On 17 October 2016 the CIDS report: “Ensuring professionalism and integrity in the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine” was handed over to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence by CIDS’ Director, Mr. Per A Christensen. The report is also available in a Ukraine language version: Забезпечення професіоналізму і доброчесності у Міністерстві оборони України.
The report includes proposals on steps to be taken in the follow-up phase of the project. The most important next step will be to agree on the priorities in the implementation plan, before the end of the year.
In early 2015 CIDS and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Ukraine agreed in principle for CIDS to assist the MoD of Ukraine through a project of reform of the Human Resources Management (HRM) in the MoD of Ukraine. The resulting four-year programme (2015-2018) of bilateral cooperation between the two Ministries was formally signed when the Norwegian State Secretary of Defence, Mr. Øystein Bø, visited Kyiv in June 2015.
Since the summer of 2015 CIDS’ expert team has been working closely with the project group in the MoD of Ukraine to establish valid documentation of the situation and to map in greater detail the measures that CIDS would recommend to be taken. That work was followed by more detailed work plans and a comprehensive programme of steps to be taken. During more than one and a half years, cooperation has been very close, reciprocal, and characterized by openness and trust. Plans have been refined, measures tested out and implemented, and CIDS’ expert team has spent considerable time in Kyiv. CIDS has a permanent local project office in Kyiv with three local experts.
At the launch of the report, Deputy Minister of Defence, Lieutenant General Oleksandr Dublyan, expressed deep appreciation for all the work done so far and highlighted the strong commitment from the Ukraine side. Also, the Deputy Minister pointed out that the MoD since the summer of 2016 already had taken measures to increase civilian and democratic control of the defence system by, among other things, downsizing the MoD through the reduction of a substantial number of military positions. He also pointed out, with a reference to Ukraine’s Strategic Defence Bulletin, that the position as Minister of Defence would be converted to a civilian position from the end of 2017. LtGen Dublyan emphasized that despite the ongoing war with Russia in the East, the Ukrainian MoD realized that institutional reform in the defence system had to take place, despite the other serious challenges that Ukraine faces at the same time.
Mr. Christensen welcomed the transparency, cooperation and friendliness that had been prominent throughout the work done over the past year. The new report was a telling measure of success. Although not all findings and proposed measures necessarily are popular with everybody, and even could be regarded as uncomfortable by some, they represent a fair documentation of the current situation and will provide a solid basis for correcting identified gaps. The report also lists several areas where the prospects for real reform are good, for example, as a result of the legal foundation put in place with the newly implemented Law on Civil Service.
The shortfalls identified in the report are largely the consequences of history and tradition, which also explain the complexity of a thorough reform process. So, even on the basis of a solid implementation plan, there will be no quick fix to make dramatic change over night.
Among the many important issues raised in the report, civil servants need to be provided with adequate protection to ensure that they are free to provide independent professional advice to their superiors as well as to their political masters. Protection of whistleblowers who report corruption is one element of that, the need to protect professional integrity in case of unwarranted political pressure another one.
Furthermore, the Ukrainian MoD will have to strike a balance between the size of the institution and salary level. Salaries need to be high enough to attract and retain the needed competence over time. Proper competence will be a key to efficient management of the defence sector.
The Ukrainian MoD project group, the local CIDS office in Kyiv as well as CIDS’ Norwegian and international experts will continue to work together in the same fashion that has been developed since 2015. It has proved to be a very successful model.