Political Will for Anti-Corruption Reform: Communicative pathways to collective action in Ukraine

Why do some local public authorities engage in meaningful and sustained anti-corruption efforts while elsewhere such initiatives falter? To address this question, we advance a definition of political will as it relates to anti-corruption reforms and examine six local settings in Ukraine which showed sustained reform effort between 2014 and 2021. While previous conceptualisations see political will as a function of leaders’ individual level preferences or contextual characteristics, we argue that it may emerge through intentional and strategic interactions among key stakeholders. The analysis identifies key communicative tasks serving to induce initial commitments, make commitments operative, and sustain change, that stakeholders must continuously undertake to promote anti-corruption political will. Three recommendations are derived for local governments: to invest in multi-stakeholder platforms, use facilitators, and build internal capacity. The communicative functions identified here can help create a network of linkages that reduces the power gradient between authorities and society, enabling the flow of knowledge, information and civil society demands. These networks can aid in addressing other complex policy challenges as well.

Note: This research project was conducted prior to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The effects of the invasion on the communicative processes that build this type of political will remains to be seen, but the tools this research identifies may be helpful for resilience and reconstruction: helpful in supporting a social contract of trust and accountability. This research is one of the many ways ICLD will continue to support local governments in Ukraine and beyond in strengthening democracy and give people the opportunity to decide their futures themselves.

The research project also comprises a policy brief.