15 April 2016 – The European Parliament’s Needs Assessment Mission presented the Report and Roadmap on Reform of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for civil society, MPs, and Parliament’s Administration.

The Report was presented to over 150 participants of the parliamentary-civic conference “Creating an effective, accountable, responsible parliament” organised by the USAID’s Rada Program, implemented by East Europe Foundation, and by UNDP Ukraine in cooperation with the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

“The theme and substance of this event amply underlines the crucial synergy between parliament and civil society in deepening the democratic transformation of Ukraine,” with these inspiring words Neal Walker, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Ukraine, opened the conference.

Against the backdrop of the revolutionary changes, society calls for greater legislative transparency and accountability along with the commitments for parliamentary reform taken by the Parliament’s Administration and Members of Parliament.

Aimed at supporting the reform process of the Verkhovna Rada, the Report and Roadmap identify fundamental areas which can leverage overall change in institutional effectiveness and accountability of the Ukrainian Parliament. It focuses on 7 key priorities:

· legislative capacity and process in the Verkhovna Rada;

· political oversight of the Executive;

· openness, transparency, and accountability to citizens;

· approximation of Ukrainian legislation to the EU acquis;

· administrative capacities;

· coalition, opposition, and dialogue within the Verkhovna Rada;

· ethics and conduct at the Verkhovna Rada.

Head of the European Parliament’s Needs Assessment Mission to the Verkhovna Rada Pat Cox elaborated on the Mission’s recommendations on the reform and capacities of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

"Civil society organizations are an integral part of any reform. Involvement, advocacy, and monitoring are basic principles of cooperation between authorities and civil society," said Mr. Cox.

At the same time, Ukraine has also made other important steps to strengthen the Parliament as an effective democratic institution. In order to enhance Parliament’s transparency and ensure its readiness to invite citizens into decision-making, make legislative processes clearer and easier to understand, and provide more tools for interaction, Ukraine officially signed the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness and approved the Open Parliament Action Plan in February 2016.

Svitlana Zalishchuk, Member of Ukrainian Parliament and one of the initiators of Ukraine’s endorsement of the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, reiterated the importance of the parliamentary reform in Ukraine: “Owing to the hard work of its participants, the Open Parliament initiative has achieved its first results: the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has now specially equipped places where applicants can work with information; a new “Processing” chapter has been added to the registers of draft laws on the VRU website; a mechanism for publishing the texts of MPs’ appeals and responses to them on the official parliamentary website have been developed; VRU’s Open Data Portal will be launched shortly to publish complete and machine-sensible information about MPs, draft laws, financial, and administrative data.

Complementing each other, these two strategic documents – the Report and Roadmap, prepared by the European Parliament, as well as the Open Parliament Action Plan, developed by Ukrainian parliamentary monitoring organisations with the support of UNDP in Ukraine – define the direction of the reform of the Parliament and specify means of cooperation between the MPs, parliamentary staff, and parliamentary monitoring organisations.

During the expert panel discussions, representatives of the Ukrainian parliamentary monitoring organisations (OPORA, CHESNO, Transparency International Ukraine, Eidos, Media Law Institute) shared their vision on how the European Parliament’s Needs Assessment Mission’s Report and Roadmap as well as the Open Parliament Action Plan reinforce each other and complement proposed recommendations.

“Citizens’ trust in Ukrainian parliament will be higher when the legislative branch of power starts working in a transparent, accountable, and open manner. The instruments of public control to be used not only by experts and analysts, but also by voters, will encourage citizens to make a more conscious choice for delegating the authority, while politicians to assume responsibility for their actions,” said Olha Aivazovska, Chairperson of the OPORA Civil Network.

Bringing together representatives of civil society, MPs, and Parliament’s Administration, the conference became the platform for debate, which will be further elaborated into a plan of action for civil society to define priority steps for institutional reform of the Ukrainian parliament.