RULE OF LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Judicial candidates undergoing anonymous testing.
Judicial candidates undergoing anonymous testing.
Courtesy of USAID FAIR paroject.

THE CHALLENGE

Public opinion polling indicates that Ukrainian citizens lack confidence in the justice system. Widespread corruption in the Rule of Law sector has constrained progress in democratic institution-building, integration into European institutions and economic reform. Judicial reform remains highly politicized. Judicial reform will not enjoy public trust until these institutions are demonstrably independent, impartial and accountable. Legislative reform is advancing, but many key challenges remain, including:

  • Lack of transparency, effectiveness and efficiency in court operations;
  • Lack of leadership in promoting judicial independence;
  • Limited training opportunities for judges and court stuff;
  • Low level of public trust and confidence in the judicial system.
  • In addition to continuing systemic human rights problems, domestic and international observers report an escalation of human rights violations by non-state actors in the East and South of the country starting in May 2014.
  • Democratic trade unions are often excluded from participation in collective bargaining and social dialogue with the government and employer associations.

PROGRAM OBJECTIVES

  • To promote the establishment of an effective, transparent and independent judiciary.
  • To aid Ukraine’s efforts to reduce and deter corruption.
  • To promote and cultivate respect for human rights in Ukraine.
  • To protect workers’ rights and livelihoods and promote international labor standards through stronger democratic labor unions and NGOs.

OVERVIEW

USAID’s activities in the Rule of Law and Human Rights sectors focus on increasing judicial independence, accountability, and transparency, as well as promoting and cultivating respect for human rights in line with European standards, and supporting democratic labor unions. 

OUR PROGRAMS

Fair, Accountable, Independent, and Responsible (FAIR) Judiciary Program

USAID supports legislative, regulatory, and institutional reform of the judicial sector to build a foundation for a more accountable and independent judiciary. The FAIR program: 1) promotes constitutional, legislative, and regulatory reform in compliance with international and European standards; 2) strengthens the accountability and transparency of key judicial institutions and operations; 3) bolsters the professionalism and effectiveness of the Ukrainian judiciary; 4) supports civil society organizations in advocating for and monitoring judicial reform; and 5) supports a fair and transparent process for the lustration and vetting of public officials and judges to advance greater public trust and confidence in government. FAIR program activities include: 1) support to judicial reform related legislative initiatives, including  the constitutional reform process; 2) technical assistance to the High Council of Justice and High Qualifications Commission of Judges to further improve judicial testing and selection processes, as well as disciplinary procedures for judges; 3) work with the Council of Judges and State Judicial Administration to improve judicial self-governance and court administration and management; 4) support to the National School of Judges in the design, implementation, and evaluation of training programs for the judiciary; and, 5) expert support to working groups, conferences, and roundtables focused on constitutional and judicial reform issues. Through the FAIR program, USAID also supports civil society organizations engaged in monitoring court performance and lustration and vetting processes, raising public awareness about judicial process and procedures, and advocating for judicial reform related matters.

Human Rights in Action

USAID supports protecting, empowering and advocating for human rights defenders, organizations, and citizens whose rights were violated, through support to the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, an umbrella coalition of 29 human rights organizations.  The Human Rights in Action  program responds to human rights violations and empowers human rights activists through: 1) Human rights monitoring and advocacy; 2) Strategic litigation on human rights cases; 3) Awareness raising and citizen empowerment regarding human rights; 4) Strengthening the Chernihiv Educational Human Rights House; and 5) Providing legal assistance to survivors of conflict and torture.

Global Labor Program: Ukraine

Building on its predecessor, the Global Labor Program (GLP) strengthens worker organizations and other civil society advocates for workers' rights, promoting access to justice for workers, ensuring equal employment opportunities for women and vulnerable groups, and building capacity to reduce trafficking in persons and labor rights violations. The GLP works with partner Ukrainian trade unions across the country on their local capacity and leadership building efforts, supports their initiatives on anti-corruption and freedom of association in the service of workers and vulnerable communities including IDPs, migrants, and disabled workers.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

  • Through the FAIR program, USAID improved the legal and regulatory framework to promote judicial independence by supporting the drafting and adoption of the comprehensive Justice Sector Reform Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2020 signed by the President in May 2015. FAIR helped courts develop and pilot a court performance evaluation system which was formally adopted by the Council of Judges in April 2015 for use in all courts to increase the transparency and efficiency of judicial operations. FAIR also strengthened the professionalism and accountability of the judiciary through a variety of training programs for judges and court staff, including the first online course for judges on the application of the more modern Code of Judicial Ethics adopted with USAID support in 2013.
  • To improve the level of public trust and confidence in the judiciary, FAIR helped draft a court public outreach curriculum and manual for judges and court staff, as well as supported the State Judicial Administration in implementing the first online course for the more than 25,000 court staff on “Courts and Community Communications”.
  • FAIR helped the High Qualifications Commission of Judges to increase the transparency of judicial selection by standardizing the application process and procedures for anonymous, merit-based testing of judicial candidates monitored by civil society organizations.
  • FAIR cooperated with Michigan State University to support the State Judicial Administration (SJA) and the National School of Judges (NSJ) in designing and implementing two rounds of the Judicial Administration Certificate Program for court administrators, using successful graduates of the first program as faculty during the second round as well as professors from leading Ukrainian universities to promote greater sustainability.  Building on this innovative academic program, FAIR and MSU together with the SJA and NSJ conducted the first modern court management certification program for chief judges in Ukraine to advance better overall judicial operations.
  • Leading up to the 2015 local government elections, FAIR, in cooperation with the High Administrative Court of Ukraine, OSCE, and IFES conducted a series of regional judicial training programs on the application of the new local election law and the resolution of election disputes. 219 judges from 141 courts in 17 regions participated in these events.
  • FAIR supported the monitoring of access to courts and court services for persons with disabilities in 20 courts in 10 regions, resulting in more than 20 recommendations to improve accessibility to the judiciary.  FAIR subsequently presented these recommendations at a public hearing at the Verkhovna Rada that later included them in an official resolution. 
  • FAIR backed the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in strengthening the knowledge, skills and abilities of new, competitively selected heads of the MOJ’s regional departments by conducting the first comprehensive professional development program for civil servants based on modern approaches to human resource management, communications and strategic planning.
  • The Human Rights in Action Program provided expert assistance to the design of Ukraine’s first National Human Rights Strategy through 2020 (approved  by President in August 2015).
  • The Human Rights in Action Program assembled and trained a network of 49 human rights monitors.
  • The Human Rights in Action Program sponsored nine monitoring visits to the conflict-affected areas in eastern and southern Ukraine with a focus on specific types of violations (primarily related to war crimes but also looking at broader human rights environment).
  • In 2015 the Promoting Worker and Trade Union Rights project provided for grassroots education and outreach to workers across Ukraine, building support for reform and anti-corruption efforts, and freedom of association.  The program provided for worker exchanges between eastern and western Ukraine.  Working with partner trade unions these efforts included crisis intervention teams that responded to workplace conflict and carried out countering-propaganda education among workers in the Donbas and neighboring regions.  2015 saw the program-supported Labor Initiative Worker Rights Center in Kyiv provide legal aid consultations and legal education to more than 1,000 people.  More than 3,000 trade union activists and leaders participated in program supported educational events, with a 2015 focus on youth and developing young women leaders.

Last updated: July 14, 2016

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