COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONSIDERS REPORT OF UKRAINE
29 April 2014
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today considered the sixth periodic report of Ukraine on how the country is implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Presenting the report, Vitalii Mushchynin, First Deputy Minister for Social Policy of Ukraine, said since the last report the standard of living in Ukraine had improved, but during that period Ukraine had lived through events that had had a considerable impact on the economic, social and cultural rights of the Ukrainian people. Measures to stabilize the current political and economic situation in Ukraine were outlined, including a law adopted to ensure the rights of citizens in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine which included protection for indigenous and national minorities and support for citizens who were temporarily resettling from the autonomous region of Crimea and Sebastopol into other areas of Ukraine. Measures taken to stabilize the financial situation were also described, including a freeze on funding for new State programmes and economizing of State resources.
During the interactive dialogue Committee Experts referenced the recent report of High Commissioner Navi Pillay and the missions of United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonovic and the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Rita Izsák to Ukraine this month. The draft law on the status of the languages of national minorities, including Russian, and xenophobic tensions among some minority extremist groups were raised. Questions were asked about Ukraine’s economic situation and austerity policies, and about conditions for financial assistance from international financial institutions. Allegations of widespread corruption in the country were discussed, as were various forms of discrimination and measures to alleviate poverty. Experts also asked, in view of the recent annexation of the Crimean peninsula, what measures could be undertaken to ensure that the rights of the Crimean Tatars could be promoted and protected, since the Government of Ukraine had no physical control.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Mushchynin said Ukraine very much valued its interaction with the United Nations in strengthening the principle of the rule of law, especially given events occurring in Ukraine right now. It would continue to implement a State humanitarian policy, improve its legislation and pay particular attention to upholding the rights of citizens to free use of language and culture.
In concluding remarks Mohamed Abdel-Moneim, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Ukraine, said corruption and discrimination were two global epidemics, but he was sure Ukraine would continue to work on addressing their root causes. He hoped Ukraine upheld the principles of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during its negotiations with international financial institutions.
Zdislaw Kedzia, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, expressed the wish that Ukraine’s problems would be resolved in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and sovereignty, and with the protection of all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
The delegation of Ukraine included representatives of the Ministry for Social Policy, the Ministry of Health, the Department of International Relations and Information Technologies, and the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday 30 April. to commence its review of the initial report of Indonesia (E/C.12/IND/1).
The sixth periodic report of Ukraine can be read via the following link: (E/C.12/UKR/6).
Presentation of the Report
VITALII MUSHCHYNIN, First Deputy Minister for Social Policy of Ukraine, said since Ukraine’s last report the population’s standard of living had improved, but during that period Ukraine had lived through events that had had a considerable impact on the economic, social and cultural rights of the Ukrainian people. In general the Government had worked to improve social standards, it had raised the poverty line and increased the minimum wage and minimum pension level. Thanks to the rise in wages and low inflation the real income of the population had risen rapidly. Mr. Mushchynin listed many relevant pieces of legislation, programmes and strategies adopted in Ukraine during the intervening period. They included a social programme to overcome and prevent poverty, reform of communal housing, a law on unemployment and social protection which in particular supported young people and the long-term unemployed, a law to facilitate the active development of civil society initiatives, and a programme to improve the health of the nation and increase life expectancy.
A pension reform programme was adopted in 2011, which was a very important piece of legislation given the retirement age of women had been raised from 55 to 60 years of age. There had been major achievements in occupational safety and reducing accidents in the workplace. A programme for the settlement and re-establishment of deported Ukrainian Tatars and other national minorities was adopted in 2012, the same year as a plan of measures to integrate refugees into Ukrainian society was launched. There was also a strategy to integrate the Roma ethnic minority into society, and a Government resolution to eliminate gender discrimination and ensure equal rights between men and women, which also sought to help reconcile work and family commitments.
