Expanding Civic Space in Ukraine
Freedom House addresses threats to the freedom of association, in particular violence against and attacks on civic activists, by supporting collaboration between Ukrainian activists, civil society, citizens, and government stakeholders.
Defending and Expanding Civic Space in Ukraine
Freedom House addresses threats to the freedom of association (FOA), in particular violence against and attacks on civic activists, by supporting collaboration between Ukrainian activists, civil society, citizens, and government stakeholders. Through a variety of monitoring, documentation, and advocacy activities, Freedom House and its partners are working with the Coalition to Protect Civil Society to develop a unified and comprehensive response to the wide array of threats to civil society and FOA in the country. Freedom House also carries out sustained and collaborative advocacy for protection policies for civic activists and human rights defenders among Ukrainian stakeholders, and to raise general public awareness of threats to FOA.
The Coalition to Protect Civil Society
Freedom House supported the establishment of the Coalition to Protect Civil Society in May 2018 to engage key national and regional organizations in defense of civic space during a challenging period for civil society in Ukraine. With a membership of over 59 civil society groups, the Coalition brings together civil society representatives to form a united front against legal threats and other forms of pressure, enabling civic activists to coordinate advocacy and communications in defense of civic space and civic activists’ rights and inform the public and policy-makers about the important work of civil society organizations and the threats they experience in Ukraine.
Monitoring and Reporting Network
Freedom House and its partners broadcast information across civil society, the public, and the international community about the impact of threats on civic activists, including physical attacks and murders, and proposed policies that would restrict FOA. By bringing the stories of activists affected by violence and threats to the attention of the public and policymakers, these efforts demonstrate the cost to Ukraine’s democracy of continued inaction in responding to threats to civil society.
Freedom House partner ZMINA Human Rights Information Center has effectively educated policymakers and the public about key human rights issues since 2012. Through extensive collaboration with traditional and new media, educational and training programs, and domestic and international human rights advocacy, ZMINA contributes to growing knowledge and respect for human rights across sectors in Ukraine. Under this project, ZMINA actively monitors and documents attacks against civic activists in Ukraine by monitoring media, reporting news, compiling and writing detailed analysis, and leading public campaign events.
Freedom House partner Truth Hounds bolsters and systematizes the monitoring efforts under this project through the development of a network of regional monitors that records documented cases in a centralized database.
Freedom House also supports a team of analysts that report specifically on threats to human rights and democracy posed by radical groups and individuals in Ukraine. The data and analysis produced serve to inform the media, government, and public about the activity of radical groups in Ukraine and their impact on Ukrainian society.
In January 2020, Freedom House, together with partners ZMINA, Ukraine Helsinki Human Rights Union, and Truth Hounds published their report The Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Civic Activists in Ukraine, on the persecution faced by human rights defenders and civic activists in 2019, including violence and threats of violence. Throughout 2019, the report’s authors extensively monitored and documented the persecution of human rights defenders and civic activists in Ukraine, using a unique methodology that draws upon standards established by the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe. According to these joint monitoring and documentation efforts, Ukraine saw a total of 83 incidents in 2019, continuing the concerning trends of previous years. Nearly one-third of incidents targeted those advocating for the rights of LGBT+ persons or for gender equality. Radical right-wing actors were responsible for nearly one-quarter of all incidents. Attacks of this nature continued to enjoy impunity in both criminal and civil court.
Advocacy for Reform
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) is working to improve the protection of civic activists and responses to threats to FOA in Ukraine by conducting robust advocacy with government officials to take action and implement existing policies, rather than continue negligence which permits impunity for violence. Advocacy also pushes for the introduction of new policies and laws to improve protection, as well as the implementation of legal protection strategies. UHHRU also provides legal assistance and support to civic activists targeted by violence or harassment, enabling them to more effectively seek justice through the Ukrainian legal system.