What may happen: Pathways for a political transition in Belarus

While it is not clear whether the public protests in Belarus will succeed in effecting political change, they have surprised observers by their strength and determination. This article looks at possible pathways for a transition.

1. A revolutionary scenario

The demonstrators have so far acted in a highly civil manner. Despite the brutal attacks of state agencies, protests have remained peaceful. Demonstrations have taken place in public places, but, so far, have not specifically focused on centres of state power.

Importantly, the protesters are not calling for a revolution, but have rather demanded full respect for the constitutional guarantees for democratic elections and freedom of assembly. When Lukashenko addressed the workers of a Tractor Factory, one of the workers shouted: “We want fair elections, not revolution”.

A revolutionary scenario in which demonstrators storm institutions, such as parliament, ministries and take over state media is unlikely in these circumstances. So far, the size and determination of the protests have managed to change the stance of some institutional personnel, such as staff at the state broadcaster, while the brutality of the security services has provided momentum to the protests and bolstered support.

In this context, parts of the elite may well decide that the situation is untenable and force President Lukashenko and his inner circle to relinquish power. Such a scenario could result in his sudden resignation, though at the moment there is no indication for that.

In this scenario, if current elites fail to present a credible alternative (new personnel in key institutions, the promise of free and fair elections soon), the resulting power vacuum could be filled by opposition forces. It is worth noting that the political system is based on personal relationships with Lukashenko, leaving no strong structures to organize a post-Lukashenko situation.

In such situations, opposition parties and groups typically form temporary bodies to manage the transition towards free and fair elections. One recent example was Tunisia’s “Higher Authority for the Realisation of the Objectives of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition”, an ad-hoc body with broad-based membership, which oversaw initial steps until elections were held in the wake of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution. The opposition in Belarus has already established a Co-ordination Council, to provide a leadership structure in such a scenario.

2. An orderly transition

There are several pathways towards an orderly transition:

  • Lukashenko may resign, in which case a new presidential election would need to be held within 30-70 days. A new election process could provide the nucleus for a wider political transition (see below) if held under democratic conditions (see also below).
  • Parliament has the power to remove the President, but the process is both lengthy and complex, ultimately requiring a two-thirds majority. This is unlikely as the current legislature is the product of the deeply-flawed 2019 elections in which only pro-government candidates won seats.
  • The Supreme Court could annul the 9 August elections, in response to various appeals that have been lodged. Annulment of the elections is the most direct pathway to a new election, but this would require that judges discover a sense of independence from the executive branch. If events move in favour of the protesters, the judges could well see an annulment as a means of ensuring their role in a future, democratic Belarus. Alternatively, the Court may declare the appeals inadmissible or confirm the official results.
  • A negotiated transition, in which Lukashenko withdraws or agrees on conditions for democratic elections is also possible.

The core of a negotiated transition is already present in the opposition demand for a release of all political prisoners and a repeat of the presidential election. While the former can be implemented by government order, conducting a new election is a complex and challenging task:

  • Repeat or re-count?

One option would be a recount of the ballots of the 9 August election, but this is highly problematic and has been rejected by most opposition figures. A falsified election leaves behind a crime scene on election night, which is now more than ten days old and could well have been compromised. Ballot papers are reported to have been destroyed. Large scale electoral fraud involves the falsification of ballots and counting protocols, making it impossible to reconstruct the voters’ intentions accurately. In short, it is too late to recount ballots.

Furthermore, genuine elections are much more than just voting. The serious shortcomings of the 9 August election (biased media coverage, denial of registration to opposition candidates, lack of transparency, suppression of independent election observation) cannot be rectified by a recount. The only genuine election possible is a new election.

  • Which election to repeat: president only, or also parliament?

Currently, the demand is for the 9 August presidential election to be repeated. If an opposition candidate were to win the presidency, this would represent a sea change in Belarusian politics. Given the centrality of the president in the overall power structure, significant change in all state institutions could be achieved by a new president supported by clearly articulated popular demands. A  new president could dismiss and replace the prime minister (article 106 constitution). If parliament failed to support such a course of action, the president could dissolve parliament and call for new elections.

It is worth recalling that the current parliament is the result of the flawed November 2019 elections which failed to meet the standards for democratic elections and Belarus’s commitments as an OSCE participating state. The OSCE/ODIHR election observer mission concluded that “fundamental freedoms were disregarded and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded”[1]. Not a single opposition candidate won a seat in the 110-member parliament.[2] In that sense elections for president and parliament at the same time would also be justified.

The 2018 local government elections were equally problematic, but whereas a case can be made for repeating both the parliamentary and presidential elections in parallel, adding the local level to the new electoral process could create logistical challenges and detract focus from the national elections. Nevertheless, a negotiated transition should include the conduct of new, democratic local elections within a reasonable timeframe.

A new president could also propose constitutional changes to undo the heritage of Lukashenko’s 26-year-rule, such as unlimited presidential terms, subject to approval by referendum.

  • Who should manage repeat elections?

Elections in Belarus are overseen by the Central Election Commission (CEC) – a key enabler of the country’s flawed elections. The CEC chairwoman, Lidia Yermoshina, and eight of her colleagues were on the EU’s sanctions list for falsification of the 2006 presidential election. The CEC further undermined is credibility when Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was held in its premises on 10 August and forced to read a prepared statement to explain her forced departure to Lithuania.

As part of any transition deal, the opposition may demand that a completely new CEC with credible, democratically oriented-personnel is established to manage new elections. However, any new commission would have to rely on its sub-ordinate commissions (53 Territorial Election Commissions and 6,129 Precinct Election Commissions) as well as other bodies and agencies needed to implement elections. If a new body was formed, care would need to be taken to ensure that its members have the skills and the authority to oversee the technical side of elections. Alternatively, the CEC chair could be replaced by a respected figure who commands broad-based support, and new members, such as representatives of candidates and civil society organisations, could be added to make sure commands public confidence. This model could be replicated for Territorial and Precinct Election Commissions.

The OSCE/ODIHR confirmed this point in its declaration on 19 August: “The authorities of Belarus are urged to take immediate steps to address the lack of impartiality of the election administration at all levels, which previous ODIHR election observations have found to be under government control.”

  • What technical aspects would be critical in a new election?

Transparency is critical. In contrast with previous elections, strong transparency guarantees would need to be in place for all phases of the electoral process, in particular during counting and aggregation of results. Stalin allegedly said: “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.” Lukashenko put that into practice. Without transparency guarantees, OSCE/ODIHR reported on the 2015 presidential election that significant problems, particularly during the counting of votes and tabulation of election results, “undermined the integrity of the election.”

Fresh elections would, especially if administered by the existing electoral administration, require the strongest possible transparency provisions to deter fraud and build voter trust in the process. Such provisions must include: unhindered accreditation of election observers; unhindered monitoring of counting by observers, possibly including counting in polling stations being broadcast online; public display of polling station official results at each level of the electoral administration in hard copy and online; every polling station result should be visible in the overall results published by the CEC.

  • Beyond election management, what about other conditions of democratic elections?