Mr. Mushchynin spoke about measures taken to stabilize the current political and economic situation in Ukraine. On 15 April 2014 a law was adopted to ensure the rights of citizens and the legal system in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine. The law set out economic and social policies for citizens living in those occupied areas, including protection for indigenous and national minorities. The Government supported citizens resettling from the autonomous region of Crimea and Sebastopol into other areas of Ukraine in various practical ways. Those included the provision of social allowances to vulnerable individuals and families including pensioners, the unemployed, single mothers and veterans. In April approximately 1,020 resettling families had appealed for social protection, and almost half of them had already received grants, the rest were being processed. As part of the temporary resettlement of people from Crimea and Sebastopol, temporary accommodation had been made available, children had been enrolled in schools, and necessary medical services had been provided, as well as free legal assistance, and information on job vacancies, transfer of pensions and social insurance payments, including to soldiers and their families who were formally living on the territory of the autonomous region of Crimea.
Measures taken to stabilize the financial situation in Ukraine included a law adopted in March 2014 on preventing financial catastrophes and economizing State resources. Funding for new State programmes had been frozen, and other economies were being made. The Government was currently unable to ensure the growth of already existing standards and social protections in the country, which had been frozen at January 2014 levels. Of course the Government was not thinking about reducing social protections, but it hoped to regain the trust of financial investors in Ukraine, reduce levels of civil and social tensions and lay the groundwork for economic growth, all while preventing a drop in the standard of living.
Questions by the Experts
MOHAMED ABDEL-MONEIM, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Ukraine, commended Ukraine for always fulfilling its reporting obligations in an almost exemplary manner. Its reports were always submitted on time, if not ahead of deadlines. Regarding the substance of reporting, the Country Rapporteur said he limited his views to the reporting period and not normally what happened before or afterwards. It was clear to the reader that the sixth periodic report had been written very skilfully, although more statistical detail could have been provided in the annexes. The State party’s timely replies to the list of issues were satisfactory. The Committee’s work was to identify whether a State party had performed successive fulfilment of the economic, social and cultural rights in the Covenant during the reporting period. For Ukraine, there was a progressive fulfilment. However, to comment on to what extent that progression had now ended, Mr. Abdel-Moneim said he would leave that to observations by Committee colleagues.
A Committee Expert said he hoped that sooner rather than later a peaceful resolution could be found to the current difficulties in Ukraine based on political dialogue, and on the United Nations General Assembly resolution titled ‘territorial integrity of Ukraine’. The Expert quoted a 15 April 2014 report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Ukraine, which cited concerns expressed by the Committee in their last concluding observations dated 2008. The report stated that serious corruption and violations of economic, social and cultural rights were among the structural roots of the anti-Government protests in 2013 and 2014.
Did the Government recognize High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s assessment based upon the mission of Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonovic to Ukraine, the Expert asked. He also enquired to what extent Government policy was led by the Committee’s 2008 concluding observations in enacting measures to eradicate corruption, ensure good governance and the rule of law, address disparities in standards of living and ensure equal access to health, employment and social protection structures for all.
Some extremist minorities had been vigorous in acting against foreign or ethnic minorities in the country, a Committee Expert said. What was the Government doing to avoid the exacerbation of xenophobic tensions? Everyone knew Ukraine was living through a difficult situation, but the issue had to be raised.
The Committee must not lose sight of the changes taking place in Ukraine, which was currently at a cross roads, an Expert said. In effect, a new regime was in place so much of what the Committee had to say was aimed at an old regime which had now been replaced. Therefore, the timing of today’s review was most auspicious because recommendations offered by the Committee could be used by the new regime. The Expert then expressed concern about allegations of widespread corruption in Ukraine, which if true lay at the core of problems of economic, social and cultural rights.
