Contested Decentralization: Local Policing in Ukraine since 2014 with Professor Matthew Light

April 22, 2021 by Cate MacLeod

On Wednesday, April 21st, Professor Matthew Light joined the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University (HURI) and moderater Emily Channell-Justice (Director, Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University) for Contested Decentralization: Local Policing in Ukraine since 2014.

Abstract: Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union a tradition of extreme centralization in the organization of its police institutions, with accountability and funding flowing from the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Kyiv to police stations around the country. However, since independence, and particularly since the 2014 Euromaidan, Ukrainian municipalities have begun experimenting with new forms of local provision of public security, notably the so-called municipal guards. Local initiatives of this kind have had mixed results, arguably improving certain kinds of service to the public in some instances, while facilitating municipal officials' abuses of their authority in others. In a democratic society, who should have the right to provide public and citizen security? Should security follow the same trajectory toward decentralization as some other aspects of governance in Ukraine? Based on research in progress, the presentation examines how these debates are unfolding in Ukrainian society.

Professor Light also participated in a panel discussion with HURI last fall, Law Enforcement Reform in Ukraine: Past, Present, and Future, alongside Eugene Krapyvin (lawyer; expert at the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform), Nicholas Pehlman (Adjunct Associate Professor, Lehman College; Adjunct Associate Professor, New York University School of Professional Studies) and moderator Emily Channell-Justice (Director, Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University)

Abstract: This panel will discuss Ukraine's ongoing law enforcement reforms with a focus on the role of Ukrainian Civil Society, international partnerships, and oversight mechanisms.  The panel will discuss the course of law enforcement reforms taken since the Euromaidan (2014) during the Petro Poroshenko Presidency Administration (2014-2019) as well as during the current administration of current President Vladimir Zelensky (2019-Present).  The panel will also discuss the progress and challenges of reforms in Ukraine's law enforcement institutions and consider what lessons may be applicable in other contexts, including the USA.