Beyond voting and counting, the whole electoral process in Belarus is deeply flawed to benefit the incumbent. In relation to the 2015 Presidential elections, the OSCE/ODIHR noted that “legal amendments in 2011 and 2012 increased existing limitations on fundamental freedoms of association, assembly and expression. The law gives the authorities wide discretionary powers to deny registration or deregister political parties and public associations (…). Despite repeated applications, no new political party has been able to register since 2000, which is at odds with paragraph 7.6 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document. The amendments introduced burdensome procedures for obtaining permission to hold public assemblies and increased sanctions for organizing unauthorized meetings. Freedom of expression was further limited by a ban on calls and acts of disruption, cancellation or postponement of elections in addition to existing criminal and administrative offences for defamation and insult.”

Violations such as these were particularly pronounced in the 2020 elections. Before repeat elections could be held, it should be considered to amend the legal framework to remove barriers to the exercise of the fundamental rights of participation, association, assembly and expression. State agencies would need to be committed to upholding voters rights in the implementation of their electoral responsibilities. None of this can be done at short notice.

[1] “Elections proceeded calmly but did not meet important international standards for democratic elections. There was an overall disregard for fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression. A high number of candidates stood for election, but an overly restrictive registration process inhibited the participation of opposition. A limited amount of campaigning took place, within a restrictive environment that, overall, did not provide for a meaningful or competitive political contest. Media coverage of the campaign did not enable voters to receive sufficient information about contestants. The election administration was dominated by the executive authorities, limiting its impartiality and independence, and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded. Significant procedural shortcomings during the counting of votes raised concerns about whether results were counted and reported honestly, and an overall lack of transparency reduced the opportunity for meaningful observation.” The OSCE/ODIHR report on the 2019 parliamentary elections  can be downloaded here: https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/6/4/447583.pdf

[2] The 2019 elections were based on a majoritarian, first-past-the-post system for each of the 110  seats.  The system favoured candidates that were pro-government. In a new, free election, such as a system would be likely to favour the opposition. It is possible that no MP of the ruling party would be re-elected.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) strengthens democracy by shaping the institutions that make it sustainable. We support local ways of promoting democracy with impartial analysis and good practices, bringing international standards to life. Sign-up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

Photo credit: Âme inconsolable/Flickr

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated a maximum period of 90 days for presidential elections after resignation. The maximum is 70 days.

Legal News: The Constitutional Court of Ukraine and the Judicial Reform Process

The Attempt of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to Determine Fundamentals of the Judicial Reform Process – DRI Legal News by Kostyantyn Krasovsky

These views do not necessarily represent the views of DRI

In early 2020, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU, or “the Court”) decoded a number of cases which in effect represented a systemic analysis of “checks and balances” in the Constitution of Ukraine and developed its strategic vision of the judicial reform process. On 18 February 2020, Decision No.2-r/2020 was rendered upon the constitutional motion of the “old” Supreme Court of Ukraine (SCU) regarding the fate of the key law of judicial reform carried out by former president Petro Poroshenko. On 11 March 2020, Decision No.4-r/2020 finalised the case upon the constitutional motion of the “new” Supreme Court (SC) regarding the attempt at judicial reform initiated by President Volodymyr Zelensky.[1] These two decisions, as well as numerous separate dissenting opinions by CCU judges, demonstrate the extent to which the Court seized its opportunity. It is noteworthy that six separate opinions were added to Decision No.2-r/2020, and four to Decision No.4-r/2020.

1. The decision regarding the fate of the “old” Supreme Court of Ukraine

1.1. Background

On 2 June 2016, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine concerning the judiciary (Law 1401-VIII); it marked the end of the constitutional phase of the judicial reform initiated in 2014 by former president Petro Poroshenko, and the beginning of a new, legislative stage. Along with other relevant pieces of legislation, the new Law of Ukraine “On the Judiciary and Status of Judges” (Law 1402-VIII) was adopted. While the SCU publicly supported the need for a radical overhaul of the judicial branch, it used its right to appeal to the Constitutional Court, stating that Section XII “Final and Transitional Provisions” of Law 1402-VIII contained “some provisions, the essence, content and practical implementation of which, in the opinion of the SCU Plenum, do not conform to the Constitution of Ukraine”. It is noteworthy that the SCU did not question the constitutionality of the general substantive rules of Law 1402-VIII, which, being guided by new constitutional approaches, concerned the organisation of the judicial branch and the status of judges. The SCU disagreed only with procedural rules contained in transitional provisions of this law that regulated technical issues of the transition to the new system. The SCU questioned the constitutionality of provisions concerning the termination of activities and liquidation of the SCU, as well as of higher specialised courts; the establishment, commencement of activities and selection and appointment of judges of the new Supreme Court; the termination of powers of judges whose five-year tenure was over; provisions for the release of judges from office based on the results of their evaluation; and the determination of judicial remuneration and permanent financial allowance.

1.2. Decision No.2-r/2020

In this decision, responding to the case brought by the SCU, the CCU indicated that the Ukrainian Parliament should comply with constitutionally defined boundaries regarding the status, organisation, functioning and activities of constitutional bodies and their officials. It determined the necessity of applying the principle of institutional continuity when making changes to the Constitution of Ukraine. According to the CCU, this principle had been followed when the “highest institute of judicial power” was reformed, and “the removal of the word ‘Ukraine’ – the name of the state – from the word combination ‘the Supreme Court of Ukraine’ did not affect the constitutional status of this public authority”. The constitutionality of provisions of Law 1402-VIII regarding the establishment and commencement of activities of the SC, the beginning of the contest, and the appointment of SC judges was confirmed. The CCU also stated that the legislator “acted within the limits of its constitutional powers” when determining the necessity for judges whose five-year tenure had expired to participate in the contest. It emphasised that such requirements result from the transitional provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Considering the issue of termination of the activities of the SCU and higher specialist courts and their liquidation, as well as the participation of these courts’ judges in the contest for SC judges, the CCU set aside a small aspect of these issues relating to the SCU and its judges, and found these provisions to be unconstitutional in part. In particular, the CCU referred to the unconstitutionality of SCU “liquidation” and the right of SCU judges to participate in the SC contest – as, in its opinion, “the body specified in the Constitution was renamed” and SCU judges should have been transferred to the SC, as “there is no difference between the legal status of judges of the Supreme Court of Ukraine and judges of the Supreme Court”. It is interesting to note that, in parallel, the CCU confirmed the need for SCU judges to pass a qualification evaluation, albeit one based on a special procedure and criteria. The CCU did not develop this position further, so it is not clear what is meant by “special” or the “criteria” of such a procedure, beyond subparagraph 4 of paragraph 16 of the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine.1 In addition, as expected, given its previous practice, the CCU approached the issue of a differentiated approach to the calculation of a monthly allowance for judges depending on how well they performed in the qualification evaluation. The CCU noted that the establishment of “different approaches to the procedure for calculating lifetime monthly allowances for judges violates the status of judges and guarantees of their independence”, and it recognised this provision as unconstitutional.

