Civil Service Reform in Ukraine: Patterns of Success in Reforming Institutions

A summary of a report that analyses the progress of the institutional reform of civil service launched in 2015


Anna Bilous, Tetyana Tyshchuk

Since then, the Government introduced an ambitious plan to improve policy-making and strategic planning within the Ministries. This resulted in the large-scale pilot reform which implies introduction of the new units, or so-called Directorates, within the 10 Ministries and 3 state agencies. With the reform ongoing, there is a need to evaluate the intermediary results it brought to life. 

The report contributes to a meaningful discussion about the effectiveness of the current reform. It comes at a time when society is experiencing yet another wave of political polarisation. There are reasons to believe that the politicisation of Ukrainian society is predicated upon the perceived inefficiency of the public sector and civil service as one of its key components. Under those conditions, success is often hard to celebrate. The legacy of successful reforms somewhat inevitably becomes a considerable underachievement, especially if considered against the ever-more optimistic plans that lay out each new reform initiative.

Taken together, the theoretical and policy-related findings contribute to the development of a specialised and well-argued discussion on the progression of the civil service reform. We wanted to emphasise that in many ways reform did contribute to its end goal – the improvement of policy-making capacity within Ministries. Not only Directorates appeared as the main subjects of the reform, in many cases we see strong spillover effects on the Departments.

Our findings have the capacity to guide new reform initiatives as well as carefully consider the continuation of the present reform. Two main conclusions should be reiterated here.

Firstly, the success of the reform is now in the hands of the new Government. The reform requires strong signals from the new political leadership about the direction of the reform. Meaningful interventions can be of high value, while introducing any kind of one-fits-all solutions will go against the current achievements of the reform teams within ministries. Leadership emerges as a key issue not only at the level of political elites but also within civil service. Strong seasoned professionals are needed to guide the change within civil service, both within Directorates and Departments.

Secondly, we advocate changes in terms of reform’s design options. Directorates went into different directions in their practice of introducing NPM and DAs. It is important that the design changes address the challenges emerging in a particular context. The process of change should be perceived as the only constant contributor to stimulating better performance of the civil service.

Full text.

The paper was written within the Think Tank Development Initiative for Ukraine (TTDI), carried out by the International Renaissance Foundation in partnership with the Think Tank Fund of the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE) with financial support of the Embassy of Sweden to Ukraine. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine, the International Renaissance Foundation, and the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE).

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