May 18, 2016

How to Win the Battle for a New Ukraine

Reforms, new elites, and old structures

This April saw the formation of the third Ukrainian government since the Euromaidan protests. Where does Ukraine stand on its path to democratic change? Two years of reform efforts have yielded decidedly mixed results. A battle continues between the old system’s vested interests and reformers pushing hard for a new social contract. Who is winning? And how can external actors help the country, among other things, strengthen political accountability, break monopolies, and fight corruption?




In the two years since its “Revolution of Dignity” – also known as Euromaidan – Ukraine has launched important reform initiatives. Most of them are still in the inception phase, however, and much remains to be done to ensure their sustainability. The past two years have made clear the enormity of the challenge Ukraine faces in its transformation. At the same time, it has also shown unprecedentedly strong determination on the part of new reform-minded actors to overhaul the old system. Ukraine today can best understood as a battlefield: the old system and its structures are fighting for their survival, as new actors – from both within the system and outside it – push for a new social contract. This struggle is taking place on an everyday basis at different levels, national and local, in a number of different reform areas. External actors can best contribute by giving stronger support to reformers while promoting development of institutions that limit the space for vested interests to persist. Special attention should be paid to enforcing and implementing already adopted decisions and new laws that change the rules of the game.

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