The simplification of approaches and the absence in the final text of the in-depth analysis of the full range of issues faced by the CCU in this case caused six judges to write separate opinions expressing additional arguments or partial disagreement. For example, Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi spoke explicitly about the fallacy of the CCU’s methodology of constantly reducing the text of its analysis, which results in “a kind of ‘gap’ in the legal reasoning of the Constitutional Court”. To minimise the risk of an erroneous interpretation of the content of this decision, Judge Pervomaiskyi proposed, in particular, a clearer approach to solving legal problems concerning the liquidation of the SCU and the establishment of the SC. He stressed that the decision ignored the problem of termination and liquidation of the SCU as a constitutional body and legal entity of public law, and emphasised that it was not possible to go beyond the qualification-evaluation criteria established by the Constitution of Ukraine. Judge Ihor Slidenko, the rapporteur in the case, denied the entire basis of the CCU decision, seeing a continuation of the 2014 lustration discourse in the 2016 judicial reform, thus aimed at resetting the judicial system. In his opinion, the constitutional conflict lies in the way the SCU was transformed. Judge Serhiy Holovatyi argued that there were no legal grounds to find the provisions of Law 1402-VIII unconstitutional.[2] He stated that the SCU was not liquidated as a constitutional body, and that issues relating to the termination (liquidation) of the SCU as a legal entity “are not subject to constitutional regulation, and the fact that the legislator solved them by adopting an ordinary law cannot contradict the Constitution of Ukraine”. In addition, he referred to Clause 12 of the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of a new judicial system, emphasising that it is possible to clearly define a time reference for termination of the “old” SCU and commencement of activities of the “new” SC, and thus that there are no “legal grounds” for questioning the constitutionality of the provisions concerning termination of the SCU. Judge Holovatyi also disagreed with the position regarding the inalterability of the legal status of the SCU and found this status to be fundamentally new.

2. The decision regarding the attempt to carry out new judicial reform

2.1. Background

On 29 August 2019, President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted numerous draft laws to the new Ukrainian Parliament. Among them was draft law No.1008 “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine on the Judiciary and Status of Judges and Some Laws of Ukraine on Activities of Judicial Authorities”. Within a very short time the relevant law (Law No. 193-IX) was adopted and entered into force, establishing new rules regarding the structure and role of the High Council of Justice, and the new status and procedure for establishing the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJU). It reduced the number of judges in the new SC and put in place a new procedure and new rules for judges’ disciplinary responsibility.

Already at the stage of the parliamentary procedure of adoption of the draft law, the High Council of Justice approved the “Advisory Opinion regarding Draft Law No. 1008” on 5 September 2019, providing thorough comments on it. On 16 September 2019, the Plenary Meeting of the Supreme Court (SC), in its opinion regarding the draft law, insisted that the proposed changes in the law would pose a significant risk to the independence of the judicial branch. Once the law was adopted, the SC went to the CCU to challenge the constitutionality of the provisions regarding the reduction in the number of SC judges; the reduction in judicial remuneration; the change in the number of members of the HQCJU; the creation of the Integrity and Ethics Commission and the scope of its competency; the simplification of procedures for holding judges disciplinarily responsible; and the change in the grounds and procedure for dismissing a member of the High Council of Justice.

2.2. Decision No.2-r/2020

In this decision, the CCU addressed the risks related to the independence of the judicial branch, which not only raised concerns among representatives of the judicial community and professional legal associations, but also became the subject of critical statements issued by representatives of Ukraine’s civil society, business community and international partners. The Venice Commission had issued a critical opinion, CDL-AD(2019)027, in which it underlined the strategic drawbacks and risks of Law 193-IX. Based, inter alia, on the principle of institutional continuity set out in Decision No.2-r/2020, the CCU defined a legislative reduction in the number of judges in the SC and technical issues related to the new “selection” of SC judges as an organisational tool, one that should be preceded by consultations between the President of Ukraine and the High Council of Justice. The CCU also confirmed its repeatedly stated position on the unconstitutionality of legislative attempts to “arbitrarily set or change the amount of remuneration for judges, using its powers as a tool to influence the judicial branch”.

On the questions of the HQCJU  the Court found that “no other body or institution is authorised to perform constitutional functions of selecting and evaluating judges, including the High Court of Justice” and it noted that changing the order of establishment and the number of members of the HQCJU “without introduction of an appropriate transition period has resulted in the suspension in implementation of constitutional functions”. This change was therefore declared unconstitutional. Turning to the Integrity Commission, the CCU found that its powers to control the activities of members of the High Council of Justice and SC judges “have no constitutional basis”.

The CCU carefully considered the grounds and procedure for holding judges disciplinarily responsible and agreed with the position of the SC that such changes are unconstitutional. The CCU stressed that they “do not provide for a reasonable, commensurate (proportionate) and predictable procedure of disciplinary proceedings against a judge, [or a] fair and transparent way of holding a judge disciplinarily responsible”.

The judges’ separate opinions included a number of critical remarks. Judge Oleksandr Kasminin drew attention to the participation of representatives of the international community in the establishment of the Integrity Commission in the context of “constitutional sovereignty”. Judge Ihor Slidenko emphasised the lack of analysis of the legitimate purpose of the amendments in the CCU’s decision, treating this as “legislative fraud” aimed at “hiding [the] true motives of the so-called ‘2019 judicial reform’”. Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi focused on the incomprehensibility of the motives and reasons for the hasty introduction of the disputed changes and the absence of proper public and professional hearings, or of proper communication between the branches of government. He drew attention to what he considers to be an artificial concept of “choice of judges” which was meant to replace the constitutionally defined concept of “selection of judges” and be used to reduce the number of SC judges. Judge Vasyl Lemak outlined the difference in approaches to changes in the judicial sector, making a comparison between the 2016 reform, which was carried out both at the constitutional and the legislative level, and the 2019 reform, which proposed changes only at the legislative level and “was not implemented in practice”. He also pointed out that there was no justified reason for the 2019 reform, and discussed a violation of the constitutional procedure of the legislative initiative as attempting to reorganise the SC. Finally, he offered other arguments regarding the violation of the principle of institutional continuity and integrity by the Parliament when terminating the powers of HQCJU members.

Conclusion

In the first case to deal with the 2016 judicial reform, the CCU did not fully seize the opportunity to provide proper answers to the deep-rooted constitutional problem of interaction between various branches of government during the implementation of strategic reforms. The judges’ need to compromise, for the sake of a positive vote did not allow for deeper answers on some questions. The vote is therefore somewhat formalistic and overly positivistic. By contrast, in the second case, concerning the judicial reform attempted in 2019, one can agree with Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi, who described the Court’s approach as a “not ideal but quite conscious and necessary attempt” to stand up for judicial independence, eliminate risks to the autonomy of the judicial branch, and provide constitutional guarantees for the functioning of the judiciary.[3]

The general impression from the two decisions analysed is that the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, despite some shortcomings, is gradually moving towards its true role as a constitutional arbiter, as set out in the 1996 Constitution of Ukraine and emphasised by the 2016 judicial reform.

[1] As rightly noted by Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi in his separate opinion to Decision No.4-r/2020, “as a subject of legislative initiative, the President of Ukraine did not qualify these changes to the legislation as a ‘judicial reform’”, and Judge Ihor Slidenko in his Votum Separatum to the same decision referred to “manipulations aimed at legislative changes” within “the so-called 2019 judicial reform”.

[2] It is noteworthy that the text of the dissenting opinion of Judge Serhiy Holovatyi, in which he analysed arguments presented in the constitutional motion and determined that they were groundless, extends to 54 pages, while Decision 2-r/2020 itself contains only 18 pages.

[3] A separate opinion of Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi in Decision No.4-r/2020.

