What Ukrainians Know and Think of Human Rights: UNDP in Ukraine Launches Human Rights Baseline Study

Jul 13, 2017

One of the revealing results of the recent Ukrainian Human Rights Baseline Study was that 77% of Ukrainians recognize the right to life as the most important human right.  The study also shows that most Ukrainians recognize rights for social security and the right to housing and education as key priorities. At the same time, while the majority of citizens are aware that their rights are natural and in-born, many are still reluctant to defend them, and half of the population has never tried to do it.

Welcoming participants, Mr. Neal Walker, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine, pointed out that, “’If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.’ That is a quote from Lord Kelvin, also known as William Thompson, a physicist who theorized a whole new temperature scale that included absolute zero. The Study that we are presenting today has now equipped us with human rights baseline data. We have measured the level of awareness on human rights and trust of authority, readiness to protect human rights if violated and to participate in civil society initiatives, and we know the most effective communication channels and expert assessment of the situation. But do you feel that we’ve measured everything?”

Some of the key findings of the research that can be transferred into concrete actions:

  • The population of Ukraine has a rather high level of accepting human rights values, yet a large portion of respondents confuse the terms and find it difficult to navigate the themes. That draws the conclusion that it is necessary to strengthen formal human rights education, shaping awareness of human rights, and honing skills for standing up for one’s rights as part of middle school education.

  • Over a half of the Ukrainian population believes discrimination to be a problem in Ukraine. Additionally, a high percentage of Ukrainians are ready to limit the rights of members of certain social groups (LGBT, former prisoners and number of others). This requires much awareness-raising and education work among both the society and the government bodies. 

  • A large share of the population knows that human rights are natural and in-born, but is reluctant to defend its rights. Half of the population has never tried to defend its rights (for a variety of reasons). As such, it is important for the state authorities to disseminate information on the relevant rights defense mechanisms and positive practices of their application, as well as availability and ease of information presented.

  • Research results have clearly demonstrated the impact of the conflict on the beliefs and values of individuals, proving expectations of approval of a relevant State program that would consider the proximity of conflict, the vulnerability of the population, and the balance between security considerations and human rights principles.

  • Almost half of the Ukrainian population is aware of the National Human Rights Institution. This knowledge is rather superficial but in Donbas, the Ombudsperson’s Office was named the second most effective mechanism for human rights protection. This is testimony to the positive course of action taken up by the institution.

  • The main source of human rights knowledge, according to the survey, is the media. The media is also believed to be the most effective tool for defending one’s rights. In fact, the high level of trust towards journalists means they have a significant responsibility to strike a balance between sensation and human rights.

This data, the findings, and recommendations, will be used to enable the design of more effective strategies and tactics for human rights education campaigns, developing formal and informal human rights education, and shaping evidence-based approaches and priorities in human rights donor-supported activities.

The survey, conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Human Rights Information Centre under initiative of the Secretariat of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson), and with the support of UNDP Ukraine, covered more than 2000 respondents overall in Ukraine and 100-200 representatives of different target groups to find out the perception and understanding of human rights in Ukraine. The key findings of the survey were presented in Kyiv on 5-6 July 2017. Over these two days more than 200 human rights advocates, representatives of public institutions, international organizations, civil society organizations, and media discussed the results and outlined ideas for further actions.