Even long before the fighting began, Ukraine had set itself the goal of implementing far-reaching political, economic and social reforms. The first set of reforms that emerged under President Poroshenko aimed to leave the post-Soviet system behind and bring Ukraine as close as possible to the European Union.
A number of the reforms aimed to decentralise power, with reforms in the banking, defence, energy efficiency, health and education sectors enjoying definite success. Since 2014, there have been considerable efforts to create new and untainted institutions capable of fighting high-level corruption. However, a progressive loss of popular support against the background of the military conflict and increasing competition within the ruling coalition meant that Poroshenko was ultimately unable to dismantle the oligarchic system impeding the economic and political transformation his country hoped to achieve.
A new dynamic in the reform process emerged when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power and formed a government in August 2019. Zelenskyy passed dozens of laws to restart the reform process, notably reinforcing the power of anti-corruption institutions. This momentum faltered from March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, even before the start of the Russian aggression.
Four past Ukraine Reform Conferences
Given the considerable difficulties encountered by the reform programme launched by the Ukrainian government in 2014, support was sought from international and multilateral partners. The Ukraine Reform Conference (URC) was then held as an annual overview of developments, first in London in 2017, followed by Copenhagen in 2018, Toronto in 2019 and, skipping a year due to COVID-19, Vilnius in 2021.
The goal of the conference was for Ukraine to present the progress made, for international partners to express support, and for all stakeholders to examine what steps to take next to advance the reform process. Each year’s conference was co-organised by the foreign ministry of the host country and of Ukraine.
The conferences were attended by a number of prominent people from Europe and North America representing politics, business and civil society. In view of how important the reform agenda is for Ukraine, after his election in 2019 President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also decided to attend the URC conferences. In addition to state representatives, major organisations such as the IMF, World Bank, NATO, EBRD, EIB, EU, OECD, UNDP and Council of Europe were also invited.