Ukraine: Rights Ombudsman, Unions, NGOs Fight Corruption

  • March 23, 2017
  • Tristan Masat

Corruption in Ukraine extends beyond the public sphere, seeping across the economy, private sector and individual relationships. To fight it, nongovernmental organizations and trade unions have joined with Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Valeria Lutkovska to leverage grassroots solidarity work in support of the Ombudsman’s office’s anti-corruption efforts.

Together, the group launched the “Solidarity against Corruption” campaign (more information), which aims to improve legal protections for workplace rights, whistleblowers and freedom of association in Ukraine. The project is supported by the Solidarity Center and partner Ukrainian trade unions.

In 2016, the Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Ukraine at 131 out of 171 countries. Although the report noted progress, including in areas such as procurement, the general environment remains toxic to sustainable social and economic development.

Meeting recently at the Labor Initiative Worker Rights Center, the group shared experiences, mapped activities for 2017 and discussed how corruption is threatening Ukraine’s progress on democratic reforms.

Said Lutkovska: “Creating effective mechanisms for the realization of worker rights, including the right to strike and whistleblower protections, will help the defense of human rights and the development of democracy in Ukraine.”

Broad Alliances Key to Ending Corruption

Mykhailo Volynets, president of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, spoke in support of a systematic approach to the fight against corruption, which he said requires the cooperation of trade unions and human rights activists. “The future of Ukrainian society greatly depends on the success of the fight against the disease of corruption, especially in light of the current political situation and the growing threat of a social upheaval.”

NGOs can take a leading role in the struggle against corruption, but to be truly effective, broad alliances are necessary. Civil society, including mass-membership organizations such as trade unions, can provide key support to institutions that are engaged in building transparency and rights protection.

Tristan Masat, Ukraine country director for the Solidarity Center, told participants that, “without a serious struggle against corruption, especially at the top level, efforts to improve the socioeconomic situation in Ukraine will remain fragile. Every day there are examples of impunity. Reforms cannot take root alongside this top-level corruption. The environment undermines other progress on reforms, especially threatening the public’s faith in government and democracy. We are excited to help Labor Initiative and the Ombudsman’s office in the much-needed effort to broaden the struggle against corruption.”