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Russian Aggression as Global “Stress Testing”

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Nataliia Aliushyna
October 21, 2022

Russia’s military aggression is the toughest possible “stress testing” for Ukraine in its 31 years of independence and Putin’s attack is a stormy warning for the democratic world, as well. The Kremlin was counting on a blitzkrieg in Ukraine and, later, a new geopolitical framework for the world. We resisted, thanks to the military’s courage and public servants’ dedication. More, the Ukrainian administration has withstood abnormal pressure for which it was not calculated. No system is designed for such a large-scale risk, but we have kept it under control and given the world time to adapt to the conditions of a global war.

Our strategic goal since the beginning of the aggression has remained unchanged: to ensure the governance of the state. It is critically important that this “storm warning” does not turn into a “perfect storm.” We must avoid a situation in which a combination of negative factors will threaten the state with devastating consequences.

To this end, we are transforming our public administration system to make it more resilient to military and hybrid risks. Our first update: Digitalization and innovative technologies for remote control and rendering services to citizens. The world needs effective management solutions in war conditions; they will help Ukraine to endure and win, and help international partners adapt to war risks. In such conditions, Ukraine has become a unique space where management models and innovations are tested for sustainability.

The risks of the war, which has already transformed into a global one, burn everyone. They threaten not only Ukraine but also united Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan and more—and not only economic troubles but also worsening the refugee crisis, the consequences of nuclear intimidation and the hydrocarbon dictate, and other Moscow tricks. Our common goal is to find an effective antidote to the Russian poison. We are synchronizing the Ukrainian management systems with those of the EU. This is fundamental based on our status as an EU candidate, and for our partners to pursue a strong common policy against the Russian Federation.

International colleagues note the fundamental stability of the Ukrainian management system. However, after almost 200 days of war, it requires transformations. We are studying the experience of states that have implemented post-war reconstruction to determine priorities and calculate phasing of key decisions. The team at the National Agency of Ukraine on Civil Service established a dialogue with colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Croatia and expert circles with the United Nations, the European Commission and other international organizations. Through these methods, we are creating the beginnings of a new management architecture, adaptable for use by international partners. Therefore, the following notes should be considered as recommendations, adaptive for the post-war realities of the new world that will emerge after the military defeat of the Russian Federation.

The current trend is to build an innovative model of digital public service with maximum use of remote technologies. In the conditions of a hybrid and real military threat, this model is reliable and the least vulnerable. I am sure this is the future of a united Europe.

A key marker of effective public service is trust: trust at the level of the national government team, in communication with citizens and international partners. Trust is a guarantee of the legitimacy of government in society and understanding at the international level.

Ukraine is paying attention to personnel improvement. Our next challenge is to start the post-war recovery processes. We must ensure the capacity of the state apparatus to implement global infrastructure and social projects. We are improving options for attracting, selecting and hiring employees. We are forming a public demand for attracting specialists from the market environment who are able to master new relevant competencies.

Most international partners pay attention to the importance of psychological protection of public servants during post-war reconstruction. The psychological factor affects the employee’s motivation and the quality of the services provided by him. These factors are relevant for the territories where the Russians raged too harshly. The whole world is witnessing how they destroyed Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Mykolaiv and more. We are developing special psychological programs for colleagues who survived the hell of war. We are already adapting the experience of the Civil Service Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which successfully implemented such programs.

I recently discussed the experience of creating a city psychological service with colleagues from the Jerusalem Municipality. The task is to assist the heads of state institutions in establishing the technology of “emotional ventilation” in their teams. For example, at the municipal school level, the instructor provides psychological counseling to the principal; the principal communicates with teachers; teachers communicate with students. Technology ensures emotional balance in teams, avoids psychological crises and forms a common corporate strategy vision acceptable to the majority.

We also are working to balance personnel management, especially in times of war, first regarding reduction of staff. Lack of personnel is a proven risk of post-conflict societies. Unfortunately, qualified employees die, leave the public sector or emigrate. We must work to attract private sector personnel into public service and to expand the personnel base and initiate incentive programs for emigrants and prospective returnees who are ready to work for the state. We are discussing internship opportunities for Ukrainian employees in EU institutions and are preparing a pilot program with Polish colleagues. Important factors to consider include responsible leadership, positive thinking, the search for collective motivation and a results-oriented approach. A civil servant’s sense of the importance of his own mission affects his personal results.

Another important challenge is digitalization. I consider the Singaporean case of the Digital Maturity Index, which determines its level as a marker of the quality of services of public institutions, to be a standard, including the systematic introduction of online programs for professional training and self-development. This will include learning English—a necessity for working in Ukraine and the EU.

The condition for the success of post-conflict countries is the ability to create a transparent management system in partnership with all interested parties. The civil service is a marker of public trust in the government, including ethics, responsibility, understanding of social needs and readiness to satisfy them. This is a safeguard against the social fatigue that ends all large-scale conflicts. The key task of the Ukrainian government is to form a management system acceptable to the majority of citizens with values close to civil society. This is how the Baltic countries began after the collapse of the USSR and the republics of the former Yugoslavia after the war.

Our resources are exhausted and the ability of the government to provide services is reduced. But we are ready for these challenges. We realize that victory will open a window of opportunity for the transformation of the country. We believe that we will use this opportunity. After all, Ukraine is currently being compared to the democratic world.

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