From monologue to dialogue: experts discussed reintegration, the development of civil society and the tools of democracy

Human rights and reintegration of the occupied territories

Moderator Yuliia Tyshchenko, Head of the Democratic Processes Support Program at the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research, noted that during the discussion the participants will talk about the key challenges of the announced topic, as well as compare the changes for the year.

Initially, the speakers voiced key challenges for the state regarding the reintegration of the occupied territories:

  • Ensuring safe reintegration.
  • Integrity of state policy, coordination of actions of the government and the public.
  • Restoration of social bridges with citizens in the temporarily occupied territories.
  • Solving the accumulated problems given the duration of the occupation.
  • Ensuring transitional justice.
  • Communication, dialogue construction: realism, pragmatism and concreteness of steps.

Ihor Yaremenko, Deputy Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, noted that safe reintegration is an opportunity to preserve the country, ensure territorial integrity and not harm these postulates by careless movements.

“We must first ensure the security phase in the temporarily occupied territories, and then – political regulation,” he explained.

The Ministry has already prepared proposals for the strategy of socio-economic development of Donbas. In the legal field, there are plans to develop a bill on the transition period, which will provide answers to the main question of Ukrainians living in the temporarily occupied territories: what will happen after the end of the occupation?

“We believe that the amnesty cannot be comprehensive. There are people who should not fall under it in any case. People who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity must be held criminally liable, ”the speaker explained.

The Ministry continues to equip Entry Exit Crossing Points in the anti-terrorist operation zone (EECP) and new service areas. “With the help of services (including translating them online), attracting young people to study in our educational institutions, we are trying to reach the territory that we temporarily do not control.”

Nelly Yakovleva, MP, Deputy Head of the Parliament Committee on Human Rights, Deoccupation and Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories in Donetsk, Luhansk Regions and Autonomous Republic of Crimea, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations, said the armed conflict mass human rights violations. One of the conditions for reintegration will be the restoration of justice. Civil society and international partners play a significant monitoring role in this.

The speaker noted that in the issues of reintegration the parliament goes by the implementation of point initiatives:

  • the draft law №2689 on the implementation of international humanitarian and criminal law was adopted in the first reading;
  • provided special conditions for admission to universities for children from the temporarily occupied territories;
  • the adopted Electoral Code enabled internally displaced persons to vote in local elections in host communities;
  • parliament is currently working on bills to recover property damage.

“If we talk about the implementation of a comprehensive state policy on reintegration, we hope that the president will set the tone in terms of publishing a decree on transitional justice. Then we will need to develop a number of sectoral bills that will systematically cover all reintegration mechanisms,” the speaker summed up.

Anton Korynevych, Permanent Representative of President of Ukraine in Autonomous Republic of Crimea , named the priorities of the mission:

  • Work on the strategy of reintegration and deoccupation.
  • Maintaining contacts with citizens in the temporarily occupied territories.
  • Participation in the creation of the Crimean platform.
  • Increasing the number of entrants from the temporarily occupied lands.
  • Transitional justice.

The speaker noted that transitional justice is an important element of reintegration policy. It launches a dialogue on the future and restoration of human rights in the context of the occupation and its consequences. He noted the expertise of the working group at the Committee on Legal Policy.

Alyona Lunyova, Expert at Human Rights Centre ZMINA, summarized the results of the year:

  • strengthened infrastructure for the implementation of reintegration policy;
  • coordination between branches of government on reintegration has become more;
  • solved the “old” problems of suffrage and the right to education, which NGOs have been talking about for years;
  • the first 10 families received compensation for the destroyed property; expectations – the relevant bill;
  • unresolved issues – payment of pensions, repeal of the law “On the free economic zone of Crimea”.

Oleksandr Pavlichenko, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, stressed that the problem of Ukrainians imprisoned in uncontrolled territories, who were forced to take another citizenship, remains unresolved. Arrests and harassment are ongoing, particularly in Crimea, and Crimean Solidarity supporters are being prosecuted on trumped-up charges under articles about terrorism and severely sanctioned.

