform first started. The RPR was established in March 2013(???). It started with 30 people, and subsequently many more members joined later, growing to the number of 56 NGOs, in this way becoming the biggest Ukrainian organization of this type in the last 25 years. The main goal of the RPR is to influence and impact the politicians through many diverse activities :they discuss the agenda in the Government Office, advocate for different reforms, collaborating with over 70 MEPs from the Ukrainian Government. They have collaborated with the more progressive MEPs, the ones that are proactive, that are willing to cooperate, the ones that understand the reforms and its importance, and don’t only push the buttons, that are conscious (20%). Since its establishment, the RPR was engaged in the adoption of 80 laws in Ukraine.

The RPR does not communicate with the political parties, but rather finds personal contacts, mostly in the politicians who can impact the group from the inside. As for the Yanukovich, the opposition, the RPR’s attitude towards them is that they cannot cooperate with them because “they robbed the nation and killed the people”. However, they communicate with them, inform them about the agendas, but they are not invited to vote. It is important not to develop relationships with either parties or individual whose values do not match with the Maidan values. The RPR’s firm opinion is, that if they start developing the relationship with the enemies, the system could collapse.

The RPR’s governance model is a horizontal structure of various experts working in 23 groups concerning different civil society fields. The members are either the employees of the 56 NGOs or individual experts, presenting a core of top experts from the respective fields. They operate in a very well structured way. There is a procedure how to join the RPR, whose executive body is a council of 12 people that are yearly elected, mainly from the biggest NGOs. The Council appoints the managers and heads of departments; it makes decisions about accepting new members (the priorities are well-known organizations, especially from the fields the RPR lacks experts from). They proactively look for the partners and strive to build relationships with big companies and keep them informed. For example, when discussing an issue, the experts from within the RPR are called first. Consequently, after their draft proposal is approved, and if it’s a top priority, the second stage consists of open discussions with the different opponents of the reform, together with the MEPs. The expert groups work with the expert initiatives, white and green books, or policies. They work with hundreds of journalists, place news every day, communicate with the authorities, and write analytical notes that justify their efforts in pushing the reforms in a particular way. In their efforts, they communicate directly to around 70 more progressive MEPs. The same work happens on two different levels: at the organizations’ headquarters and at the cabinets of ministers. The RPR has an international communication department that was encouraged by the Brussels, Berlin and Washington institutions. They have good relationships with the three ambassadors, and pride in their good relations with some other influential institutions that easily and promptly get informed about any news, and are quick to react and help them if needed. They expanded to the Ukrainian regions where the civic sector is still somewhat underdeveloped. On this mission, the RPR visited 26 towns and promoted the idea of uniting efforts.

The RPR understood the need of a fixed structure and donations, so they made efforts to find donors and partners throughout the national and international structures in Ukraine. They found agreements with the EU Commission office, USAID, Swedish and German Embassy, Soros, SIDA, etc. Since they were successful, they got the contract for the next 2 years (about 1 mil euros).

As for sustainability, the RPR invests in the youth potential of their members. What is more, they see as the source of the future politicians – they support the young people informally and formally, through an initiative called the University of Reforms. The initiative relies on lectures held by some of the top experts which share their knowledge on different spheres, mostly concerning the reforms. This initiative is an addition to the formal University, and is supported by the Swedish SIDA. The RPR sees this initiative as good grounds for forming the future unbiased and capable politicians. On the other hand, when it comes to any sort of bias, the RPR has a strict policy against it, and therefore it is forbidden for the politicians to be in the RPR. Furthermore, concerning the youth initiatives, there are many praiseworthy efforts of the RPR to include the youth in the reform process, one of them being a group that is reforming youth policies, presenting the Eastern Partnership Working Group Forum. The Forum aims to use culture to prevent and resolve conflicts, and works on youth immigration from the Eastern Partnership. One of the main issues they deal with is how to keep the youth in their countries of origin and, more importantly, how to help them develop the respective countries.

The secret of RPR’s success lies primarily in rules and values. Their main policy is assessment of how the values link to priorities. Moreover, there are 7 priorities chosen by the main RPR body, the Assembly of the NGOs, each year. However, this does not mean that the other sectors are being deprived of any sort of development, but their issues are addressed only after the priorities have been dealt with. The RPR strategy changes once a year, together with the priorities. 85% of the resources are always used to fight corruption, and to reform the Prosecutors’ Office (that is still heavily on the basis of the previous Yanukovich government, with most professional and skilled people, but very corrupt). However, whatever the priorities are, they always try to accentuate that in the core of the State problems there is a cultural problem (values, what is wrong, what is permitted), and thus they highly support the cultural activists.

Looking back, one of the biggest lessons that the RPR activists have learned is that the people who work free of charge (300 people) can be more proactive than the paid ones. They have realized the importance of synergy, and see immense potential in mutual support. The RPR is highly aware of the fact that the reanimation should be done fast, but they see the great importance that is put on the balance of opinions and general inclusion. With that, the biggest aim of the RPR platform is to change the way of forming the legislative initiatives: right now, 80% of the executive power still belongs to the Parliament, and the RPR’s goal is to change it and share the agenda of starting from scratch in each policy making, including all sorts of experts, and only after the thorough investigation and discussion, drafting the law.

The way of functioning that the RPR has is convenient. There is a clear obligation to act on the demand of the society. The RPR is understood as a face of the society, and are contacted mainly when the politicians what to communicate with the society. It’s a very well placed position. The politicians understand that the society is very different and demanding, and it is of extreme importance not to be dismissed by it. It is for this reason that the RPR has the positive response from the side of the authorities. To change the country, the patriotism is not enough, but it is certainly a good starting point.

Author’s note: The members of the “Generation in Transition” met with Mr. Artem Myrgorodskyi, the Head of Secretariat of the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 18th 2016 to hear more about the RPR and to present their organizations. Article by Rafaela Tripalo.

1 A wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with public protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (“Independence Square”) in Kiev, demanding closer European integration. The scope of the protests expanded, with many calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and his government. The protests led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. Many protesters joined because of the violent dispersal of protesters on 30 November and “a will to change life in Ukraine.”By 25 January 2014, the protests had been fueled by the perception of “widespread government corruption,” “abuse of power,” and “violation of human rights in Ukraine.” Protests climaxed in mid-February. Police and protesters fired live and rubber ammunition across multiple locations in Kiev. Riot police advanced towards Maidan and clashed with protesters but did not fully occupy it. Fighting continued the following days which saw the vast majority of casualties. In connection with the events of February 18–20, Yanukovych was forced to make concessions to the opposition to end the bloodshed in Kiev and end the crisis. The Agreement on settlement of political crisis in Ukraine was signed by Vitaly Klitschko, Arseny Yatsenyuk, Oleh Tyahnybok. The signing was witnessed by the Foreign Ministers of Germany and Poland, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Radosław Sikorski, respectively, and the Director of the Continental Europe Department of the French Foreign Ministry, Eric Fournier. Vladimir Lukin, representing Russia, refused to sign the agreement. In late February 2014, Yanukovych and many other high government officials fled the country. Protesters gained control of the presidential administration and Yanukovych’s private estate. Subsequently, the parliament removed Yanukovych from office, replaced the government with a pro-European one, and ordered that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko be released from prison.