Why local amalgamation succeeds, while the increase of regional authority fails?

Insights from Ukraine

What makes central policy-makers implement local amalgamation reforms but block the increase of regional authority? The case of Ukraine can provide thought-provoking insights on this matter.

Decentralization and Multilevel Elections in Ukraine: Reform Dynamics and Party Politics in 2010–2021 explains why central policy-makers, who oppose each other during elections, can make similar decentralization efforts once in office. The book reveals that party politics as manifested in elections can matter less than expected. In the case of Ukraine, the quality of long-term policy learning efforts – producing data-driven policy documents and engaging non-partisan domestic and international experts – brings the most fruitful results.

The Advocacy Coalition Framework of public policy analysis helps explain the contrasting outcomes of the attempts to increase both local and regional authority in Ukraine. Having compared relevant policy documents, Dr. Valentyna Romanova found an unexpected continuity in efforts at policy learning under various political leaders.

The book demonstrates that calls for increasing regional authority, despite being highly salient during elections, are useless when they are not underpinned by data-driven and context-specific policy documents. Once Ukraine’s pro-reform advocacy coalition incorporated actors with extensive experience in policy learning and policymakers with the political will to implement policy suggestions improved by the detailed professional feedback from the Council of Europe, the local amalgamation policy was launched successfully.

The book highlights the input of international support in identifying the shortcomings of policy implementation at the local level and in engaging the government and diverse stakeholders in policy discussions in order to make the necessary adjustments. As a result of these joint efforts, the local amalgamation policy was fully implemented in only six years.

The book demonstrates how the emerging advocacy coalition in favor of decentralization policies engaged actors when focusing events occurred and highlights that gaps in policy learning can undermine decentralization efforts even when they are highly salient.

Romanova Valentyna. 2022. Decentralization and Multilevel Elections in Ukraine: Reform Dynamics and Party Politics in 2010–2021. Stuttgart: ibidem-Press.