Photo credit: Maria Osipowa/Flickr

Call for bids – DRI Visual Identity Update

Form of Employment: Short-term consultancy

Starting Date: As soon as possible

Location: Desk work

Objective:

Update Democracy Reporting International’s visual identity by using a two-page factsheet as a prototype. This update should be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Background:

DRI is an international non-governmental organisation created in 2006 and based in Berlin. Our work rests on two pillars: reporting and analysis, and capacity-building in the field. In addition to our headquarters in Berlin, we have country offices in Lebanon, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine.

DRI last updated its visual identity in 2010 and wants to make sure that it keeps in line with current standards in web and print design. We want the updated visual identity to reflect our work and values (more on this below).

Due to time and budgetary constraints, this update will be prototyped through a factsheet giving an overview of DRI. This new visual identity might then be implemented across DRI’s activities, depending on the success of the factsheet.

Timeline:

A first draft concept for the update visual identity should be submitted by 2 June 2020. The final concept for the visual identity and the factsheet should be delivered by 19 June 2020.

Projected Tasks:

  • Design and layout a factsheet (two sides of an A4 page) on DRI that would include:
    1. An overview of DRI’s activities and thematic areas (text to be provided by DRI);
    2. A map providing an overview of DRI’s global presence.
  • Propose an updated visual identity for the factsheet, including:
    1. Edited logo (based on the existing logos used for publications and social media);
    2. Layout;
    3. Colours (both primary and secondary);
    4. Typography;
    5. Icons for DRI’s thematic areas;
    6. Icons for DRI’s intervention areas.

All these elements will be compatible for both web and print views. 

About DRI:

We are an independent non-governmental organisation that works in Europe, Asia, as well as the Middle East and North Africa. As such, our visual identity should be clear and easy to distinguish.

Given our international and diversified audience, our visual identity should respect its international audience, be culturally sensitive and avoid repeating gender stereotypes. It should adapt well to different languages and alphabets.

Our main audiences are involved in, or with, government: whether at the municipal or national levels. As such, the image we want to project is that of a competent organisation that has authority and expertise.

Our visual identity should reflect these values in a sober, clean and minimalistic way. We are not looking for an identity based on a passing fad, but rather one that will age well.

Evolution of DRI’s visual identity:

DRI’s current visibility guidelines will be shared with the successful bidder to serve as inspiration. The publications below provide a visual indication of the evolution of DRI’s visual identity.

Submit a bid:

The deadline for submissions is 21 May 2020. Please send your application to [email protected] along with the following documents:

  • A financial estimate (see Annex I), based on the tasks outlined above and taking into account up to two revisions;
  • Portfolio, including examples of similar previous work;
  • The CVs of anyone who would be working on this project.

The selected bidder will be working under the supervision of DRI’s Communications Coordinator.

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel+49 30 27877300

Fax+49 30 27877300-10

Data processing of personal data in third countries will not take place. We process your data in accordance with the provisions of § 26 German Federal Data Protection Act. More information about processing your personal data: privacy policy.

Remark: DRI is not bound to accept any offers and may award a contract for all or only parts of the services. DRI reserves the right to cancel the quotation process at any point without any liability.

Call for Legal Expert on State of Emergencies (SoE) in the EU and beyond

Position Title: Legal Expert (m/f/d)

Form of Employment: Short term assignments

Starting Date: ASAP

Duration: 15 days

Location: Homebased work

 

Background:

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin. DRI promotes political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions world-wide.

We are looking for a legal expert to work for approximately 15 days on aspects of the State of Emergency (SoE) in the EU and beyond. The starting date will be as soon as possible.

Your tasks:

  • Assemble a network of legal experts that can provide DRI with regular, concise updates on SoE legislation and related controversies in EU member states based on a standard questionnaire.
  • Provide succinct written analysis on aspects of SoE, rule of law and democracy.
  • Prepare questionnaire and analysis guidelines and propose reporting outputs that are attractive for media and the public.
  • Edit contributions from legal experts and prepare a publication on that basis.
  • Contribute to and draft reports that synthesize SoE issues that emerge in different countries.
  • Other related tasks as required.

Qualifications we require:

  • A degree in law and at least 5 years of practical international work experience in legal analysis related to public law and issues related to the rule of law and democracy in EU member states (and beyond).
  • A record of (co-)writing analytical reports that are not primarily aimed at an academic audience.
  • Excellent English writing skills.

We consider an asset if you have:

  • Demonstrated journalistic writing skills
  • Knowledge of European languages beyond English
  • Experience in conceptualising and designing infographics
  • A network of journalistic contacts in the EU
  • Knowledge of international law that is relevant to the issue of SoE.

How to apply:

If you are interested, please apply by 27 April c.o.b. by email to [email protected] in which you:

  • Include a cover email indicating your daily fee, considering that DRI is a non-profit NGO
  • Your CV
  • A statement of a maximum of one page on what aspects of SoE legislation across the EU are interesting for a broader public and so far not sufficiently covered by media and how these could be presented attractively to a wider public.

 

DRI values diversity and aims to be an equal opportunities employer.

 

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel+49 30 27877300

Fax+49 30 27877300-10

Data processing of personal data in third countries will not take place. We process your data in accordance with the provisions of § 26 German Federal Data Protection Act. More information about processing your personal data: privacy policy.

DRI в Україні шукає тренерів для підготовки майбутніх фахівців з держуправління

Democracy Reporting International в Україні шукає тренерів для підготовки майбутніх фахівців з держуправління

Назва посади: тренер для «Молодь – потенціал регіону! Твори зміни сам. 2020.»

Період співпраці: короткострокове завдання з лютого по квітень включно, 2020 року

Місто проведення Програм: Львів

Контекст та мета програми:

Democracy Reporting International (Офіс зі сприяння демократії, DRI) є безсторонньою, незалежною, неприбутковою організацією, зареєстрованою в Берліні (Німеччина). DRI сприяє ефективній та інформативній участі громадян у політичних процесах, розвитку підзвітності державних органів та зміцненню демократичних інституцій.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) у партнерстві з Центром Перспективних Ініціатив та Досліджень (ЦПІД), Львівською облдержадміністрацією та обласною радою розпочинає другу програму навчання молоді основам державного управління та внутрішнім особливостям роботи регіональної влади.

Метою Програми є підтримка потенціалу молоді на регіональному рівні шляхом розвитку необхідних компетенцій/знань та базових елементів/практик держслужби задля залучення їх після навчання до роботи в органах виконавчої влади, зокрема в облдержадміністраціях та меріях.

Обраних спеціалістів буде включено до бази тренерів, їх запрошуватимуть до виконання конкретних завдань протягом впровадження Програми.

Обов’язки та відповідальність:

  • У координації з організаторами Програми підготовка та проведення тренінгу (тривалість в середньому 1-2 дні) для українців/українок віком до 35 років на мінімум одну із наступних тем:

Система органів державної влади та їх взаємодія;

Децентралізація та реформа місцевого самоврядування;

Нормативно-правові акти та аналітичні документи в органах влади та місцевого самоврядування; підготовка листів, аналітичних документів, довідок на державній службі; Європейська інтеграція в регіонах. Імплементація Угоди про асоціацію на місцях;

Міжнародний досвід державного управління;

Комунікація на держаній службі, інструменти діалогу влади з громадськістю;

Боротьба з дезінформацією; softhard skills на держслужбі.

