The SI Summer Academy for Young Professionals (SAYP) is designed to build awareness and capacity in the practice of governance in the Baltic Sea region and EU Eastern Partnership countries. Two separate two-week training sessions took place at Lund University and Malmö University in the summer of 2015.
For the second year running, the Swedish Institute supported SAYP, which welcomed participants from Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Sweden and Ukraine, working in public administration or within the civil society.
We talked to two SAYP participants about their impressions and future plans: Mariia Tyschenko, associate professor of the political economy department at Kiev National Economic University, assistant-consultant of the People’s Deputy of Ukraine and executive head of the NGO ‘Poruch’; and Shalva (Lasha) Gogidze, Local Government Programme Coordinator for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) – Georgia, National Researcher for Georgia at Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Independent Reporting Mechanism, and a consultant on open governance, anti-corruption and public ethics issues.
Why did you apply to SAYP?
Mariia Tyschenko: ‘The SAYP programme corresponds well with my future career plans. I was the researcher for the international project of the European Commission, “The exchange of knowledge assets: inter-regional association of neighbouring regions”. In collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of Local and Regional Studies, we developed the project “Local self-government in Ukraine: the training and applied research”. Now we are implementing the project in the area of transparency and democracy in local governance.’
Lasha Gogidze: ‘The topics of the 2015 SAYP course in Lund – public administration reform, anti-corruption and transparency – are relevant to my profile, interests and scope of activities. A combination of interactive training sessions and study visits to relevant organisations as well as an opportunity to network with my peers from the Eastern Partnership countries and Lithuania were additional incentives.’
What were your expectations?
‘I wanted to to exchange ideas and discuss strategies of state- and nation-building with other participants and receive a thorough understanding of concept of change in political economy and the development of EU countries,’ Mariia Tyschenko says. ‘There are three reasons why SAYP is important for me. Firstly, the possibility to develop international projects and share experiences in Ukraine. Secondly, a unique opportunity to communicate with leaders, stakeholders, government officials, officials of non-profit and non-governmental organisations, and other professionals interested in sustainable public management. And last but not least, sharing my knowledge with partners and colleagues.’
‘Given Georgia’s continuing implementation of EU regulations and standards in the fight against corruption, I wanted to learn more about Sweden’s experience,’ Lasha Gogidze says. ‘I wanted to acquire practical knowledge and skills in developing innovative tools for reforming local public administration in Georgia.’
What were your impressions of SAYP? How will you use your new knowledge in your own work?
‘I am going to use all the advice I received during the SAYP study visits in my work,’ Mariia Tyschenko says. ‘The Ukrainian revolution in 2014 opened up new opportunities for reforms. Our own experience is not enough to solve all the problems; that is why we need to study foreign experience.
‘My organisation, NGO “Poruch”, plans to carry out a project on sustainable development of the regions – and I plan to contribute to scientific journals and to policy arenas using the knowledge I received in Sweden. I hope the policy paper which I plan to write will help decision makers understand sustainable public management. My new knowledge will be used in a public presentation that I plan to do in September. I will also use it in my work as assistant-consultant of People’s Deputy of Ukraine on questions of cooperation with Scandinavian countries in the Parliamentary Group of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.’
‘My impressions of SAYP are positive,’ Lasha Gogidze says. ‘SAYP helped me establish networks with prominent experts in my field and young leaders from the countries of my region. I was exposed to the practices of relevant governmental and non-governmental agencies in Sweden and Denmark that gave me additional insights into the nature of policy reforms in those countries. These will serve as a reference point in my work with local authorities, civil society and the media in Georgia.’
What has been most inspiring? What was the most important message to take home?
‘Sweden is characterised by steady growth, long-term political stability, transparent institutions, technological adaptability, open economies and high levels of education and sustainable development,’ Mariia Tyschenko says. ‘I hope these experiences can improve the understanding of the way of doing things and will inspire debate and development in Ukraine. Shared values are also about sharing experience with others. Social values are not easily transferable across borders, but systems and policies that have proved to work well might still serve as an inspiration to others.’
‘I was most inspired by how much data is publicly available in Sweden, how Swedes treat the law as a supreme point of reference, and how efficiently they implement policies without formal mechanisms of coordination and feedback sharing between different stakeholders.’ Lasha Gogidze says. ‘A major message to take away is that if the government leads by example in its commitment to transparency and accountability, there is a chain reaction in other sectors as well.’
When it comes to creating a more efficient and transparent public administration, what are the challenges?
‘Social trust and trust in institutions coincide with low levels of corruption,’ Mariia Tyschenko says. ‘Values that are implicit in formal law are also internalised and embedded as social norms and the outcome is then a democratic decision-making process.
‘Over a year ago, the autocratic regime in Ukraine was overthrown. However, the overthrow of the dictatorship did not automatically guarantee effective formation of a new state. According to the Democracy Index 2014, compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Ukraine occupies 92nd position of 167 countries for democracy development. Such low results do not reflect the real possibilities and potential to initiate effective democratic reforms.
‘At the present stage of Ukraine’s development, it is necessary to inspire and educate people to become a powerful force in promoting democracy, demanding government accountability and transparency, and in the near future, to take responsibility for building a country based on democratic principles.’
Lasha Gogidze says: ‘A major challenge in transition countries is the lack of capacity to develop and implement practical solutions for increasing the level of government transparency. While the necessary legal framework is often in place, there are no institutionalised mechanisms for disclosing data. This in turn creates a gap in communication between the authorities and the citizens, with the citizens showing distrust and apathy towards the authorities. On the other hand, local civil society organisations (CSOs), grassroots communities and the media lack resources to engage in advocacy and monitoring of government policies and to directly represent society’s interests.’