Photo: Tetiana Sheburenkova / UNDP Ukraine

Kyiv, 10 December 2018 – Ukrainians value their rights and freedoms, though they have a limited understanding of the origin of human rights and available legal mechanisms to defend their rights.

The results of the second nationwide sociological research “What Ukrainians Know and Think of Human Rights: a Progress Study (2016-2018)” were presented in Kyiv on International Human Rights Day. The study was conducted in 2018 by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation in cooperation with the Human Rights Information Center with the support of the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine (UNDP).

Top priorities for Ukrainians remain freedom (86% of respondents named it as a top priority), justice (indicated by 70% of respondents) and security (67%).

The high importance attributed to freedom and justice explains why Ukrainians expect and demand democratic governance and reject authoritarian forms of government. In this regard, the democratic reforms which are currently taking place in the country are of vital importance for the further achievement of human rights and justice for all and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals while leaving no-one behind”, emphasised Marcus Brand, UNDP Ukraine Democratic Governance Advisor.

When respondents were asked to choose between freedom or material well-being, nearly half of respondents (45%) said they are ready to suffer hardships to keep their rights, while a quarter of respondents are ready to give up some rights for their well-being, and one-third could not answer the question.

It is worth noting that this question was answered differently across the country: the population of Donbass valued freedom most of all. 74% of citizens polled there are ready to suffer hardships for the sake of all rights and freedoms (36% - 48% in other regions).

Freedom is like air, one does not notice it when they have it. But when rights and freedoms are jeopardized people see them in a new light and are even willing to suffer material hardships to keep their rights”, stated Tetiana Pechonchyk, Head of the Board of the Human Rights Information Center.

The value of tolerance, however, is only important to one out of every four Ukrainians. “Ukrainian citizens’ willingness to restrict the rights of vulnerable groups remains quite high and almost unchanged over the past two years. 66% of respondents believe that the rights of persons with drug addictions can be restricted, 56% justify restricting the rights of former convicts, and 51% accept restricting the rights of people with unpopular political views”, Iryna Bekeshkina of the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation highlighted. A high level of Intolerance toward the Roma and LGBT communities was also registered (47% each).

The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to affect people’s attitudes regarding human rights enforcement. Alarmingly, a large number of Ukrainians are still ready to justify illegal methods to achieve an allegedly ‘good’ goal. Moreover, the farther the person is from the conflict area, the higher the level of acceptance of these methods. Nevertheless, two-thirds of respondents are against resorting to torture against enemies during hostilities, while one out of ten respondents allows for this.

A passive stance toward standing up for rights still remains high. Less than half of Ukrainians have ever tried to defend their rights, which can be explained by a lack of trust in protection mechanisms, a low level of awareness about their rights and law and their level of trust in the Government. 55% of those whose rights have been violated said that they never tried to defend them. The degree of inaction and despair over protecting rights is critically low in the southern region, where 80% of respondents said they had never tried to protect their rights.

Unfortunately, half of the population in Ukraine doesn’t even know that their rights were violated”, explains Volodymyr Yavorsky, an expert at the Human Rights Information Center.

The high level of support of mob law is alarming. As many as 36% of respondents believe that mob law is acceptable in certain cases, and 12% say that mob law is absolutely justified and acceptable. Only half of respondents stressed that it is unacceptable.

Television clearly remains the most significant source of information about human rights, with two-thirds of respondents receiving information through this medium. Friends, family members, and colleagues are the second most-mentioned source (41%). The Internet was ranked third (37% of respondents); this share has increased by 7% since November 2016.

The full report is available in Ukrainian.

The Human Rights Baseline Study in Ukraine was conducted in 2016 by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Human Rights Information Centre with the support of the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine and in cooperation with the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. To understand the dynamics, trends and overall situation since November 2016, the same team conducted the follow-up study “What Ukrainians Know and Think of Human Rights: a Progress Study” in 2018. A total of 1,998 respondents in all regions of Ukraine and the city of Kyiv, except for Crimea and non-Government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, were polled. The margin of error is ±2.2%.

Media inquiries: Yuliia Samus, UNDP Communications Team Leader,, +38 097 139 14 75

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