  • Тісно співпрацювати з командою DRI в Києві та Берліні, партнерами Програми
  • Підготувати роздаткові матеріали для учасників Програми
  • Підготувати короткий звіт (зразок буде надано DRI) по проведеному тренінгу, який включатиме оцінку тренінгу як такого, відгуки учасників та рекомендації для такого роду активностей в майбутньому.

Необхідна кваліфікація та досвід:

  • Вища освіта зі спеціальностей у сфері демократичного управління та розвитку, наприклад, політологія, право, міжнародні відносини, державне управління
  • Щонайменше п’ять років досвіду у сфері державного управління чи дотичних сферах
  • Перевірений досвід проведння воркшопів, тренінгів та лекцій
  • Відмінні знання поточних політичних та правових реформ в Україні та державного управління

Останній день подання документів: 18 лютого 2020 (опівночі за середньоєвропейським часом).

Просимо зацікавлених кандидатів надсилати своє резюме, мотиваційний лист з інформацією про тему та зміст тренінгу, який ви хочете провести та чому, його очікувані результати, а також рекомендації експертів (за наявності) на електронну адресу: [email protected] , вказавши в темі листа Trainer for DRI Programme’.

З огляду на кількість заявок, які зазвичай надходять до DRI, до співбесіди будуть запрошені тільки кандидати, що увійшли до короткого списку. З потенційними тренерами можуть зв’язатися до завершення терміну подання заявок.

 

Democracy Reporting International оголошує набір на другу Програму

Democracy Reporting International оголошує набір на другу Програму

«Молодь – потенціал регіону! Твори зміни сам. 2020»

Democracy Reporting International (Офіс зі сприяння демократії, DRI) є безсторонньою, незалежною, неприбутковою організацією, зареєстрованою в Берліні (Німеччина). DRI сприяє ефективній та інформативній участі громадян у політичних процесах, розвитку підзвітності державних органів та зміцненню демократичних інституцій.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) у партнерстві з Центром Перспективних Ініціатив та Досліджень (ЦПІД), Львівською облдержадміністрацією та обласною радою, розпочинає другу програму навчання молоді основам державного управління та внутрішнім особливостям роботи регіональної влади.

Така Програма була успішно реалізована у Львівській області в 2019 році. 19 молодих людей з Львівської та Луганської областей пройшли 4-місячне стажування у різних підрозділах Львівської обласної ради та Львівської обласної державної адміністрації, відвідали 5 тренінгових сесій, публічні дискусії у Києві та Львові, а також здійснили навчальний візит в одну з об’єднаних територіальних громад України. Після завершення Програми 5 учасників успішно пройшли конкурс та почали працювати у відповідних департаментах.

Про Програму 2020:

Завдання програми – підтримка потенціалу молоді на регіональному рівні шляхом розвитку необхідних компетенцій/знань та базових елементів/практик держслужби задля залучення їх після навчання до роботи в органах виконавчої влади, зокрема в ОТГ, облдержадміністрації та облраді.

  • 2-місячне навчання у Програмі включатиме 12 одноденних інтерактивних тренінгів, дискусій, воркшопів, які проходитимуть у Львові (під час вихідних днів (субота-неділя), впродовж березня-квітня 2020р).
  • Учасники Програми матимуть можливість пройти двомісячне стажування (березень-квітень 2020) в Львівській облдержадміністрації та облраді.
  • Учасники отримають стипендію від Democracy Reporting International (за умови повноцінної участі в стажуванні та навчанні).

Для участі у Програмі будуть відібрані 16 осіб з Львівської області. Гендерні умови – 50/50 (чоловіки/жінки), 16 учасників (оплачується проїзд до та з Львова, а також при потребі проживання).

Під час тренінгів учасники будуть забезпечені роздатковими матеріалами та харчуванням.

Навчання є безоплатним, відбір проходить на конкурсній основі!!!

Після проходження Програми учасники:

  • розумітимуть особливості процесів в органах державної влади, зокрема в контексті європейської інтеграції, їх взаємодію та вплив на політику в регіоні;
  • знатимуть як на місцевому рівні приймаються та виконуються управлінські рішення;
  • покращать свої здібності в комунікації з медіа, партнерами; ознайомляться з можливостями співпраці в трикутнику влада-громадськість-журналісти;
  • знатимуть як успішно розвивати/реалізувати проекти для області/міста/села/громади;
  • отримають стипендію впродовж свого стажування;
  • поспілкуються та налагодять контакти з практиками – представниками органів державної влади різних рівнів;
  • отримають експертний супровід/допомогу під час стажування;

Вимоги до учасників:

  • вік: від 20 до 35 років;
  • мати вищу освіту чи навчатися на старших курсах (4-5) ВУЗ;
  • можливість активної участі в усіх тренінгах Програми;
  • можливість стажуватись в Львівській облдержадміністрації та облраді впродовж березня-квітня;
  • володіння англійською мовою, знання німецької та польської мов вважатиметься перевагою;
  • перевага віддаватиметься кандидатам(кам), які не працюють(вали) в органах виконавчої влади.

Аплікаційна форма:

Якщо вас зацікавила участь у Програмі та ви відповідаєте усім вищенаведеним критеріям — заповніть до 18 лютого (включно) 2020р. онлайн-анкету.

Про точне місце та час проведення тренінгу відібрані учасники будуть повідомлені завчасно.

За додатковою інформацією звертайтесь:

Мар’яна Кузьо-Рюче, Старша проектна менеджерка DRI в Україні, [email protected]

 

 

Participatory Budgeting in Ukraine

Executive Summary

Decentralisation of power takes place in two directions: vertical – when some powers of a central government are delegated to local authorities; and horizontal – when citizens themselves take part in local decision-making.[1] This model well illustrates the process of decentralisation in Ukraine, which has been implemented since 2015-16. The autonomy of communities and cities at the vertical level stands for the right of local authorities to decide by themselves how to allocate budget funds. Before the Law ‘On Voluntary Amalgamation of Local Communities’ was adopted in 2015, budgetary and financial capacities of communities were extremely low. For example, before the adoption of a law in 2014 (on Amendments to the Budget Code of Ukraine concerning the Reform of Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations), which came into force in January 2017, personal income tax, which now ranks first in replenishing local budgets[2], used to be transferred not to the local budget but the national one.

Horizontal decentralisation is quite new for Ukraine. August 2015 can be considered as its starting point when working groups were established in Chernihiv, Cherkasy and Poltava city councils to develop regulations on city participatory budgets. In practice, vertical decentralisation is measured not only by powers but also by the capacity of local authorities to transparently manage budget funds and effectively use this resource for their community development. With the development of a decentralisation policy in Ukraine, it became possible for communities to obtain such financial capacity. At the same time, horizontal decentralisation is a more multifaceted and autonomous phenomenon, which demonstrates the capacity of each member of the community to directly participate in working out and making decisions, which influence the harmonious development of a village or city in question.

To understand the depth of horizontal decentralisation and to determine whether it is real, it is necessary to pay attention to such parameters as:

  • availability of efficient and binding participatory tools (local initiative, participatory budget);
  • possibility for residents to manage financial resources;
  • possibility for residents to freely discuss and share thoughts and views.

