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Focused on youth: how UNFPA helps Ukrainian cities to become better

There is a tangible revitalization in one of the Lviv yards. Families have gathered at balconies, someone looking out from the window, child’s laughter, and applause are around the yard. Everyone is focused on the makeshift stage - the actors of the Lviv puppet theater are giving the play "The Bun" outdoors. “It's wonderful entertainment! For sure, as for now, children are occupied with the lessons only, but they also need some amusement, even under lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic”, says a mother of two children Marta. The initiative has been launched under the city agenda “Lviv 2020: Focus on culture”. After the city lost its status as the cultural capital of Ukraine and in order to improve the situation of youth involvement in public life (one of the key indicators of youth wellbeing), the city authorities have paid more attention to cultural reforms. 


Lviv has become one of the Ukrainian cities that have joined the initiative to evaluate the Youth Wellbeing Index. The project, implemented by UNFPA in Ukraine from 2017, enables municipal authorities to discover how young people assess the situation in seven key areas of life: health, education, economic opportunities, participation in political and public life, 

information and communication technologies, security and order, and to pursue the appropriate policies. According to Pavlo Zamostyan, an assistant to UNFPA Representative of in Ukraine, it is especially actual amid decentralization reform.


“Youth is not an abstract concept, but an extremely dynamic group of 6 million people. Their process of becoming takes place in home towns. There is an urgent problem in Ukraine when people move to larger cities such as Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, and abroad to seek a better life. We made a tool that will help to create a favorable environment for life in regions, as well as establish a dialogue between authorities and youth. If all the conditions for self-realization are available in the city, there will be more arguments for staying than for moving”, says Pavlo Zamostyan. 


According to him, the use of index makes it possible to develop a “more balanced policy, based on data, evidence, and not just on empirical considerations or emotions."


Moreover, the index helps engage young people in decision-making in their city.


“The platform mobilizes youth to take part in the decision-making process, also makes the municipal policy clear to them so that young people feel like a part of the city government," tells us the UNFPA Deputy Representative in Ukraine.


In determination of 7 subindexes United Nations Population Fund has relied on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the experience of measuring the Global Youth Development Index and the Global Welfare Index. The tool was developed in cooperation with experts from the Institute of Demography and Social Research, who created a mathematical apparatus for evaluation of indicators. City statistics and the results of a youth survey containing universal questions are used to measure the Youth Wellbeing Index. Thus, after data integration, the city has an overall indicator of life satisfaction and results in specific areas.


“We implemented a pilot project in Kremenchuk manually, on paper. In 2019, after taking into account all mistakes, an online platform was launched where young people answer a survey after registration. All questions are anonymous. We require at least 300-400 responses for representativeness, but this number depends on the city's population. Therefore, there is one restriction for participation in the initiative - the city's population needs to make up at least 50,000 people. If less - it is difficult to obtain the necessary statistics and achieve objectivity", says Pavlo Zamostyan.


During the development, UNFPA provided a reward system for young people to motivate them to take part in a survey. Each participant receives discounts on goods and services in the city due to agreements with local businesses. 


The tool allows repeating surveys, so the wellbeing index assessment can be observed in the dynamics.


“This is the main advantage of it – after the city receives the indicator, it processes this data, introduces new initiatives, or improves the existing ones. And one-two years later after launching the next round of the survey, authorities see the effectiveness of actions”, tells us Zamostyan. 


Besides the fact that the use of the product is long-term, the online platform allows conducting other sociological researches on it - you need only to develop a design.




When in 2017 the Kremenchuk mayor was invited to join the Youth Wellbeing Index initiative, he gladly agreed. Youth policy is not an innovation for the city. Youth Parliament has operated there since 2000. 


“Our young people are very active. The city has introduced the program “The youth of Kremenchuk”, suggested by young people, not bureaucrats from the mayor’s office. After the city council adopted, it has been implemented. Our task is financial support”, says deputy mayor Olga Usanova. 


Thus, Kremenchuk became the first city in Ukraine, that tested the initiative.


“It was an interesting offer in scientific terms, – tells us Olga Usanova. – We also realized that this tool will allow us to work not at random, but purposefully to improve the living conditions of young people in the city.”


Experts used classical sociological methods: face-to-face surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and Google surveys during the first round of evaluation. The outcomes became the basis of the online platform model.


At first, the Youth Wellbeing Index of Kremenchuk was 0.67 out of 1.0. But after a while, it has risen to 0,71. 

“We can already talk about the positive dynamics - the level of youth satisfaction with life in Kremenchuk has been growing. If to look through seven subindexes, we can note both improvements and deterioration, as in the case of security and order", says deputy mayor.


The indicator of security and order has become the most unexpected - it is the lowest among all subindexes. The initial result was 0.49, now it has dropped to 0.30. Pavlo Zamostyan links it to Donbas war. But the municipal authorities have already prioritized this area of work. 


“They have launched a project on the installation of a video surveillance system around the city. This decision was made solely based on the results of the index evaluation", says Pavlo Zamostyan.




Thus, in May 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers signed an order allocating almost Hr 13 million for the project “Safe City”, that will be implemented soon. 


“We will install video surveillance systems primarily in places of constant stay of children and young people. Also, we will open a situation room from which monitoring of order will be carried out to be able to promptly respond to criminal acts. Due to the index, we have discovered a weak spot, have started working to improve the situation, and already have an intermediate outcome as a receiving of finance to make things better ", says Olga Usanova.


