EU helps to “open” Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for citizens

“It’s so strange: after all, members of parliament are the same humans as us!” This is the phrase schoolchildren often say after visiting the Verkhovna Rada Educational Center (EC) and talking to people’s deputies.

The Center was opened in the summer of 2019, and its inception became another important step toward the openness and transparency of bodies of public administration and the path toward establishing communication between the public and the parliament. The main purpose of this Center is to increase public trust in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, inform the public about work of the parliament and MPs, and disseminate knowledge about instruments which citizens can use to influence the lawmaking process.


2,400 persons visited the Center in less than six months

Even though less than half a year has passed since the Center was opened, it already enjoys huge popularity. 2,400 persons visited the Center since it was opened on 19 July 2019. Every day, it receives three or four groups 20-25 persons each. Ukrainians are already comparing the experience received at EC with the experience in tours of the German Bundestag, pointing out EC’s openness and accessibility for citizens. The Center was founded with the support from the EU-UNDP Parliamentary Reform Project and the USAID RADA Program.


How to visit the Educational Center?

If you want to plunge into the atmosphere of a parliamentary session and get acquainted with the political world, plan your visit in advance. No admission fee is charged to visit the Center. All you have to do is to get registered and then visit EC on the date and time appointed in advance for a group of 15-24 persons. If you want to visit EC, here is a brief instruction on how to get there. According to the rules of admission to the building at Hrushevskoho Street 5, groups visiting on plenary weeks could be admitted only during the lunch break, i.e., two groups a day.

Presently, EC is oriented toward children, offering professional educational programs for schoolchildren only, but in the nearest future it is going to set on developing a comprehensive strategy of parliamentary education for all age categories. Therefore, EC will soon be able to receive all visitors.

The Educational Center offers several “options” of visiting the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine:

  • a tour;
  • a lesson;
  • a combination of tour + lesson.

The last-mentioned option enjoys the greatest demand, because kids want to see and learn as much as possible. The Educational Center has developed a standard basic lesson on parliamentarianism, and MPs or the Apparatus’s staff may participate depending on the lesson’s program. There are no limitations on the number of visits to the Center – you can do it as many times as the number of times you got registered.


Children discuss draft laws like real MPs

Children visiting the Center learn more about what the Ukrainian parliament does, communicate with MPs, immerse into the lawmaking process and receive an opportunity to feel like a real member of parliament via the imitation game format. It improves the level of the country’s political culture, because schoolchildren familiarize themselves with this public body and learn about its work procedures, which lays the foundation for the future understanding of legal processes occurring in our country. Every time after visiting the Center, children write postcards with their wishes to members of the Verkhovna Rada and give them to the lecturer.

Maryna Tereshchuk, Coordinator of the Verkhovna Rada Educational Center, says that when the kids are divided into factions to discuss and vote on a draft law, they get into character so deeply that they often begin real, almost professional political debates like on political talk shows or during real plenary sessions.

“Not only the public but also MPs are interested in these visits. Some bring groups themselves to EC for a lesson, others gladly come to talk to children. It’s a good thing that the visit changes the perception of political processes by young generation. Children see “from the inside” how the parliament works, receiving an opportunity to talk to MPs in the dialogue format and during a role game. On the other hand, the level of understanding the role and functions of a parliament and the work that people’s deputies do is awfully low, but that’s what the Center was created for: to overcome these problems in the society and teach children from the early age,” Maryna Tereshchuk says.

The Verkhovna Rada Educational Center will help increase public awareness of the Verkhovna Rada’s work and of political processes occurring in the country, which in turn, would improve interaction with citizens and increase their involvement in the parliament’s activity.

The creation of the Educational Center in Ukraine is a confident and resolute step toward democratic society, and EC itself is a place where schoolchildren can find out more about democratic processes which play an important role in the emergence and strengthening of a strong, democratic country. And the involvement of children into parliamentary processes while still at school age will have a powerful effect on the level of legal education, political participation and responsibility for one’s own choice during elections.

This material was created by the EU-UNDP Parliamentary Reform Project

Source: Den Kyiv