The divisions between Ukraine and its neighbours seemed to indicate Ukraine had failed to integrate all of its people into one society, an Expert commented. The fact that so many people in eastern Ukraine sided with Moscow, not to mention Crimea where the majority of people had opted to side with Moscow, suggested a failure of the State to integrate the various ethnic and linguistic groups into the country, he said. If that was the case, how was the Government going to promote measures to achieve unity, so that whatever their problems people looked to Kyiv for a solution, rather than Moscow? Maybe those problems were associated with the old era, he said, asking if the new era of Ukraine would see to it that those problems were rectified.
An Expert said in February 2014, as everyone knew, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament of Ukraine) had attempted to repeal the law on languages which regulated the status of the languages of national minorities, and introduce an understanding of a national language. The report of the High Commissioner expressed concerns about the attempts to repeal that law. As they knew, at present the Rada was working on a new bill on languages, but representatives of national minorities had refused to take part in the consultations, as had members of political minorities. The new work was in complete contradiction to the European Charter on National Languages, the Expert said. Moreover the proposed bill provided for criminal responsibility for unjustified use of Russian language in communications and education areas. What specific steps had legislative or other branches of authority taken to ensure there was no discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or language? The Expert referred to the Roma and Tatars, and other minorities including Hungarians, Slovaks, Romanians, Poles and Koreans. What was being done to make sure Ukraine adopted a comprehensive act to prevent discrimination in all spheres of life, he asked.
Ukraine was the recipient of international assistance, and it obviously hoped to get more in months to come from donors, including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the European Union among others, an Expert noted, asking the delegation about how it sought to meet the pre-conditions set by donors.
A Committee Expert commended Ukraine on its new laws to prevent discrimination, but said it was clear that several forms of discrimination existed in Ukraine, particularly on grounds of sexual orientation. He asked what the State party was doing to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
Regarding the Roma people, an Expert asked for statistical data on the impact of the programmes mentioned in the presentation.
Next week the Committee would celebrate the first anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, an Expert said. She noted that in its Universal Periodic Review two years ago the Government of Ukraine said it would, in due course, consider ratifying the Optional Protocol. Had there been any consideration of this so far? It was noted that Ukraine had ratified the Optional Protocols to some other human rights treaties. The delegation was also asked why it had refused to ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances during its Universal Periodic Review. How was human rights education in schools and strengthening of the National Human Rights Institution being improved?
In 2013 the Verkhovna Rada (parliament of Ukraine) had an agenda item on an act to prevent discrimination, which had been deferred. What were the prospects of an anti-discrimination act passing through the Rada? Did the law of 4 October 2012 contain a definition of discrimination?
Regarding persons with disabilities, an Expert noted that the State party had submitted a report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but the report was not yet available. She asked for a general picture on persons with disabilities in Ukraine, along with any statistical data available.
Concerning the equality of the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights between men and women, an Expert commended progress made, which included a 30 per cent quota for women in electoral lists for parties at all levels. However, she regretted that less than eight per cent of members of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament of Ukraine) were women. She also regretted the very large wage gap between men and women, which stood at around 30 per cent. The fundamental root of the problem lay with stereotypical gender roles, she said. As long as it was considered a woman’s job to care for the children and the household, gender equality would not be realized. What efforts had been made to eradicate gender stereotypes, in particular including men? What bills on promoting gender equality were before the Rada?
There had been a growth in the employment rate, an Expert noted, and asked how the Government factored in employment and unemployment in the informal sector. The Government’s efforts to regularize informal workers were welcomed, but of course some people would work their entire lives in the informal sector and needed some form of social protection. Why was there no State-funded pension or mandatory health insurance plan? The Expert also highlighted the significant wage gap between men and women – how was the State party respecting the notion of ‘equal pay for equal work of equal value’?
The State party’s efforts to combat unemployment were commendable, an Expert said. However, in 2010 youth unemployment made up more than a quarter of all unemployment. What impact had the Government measures adopted to reduce youth unemployment had? What was the real situation of the payment of unemployment benefits? The Government’s efforts to tackle the unemployment of persons with disabilities, and the four per cent quota in the public sector were noted with satisfaction, as was the active role played by the State labour inspectorate. However, the picture was far from ideal and many public and private bodies did not comply with the quota, he said.
