About Centre UA and Its Initiatives
In 2019, the Centre for United Actions (Centre UA), a Ukrainian civil society organization, launched an initiative to monitor campaign pledges and government decisions in order to strengthen democratic development and promote citizen participation in decision-making.
Centre UA tracks, analyzes and compares campaign pledges made by presidential candidates and political party platforms at the national level. In 2020, Centre UA expanded its monitoring efforts to track mayoral candidate campaign pledges and political party platforms in local council elections. In addition to monitoring the fulfillment of campaign pledges post-election, Centre UA monitors government decisions and analyzes compliance with good governance and democratic development principles. In particular, Centre UA is focused on monitoring pledges, policy platforms and decisions related to constitutional reform, anti-corruption and decentralization issues, as well as human rights issues, such as LGBTQI+ rights, freedom of speech, gender equality, and national language and memory policies. In addition to tracking and compiling information on candidate and party pledges and platforms, Centre UA analyzes candidate pledges and political party platforms to assess whether they fall within the scope and responsibilities of the respective office; whether they constitute a continuation or break from current state policy; and whether they align with democratic governance principles and Ukraine’s international obligations.
Monitoring the Political Process
Before launching the initiative, Centre UA conducted a political context and SWOT analysis to better understand the operating environment as well as the resources and capabilities needed to effectively implement the monitoring activities. Based on the analysis, Centre UA determined that maintaining a reputation as an independent, impartial monitor was key to their success. With NDI’s support, Centre UA developed its monitoring capacities by meticulously planning its monitoring methodology and hiring analysts with expertise in the thematic monitoring areas.
Centre UA gathers data from official sources, including the Central Election Commission (CEC) website and candidate and political party websites, and by submitting information requests to campaign headquarters. To verify campaign pledges, Centre UA sends each candidate a questionnaire54 to state their position on the key issues that fall within the president’s mandate, such as geopolitics, national security, democratic development, human rights and service delivery. The candidates are also asked to state their positions on top citizen priorities as identified in recent national surveys. To verify political party policy platforms, Centre UA sends each party a letter notifying them of the framework of policies expected to be covered in their platforms. Following the CEC’s deadline for submitting campaign documents, Centre UA follows up with a letter55 requesting information and a pre-filled questionnaire56 based on the information officially published on the CEC website. Once Centre UA receives the validated questionnaire, it conducts a comparative analysis of the party platforms and evaluates their alignment with democratic principles and Ukraine’s international obligations. To monitor and analyze the pledges and policy platforms in local elections, Centre UA monitors key policy areas that fall under the mayor and local council’s mandate in order to evaluate how they correspond with national policy and the city’s strategic development plan.
Communicating the Findings
Following a communication landscape and target audience analysis, Centre UA developed and piloted the initiative’s communication tools, which include an analytical “digest,” an online comparison tool and a podcast. To help citizens make informed voting decisions, Centre UA developed online platforms for users to easily compare campaign pledges and platforms in presidential and parliamentary elections57 and local elections.58 These websites compile information on each candidate and political party and serve to track and monitor fulfillment by elected officials. For each resolution, decree or bill, Centre UA produces a digest that includes the key details as well as a summary of who is affected by the decision, how it relates to citizen priorities and needs, and its alignment with good governance and democratic principles. Centre UA’s communication strategy also includes video explainers; infographics; social media campaigns; and analytical presentations for radio, print media and in-person events. In all of its communications outputs, Centre UA aims to make it easier for citizens to understand how different policies and decisions might impact them and democratic development in Ukraine. For example, Centre UA launched a campaign to raise citizen awareness around the president’s proposed constitutional amendments and the potential impacts through a series of explanatory articles, videos, and lectures in universities and regional centers, as well as presentations on TV and radio.
In its evaluation, Centre UA found that over 17.3% of voters received information on candidate campaign pledges during the 2019-2020 presidential, parliamentary and local elections, and over 6 million people received Centre UA’s analysis on the decisions of elected officials. Through the ability to compare and analyze candidate pledges and platforms and government decisions, the initiative increased public demand for accountability and enabled citizens to make more informed voting decisions. Since launching the initiative, Centre UA has noticed a shift in the political conversation away from personality-based issues to policy issues as public interest in coherent campaign platforms increased and political actors demonstrated greater restraint in making populistic pledges outside their scope of authority.
- Demonstrate your credibility by strictly adhering to the monitoring methodology and consistently producing impartial and sound analysis. Centre UA experienced pushback from some political actors and organizations with their own policy agendas, but were able to overcome any resistance by using this technique.
- Maintain local level media partnerships. This can be challenging during elections as the media is overwhelmed by fast-changing, politics-related content and often do not have the bandwidth to publish analytical articles. To mitigate these challenges, Centre UA simplified their analytical articles and supplemented them with comprehensive infographics to meet the expectations of the media and their audience.
54 Ihor Moshenets, “You’re Better Not Knowing: What Are Candidates Hiding in TV Ads?” Radio Svoboda, March 29, 2019, https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/29849728.html.
55 Ihor Moshenets to political candidates, n.d., https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Cor-fwyCBc3tgP4V9zssDp5fkMWa7OFLWvl5oWv0b_o/edit.
56 “Clarification of Positions,” Centre for United Actions, n.d., https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-Fymb5wzRhIg-iH5UXECOlbo-oSbDDgXhyX4qisby50/edit#.
57 “Program Positions of the Parties Regarding the Spheres of State Policy,” Centre for United Actions, accessed October 24, https://centreua.org/vybory2019/#/platforms.
58 “Local Elections 2020,” Centre for United Actions, accessed October 24, https://centreua.org/vybory2020/.