Electoral code, Gender equality and Cultural ecosystem: experts continue discussing reforms
Electoral legislation reform
Moderator Nadiya Shuvar, Head of “Rule of Law” Section at Center for Democracy and Rule of Law, asked if the development of the reform would be postponed or would be hotly debated after the last election.
Alina Zahoruiko, MP, First Deputy Chairperson of the Parliament Committee on State Building, Local Governance, Regional and Urban Development, said that the committee initiated a working group to develop comprehensive amendments to the Electoral Code. final reports of observation missions, proposals of all subjects of the election process – the CEC, relevant civil society organizations, observers, etc. They plan to make changes with one bill. According to the speaker, this area requires constant reforms.
The speaker stressed the manipulation of the new mechanism for changing the electoral address and noted that after specific cases during the local elections, the result should be shown by law enforcement officers. Alina Zahoruyko noted that despite the need to refine a specific mechanism, the path of development was chosen correctly – simplification of procedures and at the same time improving the political culture of the subjects.
Challenges and problems: the level of preparation of lower-level election commissions, low political culture of the subjects of the election process.
Priority tasks as the chairman of the subcommittee: to hold in the hall and “vote” the bill №3612 (on the national referendum) and to develop recommendations for changes to the Electoral Code.
Vitaliy Plukar, Deputy Chair of the Central Election Commission, said not all citizens understood the new electoral system, although most succeeded. Therefore, it is necessary to improve not only the mechanisms, but also the educational component. In the 2020 local elections, strong information assistance was provided by international partners and NGOs.
The biggest challenges were the new election rules, the parallel reform of the administrative system and the conditions of the pandemic. According to the speaker, clearer regulation is required for issues that have led to election disputes, including cases of refusal to register candidates on the grounds of bail or gender quota, the political principle of forming election commissions, a number of organizational and logistical procedures. The CEC will insist on a professional discussion on the formation and functioning of the commissions, the powers of its members, and sanctions for unfair performance of their duties.
Evhen Radchenko, expert, Deputy Head of Central Election Committee (2018-2019), noted that he was sorry for the path taken by the electoral reform. He criticized lawmakers for failing to meet key reform goals: unify electoral procedures, innovate, and facilitate the use of the electoral code (so that the CEC does not engage in forced “lawmaking” and so that the code answers most questions than the law).
“The Code has not coped with the tasks for electoral reform, except for two: the electoral system and gender quotas,” he said.
Evhen Radchenko cited some negative consequences of the adopted version of the code and local election organizations: low quality of TEC documents in UTC, insufficient methodological support, inaccuracies in supporting materials, violation of the structure of the code, etc. The speaker called the regulation of agitation on social networks and the Internet, as well as the reporting of election funds, urgent and unresolved issues.
In response, Alina Zahoruiko said that the adopted code is much simpler than the vetoed previous version, and inaccuracies have been removed from it. The innovations listed in the law require funds that have not yet been allocated, the topic of election funds needs to be discussed, and ways to regulate campaigning on the Internet have been sought, but no effective mechanism has been found in time.
Natalia Lynnyk, Deputy General Director, Committee of Voters of Ukraine, suggested better communication between the relevant committee of the Verkhovna Rada and NGOs, as it currently ignores NGO reports.
The speaker voiced the position of CVU (Committee of Voters of Ukraine):
- In general, the Electoral Code allows for local elections to be held in accordance with international standards and norms. It contains shortcomings that need to be addressed now, after the election. It is necessary to reconsider the norms concerning the proportional system in small communities, the right of citizens to self-elect, partisanship, the formation of districts, and so on.
- Only 2% of those who could used the mechanism of changing the electoral address. The reason is an inadequate information campaign and a short deadline for changing the address.
- The preparation of public authorities for the pandemic elections was inadequate. Due to the delay of the Cabinet of Ministers, the responsibility fell into place. Ukraine has become the only country in which anti-epidemic measures in the elections were not financed from the state budget.
- In general, the work of the CEC can be assessed positively, especially in the information and communication aspects with the public and CSO representatives.
- It is worth reconsidering the campaign period and, perhaps, following the example of other countries, to start the election process in six months to avoid cases of premature campaign.
Harald Jepsen, International senior adviser with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Ukraine, began with the Foundation’s observations and conclusions on the electoral process in Ukraine:
- The late adoption of the legislation has created many problems, especially for the management of the election process.
- Professionalization of election commissions is important. The politicized commissions delayed their work. “The time has come for CEC representatives to work on the ground, to intervene in a timely manner, to help local commissions, to advise them on problematic issues. This is a world practice, and it is very strange that the CEC does not have its representatives in the regions. “
- Lack of information on election campaign financing. This line of work, according to the speaker, failed, and voters across the country did not have access to information about those who funded political parties and their candidates. Mr Epsen linked the fact to the relevant legislative changes, which made quarterly reports optional. IFES can help address this shortcoming in the future Electoral Code.