Response by the Delegation
Today Ukraine was living through the most difficult economic, social and cultural crisis since the history of its independence. Ukraine was on the brink of financial collapse, said the Head of the Delegation. Today Ukraine’s foreign debt stood at US$140 billion, which was 80 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Ukraine had practically no potential for economic rebirth and revitalization. There were major arrears in the payment of salaries, and the law enforcement and judicial systems were collapsing. Given that situation, the Cabinet of Ministers had identified priority objectives. There was the need to sign an agreement on association with the European Union. Another priority was to ensure the development of comprehensive and good neighbourly relations with the Russian Federation in all spheres, on the basis of a truly equal footing.
Cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was another priority. Ukraine had now fulfilled all pre-conditions, including strict budgetary control, requested by the IMF for the conclusion of an agreement, and that cooperation had now been established. Other priorities were ensuring a fair justice system and making sure the judicial system and law enforcement bodies could return to a functioning state, and the reduction of State expenditure, including any unjustified benefits. The Government needed to take unpopular decisions, such as increasing the prices for utilities, for example heating, and services such as for public housing. That had already been done. Another priority was honest, free and fair Presidential elections in 2014, which would increase the confidence of the population in the authorities and ensure unity among the population. Today, measures would be adopted for a consistent State humanitarian policy to be founded on consideration for ethnic, religious, confessional and cultural differences and diversity in Ukrainian society, guaranteeing unconditional exercise of rights for citizens and all legal guarantees.
In the context of activities being carried out to prevent discrimination, in May 2011 a new concept paper was adopted with strategic guidelines on combating xenophobia, ethnic and racial discrimination and related intolerance against foreigners. A measure had also been adopted to increase tolerance among different ethnicities and nationalities in the country. The Head of the Delegation said those plans provided for measures at many levels, from education, to cultural activities and events, legal understanding, social dialogue and interaction with civil society organizations. In view of the decree adopted by the Government, and recommendations by international bodies, there was every reason to expect better efficiency in delivering those plans which would reduce such cases of discrimination.
The delegation gave a general picture of what had been done and what was planned in the field of gender equality. A new law had been passed and others amended to ensure equal rights between men and women. The legislation provided for a 30 per cent quota for women in political parties, among deputies, members of parliament, and at other levels. All discrimination based on gender was prohibited.
Regarding the gender pay gap, a delegate explained that existing labour legislation guaranteed equality of pay for all citizens, but men were generally paid more than women because more men worked in high-level leadership posts where wages were higher. Also men worked in more difficult conditions, such as at night, which received a higher level of pay as well. The discrepancy was also due to women exercising their right not to work a full working week in order to devote more time to raising children. Women were prohibited from working at night, underground and in difficult and dangerous working conditions, with some exceptions. The average pay gap between men and women was 30 per cent.
An information campaign on equality in family obligations for men and women was planned. Further, despite the difficult economic situation, the State budget still planned to finance gender equality programmes until 2016.
The issue of discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the field of employment was being worked on by the Ministry of Social Policy and other Ministries. There was a State policy on the integration of persons with disabilities into the workplace.
Between 2011 and 2013, a successful programme was run on integrating Roma. Mediators were trained in the area of education, as were health workers and staff on promoting effective communication channels between Roma and State structures. There was also effective coordination with a Roma women’s organization. More than 10,000 Roma had been given a temporary address which meant they had been able to be registered for identity documents by the Ukrainian Roma Fund, and a further 2,000 Ukrainian passports had been issued to citizens of Roma origin. A booklet had been prepared with information on the registration procedure and passport applications.
The ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant was indeed under consideration, and the Head of the Delegation said he hoped within the next six months Ukraine would be able to submit a preliminary decision on whether it would ratify it.
