After a spate of criticism of Ukraine's worsening civil rights record, there are some glimmerings of positive change.
Mark Rachkevych, writing in the Kyiv Post reports that, after more than four years of public advocacy, Ukraine’s legislature on March 22 passed a landmark civil society bill that was hailed by the United Nations for eliminating many forms of discrimination, and for tearing down legislative and administrative barriers for registering a non-profit organisation and broadening the scope, geographical reach, and type of activities they can conduct.

"The long awaited bill was passed by an absolute majority of 334 members of parliament, and brings the nation’s legislation closer to norms outlined by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, read a March 28 U.N. statement.

Coming into effect in January 2013, the bill simplifies and expedites the registration procedure for civil society organizations and allows them to conduct business activity in an environment where most local groups are run on shoe-string budgets, being reliant on mostly a shrinking pool of foreign grant money.

According to Maksym Latsyba, a civil society expert at the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research, administrative and legislative barriers exist currently that subdue civic activity. As a result, the number of registered civic organizations in Ukraine is one of the lowest in Europe. By comparison, there are 17 civic organizations for every 10,000 people in the nation, whereas in Hungary there are 46, in Croatia 85, and 200 in Estonia, noted Latsyba.

Additional limits currently in place include requiring 42 people and over 23 support documents to establish a group with nationwide status, which takes 30-40 days to register. In contrast, it just takes a legal entity or person, four supporting documents and three business days to register a business, the expert noted.

Under the current bill, non-profits will be able to register in seven business days and without having to pay a registration fee.

The bill furthermore allows civil society organizations to provide services to people who are not members of the group and in geographical areas beyond the organization’s place of registration, said Oleksandr Vinnikov, a lawyer at the European Law Advancement Network and co-author of the bill.

Another barrier that was removed includes allowing legal entities to establish and become members of civil society organizations.

The most dynamic change for non-profit groups is that they’ll be able to conduct business activities, a measure that experts hope will vault social entrepreneurship activities to the forefront of NGO activity and ease the fundraising hardships they currently face.

This will be the coming out for civic organizations, said Valeriy Oliynyk, a UNDP program manager. He said this is a historic “breakthrough” for civil society by allowing non-profits to sell their services or products and use them to support chartered activities or cover utility bills, for instance.

Maryna Stavniychuk, head of the constitutional and legal modernization department with the Presidential Administration, said President Viktor Yanukovych is expected to sign the bill into force."

Read more: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/125225/#ixzz1qcSkgAAy

Ukrayinska Dumka


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