Given the fact that the institution of local referenda, which was to become the basis for emerging horizontal decentralisation, is still not on the agenda, public budgeting can become one way for each member of the local community to directly participate in local affairs

This paper analyses whether the participatory budget tool has created preconditions necessary for the development of horizontal decentralisation in Ukraine. Based on the results of this study, the authors of the paper conclude that public budgeting (PB) tools have significantly contributed to the development of horizontal decentralisation in Ukraine. This conclusion rests on the following: (1) for the first time since 2015-16, local communities have begun to implement participatory budget programmes, allowing inhabitants, based on voting results, to identify and propose projects to authorities that will be implemented from the local budget.; (2) in 2019, residents in a number of communities could participate in the decision on how to spend a total of about UAH 590 million of local budget funds. This amount is only 0.1% of all local budgets, but it is a start (the resource of all local budgets and subventions is UAH 573.1 billion). In addition, the amount allocated from local budgets for participatory budgeting is 0.4-0.5% of local budgets of those villages, towns and cities where the participatory budget was put in place in 2019. This percentage of allocated funds for participatory budgeting is in line with international standards and the best European practices.

 

Read the full briefing paper here (in Ukrainian).

 

[1] Decentralisation of Public Authority: Experience of European Countries and Prospects of Ukraine / [O.M. Boryslavska, I.B. Zaverukha, A.M. Shkolyk and others]; Centre for Political and Legal Reforms. – K., O.M. Moskalenko, 2012 – 212 pages, https://niss.gov.ua/sites/default/files/2019-05/2019.pdf

Decentralisation of Power: Agenda for the Medium Term. Analytical report. Authors: Y. A. Zhalilo, O.V. Shevchenko, V.V. Romanova, etc. National Institute for Strategic Studies. – K: 2019. – 115 pages.

[2] ‘Traditionally, the largest share in the revenues of local budgets is the income from collecting personal income tax – UAH 35.9 billion, or 59.3% of the total income of the general fund of local budgets’. Read more at: https://decentralisation.gov.ua/news/11013.

 

Event highlights: Does the EU have what it takes to safeguard the rule of law?

This Wednesday 22 January 2020 in Brussels by DRI and the European Policy Centre’s Connecting Europe programme. 

EU Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová answered this question in a keynote address to the more than 150 attendees.

This was followed by a panel discussion that brought together Emmanuel Crabit from the Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, MEP Terry Reintke, Ralph Kaessner from the European Council Secretariat and Joelle Grogan, a Senior Lecturer and legal academic at Middlesex University London.

DRI Executive Director Michael Meyer-Resende moderated the panel discussion, from which Christoph Reinke shares some of the highlights.

“Yes, but we have to work hard to keep it”

This was Commissioner Jourová’s answer to the event’s question, stressing that the EU consists of more than institutions in Brussels or Strasbourg. She emphasized that all member states, civil society and citizens play an important role when it comes to protecting the rule of law across the union.

All too often the rule of law is taken for granted and seen as a technical issue that doesn’t directly link to the lives of citizens, but Jourová stated that “if not all these actors want to protect the rule of law, we will fail”. A special effort must be made to reach European citizens, raising awareness on the practical relevance of the rule of law for the daily life of everyone in the EU.

To prevent the rule of law backsliding, she outlined the importance of a rule of law culture across the EU’s institutions and member states. One way to do this will be through annual reporting on the state of the rule of law, which will provide comparative information on all EU countries and their constitutional systems.

Finally, she discussed the idea of tying EU funding to the rule of law, stating that “money will not go to autocrats”.

“No, not at the moment”

This was MEP Terry Reintke’s blunt answer to the question, criticising the EU’s approach and describing it as inflexible with decisions taken too late. She argued that the EU should instead take a strong stance against rule of law violations as observed not only in Poland and Hungary but also in Slovakia, Romania, Malta and other countries. “We will have to show teeth in this” pointing again to the idea of withdrawing EU funds from “authoritarian regimes”.

The EU needs to step up its game since in recent years “attacks [on the rule of law] have become blunter and more open… we need to have a sense of urgency” she warned.

“It is a highly sensitive matter”

Was Ralph Kaessner’s personal take. The European Council Secretariat official had reservations about calls for more EU interventions on breaches to the rule of law. Highlighting on several occasion the delicacy of the topic and the number of actors involved, he argued that sanctions are hard to implement in practice. He also stressed that a lot has happened on the rule of law in recent years, a long way from the relative anonymity of the topic just a few years ago.

Instead, he suggested focusing on capacity building measures that help prevent the rule of law backsliding. In this context, he welcomed the Commission’s new rule of law review cycle, which should make concrete operational suggestions on how to strengthen the rule of law.

“The problem can’t be solved from the top-down”

Said Emmanuel Crabit from the Commission’s DG Justice, speaking on the importance of engaging national governments. He identified three needs: promoting a rule of law culture, supporting reforms and responding to concrete challenges. He sees a need for dialogue and regular exchange between the Commission and national parliaments on a level playing field, bringing these “two different planets” together.

Starting a dialogue within the Council and within EU member states represents, in his view, the added value of the new rule of law reports, which will also highlight positive developments and advocate for good reforms that comply with EU obligations.

The diversity of legal systems is not the problem, in his view, and different legal traditions should be respected. However, EU treaty provisions and the ECJ’s interpretation of them define red lines that cannot be negotiated.

In addition, even though he detected fatigue towards the Article 7 process, Crabit noted that we “should not underestimate the positive impact” it has had. The Hungarian government, for example, withdrew a controversial reform of its administrative courts.

“This is not a normal situation that will be resolved in the next elections”

The last panellist, Joelle Grogan emphasised that the rule of law affects everyone in the EU. She argued that “if nothing is done, we are going to break our mutual trust”, which would entirely endanger cooperation within the EU.

In her view, the necessary tools for a stronger reaction by the EU to rule of law breaches are available, but this will ultimately all depend on political will in the EU.

Listen to EPC’s podcast here:

Content not available.
Please allow cookies by clicking Accept on the banner

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) works to improve public understanding of the rule of law in the EU as part of the re:constitution programme funded by Stiftung Mercator. Sign-up to DRI’s newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about the rule of law in Europe.

 

Backgrounder: European Commission requests interim measures in proceedings against Poland

On 14 January 2020, the European Commission requested that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issue an interim order to halt all judicial activities by the Polish Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber. This request is a part of the infringement procedure brought before the Court by the Commission against Poland (case C-791/19).

DRI’s Jakub Jaraczewski (@J_Jaraczewski) answers some questions following Tuesday’s events.

What is an interim measure?

Under the Article 279 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the European Court of Justice can order an interim measure in any case before it, if necessary. The aim of these measures is to ensure the full effectiveness of the court’s final decision, including halting any activity that may be deemed illegal by its upcoming ruling. Interim measures are supposed to make sure that no damage is done while the proceedings are underway before the Court.

Have interim measures been used against Poland before?

Yes, with two cases being relevant here. In November 2017, interim measures were ordered in the case related to the deforestation of Białowieża forest by the Polish authorities when the Court ordered the government to halt the deforestation until a final judgement was passed. On the rule of law issues, in December 2018, the CJEU ordered the Polish government to suspend a law lowering the mandatory retirement age of judges. The Polish authorities complied with these interim measures.

Why is the European Commission acting now?

