Civil society Civil society

1. Evaluation of reform policies of the Parliament and Government during the period of September 2019 – January 2020 and its compliance with the Toronto Principles (based on the analysis of the Government Program, the plans of the ministries and the adopted/rejected regulatory acts)

In 2019-2020, Ukraine's political leadership has changed twice along with the public policy in many areas. In 2015–2019, the state sought to structure its civil society policy around the National Strategy for Promoting Civil Society in Ukraine for 2016–2020. Since September 2019, some progress has been made in ensuring the transparency of the distribution of state funding for civil society organizations (hereinafter - CSOs) and introducing competitive funding for CSOs of veterans and persons with disabilities (Resolutions 183 and 166). In addition, the Law of Ukraine on Social Services in the new edition provided the state with the opportunity to purchase services from CSOs through public procurement and social procurement. Moreover, work on the draft law "On Public Consultations" has been resumed, amendments to the Law of Ukraine "On Local Self-Government" are being developed and will introduce the local democracy instruments, and work on a new National Strategy for Civil Society Development 2021-2025 has been initiated.

At the same time, weak efforts to implement the Strategy and insufficient governmental coordination of the ministries involved and central executive bodies led a situation when by mid-2019, most of its tasks were considered unfulfilled[1]. As of August 2020, the composition and of the Coordinating Council for Civil Society Development, which should monitor the implementation of the current Strategy, as well as the implementation of the Action Plan for 2020 to implement the Strategy, which was adopted with a significant delay (only in July 2020), was not renewed and its operation was not resumed.

The Government's Program of activities addresses civil society issues within the framework of ministries (the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine), but rather sporadically. It has not yet been approved, but the Government is acting in accordance with it. The document does not contain enough directions for the development of civil society.

The provisions of the key reform priorities in Ukraine for 2019-2023 according to the Toronto Principles in promoting civil society have not been met. In particular, between September 2019 and August 2020, the Government made no progress on the following issues:

  • ensuring simplification of legislation for the activities of CSOs and their financial sustainability;
  • proper investigation of all attacks on civic activists and prosecution of those involved;
  • ensuring the activities of civil society coordination bodies;
  • intensifying the dialogue with the authorities and local self-government, strengthening the influence of civil society on the formulation and implementation of public policies.


[1] https://parlament.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Brochure_10.12.19_final.pdf

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2. Current challenges / issues in the relevant policy area

Despite the previous achievements, there are many civil society development challenges that can be categorized into the following groups.

  1. Legislation aimed at restricting freedom of association and freedom of assembly, - bills restricting the freedom of foreign-funded CSOs (№ 3936, № 3564, № 3193-1, № 3326), attempts to restrict CSO advocacy, and public consultation through lobbying regulation (№ 3059, № 3059-1, № 3059-2 , № 3059-3), over-regulation of volunteer activities due to amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Volunteers and Volunteer Activities”, as well as an attempt to restrict freedom of assembly (Bill № 3291 on the prohibition of peaceful assembly near the courts).
  1. The procedures of registration, business activities, and taxation of civic and charitable organizations:

a)      The online registration of the CSOs remain imperfect (online registration of charitable organizations and non-governmental organizations without the status of a legal entity, the submission of a claim for non-profit status has not been introduced yet), the procedure for termination of activities of public and charitable organizations is complicated and time consuming;

b)      Ukrainian CSOs continue to face difficulties in obtaining services from non-residents and conducting financial transactions under foreign economic agreements. At the same time, the new regulation on financial monitoring (Resolution of the National Bank of Ukraine of July 28, 2020 № 107 "On approval of the Regulation on financial monitoring by institutions") will only complicate the operational activities of CSOs due to assigning such operations to the high-risk transactions;

c)      A critically low amount of non-targeted non-tax charitable assistance to people in difficult life circumstances is determined, tax incentives for businesses to provide charitable assistance are absent, while the procedure for importing international humanitarian aid is complicated;

d)      Charging the personal income tax for travel expenses, accommodation and meals of volunteers and participants of civil society organizations creates an additional financial burden for the CSOs.

  1. Government grants and social services:

In the state budget for 2020, the Government has allocated about UAH 66 million to support the CSOs of the persons with disabilities, UAH 8.6 million for the organizations of veterans, UAH 13.5 million - for youth and children's organizations, UAH 8 million - for organizations that provide patriotic education for young people. Unfortunately, half of these funds, in particular to fund CSOs for people with disabilities, is distributed without any competitive procedures. In addition, there is still no financial support for projects of environmental, human rights, educational and other types of organizations.

Most local self-governments do not place financial resources to support projects of local CSOs.

Moreover, local self-governments bodies purchase almost no social services from the CSOs[1]. As a result, one of the most promising mechanisms for improving social services and civil society development is not working. Part of normative legal acts of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (hereafter – CMU) are not harmonized with the new version of the Law of Ukraine on Social Services.

Access to non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance to the affected population and certain territories in Ukraine is complicated by the regulations of anti-terrorist legislation.

  1. Citizens involvement in the governance:

Authorities' decisions at all levels are often made without proper analytical justification and without coordinating draft decisions with the key stakeholders. The level of accountability and transparency of public policy remains low.

