04 March 2024
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Partnership, cooperation… disTrust?

Some thoughts on the theory and practice of hromadas’ cooperation in Ukraine

By Anatolii Tkachuk, Director for Science and Development at the Civil Society Institute

From the past, the system of settlement and urbanisation

The territory of Ukraine within its present boundaries was formed only in the twentieth century. Different Ukrainian regions at different times were part of different empires, therefore the settlement network and the administrative-territorial structure there were different.

Southern Ukraine, like Northern Ukraine, has a much smaller number of cities, with less population density. Nevertheless, all these Ukrainian territories were characterised by a rather rapid decline in rural population and urban population growth. In general, about 31% of the population live in rural areas in Ukraine. That's a pretty large figure. Similar indicators in Europe are intrinsic to Poland and Austria.

Thus, on the one hand, we have a fairly large proportion of the rural population, and on the other, the key added value of the Ukrainian economy is formed in cities, the best educational, cultural, healthcare, sports institutions, etc. are concentrated in cities.

Among the total number of cities, the largest number belongs to small ones, but most urban population lives in large cities.

Image 1. Number of cities of different categories, by number

(МоЗ – cities of oblast significance, МрЗ – cities of rayon significance)

Image 2. Population number in different categories of cities

(МоЗ – cities of oblast significance, МрЗ – cities of rayon significance)


Analysis of the settlement system shows that the vast majority of the rural population resides in areas accessible to cities. Within a 30-minute accessibility to the city, the villages are larger, the population density in suburban areas is higher, these areas are more attractive for new production facilities. Rural territories of the peripheral area, with more than 45 minutes of accessibility to cities, are unattractive for investment.

Population density in suburban and peripheral areas:



Population, residents

Area, km²

Population density, persons/km²










































Distrust is a terrible impediment to development

Ukraine belongs to a very small number of countries where traditionally people do not trust the authorities as such. There are various reasons for that, but the key reason, according to many historians, is the long stateless status of Ukraine.

For many centuries, Ukrainians did not have their own state, so any authorities were associated exclusively with the power of the invaders, occupiers, thus it did not cause trust on the part of the Ukrainians – people were not in favor of the authorities and tried not to care for them.

For almost 30 years of independence, this entrenched distrust has remained insurmountable, creating problems both for Ukraine's development in general and for some reforms in particular.

Against the background of total distrust in the authorities, the level of trust in local seld-government is significantly higher, but it can hardly be considered high with 10-12%.

In these circumstances, there is also an element of rural residents’ distrust in urban dwellers, and especially in urban local self-government bodies.

In such circumstances, formation of amalgamated hromadas with centes in cities of oblasr significance has proved to be quite difficult, as has the accession of rural hromadas to cities of oblast significance (although the process has started to develop after the accession process was simplified).

In fact, the Ukrainian legislators have created a legal framework t establish partnerships between urban and rural hromadas – the Law of Ukraine “On Cooperation of Territorial Hromadas”.

It seems there is everything for the rapid development of such partnerships, but in reality the situation with introduction of cooperation does not seem dynamic enough.

Probably the key problem of starting a cooperation is the problem of distrust of all in all. Therefore, dialogue should be initiated to start partnerships and draft cooperation agreements between hromadas.


From dialogue to partnerships

In 2018, the Civil Society Institute, with the support of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme, launched the project “Urban and Rural Partnership as an Effective Local Economic Development Tool in Ukraine”. Its key objective is to support the establishment of partnerships between urban and rural hromadas, helping them engage in dialogue, selecting topics for cooperation and counseling them to prepare joint projects. We believe that only working together on projects, involving as many people as possible in this process, gives a chance to reduce the level of distrust and see in own eyes how joining of efforts produces better results than mutual competition for scarce resources.

What did we do at the very beginning?

  1. Conducted a detailed research of the settlement systems in Ukraine, situations with opportunities and use of partnership tools, and identified problems and opportunities.

  2. Prepared methodological recommendations on partnership launch.

  3. Prepared and published project announcements and procedures for participation of hromadas in the project on 9 November 2018, and sent out 98 invitation letters to the project partner cities identified in the study.

Of the potential partnerships, 38 responded by submitting applications with motivation letters to participate in the project.

There were four training seminars held for stakeholders interested in building partnerships, where urban and neighbouring rural hromadas’ representatives in small groups were able to start working dialogues on how to look for cooperation topics and projects.

Furthermore, the participants of the seminars had to show their capability to cooperate, sign memoranda of partnership with each other and prepare a conceptual idea of ​​a joint project. 26 partnerships have successfully passed this stage.

Image 3. Geography of partnerships between urban and rural hromadas.

As of August 2019, the project involves:

  • 14 oblasts;

  • 4 cities – oblast centres;

  • 16 cities of oblast significance;

  • 6 cities of rayon significance.

The partnerships are home to 2 million 374 thousand people, of which 312 thousand make up rural population.


Joint projects: what are they about and why are they needed?

The beginning of dialogue in partnerships has led to gradual identification of topics for cooperation that would be acceptable to all cooperation participants and that would meet the interests of urban and rural territorial hromadas being based on needs and opportunities. Thus, it turned out that the topics for cooperation can be quite different and not just related to waste, as observed at the beginning of conversations.

Types and number of projects in partnerships

Project activity area



Agricultural production



Solid household waste management






Water supply



Entrepreneurship development



Healthcare provision



Environmental safety



Pre-school education



Social protection of the population



Sports and recreational infrastructure



Regional development



Youth leisure






Agricultural cooperation



So, with 26 partnerships we have 14 areas of cooperation!

This is very interesting since it is an indicator of the evolution of hromadas’ project thinking.

At the end of the project, we plan to publish information on some of the most interesting partnership projects, in order to show not an easy way of moving from DisTrust to joint work for the benefit of all partnership participants.


Opportunities and risks as an attempt to make some intermediate conclusions

What has the work on support to the formation of partnerships and launch of joint activities of neighbouring hromadas in the preparation of their own development projects demonstrated?

  1. The credibility gap discussed by sociologists and political scientists is present, but it is overcome by joint work, when there is a need to solve common problems and there is motivation for this.

  2. Despite many training activities conducted in the field of strategic planning and project cycle management, in fact, project preparation, namely defining the purpose, objectives, tools and success indicators, is, for many, a very difficult task that requires external consultations.

  3. Turning the State Fund for Regional Development into a manual mode of its distribution, instead of open competition, discourages hromadas to prepare projects. Just as the lack of regional support for development projects makes hromadas every time submit exceptionally similar projects or those relatedmainly to the renovation of budgetary facilities.

  4. Delay in the call for proposals in seven regional development programmes financed by EU budget support also discourages participation of local council executive bodies in the preparation of projects.

Nevertheless, cooperation is still a viable tool for territory development. Given state support, it can not only significantly accelerate local development, but also streamline territorial planning, and alleviate tensions between cities and rural areas.

To be continued...

The full version is available in Ukrainian – please click HERE

Колонка відображає винятково позицію її автора. За достовірність інформації відповідає автор колонки. Точка зору редакції порталу «Децентралізація» може не збігатися з точкою зору автора колонки.
13.08.2019 - 14:43 | Views: 14476
Author list 80e41c7f02bc28ee5c26f8c6bcb92025

Author: Анатолій Ткачук


A.Tkachuk cooperation


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