Speakers generally agreed that there were shortcomings in the election law that needed to be addressed in the working group.
The moderator of the discussion, Milena Horyachkovska, Ukrainian Women’s Fund, emphasized that in preparation for the URC, a brief with recommendations on gender equality in key reforms was presented for the first time.
Maryna Bardina, MP, Co-Chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Inter-Factional Deputy Association , considers the presence of a gender quota in the Electoral Code an achievement of society. According to her, the gaps that arose during the elections, parliamentarians foresaw, but did not find the right solution. Now there is an intention to revise the rules, but Maryna Bardina is not sure that the changes will be supported by the majority. The speaker noted that in the end the gender quota worked: according to the analysis of local councils, the number of women in them increased by more than 30%.
In terms of equality, the speaker drew attention to the law on maternity leave for men [supported by the parliament in the first reading on December 1, 2020 – the RPR Coalition], changes to the Code of Administrative Offenses on punishment for rapists.
Kateryna Levchenko, Governmental Commissioner for Gender Policy, noted that there would be no European integration, successful reforms and strategies without a gender component. She suggested taking this principle as a basis, including in the preparation of subsequent briefings.
It is necessary to strengthen the national institutional mechanism at the sectoral level and to form a strategic vision of the gender approach in all sectors and spheres of public administration and development.
An action plan for the implementation of the communication strategy on gender equality is currently being developed, the speaker said. Representatives of all central authorities, international and public organizations are involved in the process.
The speaker added that a draft resolution on monitoring in the field of gender equality is ready for consideration by the government.
“It is planned to significantly expand the indicators on the basis of gender, which relate to different areas,” she said.
Halyna Skipalska, CEO at Ukrainian Foundation for Public Health, Director of the HealthRight International Office in Ukraine, spoke about the situation of women in the social and medical spheres. A significant challenge here is the COVID-19 pandemic. “90% of physicians and social workers are women, and they are at risk for infection and job loss.” Other problems caused by the pandemic include an increase in domestic violence and domestic responsibilities.
The speaker noted that in 2017-2019 in Ukraine there were some positive changes in combating domestic violence (adoption of legislation, organized the necessary services: shelters, day centers, mobile teams, hotline, etc.). In 2020, less attention was paid to this issue (Ministry of Social Policy and Ministry of Health).
Civil society expects the implementation of key tasks:
- Development and approval of the State Social Program for Prevention and Counteraction to Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence until 2025.
- Improving the coordination of interaction between the actors implementing measures in the field of prevention and counteraction to domestic authorities. It is about the interaction of central and local government.
- Adequate staffing of specially authorized bodies, raising the level of professional development of specialists in this field.
- Effective functioning of victim support services, in particular their financial support in accordance with justified needs.
- Update the activities of the Interdepartmental Council on Family, Gender Equality, Democratic Development, Prevention and Combating Domestic Violence and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.
Larysa Kobelyanska, Coordinator of Public Council on Gender Issues at the Equal Opportunities Inter-Factional Deputy Association, noted that the Ministry of Community and Territorial Development in 2019 approved the Strategy for Gender Equality for 2021-2025. The main tool in its implementation is gender budgeting, but its application is quite complex.
- Lack of regular expert advice and involvement of experts at the level of local programs and policies. Although NGOs and public figures on the ground are recovering.
- Reduction of funding, which may slow down the development of local programs with a focus on the gender component.
- Lack of appropriate statistical indicators that would take into account the needs of different groups of the population. Data is important for planning.
- Inclusion of the gender component in the Regional Development Strategy for the period 2021-2026.
- Ensuring the implementation and monitoring of standards as the inclusiveness of buildings and structures.
- Methods for building the capacity of local communities should include a gender component.
- Ensure full implementation of the orders of the Ministry of Finance on the inclusion of gender budgeting.
- Analyze the legislation on local self-government and include in the competencies of local councils the consideration of the gender component in the development of local development programs. The competence of the manager must include this component.
“Civil society has high expectations that the new composition of local councils will have gender issues on its agenda. At least with such a statement, representatives of women’s public organizations addressed them, ”Larysa Kobelyanska summed up.
Maryna Rudenko, Gender Equality Adviser, Canadian-Ukrainian Police Reform Project, voiced the recommendations of a labor law brief:
- Do not allow the narrowing of existing rights and guarantees of employees.
- Take into account the principles of equal opportunities for women and men.
- Expand economic opportunities for women.
- Avoid a pay gap.
- Ensure occupational safety.
- Integrate into the legislation of the EU Directive on work-life balance of parents and guardians.
- Ratify the ILO Convention 190 on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment at Work.
In the field of education, as the speaker noted, among other things, it is necessary to strengthen the examination of school textbooks, which still contain many stereotypes, the adoption of the Strategy for the implementation of gender equality in the field. “Anti-discrimination examination of all educational content and space is an urgent recommendation of our brief,” she concluded. Larysa Kobelyanska added that the gender expertise of the new Higher Education Strategy disappointed specialists; experts proposed changes to the ministry.
