Leaders’ school for human rights protecting NGOs.

On 25-28 October the Kharkiv human rights protection group (KhG, in what follows) prepared and held the Leaders’ school for activists of human rights protecting NGOs. The school was endorsed by the Program of the European Union in the framework of the program of micro-projects of the European initiative of development of democracy and human rights protection in the Central and Eastern Europe, CIS and Mongolia. This is the second similar school held in the current year. The first one was held with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (USA) in June, 2001. The KhG already has a noticeable experience of such activities. So, in 1996 and 1997 seminars of regional human rights protection groups of Ukraine were held, where human rights protection activists could perfect their knowledge, exchange their experience and agree on cooperation. For the first time similar seminar was organized by the KhG as early as in 1992.

The announcement about the School, its agenda and the participant’s application form were distributed in the beginning of September among readers of the bulletin ‘Prava ludyny’, placed on the web-site of the KhG and in the electron bulletin of the NGO ‘Gurt’. We received 367 applications for the participation in the School. The applications were received by fax, e-mail and snail-mail. We had to decide the question of selecting 50 participants. This was a difficult choice, since the need of enlightening NGO activists is very urgent. First, we rejected the applications of those pretenders, who had already taken part in the KhG School, secondly, we declined the applications from those, who are not members of NGOs, thirdly, we did not accept the applications of the members of those NGOs, which do not regard human rights protection as a dominating task. Yet, even after this primary selection more than 200 applications remained. The cooperation with human rights protection groups, which work in small towns or villages, is the top priority task for the KhG. So, we preferred to satisfy the applications from the members of such organizations first of all. However, we had another task: to provide the communication of well-experienced human rights protection workers with novices. That is why, after long and sometimes hot discussions the KhG Council made the final choice. In our opinion, the choice was successful. Various regions of Ukraine, small towns and the capital were represented. Along with members of the organizations, which try to make their first steps, the activists of well-known NGOs were present. All age groups were represented as well. All the participants are members of the registered NGOs, in whose statute the human rights protection is defined as the main direction of the work. Only one exception was made: the head of the NGO (from the settlement of Zachepilivka of the Kharkiv oblast), which is just being registered, was invited. The exception was made because not a single human rights protection organization is registered in Zachepilivka, and the only advocate, who had there a consulting office, died this year. When the participants list was already compiled and approved, the KhG got a phone from Crimean advocates, whoa asked to permit them to attend the School at their own account. Certainly we agreed.

We believe that the agenda of the School appeared attractive for a large number of people, since, along with theoretical questions, the agenda included discussions, exchange of experience, as well as purely practical questions of fund-raising, which are infrequent in agendas of seminars for NGOs, especially free seminars.

All participants of the School got a package of literature published by the KhG: ‘International instruments of human rights protection’, ‘Orison reform: search and achievements’, ‘Turning to the European Court of human rights’, ‘Observance of human rights in Ukraine in 1999’, ‘Observance of human rights in Ukraine in 2000’, ‘International cooperation of Ukraine in the legal sphere’, ‘Against torture’ in two volumes, collection of the essays of the participants of the 5 thall-Ukrainian competition ‘Human rights: my own opinion’, ‘The European Court of human rights. Decisions concerning Ukraine’, collection of the UNO brochures ‘Human rights. Presentation of facts’, International Bill on human rights, the European Convention on the protection of human rights and basic freedoms, the Convention in children rights, all issues of the KhG bulletin ‘Freedom of speech and privacy’ for 2000-2001. The following materials were printed specially for the School: article by E. Zakharov ‘What is human rights protection?’, an example of monitoring of the freedom of access to information in the possession of the organs of executive power and local self-rule, as well as the following instructions for training in fund-raising: ‘Ten commandments of fund-raising’, ‘What to do and what not to do in relations with sponsors’, ‘Principles of preparing claims for financing projects of human rights protecting NGOs’, format of the claim, addresses of the funds that work in Ukraine.

The agenda of the School were fulfilled completely. The lectures on the following topics were delivered: ‘Conception of human rights’, ‘What is human rights protection?’, ‘Sources of the Ukrainian constitutionalism’, ‘Protection of human rights in court under the conditions of the new judicial system’, ‘Application of international instruments of human rights protection by NGOs’, ‘Protection of human rights by NGOs. Public reception offices’, ‘The Ukrainian Constitution in modern context’, ‘Basic hints on fund-raising’, ‘How to prepare a project’, ‘Internal management. Preparation of reports’. One hour for discussing was envisaged after each lecture. As always the speeches and remarks of Vsevolod Rechitskiy, an assistant professor from the National Juridical Academy of Ukraine, the KhG constitutional expert, were bright. Some Kharkiv activists, who were not participants of the School, came to hear his lectures.

Many topics for discussion in some sections interested the participants. Some people were at a loss, since they had to choose only two sections, while they wanted to participate in all. So, the information on the results of discussions in the sections was of a great interest.

Certainly, the training in fund-raising was interesting to everybody. Most of recently registered NGOs have no financing at all or it is obviously insufficient. After the theoretical debates some real projects were discussed and some test claims were compiled.

The School was described in mass media. So, the Kharkiv TV-channel ‘Simon’ informed about the beginning of the School in TV news. Some participants described their impressions in various regional editions.

The School participants filled in the questionnaires, where they assessed the organization, the level of lectures and practical training, expressed their wishes and gave proposed the measures for improving such actions.

The question ‘Were your expectation about the School satisfied?’ most of the participants answered positively, only one answer was negative. Most of the participants were satisfied with the format of the School, with the level of organization and the quality of lectures. Many respondents indicated topics of lectures, which they were willing to hear in future.

Taking into account the wishes of the participants of the previous School, an excursion around the city was organized.

All the participants got certificates of attending the School

The KhG plans to hold the similar School next year, taking into account the shortcomings of the present attempt. Upon the whole, we believe that such forms of enlightenment for NGO members must become regular. We plan to organize more special seminars for getting more profound knowledge in separate branches of human rights protection.
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