SEATTLE, Washington — Taras Sluchyk is a youth leader affecting local political change in Ukraine. His interest in advocacy and activism started when he was a political science student in 2008. The 2010 local elections and 2012 parliamentary elections inspired this upcoming youth leader to seek out mentors in order to understand how to build a more stable form of governance with democratic reforms.
During the administration of former president Viktor Yanukovych, nearly $3 billion was stolen from national oil and gas company Ukrtransgaz through subsidies to friends of the oligarchy and the political class. This manipulation and corruption ended in a revolt against Yanukovych, and inspired youth leaders like Sluchyk into political action.
While studying political science, Sluchyk developed theories that would allow democracy to thrive in a Ukraine he believed to be possible. He participated in USAID-sponsored seminars on citizen engagement with local government organized by the International Republican Institute (IRI). This taught Sluchyk that he would need to start small and reflect the public interest to create political change in Ukraine.
USAID, a top federal aid agency, has given close to $1.9 billion in aid towards Ukraine’s economic and social infrastructure. Due to its location between eastern Europe and Russia, Ukraine is pivotal for regional stability and security. USAID assists in the adoption of pro-European reforms and the defense of eastern borders from Russian separatists.
USAID in Ukraine is focused on building transparent governance, economic well-being, improved healthcare, citizen inclusion, social reforms and assisting the most vulnerable groups recovering from conflict as they resettle. Sluchyk’s work with USAID is one example of success in citizen inclusion and transparent governance.
Among Taras’ list of interests close to home are the rights of young people, civic activism, youth leadership and his leadership of a Ukrainian youth civic organization, the Democratic Alliance.
There are more than 800 utility companies in Ukraine. Utility companies are a point of convergence for local government and citizens of the region for service delivery. The quality of these services is dependent on government rule. As there are minimal regulatory standards for the utility companies to publicize their services, there is a susceptibility to corruption in utilities.
Sluchyk, along with other members of the Youth Political Leadership Academy in the city of Dnipro, drafted a resolution to the city council in his hometown of Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine. The resolution was adopted, marking a milestone for transparency in governance. Since then, public disclosure by utility companies has increased significantly as they are held to a higher standard. Putting theory into practice at the local level based on mentorship from USAID has created local political change in Ukraine driven by one youth leader and his peers.
Sluchyk has since scaled his knowledge and visited more than a dozen other cities in Ukraine, sharing methods for improving transparency and accountability for local governments. The public’s perception of corruption in Ukraine is higher than in Russia and president Petro Poroshenko’s approval rating has slipped from 55 percent to 6.4 percent. Sluchyk is an example of how one person can start small, start local and set standards for local political change.
– Addison Grace Evans