UNDP Launches New Project to Support Democratization and Human Rights in Ukraine

15 May 2013

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Democratization, human rights and civil society development in Ukraine, will be implemented by UNDP with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark throughout 2013-2016. A conference during which the project was launched convened over 100 civic experts, think-tank representatives and delegates from local, oblast and central-level government bodies.

The conference was opened by Ms. Elena Panova, UNDP Deputy Country Director, who emphasized that, “…the issue of democratization in Ukraine is topical as never before. Democratic processes and their development are akin to heartbeat of the society itself. The more irregular it becomes, the worse the health condition is and the more at risk the society at large is. Human rights are directly intertwined with democratic developments. The basics of democracy – separation of power branches, rule of law, free elections, a pluralistic political party system, and independent media – are all prerequisites for human rights protection. It is exactly the democracy deficit that oftentimes prevents effective enjoyment of such rights, whereas a strong civil society is a cure for it.”

Ms. Maryna Stavniychuk, Advisor to the President, Head of the Civil Society Coordination Council, emphasized that one of the priorities for further democratization of Ukrainian society is the adoption of the Law, On Local Referendum. Relentless attention has to be paid to the development of a legal framework for participatory democracy in Ukraine. Stavniychuk also underlined the necessity to stimulate citizen pro-activeness at the local level, including the work of civic councils, emphasizing the necessity to take into account community preferences in the process of decision-making. The need to support local initiatives, conduct civic consultations and provide legal regulation of freedom of peaceful assembly was also underscored.

Speaking about the fulfillment of international human rights obligations of Ukraine, Valeria Lutkovska, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, noted the work of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). She also emphasized the importance of grassroots work, as it could help the Ombudsman’s Secretariat to fulfill its functions effectively. “Proactive civic work is the prerequisite for Ukraine’s fulfillment of its internal and international human rights obligations,” noted Lutkovska.

Mr. Maksym Latsyba, Program Director of the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research, spoke of the importance of educating civil society. Specifically, he pointed to the fact that there is no readily available Ukrainian textbook on civil society that could be used by faculty and students alike. This issue, according to Mr. Latsyba, could be addressed by experts within the Ukrainian community. He also highlighted the importance of engaging various stakeholders in civil society development, including business and government. During the second part of the conference a presentation of the project took place, including its core activities. The project fosters an open and democratic society that is based on the rule of law and is governed by the values of human rights supremacy, openness and accountability at all levels of government. It aims to build the capacity of those civil society organizations (CSOs) that systemically and effectively spread democratic values and guard human rights in the country. Moreover, the project will strengthen a participatory and result-oriented dialogue between the CSOs and the state agencies and bodies at different levels. The initiative is based on previous UNDP projects including civil society development, corruption prevention, legal aid provision, promotion of equal opportunities and support to the National Human Rights Institution. The project itself is composed of three parts corresponding to its name – democratization, human rights and civil society development. The “Democratization” component aims at supporting civil society influencers as promoters of democracy and good governance in Ukraine. Several organizations will be selected to receive organizational development support, and will become regional leaders in their respective areas.

The grassroots CSOs will have an opportunity to implement their projects through a granting scheme. The “Human Rights” component is aimed at supporting the human rights community to continue work in defending human rights in Ukraine. The third component, “Civil Society Development,” will focus on monitoring the implementation of the law, On Public Associations, as well as the oblast target programs for civil society development, support networking and establishment of regional coalitions. It will also support the development of effective interaction between civil society and government. As part of the panel discussions in the third section of the conference, concrete avenues for future activities of the project under the three components were discussed. Results of an internet survey that had been launched earlier to elicit the views and priorities of the civic activists and experts in the areas of democratization, human rights and civil society development, were used as foundation for the discussions.