The situation with access to information and communication technologies has been rated as the most favorable – 0.98. Deputy Mayor Olga Usanova explains it by the fact that the city provides normal internet coverage, mobile communications, as well as free access to WIFI in parks and squares.




The intensification of youth policy in Lviv began after winning the contest "Youth Capital of Ukraine" three years ago. According to the head of the MoloDvizh Center Oleh Malets, it has pushed the process. After receiving the status of a candidate community within the initiative "Community Friendly for Children and Youth", Lviv joined the initiative to assess the Wellbeing Index in summer 2019. 


“When the initiative Youth Wellbeing Index was launched, we realized its obvious advantage. In policy development, we lacked a database that could allow us to understand what young people need exactly. We conducted our research, but we did not have a methodology to integrate this data. Now we have a real mechanism, how to obtain a general assessment of well-being and indicators in certain areas with the results of sociological surveys of young people and municipal statistics", says Oleh Malets.


To achieve representation, Lviv needed 400 people taking the survey, but the general number of them reached 500. According to Oleh Malets, it is one of the outcomes of well-established communication. The city held a public presentation of the index, involved opinion leaders before launching the online platform that led to positive feedback from young people.

Презентація Індексу у Львові, 2019 рік.


Oleh Malets believes that the indicators of subindexes are not low. According to him, some of them are mediocre, others are high, as the assessment of information and communication technologies. Such high result in this area was predictable for Malets because Lviv is recognized as the IT capital of Ukraine.


The head of the MoloDvizh Center claims that there is a lack of communication strategy in every area of life. 


For example, the health indicator in Lviv made up 0,72. Although the initiative “Youth-Friendly Clinic” has been implemented in the city for several years, young people are not enough aware of it.



“We have many great projects, but only some of them reach the user. It is a huge problem. We live when there is a tremendous amount of data, and it is more and more difficult to reach people with really important information. To sponsor content through social media is bureaucratically impossible. It complicates the situation”, says Oleh Malets. 


During the evaluation of the health subindex, experts discovered that the infant mortality rate in Lviv is twice lower than in other cities of Ukraine and which means positive sign.


Oleh Malets says that the city's funds were redistributed amid the start of COVID-19 health crisis and a significant amount was invested in healthcare, in particular the ambulance hospital. 


Even though authorities installed a video surveillance system around the city a long time ago, the indicator of security and order in Lviv is 0,56. Oleh Malets sees an improvement of the Lviv environment as a possible solution. 


"If to make friendly yards, parks, squares, equip them with beautiful furniture, it can assist to increase the feeling of security in the city”, says the head of the MoloDvizh Center.


The city authorities have been implementing the program “Lviv afterwards”, that provides a plan to overcome the crisis. According to Oleh Malets, it relies on the data of the Youth Wellbeing Index.


“In order not to lose cool initiatives amid the information flow, we want to create some kind of bank of ideas, which gonna be filled with projects for implementation," says Oleg Malets.


According to him, Lviv plans to evaluate the index once a year to monitor the dynamics of development. In his opinion, in a year we would see a "completely different world," in light of the fact how things have changed over the months of the pandemic.


“Our task is to respond to challenges in time”, says Oleh Malets. 




Mykolayiv has become the third city that has joined the Youth Wellbeing Index. 


“When we were invited to join the UNFPA initiative, we were happy to take the opportunity. Historically, Mykolayiv has been a closed city for a long time. Now we aim to popularize it for both – people of other Ukrainian regions and those, living here. We want to prove our boys and girls that there are positive changes in the city”, says Oleksandr Ryabenko, the head of Youth policy department of Mykolaiv city council.


The issue of educational and labor migration is also actual for the city, and, according to Oleksandr, drawing attention to what young people demand can partially solve it.


"There will always be those who leave, but a lot of people will stay in terms of their motivation. To have more people who stay, we pay attention to the needs of young people. Today's 20-year-old students are tomorrow's 30-year-old businessmen who will develop Mykolaiv. Listening to their voices today, we can understand what kind of city we will have in a few years”, tells us Oleksandr. 



A Youth Policy Council under the mayor operates in the city and includes 49 representatives of civil society and student government. They offer ideas that the authorities help to implement. According to Oleksandr, during the last 10 years, the tendency to listen to young people has moved beyond rhetoric.


The city agenda contains plans to launch a competition of business plans for young people and establish a youth center.


According to Ryabenko, authorities are focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle among young people.


Also, the information campaign on the popularization of local universities is underway - the city government placed billboards «Stay in Mykolaiv, study on waves» around the city. 


In general, Mykolaiv authorities feel positive about the initiative and even consider the option of Index localization.


“We will evaluate the Index each year, monitoring the dynamics. In the future, we could try to localize the initiative and launch the index assessment around the city districts, as well as around the educational institutions. It is the tool that can be used to identify problems of various sectors of society. There are different ideas all that remains is to implement them”, says Oleksandr Ryabenko. 


According to Pavlo Zamostyan, UNFPA plans to involve 20 Ukrainian cities to join the initiative. Cooperation with Ternopil, Sumy, and Kamyanets-Podilsky is in progress. 


UNFPA encourages others to join. Every city can do it for free. All you need is a desire, a little technical cooperation, the involvement of an official from the mayor's office, and the support of young people. UNFPA provides the city the finished tool, trains specialists, and supports its implementation for at least a year. More you can find here.