Regarding media reform, there are proposals to combat gender discrimination in advertising (increasing responsibility for sexism), developing standards for ensuring a balanced representation of both sexes among media experts, strategies for inclusive sensitive speech and the use of femininities, and more.
Reforms in the field of culture
Yevheniia Kravchuk, MP, Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Chairperson of the Sub-committee on Information Policy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy, first named the results – the law on support of creative industries, a number of legislative initiatives on museums, changes in legislation to protect cultural heritage, advocacy the presidential bill on preferential VAT for operations in the cultural sphere and tourism (including grants).
Bills on the library industry and book publishing, opposition to the construction and preservation of historical heritage, amendments to the law on culture and a new version of the law on tourism are expected. Yevheniia Kravchuk noted the effectiveness of the committee’s cooperation with the ministry.
The challenge is to transfer cultural institutions to communities after the decentralization reform is completed. There is a risk that in many UTCs cultural institutions will not be a priority, so, as Yevhenia Kravchuk noted, there is an initiative to create centers for cultural services and provide a subvention for the modernization of cultural spaces.
In the budget for 2021, the speaker sees a better situation for culture than in 2020 in terms of sequestration. For the next year, funding has been increased from 20 to 27 billion hryvnias. They will be allocated in the form of grants through such institutions as the UСF, the Book Institute, the newly established tourism agency. Now part of the money is redistributed as institutional grants; this support is needed by cultural institutions given the possible lockdown options.
Svitlana Fomenko, Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, noted that the middle stage of the reform, which began with the creation of the UCF, building the institutional capacity of the cultural sphere and legal changes, is currently underway. Significant results of this year – the formation of new institutions (State Agency for Art and Art Education, the State Agency for Tourism Development, the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience). Now on the way to institutionalization are two extremely important institutions – the service and the inspection for the protection of cultural heritage.
The great concentration is aimed at rethinking the financing of the basic network of cultural services. The concept was approved this year and the standards for the provision of cultural services are expected to be agreed in the near future, the speaker said.
“We want to give up funding for the maintenance of cultural institutions and move to funding the services they provide. In the context of infrastructure, the quality of these services, the staff that provides them, and logistics are important,” she explained.
Inclusive art education has also been actively introduced in Ukraine. Currently, only 1% of children with disabilities have the opportunity to attend art schools; teaching methods and institutions are not adapted to special educational needs. As part of the pilot project, 17 art schools from 12 regions are developing algorithms for providing quality services.
The speaker stressed the importance of the mentioned bill in the field of cultural heritage protection – “On preserving the traditional nature of the environment and combating chaotic development.” It involves complex changes.
The plans are to follow trends and tendencies – to study the influence of artificial intelligence on the development of culture and digitalize processes.
Yuliia Fediv, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, drew attention to the negative and positive factors of cultural development in 2020. On the one hand, it is COVID-19, lockdown, economic crisis. On the other hand, the importance of culture for social development is again on the agenda. The concept of institutional support has been introduced and it is desirable that it become a common tradition, the speaker stressed. She noted that a system of changes is needed, which is already being worked out, but it is not enough. “In the context of the UKF, we have been putting out fires for the third year in a row. This is very bad for the institutional capacity of us as state organizations. “
Among the advantages – awareness of the relevance of digitalization of culture, the division of projects into online, offline and mixed formats. Two important issues are the legal status of creative institutions and the worldview.
Natalia Kryvda, Professor at the Department of Ukrainian Philosophy and Culture, Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, stressed that the drive for reform was civil society in 2014. Therefore, the voiced initiatives must go through a full policy cycle, taking into account the positions of all stakeholders.
Key theses of the speech:
- Currently, the document submitted by the experts to the URC does not assess the work of the committee as very positive.
- The existing legal framework does not provide legal protection for intellectual property.
- “Our key task is not to serve the government, the legislature or other institutions, but to develop human potential,” the speaker said.
- The Cultural Policy Strategy must be adopted. The core of the sphere is the development and consolidation of values.
- The principle of functioning of the cultural district, standardization of state cultural services, creation of products and spaces with the principle of inclusiveness, issues of low salaries of cultural workers, return of competitions for positions, etc. need to be discussed.
She praised the work of the UKF and called the fact that state funds are distributed by experts, not officials, a “silent revolution.”
Serhii Heletiy, Chairman of the Commission on Legislative Initiatives of the Ukrainian Association of Cinematographers, said that the country should ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Offenses Related to Cultural Property.
The speaker focused on the problems of book publishing, intellectual property, regulation of the digital sphere and the market, combating piracy, the need to update copyright law.
The event was moderated by Tetyana Ogarkova, Lecturer at the Department of Literary Studies, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, PhD (University of Paris-XII Val-de-Marne, France)
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.