Several factors prompted action on Poland. Most worrying is a series of disciplinary proceedings against judges who attempted to implement the 19 November ruling by the CJEU concerning the independence of the Disciplinary Chamber. Another is the proposed “muzzle law” introduced by the government (see below). Lastly, Polish and international civil society, academia, lawyers and ordinary citizens ramped up the pressure on the government, culminating in the “March of 1000 black robes” on 11 January 2020, which featured judges from all over Europe protesting in solidarity with their Polish colleagues.

Is this request related to the “muzzle law”?

The “muzzle law” is a recent bill introduced by the Polish government that once more changes several laws related to the judiciary. It is widely seen as an assault on the independence of the judiciary and its effects include initiating disciplinary measures against judges who apply EU law. A report by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights states that the “muzzle law” is contrary to several international and regional standards to which Poland is committed.

The Commission’s interim measure request concerns an earlier pending case concerning the independence of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court and by extension, the National Council of Judiciary, which participated in appointing the Chamber’s judges. It does not relate directly to the “muzzle law”, but if the interim measure is issued, it would effectively halt the activities of the Disciplinary Chamber – the same chamber which would sanction judges if the “muzzle law” was implemented.

What are the implications of the Commission taking a tough stance?

The question of whether Reynders, Jourová and von der Leyen would take a stronger stance on the rule of law has been hanging in the air for some time. Some commentators suggested that the initial support from Poland’s ruling party PiS for the von der Leyen Commission, and the conciliatory language used by von der Leyen herself, would mean that the Commission is about to take a softer stance. Yesterday’s action shows that the Commission is willing to act decisively, at least when it comes to Poland. It remains to be seen if this will be the case for the rule of law issues in Hungary, Malta, Romania and Spain as well.

Interested in learning more about what the EU will do next?

Join us in Brussels on 22 January, where we will be talking about the rule of law in the EU with the Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová, MEP Terry Reintke, Emmanuel Crabit, Director at Directorate Human Rights and Rule of Law, DG Justice and Consumers, European Commission, Ralph Kaessner from the European Council’s secretariat and Dr Joelle Grogan from the Middlesex University. You can register for the event, organised with the European Policy Centre, here: https://www.epc.eu/en/events/100078~2dfd70

 

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) works to improve public understanding of the rule of law in the EU as part of the re:constitution programme funded by Stiftung Mercator. Sign-up to DRI’s newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about the rule of law in Europe.

Photocredit: Grzegorz Żukowski/Flickr

Research Internship – Rule of Law in the EU

Research Internship

Duration: three months, starting 1 March 2020, or as soon as possible, with the possibility of extension.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a non-partisan, independent, and non-profit organisation registered in Berlin. DRI promotes the political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions worldwide.

DRI is recruiting an intern for its Berlin headquarters to support the implementation of the re:constitution programme, which deals with the rule of law in EU Member States. The successful candidate will work on research, writing and supporting project implementation under supervision of the Programme Manager or her assigned representative and in close collaboration with the programme team.

Your tasks:

Research:

  • Track current developments on the rule of law in the EU;
  • Keep abreast of latest research and events on the topic;
  • Draft articles, reports and other output for a broad public;
  • Contribute to drafting academic output: articles, book chapters;
  • Contribute to the development of a map of the state of judiciary in the EU.

Project administration:

  • Assist in organising events in Berlin, Brussels and other locations;
  • Identify speakers, experts and stakeholders;
  • Support project communication, notably with the project partner and donor;
  • Other relevant duties as required.

Qualifications required:

  • Bachelor or Master’s degree in law, political sciences or related fields;
  • Interest in the rule of law, constitutional law, EU law and related fields;
  • Fluency in written and spoken English;
  • Knowledge of other EU languages is a distinct asset;
  • Good communication skills and ability to work as part of a culturally diverse team;
  • Proficiency in key computer applications, such as Microsoft Word and Excel;
  • Student/PhD candidate status; must be enrolled in university throughout the duration of the internship;
  • Working permit for Germany (if you are a foreign student).

The internship is full time, preferably starting 1 March 2020 for a duration of three months with a possibility for extension.

A monthly internship allowance of 400 € will be provided, unless you already receive funding from any other source, such as from Erasmus.

DRI values diversity and aims to be an equal opportunities employer. Moreover, DRI offers you an internship with flexible working hours and working in a multicultural team in the heart of Berlin.

If you are interested in this position, please send your application (cover letter and CV) and one writing sample (published or submitted: article, blog post, op-ed, thesis chapter, etc.) related to the internship’s focus areas to [email protected]. Please include “Research Intern 2020 [your name]” in the subject line and refer to the source where you have found this opportunity. Applying for this position by post mail is possible, please find our address details below.

The deadline for applications is 23:59 (CEST) on 9 February 2020. The position may be filled before the deadline. Early applications are encouraged. Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel +49 30 27877300

Fax +49 30 27877300-10

Data processing of personal data in third countries will not take place. We process your data in accordance with the provisions of § 26 German Federal Data Protection Act. More information about processing your personal data: privacy policy

 

Human rights and trade: Armenia’s civil society releases new reports

Participants discussing the report on labour rights in the Syunik’s mining sector. Photo: EPF.

Armenian civil society organisations report on labour rights, housing conditions, access to health, and the rights of children belonging to minority groups.

October 2019 concluded with the launch of new reports in Armenia by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) and their local partners, covering human and labour rights violations that affect communities in different parts of the country. In Syunik, the issue addressed was working conditions in the mining sector; in Shirak, housing conditions for survivors of the 1998 earthquake; in Gegharkunik, access to health services and in Armavir, the rights of children of the Yezidi minority.

These documents are the culmination of more than a year’s worth of close cooperation among the NGOs involved. During this time, regional NGOs and advocates were trained and supported by EPF to work with local communities to collect information on the issues from those directly affected and present their voices and the related data in the reports.

On 6 September 2019, representatives from civil society, media and government attended a press conference in Yerevan, where EPF first presented the results of their data collection and analysis. Throughout October 2019, follow-up discussions on the research findings and recommendations were held in each of the regions addressed by the reports.

Panellists in the press conference held in Yerevan. Photo: EPF.

In Syunik, workers in the mining sector face a lack of appropriate protection against accidents, as well as of assistance to workers with work-related diseases developed over time. Additionally, miners often refrain from talking about their working conditions for fear of reprisals. These are some of the findings of the report authored by EPF, Human Rights Research Center and Goris Press Club.

Among other recommendations, the report called on Armenia’s Government to conduct a comprehensive study on the issue, with active involvement of workers; increase oversight on companies; adopt a national Action Plan to ensure safe and healthy conditions for workers; and provide trade unions with the necessary mechanisms to operate effectively and independently.

In the follow-up discussion held in Syunik, the importance of workers knowing and standing up for their own rights was one of the main topics of discussion.

Participants discussing the report on the right to health in the Gegharkunik region. Photo: EPF.

In Gegharkunik, communities are challenged with a lack of safe water and sanitation, health facilities that are not fully accessible for people of age or with disabilities, shortage of specialist doctors, and recurrent breaches of patients’ confidentiality.

To tackle these issues, needed measures include the adoption of a rights-based National Policy for Public Health in Armenia; the enforcement of existing legislation; and the creation of new regulations to ensure the accessibility, affordability, and quality of health services offered in Gegharkunik. These recommendations are presented in the report authored by EPF and the NGOs Human Rights Research Center, Martuni Women’s Community Council, and “Astghavard” Disabled Children’s Parents.

