Since 2014, the Ukrainian decentralisation reform has contributed to significant changes in the country's political, economic and social system. Decisions that are not of overriding importance are no longer to be made centrally by Kyiv, but as close to the people as possible by the municipalities (hromadas). Western donors have provided more than 250 million euros to extensively support the process of decentralisation and self-government. This also strengthens democracy. Nevertheless, the state of research on local governance in Ukraine remains patchy. The international state of scholarship on this topic is also fragmentary.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), together with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, is funding the establishment of German-Ukrainian Cores of Excellence to strengthen sustainable, bilateral research cooperation. As one of a total of twelve projects, the Institut für Europäische Politik was selected together with the Kyiv School of Economics to develop an idea for such a centre of excellence in the concept phase until the end of 2022.
Against this background, IEP will develop a draft for an interdisciplinary and policy-oriented research centre all around decentralisation in Ukraine by the end of February 2023. The planned German-Ukrainian Core of Excellence "ReLoaD – Research on Local Governance and Decentralisation" will research the connection between decentralisation and democratisation and analyse the economic and socio-political consequences of the reform for Ukrainian society.
The project has three main pillars: The aim is to conduct innovative research on the Ukrainian decentralisation process, to systematically collect research data and to develop scientifically sound recommendations for policy makers. In addition to the publication of policy papers, workshops are offered as part of the capacity-building programme and joint projects are carried out in order to make the reform tangible for Ukrainian citizens.
ReLoaD also contributes to the wider application of the FAIR principles for data collection and analysis in Ukraine. These are principles that must be fulfilled when dealing with sustainably usable research data: "findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable". The research results are to be made transparent in the sense of Open Science and accessible to Ukrainian and international scientists with the help of digital tools, and thus integrated into the global knowledge discourse on the topic of decentralisation and regional development.