Fund the USUF
There is troubling news coming out of Washington these days – and not just surrounding the war in Iraq. Recently we learned that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has refused to fund the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, known to our community and to Ukraine as one of the most effective non-governmental organizations helping transform Ukraine from a post-Soviet society into a democratic and transparent state governed by the rule of law.
That the Bush administration does not see the folly of this refusal is, frankly, beyond belief. The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation has an excellent track record – one that may be second to none in helping Ukraine by working with what the foundation likes to call its “democratic modernizers.” In the early 1990s, USUF was the first U.S. organization to provide hands-on technical assistance to fledgling democrats involved in local government and non-governmental institutions. Some of these democrats of newly independent Ukraine received on-the-job training in Ukraine; others were b[r]ought to the United States to learn from counterparts in this country.
The successes have been many during USUF’s 15 years of work. O.P. Popov, a “graduate” of USUF’s programs who today is Ukraine’s minister of housing an communal services, recently wrote to Rep. Nita Lowey, chair of the House Subcommittee on States, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, urging her to support funding for the foundation so that it could “continue its significant contributions not only to the development of local democracy in Ukraine, but also…to the strengthening of relationshilps between our countries both at the national level and at the level of people diplomacy.”
Another beneficiary of the USUF’s programs, Tymofiy Motrenko, who heads the Main Department of the Civil Service of Ukraine and has been tasked with reforming the public administration system, also provided a very positive assessment of USUF programs. In fact, he suggested to Rep. Lowey that a new program “focused on the top 300 or so Ukrainian civil servants who will develop the mindset and skills to become the agents of change in their areas of responsibility” would “provide maximum benefits.”
Clearly, there is much more that the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation can do in the area of democratic institution-building in Ukraine. The key, of course, is more funding – not a halt in funding.
Indeed, just last year, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations reported: “The committee is aware of the work of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, and commends the foundation for its support of democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine. The committee directs USAID to continue to support the foundation’s activities…The committee expects funding levels to exceed those in prior years.” The counterpart committee in the House of Representatives expressed similar sentiments.
So why has USAID decided to simply refuse funding for USUF? And why are the wishes of the U.S. Congress being disregarded? Is Ukraine no longer to be considered a strategic partner of the U.S.? These are the questions that must be answered, questions for which the administration must be held accountable.
We strongly support the valuable work of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and we urge the Congress to demand that its recommendations with regard to aid programs for Ukraine be followed. Furthermore, we demand that the Bush administration back up its fine words regarding U.S.-Ukraine relations and democracy-building with the bucks required.
[The editorial was published in The Ukrainian Weekly’s Sunday, September 16, 2007 edition. Volume LXXV, Number 37, page 6. www.ukrweekly.com]