The third annual conference Personal Democracy Forum Ukraine, which brings together top technologists, campaigners, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities on civic tech challenges, was dedicated to elections, technologies, anti-corruption and media, as well as human rights, conflicts and self-actualization. This time, the forum was hels in Kharkiv on 25-26 October.

Over 200 guests from Ukraine, Central and Eastern Europe spent two days on discussions concerning democracy in Ukraine, and the interest of citizens and business representatives in using technologies to facilitate social changes.

According to Head of the Board of Civil Network OPORA Olha Aivazovska, the forum was aimed to demonstrate on example of proactive and progressive non-governmental sector how technologies may be developed, the democracy may be supported, and basic rights of citizens may be guaranteed during the certain processes in a neighborhood-style cooperation.

“I am very glad we came back to the topic of reforms. Each reform has a start, but only a few have the end. Thus, I wish that this forum will make you feel that any burning out, professional, personal, or organizational, is only a jump-off to a new start in activities, realized by each participating organization, participants of civil society organizations, or even independent groups,” – she said.

Representative Fundacja ePaństwoKrzysztof Izdebski said:

“It is a part of community building, a part of state reforming, no matter where, in Ukraine, Poland, Mongolia or USA. We are talking not only about reforming of a part of a country, not only about reforms themselves, but also about observation, researching of how the government works. I also believe that we, representatives of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, should support the government and urge it to be transparent, to make sure that democratic reforms are being constantly introduced.”

UNDP representative Olena Ursu added that even countries, which have the certain stability in democratic matters, face many challenges.

“Why such important reforms as anti-corruption and democratic reforms are insufficiently successful in implementation in our country? Why only 5% of citizens believe that these reforms succeeded, and 41% think that nothing has changed since 2015? Do we as community talk enough with people and explain them why reforms are not going to change their lives for better immediately? We will explain today that it's not enough to make links between civil society and the government. It is also essential to make links between us, the civil society, and the citizens. We should talk to them, explain, and persuade that the reforms are important. To make reforms understand the people, and to make people understand reforms,” – Olena Ursu said.

Agata Rzewuska (OSCE/ODIHR) said that 57 Member States agreed that the respect to human rights is a must for a long-time security.

“As you may know, there are many challenges, difficulties and problems now, in the era of digital technologies, as well as the advantages they give us. Around 3 billion people are using internet around the world today. Only a limited number of people used the internet in 2000. Today, technologies help us protect the environment and warn about threats. The most popular application in a phone in the one which monitors the air quality and advises you to stay at home when it's dirty. However, there are also minuses. For example, some government structures use technologies not to protect human rights, but to conduct oversight. They use all these technologies against journalists, who stand against abuses of state power. This is a double-edged sword, as any useful thing,” – she said.

Representative of TechSoupEurope Nedim Useinow said it was quite symbolic and pleasant that the forum was being held in Kharkiv.

“It's such an opportunity that Kharkiv became the city, which will promote the cooperation between civic tech, civil sector, and Ukrainian reform-makers for the sake of democratization of Ukraine. It's so cool, I think, because the technology should be democratic, it should be available for anyone. Technology is not our tomorrow, it's our today.” – Nedim Useinow said.

More than 20 speakers from different countries gave TED-like speeches on three topics (Re:forming the State, Re:forming the Community, and Re:forming Ourselves), and conducted practical trainings.

Olha Aivazovska told about technologies used in elections, particularly about the trust to electoral process through opening of election data.

“To open any process, data or information, which concerns the election process. To build the trust on data, numbers, and information, which can't be forged, but not on the certain moral traits of election participants.”

Representative of the StateWatch Hlib Kanievskyi told about the project “Marlin”, which helped to detect a number of absurd situations in activities of defense companies belonging to the Ukroboronprom State Concern.

Kseniia Yermoshyna (Citizen Lab) shared her thoughts concerning the informational control and digital safety in Crimea, and explained how Ukrainian providers work on the annexed peninsula.

Representative of the Digital Security Lab Iryna Chulivska had mentioned in her speech that Ukraine has problems with the freedom of speech in network, which had started when a number of Russian websites were blocked, and have been worsening ever since.

Myroslav Opyr (Quinta Group) shared his experience of introducing the Prozorro initiative in Ukraine, and Miguel Arana Catania (CONSUL Project) – shared experience of participation budget in Spain.

Anna Yemelianova (Center for Innovations Development) informed about the introduction of electronic petitions as an efficient instrument for interaction between civil society and state authorities. Thus, electronic petitions were introduced in 60% of cities, and 12% are in the process of introducing them. 30,000 petitions were published, and 30% of them – implemented.

Representatives of U-LEAD with Europe Artem Komolov, Serhii Hanzha and Vitalii Kinakh told how the data is used in environmental and health care sectors, which could be used by united territorial communities.

Journalist Rok Brossa shared his professional experience in Middle East war, and Iryna Yakovchuk from Urban Curators agency told about participation on liberated from occupation territories of Donbas.

Aferdita Pustina (OSCE) presented a digital online platform for citizen participation in Kosovo, and Oliviia Vereha (Code for Romania) told participants about pluses of Vote Monitor – a data collection instrument.

Andreas Flodström (Beetroot) spoke about the development of social entrepreneurship, where market instruments are used.

Karina Semenko (Stem girls) presented results of a poll for women on discrimination topic. Thus, 72% of the respondents suffered from discrimination at work.

Mikhail “Ryshek” Vozniak (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) gave some pieces of advice on information safety for civic organizations.

Representative of the Peaceful Decisions Laboratory under Foundation of Local Democracy Olena Kopina explained how to go through a conflict and stay in relations, and coach Anna Kuliberda urged “to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others”.

Full speeches are available on the page Democracy Forum Ukraine 2018.

Video is available here.

The Forum was organized by Fundacja ePaństwo, Civil Network OPORA, TechSoup Europe, and TransparenCEE in cooperation with OSCE-ODIHR, UNDP, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and Ukrainian Leadership Academy in Kharkiv.

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