The International Republican Institute (IRI) organized a study tour to Ukraine for nine Jordanian mayors to learn from the former Soviet Republic’s experiences in democratic transition and local self government from May 30-June 7, 2009.  The nine mayors have been active in IRI’s local governance program in Jordan since they were elected to office in 2007.  The delegation included Jordan’s only elected woman mayor, Rana Hajaya. 

The Jordanian delegation met with the deputy mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, and mayors of the central Ukrainian cities Cherkasy, Chygyryn and Kaniv, to discuss decentralization and share best practices and ways to address outstanding problems shared by municipalities across the world, such as service delivery, citizen participation and tourism development.

The delegation spent most of its study tour in Cherkasy, where it met a three-time elected deputy of the Cherkasy Provincial Council who has been involved in IRI programming for fifteen years, the governor of Cherkasy province, the Cherkasy city mayor who is also a veteran of numerous IRI Ukraine trainings, the city’s director of municipal services, deputy city financial manager and the head of the city water works. 

The delegation visited local city parks, met the director of the city park services, visited the city hospital and met with its staff.  Underlying each meeting was the concept that democratic procedures improve municipal decision making and citizen participation.  For instance, Cherkasy’s municipal budgets and development projects are devised and approved by elected municipal councils after seeking citizen input and participation.  The Jordanian visitors were impressed with the level of transparency in the municipalities.  Copies of the city budget and strategic plans are readily available to the media and the public, most city council meetings are open to the public and Ukrainian mayors schedule “office hours” to met with citizens and hear their concerns.     

The study group also observed the Cherkasy mayor’s interaction with his city’s media during a press conference in which the mayor “earned” media to increase his visibility and advance his agenda for Cherkasy.  The mayors’ visit received extensive local media coverage including news coverage on Cherkasy’s local TV stations and several articles in the local press.  Following the press conference, Mayors Abu Rajouh and Rana Hajaya were interviewed by the local press.

Returned to Jordan, the mayors are seeking ways to implement lessons learned and draw upon Ukraine’s decentralization and local governance experience.  In a debriefing session at the conclusion of the trip, the Jordanian mayors said they would like to continue working with their Ukrainian counterparts in the following areas:  designing the municipality’s strategic plan; developing the city’s annual budget; designing public awareness campaigns which focus on key municipal problems, such as city cleanliness and health issues; expanding their media relations capacities; and developing the capacities of elected women councilors.

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