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27.08.2009

Ukraine’s authorities ignore civic organizations’ proposals on improving legislation

   

At a press conference held on 26 August on “Normative conditions for cooperation between the authorities and the community”, a new version of a draft law “On public self-organization bodies” was presented. This has been drawn up by the All-Ukrainian Association for the Promotion of Public Self-organization, with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation [IRF].

The Association highlights the danger that a number of other draft laws proposed by the public will not receive parliament’s attention. It stresses that shortcomings in legislation are a barrier to the development of civic society in Ukraine.

The importance of civic organization and involvement is enormous, especially during times of economic crisis in order to resolve issues particularly in the social sphere.

In Ukraine legislation often creates impediments. Examples were cited for creating a civic organization, this comparing unfavourable with the registration of a business company which takes three days and costs a mere 170 UAH.

Registration of a civic organization takes 30 days, and registering an international charity will cost 200 USD, as well as 170 UAH.

Legislation does not permit the creation at all of funds on the basis of a behest (like the Nobel Foundation).

It demands that mobile communications operations take 28 kopecks tax from each UAH donated during the SMS marathon raising money for a children’s hospital.

A disabled person has to pay no less than 180 UAH tax if a wheelchair worth 2,000 UAH was received not from members of the family, but for example, a friend or charitable donor.

Banks are obliged to refuse to transfer money to victims of apartment explosions (as in Lviv or Dnipropetrovsk) until the charity has found out the victims’ individual tax codes and deducted 15% tax in advance.

The law “On social services” introduced conditions unable to be implemented for civic organizations to receive licences to provide social services. No organization has therefore received such a licence in the two years that the law has been in force.

The participants in the press conference believe that this is due to a lack of proper attention to the creation of the normative mechanisms for ensuring the constitutionally guaranteed civic liberties and human rights.

On public self-organization bodies

These may be housing committees, committees for a particular district, etc and are one of the main forms of public participation in resolving local issues. Together with local councils, they are representative bodies of self-government and can play a vital role in a number of areas regarding communal services, social protection, etc.

Oleksy Orlovsky, Director of the IRF Programme for strengthening the impact of civic society mentions the above problems and criticizes also the lack of regulation of issues regarding the creation of such self-organization bodies, their staff, determining their period of office, and much more. He adds that this results in the bodies not being able to fully exercise their powers and to carry out their own financial and economic activities. .

It is hoped that this new draft law “On public self-organization bodies” could help to resolve the issues. It was drawn up by the Association’s experts, discussed at the Fourth All-Ukrainian theoretical and practical conference on self-organization bodies and it is to be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada in the next few days. However there remains the risk that this draft law will meet the same fate as a number of other draft laws which have not been considered.

The following draft laws have been long awaiting consideration in parliament:

 “On civic organizations” (9 months);

 “On procedure for organizing and holding peaceful events”; (15 months);

“On social services” (16 months).

The draft law “On access to public information” during the space of a year was only considered in its first reading.

According to Maxim Latsyby from the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Institute “parliamentarians do not only ignore draft laws which extend the real opportunities for public participation in decision making and local governance, but speak out against such initiatives. For example, in March 2009, deputies refused to grant individual citizens the right to make appeals to State bodies by email and spoke out against the draft law “On citizens’ appeals”. While in June 2009 the Verkhovna Rada Committee on State Construction and Local Self-Government rejected the draft law “On public participation in the formation and implementation of State policy on resolving issues of local significance” which would have introduced new, more efficient mechanisms for consultation between the public and government.”

The conclusion seems warranted that parliamentary parties and National Deputies are against extending the rights and liberties of citizens since this will restrict arbitrary rule and corruption of the authorities.

Civic organizations have no intention of tolerating such a situation and will make determined efforts to ensure the adoption of progressive laws extending these rights and liberties and ensuring their protection on a European level.

There is a vital need for amendments to legislation enabling the creation of all types of civic organizations without excessive procrastination or expense.

They should be able to work throughout Ukraine, and not only in the region where they’re registered, and also represent not merely their own members but carry out human rights and environmental protection with respect to others. 

Service organizations should receive the possibility of providing social services with funding from municipal or State budgets.

Self-organization bodies should receive the authority to carry out control over the quality of communal services, local budget expenditure and impact on the formation of local programmes of socio-economic development.

The State should stop demanding that people in emergency situations pay a considerable proportion of charitable aid received in tax.

 

Abridged from a report at www.helsinki.org.ua

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