“Ukraine as a state must first and foremost provide maximum support at the national and international levels to those who are currently in detention, trying to return them to Ukraine, seeking their release during negotiations and raising the issue of illegally detained persons,” – remarked the speaker.

The expert noted that in 2019 there were two large exchanges of prisoners, since then there have been no exchanges. Therefore, according to him, the process has slowed down and the issue should be raised as relevant, as in the case of active campaigns against Oleh Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko and others.

Oleksandr Pavlichenko would add two cross-cutting points to the prepared branch analytical brief:

  1. Ensure stability and political independence of ongoing processes.
  2. Implement changes systematically – rather than selectively responding to pressing challenges – for long-term results.

Svitlana Kolyshko, UNDP Human rights team lead, said that respect for human rights is a powerful tool for reintegration. She noted that now is a good time for decisive steps, because people on both sides of the line of demarcation are tired of the war, and in the controlled area, most support reintegration. It is important to maintain dialogue and provide people with the rights they have now. “Sociology confirms that those people who cross the EECP more often and visit Ukraine are more supportive of reintegration. It is important to reach those who do not have information about what the Ukrainian government is doing to respect their rights. “

Roman Romanov, Head of the Human Rights and Justice Program, International Renaissance Foundation, noted that there are no primary or secondary elements in the issue of reintegration. There must be a holistic policy with a long-term horizon. In addition, the issue of reintegration is perceived by many as dangerous, so it is necessary to ensure consensus and dialogue, involving the maximum audience on both sides of the line.

“One of the important lessons we have to learn is that complex issues such as the reintegration of the occupied territories cannot have a short horizon. We all need to have enough patience and understand that this is a serious sequence of steps, designed for a certain distance of time. But the fact that we cannot bring this horizon closer does not mean that we should not see it and that the actions that are possible today should demotivate us. On the contrary, “the speaker summed up.

Development of civil society

Moderator  Ulyana Poltavets (Agency of Legislative Initiatives) noted that in recent years, civil society has been a driver of reform. It may seem that civil society in Ukraine is strong, but the facts show that this is not the case. Only 18% of Ukrainians are involved in the work of public organizations; this is much less than in developed European countries. Speakers talked about ways to improve interaction with the authorities, proposals and strategies, risks.

Roman Hryshchuk, MP, Chairperson of the Sub-committee on Lifelong Learning and Extracurricular Education of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Committee on Education, Science and Innovations (TBC), noted that the level of interaction between civil society and the government is sinusoidal: approaching, moving away. Some deputies are against interaction, some need to be explained the importance of communication. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure a constant dialogue, for which the renewed government has created a hub.

According to the speaker, in order for the indicator of social activity to grow, local initiatives are needed, because it is easier to involve people in solving local problems they understand.

Roman Hryshchuk expressed support for the interest rate mechanism, the introduction of which is advocated by civil society, and a bill is being prepared.

“The fact that people spend part of their taxes on the development of a public organization or movement solves an even more systemic problem,” the speaker explained.

Oleksandr Yarema, State Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, Head of the Working Group for the Preparation of the National Strategy for Civil Society Development for 2021-2025 (TBC), stressed the need to jointly shape the agenda through national and local dialogues. Key aspects in the formation of a new political culture and citizen participation in decision-making – trust, transparency, responsibility (accountability in the case of organizations). Therefore, according to the speaker, the new Strategy is a joint document of the government and civil society, which reflects the pain points and the desired ways to anesthetize them. More than 200 people from different regions joined its creation.

The speaker stressed that currently only four ministries have successful cases of partnership and transparent state support through competitions.

“Every ministry should become a civil society ministry in some part. Civil society is diverse. There are organizations that work in the field of environmental protection, culture, and support of social or youth initiatives, etc., “he explained.

Oleksandr Yarema called the Open Government initiative a well-recognized example of interaction between the state and civil society in many countries around the world.

