Property rights and legal aid: Making life a little easier in Ukraine

Legal aid getting more accessible for those living in rural areas of the country. (Photo: UNDP in Ukraine)
Legal aid getting more accessible for those living in rural areas of the country. (Photo: UNDP Ukraine)

Ivan Kalyta’s pension only allows him to buy his medication and basic food, and pay his utility bill. So when the time came to repair his house, he decided to sell two plots of his land to raise money.

But when he tried to register his land, he realized the administrative fees for obtaining the necessary legal documents were too high. 

Ivan would have had to pay more than $500 in various administrative fees, which he didn’t have. He also didn’t know what documents were necessary or where to get legal assistance.

Highlights

  • 180,000 people received free legal advice during the life of the project.
  • 867 free legal aid providers were trained on land and property rights legislation and its application.
  • 5,000 manuals and brochures on land and property rights were distributed to legal aid providers, village councils and poor land owners.

Millions of Ukrainians don’t know their land and property rights. State legal aid offices often lack the knowledge to address these issues and some don’t even have computers. Another challenge is insufficient and ever-changing legislation.

To address the need to consolidate and develop a comprehensive pro-poor land and property rights policy framework, the Government adopted recommendations from UNDP on how to improve land and property rights legislation - including getting rid of heavy administrative fees to obtain legal documents.

Ukraine also adopted a law on free legal aid in 2011, prompting an increased demand for legal services - especially related to land and property rights. According to polls conducted by the Ukrainian Union of Lawyers, more than 24 percent of the population in Ukraine seeks free legal advice. Since then, UNDP in Ukraine has been supporting legal aid providers to help them navigate on-going reforms in the justice and land sectors.

During the life of the project, 742 state legal aid offices, 55 NGOs and 4 legal aid clinics were trained on land and property rights legislation; and 180,000 people received free legal advice.

UNDP also helped document good practices on providing legal aid in Ukraine, and put together a manual for civil society organizations on how to set up a legal aid centre.

To support people living in rural areas, as most of the free legal aid centres are located in towns and cities, a number of state offices started providing online and skype consultations, in cooperation with local libraries. People like Ivan now only need to find a local library participating in the programme to get free legal aid.

"The money I got from selling part of my land came in very handy," says Ivan with a smile. "My roof is not leaking anymore. I also was able to put some money aside for medication. Life is so expensive here, I am glad it worked out."

According to project Coordinator Lidia Gorbunova, the Ministry of Justice is currently considering the introduction of the practice in all free legal aid offices of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine.

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