UNDP in Ukraine supported the development of the new strategy, approved by presidential decree in spring 2021, which charts the next stage in bolstering human rights observance in Ukraine.
Kyiv, 25 June 2021 – Ukraine’s government on 23 June approved an action plan for the country’s updated National Human Rights Strategy, which includes around 100 actions to be implemented over the next three years.
The new strategy aims to consolidate society based on human rights values, to address systematic problems in the human rights area, ensure that human rights are fulfilled on the basis of principles of equality and non-discrimination, and to address new challenges that have arisen.
Among its key priority areas, the new strategy includes activities aimed at enhancing public awareness of human rights and the existing mechanisms to protect them. A recent nationwide sociological study "What Ukrainians know and think about human rights: assessment of changes (2016 - 2020)" showed that about 40 percent of respondents have never tried to protect their rights. Another 40 percent have tried to stand up for their rights but failed. Only 20 percent of respondents succeeded in defending their rights.
The new strategy also builds on the work of the previous National Human Rights Strategy, which was adopted in 2015, the five-year action plan for which came to an end in 2020. Review of the plan’s results demonstrated that the strategy required significant updates and amendments. So, after a series of public hearings, the Ministry of Justice took the lead in developing the new national strategy, which was approved by the Presidential Decree at the end of March 2021.
UNDP proactively supported the development of the new strategy, and provided its recommendations – several of which were included in the updated document. Specifically, as per UNDP Ukraine recommendations, the structure of the strategy was amended to include:
· Expected outcomes;
· Specific actions required to achieve the outcomes;
· Indicators to evaluate the progress achieved.
The new strategy also includes the UNDP recommendation to reduce the timeframe of strategy action plans, which from now on will be implemented every three years. This timeframe is better for the implementation of specific actions and for the evaluation of progress, and ensures that every successive Action Plan focuses on the most relevant human rights issues.
UNDP also recommended measures to monitor the implementation of the strategy and its action plan. Specifically, in May 2021, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine established an intersectoral working group to evaluate progress in the implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy and its action plan, identifying possible bottlenecks, and suggesting immediate actions to address them.
The intersectoral working group engages representatives of state and local executive bodies and other state institutions, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, members of parliament, representatives of civil society, scientific institutions, and international organizations. UNDP human rights experts are included in the intersectoral working group.
How will the new strategy and its action plan promote human rights in Ukraine?
The new strategy focuses on 27 areas related to human rights, including: fulfilling the right to justice, freedom of assembly, eradication of discrimination, ensuring equal opportunities for men and women, combating domestic violence, and fulfilling the rights of children, ex-combatants, IDPs, and people living in the Non-Government Controlled Territories.
It also includes several new areas, such as addressing the consequences of the armed conflict and protecting the rights of men and women living near the contact line, protecting environmental rights, and promoting human rights principles in business. Specifically, the strategy recognizes the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) as a benchmark, calls on the government to protect human rights, and requests that all businesses of every size, shape and sector respect them.
Eradication of discrimination is now defined as a strategically important area of work. More than 60 percent of Ukrainians identify discrimination as a serious issue, according to the results of the human rights progress study. The strategy includes an indicator to evaluate progress in this – the share of men and women who say they have faced discrimination. The number of complaints of discrimination based on national or ethnic identity submitted to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights on this issue will also be monitored. This will help to evaluate the effectiveness of the suggested actions, and to develop the relevant policies.
The new strategy also has a specific focus on ensuring gender equality and equal opportunities for women and men. A recent UNDP-supported study highlighted the impact of the pandemic on women’s rights, and identified which bottlenecks have dramatically narrowed due to the emergency and the pandemic. Specifically, women feel overwhelmed by the extra burden of combining housework, caregiving, and remote work. The study also shows that the income of some women decreased during the lockdown. Although men also faced a decrease in income, women still earned less because of the gender pay gap, which remained the same – during the pandemic women continue to be paid about 20 percent less than men. Among other negative impacts of the pandemic is the increased number of cases of domestic violence. For these reasons, it is crucial that the new strategy covers the issue of gender equality, gender-based violence, and domestic violence in separate sections.
The development of an inclusive society and equal opportunities for everyone is also a focus of the new strategy. The new document promotes an inclusive and accessible judicial process, and an accessible election process for people with disabilities. This area closely relates to the National Strategy on Building a Barrier-free Ukraine, which was also developed with UNDP expert support.
The new strategy also covers the issues related to the armed conflict. Specifically, the document includes the recommendation to introduce a national model of transitional justice. About half of Ukrainians (49 percent) feel that an armed conflict is still taking place in the country, according to the results of a survey conducted with UNDP support in November-December 2020. According to the survey, 54 percent of Ukrainians think an action plan for transitioning from armed conflict to peace should be developed now. About 46 percent of respondents think the development of such a plan should be initiated by the President of Ukraine.
The adopted action plan will promote the implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy, guiding the Government of Ukraine, civil society, and international organizations, and regularly evaluating the progress achieved in this area.
UNDP congratulates the Government of Ukraine on this achievement. The UN agency will further support the effective and efficient monitoring and implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy, as well as the implementation of the Agenda 2030.
UNDP Ukraine was actively involved in the development of the first National Human Rights Strategy in 2015. Experts of the Human Rights for Ukraine project , which is being implemented by UNDP and financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, were also involved in public hearings on the first National Human Rights Strategy and the implementation of its action plan.
In 2020, the project supported an independent civil society assessment of the implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy (2016 – 2019). Its results were taken into account when developing of the new strategy.
Yuliia Samus, UNDP Ukraine Communications Analyst/ Team Leader, email@example.com, +380971391475