“It was extremely interesting and useful to learn more about how British MPs work in their constituencies”, says Yuri Levchenko, Member of Parliament in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (VRU) reflecting on his experience in the Westminster Foundation for Democracy exchange programme.
By bringing together Ukrainian MPs with their UK counterparts, the programme aimed to motivate new MPs in Ukraine to move away from the poor practices of the old Parliament. “One of my priority goals as a politician is to increase the general public’s trust towards Ukrainian politicians”, Mr Levchenko added.
Partnering with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine (Westminster) and the UK-Ukraine Friendship Group, the programme engaged a group of 5 Ukrainian MPs from different political groups. Ukrainian MPs were twinned with a cross-party group of Westminster MPs and witnessed parliamentary life in Westminster as well as the work of UK MPs in their constituencies. Policies relevant to the Ukrainian MPs political interest were also explored as part of the visit.
“As a member of the Budget Committee, I was particularly impressed by the level of legislative oversight in select committees”, Mr Levchenko reports. “All these matters are dealt with differently in the Verkhovna Rada. I believe the standards of Westminster are far more preferable”, stresses Yurii.
The innovative approach mixing institutional access and peer-to-peer support allows for on-going discussion and mentoring between the members of parliament. Initial feedback from the MPs involved points to successful outcomes. The WFD programme has, in the words of Ukrainian MP Nataliya Katser-Buchowska, “established a solid platform for further dialogue between parliamentarians in our respective countries”. It allows an “in-depth understanding on how discussions within the British parliamentary committees are conducted”, she added.
Viktor Halasiuk, head of the VRU Committee for Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship, reported that observing “the unique combination of stable traditions and rapid development and adaptiveness” was a useful model that he will take back to Ukraine. The Committee’s legislative and oversight operations have now been enhanced through increased outsourcing of research support and tighter oversight mechanisms that Mr Halasiuk was exposed to in the UK. This can been seen through the Committee’s work on draft legislation for small and medium-sized business and the regulation for processing timber.
The success of the pilot program in Ukraine has allowed expansion of the buddying-style scheme in other countries, to which WFD brings the British experience through parliamentary support programmes. Over time, we hope this will encourage behavioural change among a wide range of parliamentary and related participants. Strengthened parliamentary capacity is essential for achieving effective governance changes globally.