How much do you know about your civil rights? Time for more effective citizenry

Dec 16, 2016

Sociological survey commissioned by UNDP to assess civic knowledge, behavior, attitudes and beliefs, highlights that 35% of Ukrainians are not aware of their civil rights, emphasizing the need for enhanced civic education in various fields to effectively empower citizens to exercise their civic duty, while increasing accountibility at all levels.  

Kyiv, 16 December 2016In order to promote democracy and increase economic growth in Ukraine, as well as to help Ukrainians to take up local, national and global challenges, UNDP has commissioned a sociological survey to map out civic knowledge, behavior, attitudes and beliefs in Ukraine, and to identify areas requiring further civic education in Ukraine.

“The way in which citizens interact with their local communities, national authorities and the world are changing. This change makes the challenges of being an effective and responsible citizen more complex and diversified than before. This requires a more holistic approach of citizenship in the 21st century,” said Blerta Cela, the UNDP's Deputy Country Director in Ukraine.

Based on the ‘Vision for 21st Century Citizenship’ which advocates informed, active and engaged practices for citizens in global, digital and civic domain, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology carried out a national public opinion survey on ‘Civic Literacy in Ukraine’ among  a nationally representative sample of 2,000 respondents supplemented by three citizen focus groups in Lviv, Kharkiv and Dnipro and two NGO focus groups in Kyiv and Kherson. Similar studies were also commisioned by Pact Inc in Belarus and by UNDP in Moldova.

Conducted from July to September 2016, the survey focused on how Ukrainians understand the principles of interaction between the state and the citizens, their involvement in public life at local and national level, as well as the knowledge they need in this regard. Survey questions also measured the prevalence of various values and attitudes towards human rights, democratic governance and interaction between various communities within the country.

Results show that 35% of Ukrainians are not aware of their civil rights, while 39% cannot list any of the citizens’ duties towards the state, both results stressing the need for enhanced civic education about citizens’ basic rights and duties.

The survey also shows high levels of civic activism, with 52% of Ukrainians claiming readiness to take part in civic protest initiatives, 11% of whom being ready to organize such events. Despite these high rates of civic activism, focus groups revealed citizens’ mistrust towards NGO and civic initiatives, with only 27% identifying themselves as socially active, and  two-thirds of respondents expressing a  lack of influence on national life, this ratio falling to 50% for influence at municipal level.

The study also reveals that citizens are largely unaware of how legislative and representative authorities operate, with as few as 14% and 11% Ukrainians being able to name their Member of Parliament or local council member from their district, raising the necessity to make citizens aware of their responsibility when exercising their voting right, and personal accountability in designating their political representatives.

The survey also unveils an apallingly low level of financial literacy with only 27% of respondents knowing how state budgets are generated and spent, and 25% of knowing the personal income tax rate. Civic education programmes should therefore emphasize that the local and state budgets are generated from the tax-paying communities, and stress that public officials administer budget funds rather than own them.

When asked what is a ‘good citizen’, respondents described a person who is aware of his/her rights and duties (87%), is law abiding (85%), always pays taxes (84%) and exercises their voting rights (74%). Only 52% included taking part in civic activities in this definition.

“Information technologies have also sensibly contributed to the globalization and exchange of ideas, calling for citizens to develop new skills and knowledge in this field in order to express their civic views,” continued Blerta Cela.

Perspectives of civic education show that the overwhelming majority (90%) is convinced of the extreme importance of civic education in Ukraine. In September 2016, 27% respondents had already received some civic education, and 47% planned to continue or start it.

The survey was conducted as part of the UNDP Democratization, Human Rights and Civil Society Development Programme, funded by the Government of Denmark. The methodology of the survey was developed by Pact Inc for Belarus, and by UNDP Ukraine for Ukraine and Moldova; the analytical trend-based report on the same subject for three countries will be presented in early 2017.

Contact information

Yevgeniy Zelenko UNDP Media Officer | (044) 253-9363 | yevgeniy.zelenko@undp.org

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