As pointed out by the director of a local medical centre during the follow-up regional discussion, opportunities to debate local health issues are usually non-existent, which adds to the importance of EPF’s work in the Gegharkunik region.

Participants discussing the report on the rights of Yezidi children in the Armavir region. Photo: EPF.

In Armavir, some of the main challenges facing children of the Yezidi minority are widespread discrimination, high rates of school drop-out, early and forced marriage, and child labour. During the field work conducted by EPF, Armavir Development Center, Human Rights Research Center and “Sinjar” Yezidi National Union, a Yezidi mother told the research team that “most people living in these villages live in poverty. They don’t like making their children work but they have to, otherwise they won’t survive”.

EPF and its partners called on the Armenian authorities to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation; include minority communities in national, regional and local decision-making processes; revise school curricula to provide quality Yezidi language classes and observe students’ freedom of religion; and promote parental education to prevent early and forced marriages.

During the follow-up session in Armavir, these and other recommendations presented by the report were discussed by members of the Yezidi community, representatives of civil society organisations, and the regional government.

 

Participants discussing the report on housing rights in the Shirak region. Photo: EPF.

In Shirak, communities are still dealing with the consequences of the Spitak earthquake, which caused 25,000 deaths and left hundreds of thousands homeless in Armenia in 1988. Inadequate housing (e.g., cabins made to be temporary solutions after the earthquake, or damaged buildings) and homelessness are urgent problems in the region, as shown by the report produced by EPF and the NGOs Human Rights Research Center, A.D Sakharov Armenian Human Rights Protection Center, Effective Governance and Community Development, and the All Rights Foundation.

As extreme poverty faces the most vulnerable groups, the issue of inadequate housing is related to and aggravated by a range of problems in other areas, such as health care. Necessary steps to improve housing conditions in Shirak include restructuring the state’s system of assistance and compensation to victims of the earthquake; integrating individuals and families so far excluded from this system; and holistically addressing social and economic needs deriving from their situation. These are some of the recommendations proposed by the report. In the follow-up discussion held in Shirak, participants also stressed the need for substantial participation of local communities, including homeless people, in all decision-making processes.

In calling the attention of the responsible authorities and the international community to all of these issues, DRI and EPF are sharing the four reports with the Armenian government, the European Union, and the United Nations Committees on the Rights of the Child and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  1. Right to Health in Armenia (Gegharkunik region)
  2. Right to Adequate Housing in Armenia (Shirak region)
  3. Right to Safe Working Conditions in Armenia (Syunik region)
  4. Rights of Minority (Yezidi) Children in Armenia (Armavir region)

The reports and regional discussions in Armenia are part of the EU-funded programme “Promoting Human and Labour Rights through GSP+”, implemented in nine countries by DRI and our local partners since 2017.

A Local Approach to Solve Lebanon’s Governance Crisis?

In the wake of the 17 October anti-government protests, citizens across Lebanon have developed spaces for and a practice of direct political dialogue on many squares, streets or previously public spaces to discuss solutions for the country’s economic and governance crisis. On 30 November DRI gathered more than 150 participants in a conference in Beirut to discuss how citizens can participate in politics and how they can shape reforms at local and national levels. Participants included civil society actors, municipalities, judicial and political officials, in addition to activists and politically engaged citizens.

Since October, protestors from all regions, backgrounds and religions have taken to the streets blaming the country’s political elite for the economic crisis, corruption and failure to deliver basic public services. Building on the decentralised character of the movement, attendees discussed how decentralisation can answer protesters’ calls for public accountability, greater efficiency in public services and increased citizen participation.

André Sleiman, DRI Country Representative in Lebanon, opening the conference with remarks on the path forward to solve the current governance crisis

Providing Legal Tools for Accountability

The first panellists assessed the role that institutional checks and balances can play in building the foundations of transparency and accountability. Ghassan Moukheiber, a lawyer, former Member of Parliament and DRI supervisory board member, stressed the need for Lebanon to reform public procurement regulations and the administrative judiciary, calling for strengthening the capacities of oversight agencies to ensure accountability and transparency in public institutions in the local and national governance. Moukheiber argued that the judicial reform process needs to be underpinned by three core concepts: independence, integrity and efficiency, removing the interference of the executive power.

Ghassan Moukheiber, former Member of Parliament and DRI Board Member, and moderator Fadi Halabi

Together with Bilal Badr, a judge and member of the Lebanese Judges Association, panellists highlighted the limitations of anti-corruption laws and the need for public accountability to foster a behavioural change of public institutions. To enhance institutional transparency, they called for an “integrity pact” and the reassessment of the code of conduct across Lebanese institutions in the public sphere.

“Politics is too important to be left to politicians alone”

Reflecting on the lack of trust between citizens and government, the second session involved a group discussion for attendees to share their ideas for improving citizen’s role in the reform process. For the first time concepts such as ”All of them means all of them” are not slogans anymore, underlined Gilbert Doumit, political activist and managing partner of Beyond Reform and Development. He emphasised how the active participation of citizens, particularly youth and women, is essential for the reform process.

Gilbert Doumit presenting Jabal El-Sheikh Federation Youth Council which was elected mid-2019. DRI supported the holding of the elections

Dana Saadedine, president of the Youth Council of the Jabal El-Sheikh Union of Municipalities (Rachaya district),[1] which is supported by DRI Lebanon, together with the other members of the recently elected council, presented their achievements over the last months. The council shared how they have been tackling pressing issues at the local level such as raising awareness about sorting waste at source, leading an online anti-bullying campaign and promoting the local economy through tourism.

A Bottom-Up Approach to The Governance Crisis

Reflecting on how local approaches can resolve the governance crisis in Lebanon in the final session, Mona Bacha discussed how decentralisation should be considered within a broader reform package that includes reorganising the fiscal system, strengthening anti-corruption laws, as well as institutionalising the participation of citizens, businesses and non-governmental organisations in the policy cycle.

Moderator Tania Ghorra interviewing Ziyad Baroud, former Minister of Interior and Municipalities

In an interactive session, municipalities and civil society stressed how reform needs to come from the grassroots, through participatory methods, rather than in closed legislative processes. Former Lebanese Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Ziyad Baroud, explained how decentralisation can have a major impact on citizens-municipalities interactions: “Decentralisation is one of the many starting points, because it is directly linked to the citizens”. He shared how the creation of elected regional councils at the district level can work hand in hand with municipalities through a decentralised fund that is managed by elected officials rather than the central government. Baroud called on municipalities to view these changes positively in the country’s reform.

Participants listen to judge Bilal Badr’s proposal to ensure an independent and transparent judiciary

 

Mona Bacha, professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the Lebanese University, contributing to the discussion

As Lebanon is entering a moment of significant change, rethinking the fiscal, political and administrative importance of decentralisation and its impact on the everyday life of the Lebanese is essential to improve service delivery and stimulate economic growth at the local level, argued Nour Ghoussaini, a journalist from the Chouf area. A participant from the Lebanese National News Agency shared how, in hand with legislative reform, reforms need to be led from the bottom-up, with the contribution of youths, who are often excluded by their municipality.

[1] Democracy Reporting International, “Promoting the participation of young people in politics”, Beirut, 29 August 2019. https://democracy-reporting.org/promoting-the-participation-of-young-people-in-politics-lebanon/.