Breaking racial and ethnic stereotyping is vital in every country.  So it was good to attend a press conference this week to mark the completion of a project funded by the Embassy to help Ukraine's police forces, or militia, reach European best standards and become more effective and diverse in providing their services to the public. 

The project was conceived a year ago when the Embassy met representatives of Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior. They told us that in 2008 the Ministry had established a Human Rights Monitoring Department and that they were keen to get advice on how to set up and run this unit in line with best international practice.  They also said they wanted to improve their internal regulations to meet Ukraine’s obligations on international human rights, equality and diversity.

This type of work is particularly vital as Ukraine looks forward to the Euro 2012 football competition, when the country is expecting more than 650,000 visitors.  The Ministry therefore asked how Britain and Ukraine could work together to tackle racism and xenophobia in everyday Ukrainian militia operations.  Key elements, drawing on British experience of diversity and multiculturalism, include the police demonstrating tolerance when patrolling the streets, how and whether random checks are performed, and helping foreign tourists feel comfortable.  Project partners were the International Organisation for Migration, the British Council and the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research. The Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior proved an enthusiastic partner, open to change and keen to support reforms.  At the press conference the project implementers reported a series of concrete results, including a training module for militia officers and recommendations to the Ministry on setting service standards according to best international practice.

After the press conference we discussed possible ways to continue cooperation between Ukraine and the UK to make the world a safer and more diverse place to live. As Jonathan Bateson, 2nd Secretary of the Embassy, noted at the press-conference, "The UK has been, and remains, a strong political supporter of Ukraine’s attempts to draw closer to the EU.  We believe that these aspirations are most directly achieved through practical steps towards reforming and improving public services.  We look forward to more opportunities for practical cooperation between our countries". Yuri Belousov from the Ministry of Interior stressed that Ukraine needed international expertise to move steadily forward. 

We've blogged before on this site about diversity and tolerance in Ukraine - indeed, some of the "Ukraine says no to racism" posters whose disappearance was lamented in that blog have recently reappeared on the streets of Kyiv.  I hope this project will help the Ukrainian militia continue their efforts to adopt diversity best practice as Euro 2012 approaches. 

Svitlana Yavorska
Head of Projects Section, British Embassy Kyiv

Ukrayinska Dumka


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