Many young people in Ukraine do not want to wait for change. They want to make change. More and more of them stand for elections and serve as head of town councils or as local deputies. We gathered 25 participants from across Ukraine on June 17 – 18 to discuss their experiences and expectations in the “Future Public Servant School”, a four-day workshop organised by DRI, aiming to train youth and students on main developments and prospects in the public service reform in Ukraine and familiarise them with the skills, practices, standards necessary for a career as a public servant. Why would the young Ukrainians work in a public sector for a low salary? What do they hope to change?
Oleksandra Trubnikova (Kharkiv) shared:
“I worked as a legal advisor in Mariupol. Later I was offered a job in the local self-government bodies in Kharkiv. I could not quite imagine how I would subsist on the small public servant salary, but I have not doubted my decision for a single moment since I accepted. I believe in the saying ’To reach the summit we must climb over some rocks’. Public servants in Ukraine face a lot of challenges. One of them is the unclear legal framework they have to work with."
Oksana Khimich (Lviv):
"For combating corruption that still exist at all levels of Ukraine’s public service we have to start with peoples’ mindset. High performance of a public servant is measured by how well he/she meets the needs of the society, it is not about spending time at work from 9am to 6pm.
The public service is burdened by too much bureaucracy: a submission for another submission, a signature, a document, a record, a certificate. Many of these have developed and nobody can explain their purpose anymore However, during the last three years many initiatives and activists’ groups sprung up bringing new approaches to the old system. In the Lviv region 25-year-old men and women become city or town mayors. Everything is changing quite rapidly, and young people are able to adapt to the modern world, absorb new experiences and share it with others faster.”
Nadiya Chyrkova (Kyiv) talked about her impression working as a public servant:
“I have lived in Slovyansk all my life. After the war broke out, I became interested in politics and started working in the city council. Soon I experienced all the drawbacks of public service. I was surprised by the public servants' attitude to work and the lack of integrity of some of them. Without integrity and a sense of responsibility, one cannot work for the public good. The staff often clings to the Soviet-era values and informal rules, such as corruption and deals. I want to eradicate this. My key advice for a successful career as a public servant in Ukraine is to believe in your capabilities and understand that you have to go through a period of hardships to achieve a better future.”
Vladyslava Troian (Kharkiv) believes in the future generations of the country:
“I often work with students and see how ambitious and motivated they are. They are the ones who will change the country. To fight the old system there are a few simple rules: not to give or accept bribes, not to be indifferent, and to be an active citizen in your hometown and country.
Once young people believe that the public service is a promising career path, the staff quality will improve. Career opportunities do exist within the public service. Nevertheless, the government must increase the salaries. Otherwise, the people with old Soviet attitudes will remain in public service, and the youth would become accustomed to corruption.”
Maryna Kolosova (Kyiv) describes:
“I do not consider my work at an IT company socially useful. I can still do the same work here in 10 years but the political changes in the country are happening right now and I want to be a part of them. That is why I am attending the workshop on public service. Everyone has their own vision on how to improve the country. Some join the public service, others work in public organisations or assist Members of Parliament. Others are engaged in the reform process or improve the condition of schools. This is the right path. Work a lot, do not be passive and know that the development of the state depends on us.”
The “Future Public Servant” school is organised by DRI and the Ukrainian Association “Centre for Perspective Projects and Studies” within the project “Going beyond Kyiv: Empowering the Regional Actors of Change to Contribute to the Key Political Reforms in Ukraine”. The project is implemented by DRI in cooperation with the Institute of International Relations of the Taras Shevchenko National Shevchenko University of Kyiv and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office. The interviews were conducted by Anna Plachkova from Studway, DRI media partner for the school. The original Ukrainian version can be found here.