Fyodor Rudenko, a participant of DRI school in Sievierodonetsk, shares his impression on the DRI school. This article was first published in Ukrainian on the Day.Kyiv.ua website, on 12 March.
The school “Democracy in Practice” took place from 7 to 12 March 2018 in the city of Sievierodonetsk, located in the Luhansk province.
The school was organised by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) in cooperation with the Vostok-SOS Charity Foundation, and was conducted within the framework of the project "Going beyond Kyiv: Empowering regional actors of change to contribute to key political reforms". This project is implemented by DRI together with the Institute of International Relations of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.
The participants of the school were activists hailing from cities of the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, namely Popasna, Shchastia, Druzhkivka, Sloviansk, Rubizhne, Zolote, Myrnohrad, Troits'ke and Vuhledar. They engaged in a diverse set of activities which aimed to study democratic principles through the use of interactive communication methods. The trainers and speakers of the school were practitioners who conveyed the theory in an interesting and creative manner, preferring not to adopt a discourse centred around “betrayal and money” but rather discuss about concrete and systematic actions which can effectively unite communities, both at the organisational and intellectual level.
Initially warned by the trainers’ statement that “government’s decision-making is far away from ordinary people’s eyes”, the participants examined democracy through a procedural lens in which everyone should be entitled to receive what the majority deserves. They learned about the requirements for such distribution to happen, namely the importance of exploring citizens’ various demands on a political competition market before formulating certain proposals. Facing a visible lack of rational electoral behaviour among the population, they explored ways to enable voters to acquire such skills by focusing on education and information about rational democratic choices.
Democracy is certainly something that ought to be shared with everybody. Consequently, trainers shared know-how’s in “capturing a deputy” and easily “opening doors” in governmental cabinets. Activists discovered how to become the “woodpecker of democracy”, organise proper analysis of activities, carry out various events and actions to interact with the authorities, and prevent extreme forms of activism such as “garbage lustration” or “hit the face on the table” (ed. violent actions against authorities). Being aware of procedures allows a prospect deputy, among others, to freely say “Good morning, servants of my electorate", while also having a productive relationship with authorities and communicating with them.
By tackling stereotypes about the “magical” aspect of a leader, participants’ attention was drawn to the fact that the lack of a strong leader can sometimes be a positive situation which can enable actors to search for mutual partnerships, comprehend the problems by team work, and substantially identify ways to overcome different issues. There are enough tools for such actions in the legal environment, therefore “democracy dies not because of the weakness of laws, but because of the weakness of democrats.” Finally, activists had the opportunity to practise suggested methods and approaches to apply democracy as “a mechanism that guarantees we are governed better than we deserve it."