There are many statutory procedures for citizens' involvement in decision-making in Ukraine, which are rarely used either by the government officials or by the citizens.

In the context of the delegation of administrative powers and financial resources to the level of territorial communities, the introduction of local democracy procedures becomes especially relevant. Unfortunately, most cities and unified territorial communities do not have their own statutes and defined procedures for involving citizens (such as public hearings, local initiatives, budget for participation, public consultation, etc.). The level of citizens’ involvement in the process of ensuring the accountability and transparency of public policy implementation remains low, partially due to lack of awareness of citizens' supervision over the authorities.

  1.  Activists safety:

The problem of attacks on activists intensifies. Thus, in 2019, a critical number of such attacks was recorded – 83 (48 in just six months in 2020). Unfortunately, the National Police is reluctant to investigate these crimes and enhance the safety and security of activists. Moreover, new high-profile cases are emerging, the investigation of which undermine the confidence of society (the cases of Sternenko, Sheremet, Handziuk - prosecutors took the case to court without conducting all the necessary investigative actions)



[1] https://dt.ua/internal/zakon-pro-socialni-poslugi-pokraschennya-vidkladayetsya-337022_.html

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3. Recommendations for priority actions in 2020-2021, in particular, for the agenda of Parliament's second session

  1. To develop and approve a new state Strategy for promoting civil society for 2021-2025, create a Coordination Council for promoting civil society at the CMU Secretariat with the involvement of representatives of relevant ministries, central executive bodies, and civil society organizations.
  1. To reject regulations that restrict the freedom of associations (bills restricting CSOs opportunities to receive foreign funding № 3936, № 3564, № 3193-1, №3326; bills restricting the freedom of CSOs to protect the interests of their target groups - bills on lobbying № 3059, № 3059-1, № 3059-2, № 3059-3, bills restricting freedom of assembly (№ 3291), bills restricting the right to work (№ 3326 on the cleansing of power).
  1. To introduce online registration of all types of administrative services for CSOs registration and application for non-profitability.
  1. To increase the amount of non-targeted non-tax-related charitable assistance to people in difficult circumstances to the amount of five subsistence wages.
  1. To establish tax incentives for businesses involved in charity assistance and to reduce tax pressure on charity recipients.
  1. To cancel personal income tax on travel expenses, accommodation and meals for volunteers and participants of CSOs.
  1. To adopt a new version of the Law on Humanitarian Aid, which provides for simplified procedures for the processing of humanitarian aid.
  1. Ensure that the National Bank of Ukraine prepares an explanation for commercial banks on the procedure for servicing CSO payments for receiving services from non-residents and carrying out financial transactions under foreign economic agreements in order to simplify them. Amend the resolution of the National Bank of Ukraine and cancel the recognition of CSO operations as risky.
  1. To introduce transparent competitive procedures for public financial support for the Ukrainian Society of the Deaf and the Ukrainian Society of the Blind.
  1. To introduce an electronic project competition for all types of state financial support provided to Ukrainian CSOs.
  1. To introduce a program of competitive support to CSO initiatives in all local self-government bodies.
  1. To initiate large-scale procurement of social services by local self-government bodies in accordance with the Law on Public Procurement or in accordance with the CMU Resolution “On Approval of the Procedure for Implementing the Social Procurement at the Budget Budget” № 450, from June 1, 2020.
  1. To introduce mechanisms for the purchase of certain types of social services for communities at the expense of the state budget through special state institutions.
  1. To provide an opportunity for CSOs that receive support from public funds to have administrative and organizational development expenditures
  1. To provide on a legislative level an obligation of each community to adopt a statute of a territorial community in which to define procedures for public participation, such as public hearings, local initiatives, budget for participation, public consultation, etc.
  1. To adopt the Law of Ukraine on Public Consultations, which will set out clear procedures for all authorities.
  1. To introduce electronic election of members of public councils acting within executive bodies.
  1. To amend Articles 185-1 and 185 of the Code of Administrative Offenses to abolish administrative responsibility for violations of the order of peaceful assemblies in view of the actual absence of such an order.
  1. To establish a permanent commission of inquiry on parliamentary oversight of the effectiveness of investigations into crimes committed against human rights defenders and civic activists in connection with their activities, based on the Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Committee, the occupation and reintegration of temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk, Luhansk and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, national minorities and international relations, and to ensure its membership with the members of this committee, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Law Enforcement, representatives of the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights, law enforcement, human rights activists and civic activists.
  1. To the Government of Ukraine – to ensure the unhindered activities of public activists, prevent and effectively investigate all cases of pressure.

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Authors:
Mariia Heletiy
Deputy Executive Director,
Initiative Center to Support Social Action "Ednannia"
Oksana Mizik
Advocate and Development Manager,
Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
Maksym Latsyba
Head of Civil Society Development Program,
Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
Oleksandr Zaslavsky
Director of the Analytical Division,
Agency for Legislative Initiatives
Reviewers:
Tetyana Pechonchyk
Head of the Board,
ZMINA Human Rights Center
Organizations Support:
Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition Initiative Center to Support Social Action "Ednannia" Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research Agency for Legislative Initiatives ZMINA Human Rights Center
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