Eradicating Corruption and Establishing the Rule of Law in Ukraine

The Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted Bishop Borys Gudziak in a discussion about the current situation in Ukraine. In the talk, which took place on 9 March, the religious leader examined the nature of hybrid warfare and called on the international community to join forces with Ukrainian civil society to address the ongoing large-scale humanitarian crisis in the country.

During his lecture, Bishop Gudziak highlighted corruption as a root cause for the conflict in Ukraine. Dr. Aaron Matta, senior researcher for the Institute’s Rule of Law Program, attended the talk. Below, he offers an expert opinion on how to tackle underlying weaknesses in the Ukrainian state – including bribery practices – which have disrupted the operation of a stable rule of law culture in the country.

Under any circumstances, dealing with corruption is a difficult and long term commitment. For Ukrainians, this process is further hindered by the military conflict and the drop in buying power the population has experienced in recent months. According to Dr. Matta, “eliminating corruption is a very difficult task that needs collaboration and commitment from the political elites, the justice system and civil society.” Ukrainians have shown commitment to these aims, beginning with the Maidan protests, and by enacting an anti-corruption package in October 2014, but these efforts need support from the international community.

Dr. Matta, who works at the intersection between law and politics in the external relations of the European Union, explains the underlying rationale for uprooting corruption and stimulating the development of an independent sustainable legal system in Ukraine. He suggests a three-step development plan for re-establishing a functioning rule of law system in the country.

“First, regarding the conflict in the Donbass region, de-escalation is key. Ukraine has limited military capacity and NATO allies’ interference may be counterproductive by provoking further escalation, particularly when the separatist forces are being supported by Russia. Therefore, a diplomatic solution is the only option and the EU leaders have made it clear that this is their preferred avenue –including diplomatic negotiations, implementation of the Minsk II agreement, and economic sanctions. The EU must remain united in this endeavor.”

“Second, Ukraine needs strong international support from the IMF, the EU and others in order to address its financial problems. After difficult negotiations the IMF approved $17.01 billion in April 2014 to support Ukraine’s economic reform program with focus on five key areas: exchange rate flexibility, banking stability, fiscal policy, energy policy and governance. This means that Ukraine will have to cut spending, restructure its banks and take further measures to fight corruption.”

“Third, for these reforms to be successful and sustainable, Ukrainians must get serious about the fight against corruption. This is perhaps where the Ukrainian people have the greatest responsibility.” In his view, “international monitoring as well as domestic pressure can foster change in the attitudes of the elite to achieve greater transparency and a truly independent justice system. This, in turn, can deliver accountability by focusing on high-level corruption but also by tackling systemic bureaucratic red tape practices that affect the everyday life of the population.”

In order to achieve both greater transparency and accountability in the process, “top-down and bottom-up international technical and financial support are indispensable”, asserts Dr. Matta. All this has to happen in tandem with the efforts of the Ukrainian population which The Hague Institute’s guest speaker Bishop Guzdzak outlined, and in which he has been a leading voice, particularly since Maidan.

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