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Faces of Open Government: Oleksandr Yarema

Rostros del gobierno abierto: Oleksandr Yarema

Oleksandr Yarema|

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Open Government Partnership and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Meet Oleksandr Yarema, the State Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers and co-chair of the OGP Coordination Council in Ukraine. We sat down with Oleksandr on the sidelines of the OGP Europe Regional Meeting to learn about his efforts to promote civil society and public participation in decision-making, ensure access to public information, and, more recently, aid the reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. Watch our interview with him.

What makes OGP a relevant platform in your country and in the region today?

Ukraine has been shaping, building, and developing a democratic society for many years. And we see throughout history, particularly the Revolution of Dignity, that it is important for citizens to be active participants in processes at the state level, to participate in the decision-making process, to participate in shaping these decisions, to implement them together with the government, and to monitor their implementation. Therefore, the core ideas, values, and principles embedded in OGP are very relevant. That is why, it is obvious that this platform is important for Ukraine, and we are interested in developing it.

What is your favorite open government success story from your country, and why?

If possible, I will stop at not one, but two. In times of peace, I can’t help but mention Prozorro and Prozorro.Sale. This is a very good example where the government, business, and civil society agreed on the rules, enforced them, and started to implement them successfully. As for the times of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, our success story is that we agreed with our partners that we would not only continue implementing the current action plan but also start working on the next action plan.

Tell us a little bit about your professional journey, how did you become involved with youth and civic movements?

At school, I did not like some of the processes around me. I realized that it was necessary to come together to change things. Later on, during my university years, I became a civic activist, I joined a youth organization, and then my career consisted of approximately equal shares in civil society, such as youth organizations and think tanks, and also in the government. To me, this combination of experiences was very beneficial: having an understanding of how both civil society and government work. When you have some ideas you want to implement, on the one hand, you need to have the governmental perspective, to ensure the sustainability of your ideas, on the other hand, it is important to have a civil society perspective because it gives you more freedom of action, and the ability to approach any issue more creatively.

What role does OGP play in civil society-government cooperation in Ukraine?

First of all, the vast majority of the commitments implemented within OGP action plans were a result of proposals from civil society – in some plans by 70-90 percent. And here, the government acts as a partner because we understand if civil society institutions speak up about the importance of an issue, obviously it is important for the government to respond. Secondly, the values and ideas of OGP were adopted in various documents developed by the government, not only at the national level but also at the regional level. Recently, Ukrainian municipalities have also joined OGP.

How did your work change after the full-fledged war?

First of all, it gave us more work to do. In addition to the usual format of work, when working on developing policies, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating them, now we have a bigger task: to prevent the spread of aggression, to make the aggressor leave Ukraine, and to win. Therefore, obviously, the amount of work has significantly increased. Speaking about civil society, I won’t exaggerate by saying that this is our secret weapon because the enemy aims to turn us against each other – citizens and the government. In our case, our strength is that we are united, and we see how civil society interacts with business and the government in terms of supporting the army and supporting the integration of people who were forced to leave their homes for a new place. And this is a very important element of synergy when we interact, and obviously, it helps to win the war faster.

Is there a message you’d like to share with the global OGP community?

It is very valuable for us that in these difficult times, in extremely challenging times for Ukraine,
we feel a spirit of partnership from colleagues around the world. It really helps us resist and overcome. Therefore, I want to thank all colleagues from different countries where OGP is represented, for the fact that you think about Ukraine, talk about Ukraine, and for the fact that there are initiatives to support Ukraine. Thank you for this, and we hope that after the victory we will have many opportunities and formats for communication, joint ideas, and initiatives.

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