Denys Denysenko, Executive Director of the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition, emphasized 4 principles:

  • Creating a favorable legal environment for civil society.
  • Government and parliamentary initiatives should go through a cycle of public consultations.
  • Have a common vision of the future of the country – Sector Development Strategies, Maps of legal reforms for the development of civil society.
  • Many changes take place from the bottom of the mountain. The public sector can be a powerful player, having to be a partner of parliament and government.

Maksym Latsyba, Head of the Civil Society Development Program, Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research, noted that Ukraine needs a strong state, a strong civil society and dialogue between them for socio-economic development.

“Should the state develop civil society? In the literal sense of the word – no. The state must create favorable conditions. We need a favorable climate for the development of civil society, “said Maksym Latsyba.

The expert voiced a number of priority steps outlined in the sectoral brief and the Map of Legal Reforms for Civil Society, developed by Civil Society Organizations (CSO) as part of a parallel project:

  • adopt the National Strategy for the Promotion of Civil Society Development 2021-2025 and create a permanent platform for communication between civil society and the government – the relevant Coordinating Council under the Cabinet of Ministers;
  • launch a powerful platform for online interaction between the community and the government; transfer all registration procedures for CSOs to the Action platform;
  • to introduce an electronic competition of projects for state support of NGOs (changes in Resolution №1049 are expected in January 2021);
  • to exclude from the personal income tax base the amounts received as compensation for the volunteer’s expenses (travel, meals, hotel accommodation, obtaining a visa, etc.);
  • introduce an interest rate mechanism, establish tax incentives to support charitable activities by business;
  • to establish a partnership between CSOs and local governments in terms of providing / purchasing social services;
  • to approve the statutes of communities in all United Territorial Communities’ (UTC) of Ukraine with the envisaged instruments of public participation in decision-making; adopt a new version of the law “on local self-government”, which will make the statutes binding;
  • to establish a dialogue with the Ministry of Internal Affairs – to establish a joint advisory advisory body to monitor the investigation of cases;
  • abolish the rules on CSO reporting on ultimate beneficial owners.

Maksym Latsyba proposed to create a hub for CSO dialogue with representatives of all parliamentary factions, following the model of the format that operated in 2012-2013.

Mariia Heletiy, Deputy Executive Director of ISAR Ednanniaa, noted that in a pandemic, it has become more difficult for civil society to reap the benefits, in particular due to reduced funding. “Civil society is an important partner for the state. It is not just organizations that fight for democracy, human rights or fight corruption. These are organizations that help the state fight the pandemic, help hospitals with the necessary medicines, help people with disabilities, veterans, young people, and so on. Therefore, civil society often assumes the role of the state when it either does not have the resources or does not even see the problem. Therefore, the state should pay attention to the sector, help to carry out its activities. “

We need to think about how to improve financial sustainability in the first place. According to the CSO Sustainability Index, the financial sustainability of the sector is currently the weakest. The sector is a driver of reforms, so it is necessary to support the sector financially and this is one of the challenges.

We need to think about how to develop benefits for businesses and individuals who want to support civil society, to create state competition programs for all ministries (currently they are in 4).

The speaker agreed with other participants in the discussion and added challenges:

  • There are attempts in parliament to worsen the environment for the sector – these are lobbying initiatives (they affect issues of public consultation and advocacy), “foreign agents”, restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • Security of people with an active position, effective investigations of attacks on activists.
  • Complicated procedure for purchasing services abroad for non-profit organizations.

Oleksandr Sushko, Executive Director, International Renaissance Foundation, suggested that significant opposition to civil society and its proposals was due to the fact that significant changes were now at stake. He explained: “If earlier civil society could influence in certain sectors and this influence was very limited, then the post-Maidan era has clearly shown that largely active citizens largely shape the agenda, which political forces have to reckon with. Those who are interested in maintaining the status quo so that Ukraine continues to be a concentration of bad practices will oppose it. ” The speaker noted that there will always be opponents, although at the same time the world is not black and white, so “very often the picture depends on how broad a coalition we can build around the goals and values ​​we promote.” At the same time, the biggest weakness of opponents, oligarchic groups, according to the expert, is the lack of an attractive offer to society.

