Supporting Ukraine’s Local Government Officials To Strengthen Democracy Amidst War

In Ukraine, IRI supported 1,778 local government officials and to excel in their newly expanded war-time roles and by training women leaders who developed and implemented policy solutions for war-time issues.

Throughout 2023, IRI continued to support Ukraine to fortify its democracy. In response to the country’s wartime effort, Ukraine’s local government officials (LGOs) have assumed new responsibilities, which represent autonomy previously unknown at the sub-national level. This includes managing cities during the war, ensuring institutions continue to function, supplying electricity, water, and heat during enemy shelling, communicating effectively with, and supporting, community representatives, and providing support for internally displaced persons (IDPs). IRI is leveraging 30 years of experience in Ukraine to ensure local government officials are equipped with the skills, resources, and networks they need to excel in these new roles. In 2023, IRI supported 1,778 Ukrainian LGOs, including 491 women, through 65 events across Ukraine. These included webinars, training, seminars, interregional study tours on topics such as local council budget processes, working with IDPs, the role of local councils during martial law, strategies for wartime communications with citizens, and strategic planning and community recovery plans.

IRI’s support also includes its Project Management School (PMS) which connects and empowers Ukrainian reconstruction experts and local government officials responsible for city management during the war. PMS participants learn about post-war community reconstruction and development, how to secure financing from the national government and international funders, and how to manage reputational risk. Local government officials from 17 of Ukraine’s 24 oblasts…” needs to be broken into two. Local government officials from 17 of Ukraine’s 24 oblasts graduated from the PMS program this year. They are using the lessons and tools they learned to work with local and international organizations on evidence-based communication strategies as well as successful approaches to execute de-mining campaigns. Another PMS graduate began work on the construction of an administrative service center, and leveraged lessons and connections made during IRI’s PMS to secure funding from the European Investment Bank under the Emergency Credit Program for the Recovery of Ukraine.

Recognizing that women are experiencing the war uniquely, have critical insights into community needs, and are assuming new roles and responsibilities in Ukraine’s governance structure, IRI supported 11 Ukrainian female government and civil society leaders to travel to and learn from Northern Ireland’s experience rebuilding after conflict. Inspired and informed by the lessons learned in Northern Ireland, and with continued support and engagement from IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network’s Ukraine Country Chapter, a women’s political leadership network with nationwide infrastructure, the exchange delegates returned to Ukraine and almost immediately developed 10 specific policy recommendations to address conflict-related issues in their communities. Within six months, local councils adopted all 10 policy recommendations. The recommendations include establishing a community hub to advance veterans’ education and volunteerism; building IDP rights and wellbeing; developing a business incubator program for women in Novo Odesa; creating an inter-political party caucus to collaboratively address reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Zaporizhzhia; and launching programs to provide psychosocial support for trauma-affected women and girls in Pervomaisk and Vilnohirsk. These examples highlight how IRI is shoring up Ukraine’s democratic processes and structures at the local level, while simultaneously supporting Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.

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