Ukraine

Note on the Impact of the ongoing Decentralization Process in communities affected by the conflict in the Eastern region (March 2021)

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Background and Current state of the art

The ongoing decentralization reform in Ukraine (started since 2014) has recently reached the stage of re-designing its sub-regional units – Raions - and finalizing the establishment of the Amalgamated Territorial Communities (ATC, or OTGs in Ukrainian)1 . The latter process was formalized in 2020 both in Donetsk and Luhansk2 , and became effective as of January 2021 with the following key immediate implications:

i) a reduction on the overall number of raions, by merging existing ones. In Luhansk, the number of raions was reduced from 12 to 8 (of which 4 are in GCA); in Donetsk, from 18 to 8 (of which 5 are in GCA);

ii) in some cases, the establishment of new geographical areas for the existing Raions’ in relation to coverage of ATC/OTGs – therefore, some ATC/OTGs are being incorporated in new Raions with whom they had no previous interlinkages3 ;

iii) the transfer of functions on provision of essential services both at Raion State Administrations and ATCs/OTGs level as of January 2021. In this regard, the reforms are followed by a significant reduction in the number of staff at Raion level – considering that OTGs are as well expected to take over functions and hire their own staff.
The abovementioned process goes in parallel with the setting up of new administrations and re-structuring of territorial boundaries and institutions in ATC/OTG levels alike.

Regarding ATC/OTGs new administrations, while elections took place in most ATC/OTGs throughout the country in 2020, electoral processes were cancelled for security reasons4 in some areas along the contact line in Eastern Ukraine. As a result, Civil Military Administrations (CMA) were established in 18 communities along the contact line5 .

As of 22 March 2021, seven out of eight Heads of CMAs were appointed in CMAs in Luhansk; and three out of ten Heads of CMAs in Donetsk. The Heads of the remining eight CMAs were yet to be appointed, following the approval by the JFO Commander, in their respective areas.

In relation to the re-structuring of the ATC/OTGs own institutions, the law specifying their new powers and obligations entered into force on 12th January 2021 and implies the reorganization of several functions, including a scale up on provision of essential services to its population. This process can only be initiated by the Heads of Local Council (in case of ATC/OTGs where elections took place) or by the Heads of CMA (in cases where elections were not held), who have the authority to take decisions on budget and staffing6 . It is worth noting that, once a new Head