“The perspective does not give us options for easy developments,” the speaker summed up. “If the stakes are high enough and we understand that changes in the country are moving and step by step the country is changing, then we understand that resistance may increase.” Oleksandr Sushko said that civil society in Ukraine has experience of a long positional struggle. However, it is weakened from within by fragmentation, the prevalence of short-term interests, personal ambitions, and the inability to build long-term partnerships and alliances.

The speaker noted that public platforms have shown greater stability in the process of building long-term strategic decisions than political ones. In his opinion, this resource – the ability to long-term advocacy – is one of the most significant advantages of civil society in Ukraine. So, of course, we need to respond to unfriendly initiatives in the sector, but focus on a positive agenda, on our program, which becomes a significant advantage along with the lack of such opponents.

Oleksandr Sushko noted that the goal of civil society reform is not to create warm and comfortable conditions for the sector, but to self-realize the active part of citizens for the sake of the country’s progress. The efforts of experts in recent years have been aimed at this. The goal becomes a tool for the state itself.

Olena Rybiy, Expert in Networking and Coalition Building at Pact/ENGAGE, shifted the focus of the conversation from civil society organizations to the citizen. She explained that, by definition, a citizen who is aware of his public interests and is able to unite to protect them is a full member of civil society. These are activists, volunteers, participants in peaceful protests, etc. – those who understand the processes and participate in them.

The main issues of today in this aspect, according to the speaker:

  1. How to return to the actions of active citizens before and after the Maidan periods, which are now disappointed?
  2. How to fill civil society with youth?

Instead, the goals of the National Strategy are formulated within the institutional paradigm of civil society, purely as a network of organizations and individual initiatives, she stressed. The citizen is mentioned in the initiatives for participation in decision-making. However, the appearance of the mechanism does not mean an automatic increase in activism.

Olena Rybiy named the top barriers that hinder the active participation of citizens: lack of time and motivation, disbelief that it will bring results, distrust of public organizations and lack of information about their activities. According to the speaker, this should be taken care of by non-governmental public organizations: “It is impossible to place responsibility on the state, on its strategy of involving citizens in active actions. This is the responsibility of civil society organizations. ” Therefore, in addition to proposals for the government, it is necessary to formulate recommendations to the NGOs themselves, how to promote individual initiative, self-organization of each citizen.

“For the public sector to develop, it is not enough for public organizations to grow in professionalism in their topics, to increase organizational strength. They need to be loud, massive, visible. They should be really effective leaders for every citizen who is an important part of civil society, ”Olena Rybiy summed up.

Reform of e-government and democracy

Moderator Denys Denysenko, Executive Director of the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition, gave the first word to one of the co-authors of the sectoral analytical brief.

Serhiy Loboyko, Chairman at the Center for Innovations Development, Visionary of the Kyiv Public Budget and the E-Solutions for Communities (U-LEAD) Project, noted that several powerful centers of influence have been formed in Ukraine, which formulate the agenda.

In particular, in matters of e-democracy, it is a center based on parliament. Their first product so far is the first-reading bill on the All-Ukrainian Referendum. It incorporates innovations related to the use of electronic technology at various stages of this process. The document stipulates that in time Ukraine will have a law on electronic voting, which will open the way for the use of these tools in various fields. A “portfolio” of bills is also being prepared, which will include a number of tools (the speaker noted that electronic tools show different dynamics in terms of youth participation compared to elections). According to him, the activity of the parliamentary initiative center should be supported by the work of the government, in particular the relevant ministry.

The initiative under which the bill is currently being prepared is public consultations.

“It’s a revolutionary tool. It will finally raise the quality of the policy-making process and its inclusiveness to a qualitatively different level, ”he commented.

“The data is crucial for all stakeholders, including civil society. They radically change the quality of decision-making, traditional approaches to public consultation, to discourse. They take away a lot of emotions and are destructive. ” There are many challenges along the way: from open data to the issue of electronic registers, accessibility for stakeholders, especially local governments. The speaker added that more and more power is concentrated on the ground, and the most effective tool of democracy today – the participation budget – arose not from the decision of the central government, but from local initiatives.

Lyudmyla Rabchynska, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation on Administrative Service, noted that the ministry is working in all areas indicated in the briefing and has taken significant steps.

As for e-democracy, the ministry has set an ambitious goal: to get into the top 20 countries in the next e-participation survey conducted by the UN (currently Ukraine ranked 46th).

The Interaction platform is created to give citizens access to participation mechanisms: electronic appeals, consultations, petitions. The platform will provide for the possibility of holding competitions for public projects, as well as electronic elections to public councils. The platform will also contain the necessary information to communicate with the authorities.

The next steps are the adoption of bills, including the expected laws on public consultations, all-Ukrainian and local referendums, and electronic petitions;

Achievements include an increase in the number of online services in the flagship project “Diiia” (46 services currently), a mobile application “Diia”, which contains 9 documents, as well as coverage of the country with high-speed Internet (9000 settlements received from July to November), digitalization education at the level of technology and skills (the platform “Diia. Digital Education” is currently used by 1 million Ukrainians). Another important area of ​​activity is the transformation of public administration. A new position has been created – CDTO (Head of Digital Transformation), it has been implemented in 16 ministries for the transformation of entire industries, as well as in 7 other central executive bodies, 3 regional state administrations and several local self-government bodies. The Ministry of Finance also takes care of open data and protection of personal data, the speaker summed up.

Nicole Ruder, Head of the Swiss Cooperation in Ukraine, noted that 2020 has brought many transformations, and this is now a new reality. The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation in general, as well as the development of e-democracy and e-government.

The expert called the challenges:

  • Digitalization vs digital transformation. The government, and the Ministry in particular, has an ambitious agenda that has the potential to significantly increase the transparency and efficiency of the civil service and government, as well as to improve public relations to fight corruption and build inclusive processes at various levels of government. To achieve these results, we need to understand the difference between digitalization and digital transformation. To really transform, new approaches need to be applied. The key challenges are people, technical support.
  • Culture of startups vs public institutions. To become a normal practice for all, digital transformations must become institutionalized. The Ministry of Education and Science faces important tasks: to introduce specialists in institutions, to coordinate digital compatibility between different bodies, to coordinate with partners.
  • Interaction of generations. It is important for the digital transformation that people do not feel abandoned, ie young people should be encouraged to help grandparents with digital literacy, as well as to develop trust through the protection of personal data.

Digital transformation and data protection go hand in hand, the speaker stressed.

Nadiia Babynska-Virna, Coordinator of the OpenUp Initiative, stressed that the members of the community spent about UAH 80,000 of their money on courts for access to data, on the basis of which new open data services can be created. “Instead of creating a product, providing expertise for the development of open data, we are forced to gnaw this data into the government.”

The speaker noted the key issues regarding open data:

  • Poor implementation of good open data legislation.
  • The need to develop the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Finance, financial dependence on international support.
  • Low level of communication with the community.
  • The Ministry did not become the flagship of COVID-19 data; the need to modernize the data collection system.

The expert noted that the issue of open data recedes into the background in government strategies due to the need for rapid results, and with the change of government, the future of registers and applications is always in question. Therefore, according to Nadiia Babynska-Virna, Ukraine should join the European framework, “so as not to break the system, but to build them with integration” with the Eurosystems. Lyudmyla Rabchynska answered that the issue of open data remains among the priorities for the Ministry of Finance.

Read the sectoral briefs on reforms prepared for Ukraine Reform Conference 2020/2021

The Forum is organized by the RPR Coalition in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania. The Forum is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, the European Union, the EU Project Pravo-Justice, «Civil Society for Enhanced Democracy and Human Rights in Ukraine» project implemented by UNDP Ukraine under financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and the Embassy of Canada in Ukraine. The Forum is organized within the framework of the project “Core Support of the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition” carried out by the RPR Coalition and is made possible by the generous support of the American people through The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) within the Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity, implemented by The Initiative Center to Support Social Action “Ednannia” in partnership with the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research and the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law. 


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