Questions by the Experts
In 2006 HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were the leading causes of death among prison populations, and although the Government had taken measures, they were challenged by the lack of anti-retroviral drugs and other therapies. What measures were being taken to address the issue? Infant and maternal mortality were still high, and life expectancy at birth was relatively low. What was being done to tackle those problems?
An Expert recalled a former recommendation by the Committee that the State criminalize domestic violence. What follow up had that recommendation received? The Committee had been informed that child labour was a serious problem. Could the delegation please comment? What about the Committee’s 2008 recommendation on the facilities for and treatment of people held in refugee and immigration centres, especially concerning sanitation and healthcare?
If Ukraine was striving to be closer to the European Union, the Expert commented, it should recall that the European Union had expressed its view on its law on discrimination; what was being done to amend that law?
Ukraine’s laws penalizing drug use were extremely harsh, an Expert said, which was reflected in the prison population, of whom 18 per cent were in prison because of their drug use. That serious question was not just for Ukraine, as the prisons of many countries were overpopulated with drug users. But many countries were taking a more progressive view, the Expert said, giving the example of Uruguay which understood tackling the problem was not just about punitive measures but rather a medical question of treating the drug users. Even the United States, which was the biggest drug consuming country in the world, had changed its strategies for dealing with the problem, including by introducing alternatives to prison sentences for users. What policies could Ukraine introduce to alter its approach to the serious problem of drug use?
An Expert followed up to the statement by the Head of Delegation regarding reasons for the gender pay gap, when he said that women did not work a full week because they wanted to dedicate themselves to the family. The Expert said women often worked part-time not by choice but because there was no solution, such as no full-time childcare available for women who wanted to work full-time. What childcare services were available in Ukraine?
An Expert asked about the languages of instruction in schools. He said that German, Polish and Crimean languages suffered from a form of segregation, in that instruction in them was given in separate institutions. An Expert asked about the facilities for minorities to engage in cultural activities. The Expert asked about the Crimean Tatar language which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said was under serious threat of becoming extinct and disappearing. Had the State adopted any measures to reverse the trend? The Expert then quoted from High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s recent report, in which she said the drafting of new legislation on languages should not be hurried and should involve consultations with representatives of all minorities.
An Expert expressed concern that some representational authorities in Kyiv were not hiding their dislike of the Russian language and were falsifying history. He said that other measures they were taking included reducing the use of Russian language in schools, for example there were only six Russian language schools in Kiyv, no Russian-speaking kindergarten, and tuition in higher education establishments was only in Ukrainian. The use of Russian language was being restricted in the Ukrainian film industry, Ukrainian broadcasters were not showing Russian films, there were restrictions on the staging of plays by Russian authors, and cultural sites named after prominent Russians were being renamed. That was not in line with tolerance and friendship, the Expert said.
Response from the Delegation
On the subject of employment, the delegation spoke about measures taken to regulate informal workers, to support entrepreneurs and to promote investment in innovative activities. The minimum wage was 848 Ukrainian hryvnia.
Regarding the questions about child labour, the delegation replied that persons under the age of 16 years old could not be hired. The exceptions were when parental consent was given, and when they were over 14 years and the work was light and did not interfere with their schooling. Furthermore children under the age of 18 years could not work in hazardous conditions or underground, at night or weekends, or in overtime, nor carry out heavy work exceeding the prescribed weight limits, as prohibited by the Ministry of Health.
Returning to the subject of discrimination, raised several times by the Experts, the delegation said they did indeed note that the vote on the draft anti-discrimination law had been deferred. At the present time work was being done to take account of the recommendations of international experts from the European Union on the definition of terms, on increasing the list of forms of discrimination, and on liability and sanctions for those found guilty of discrimination. It was hoped that the next session of the Verkhovna Rada would be able to vote on the bill.
Regarding health insurance, a delegate said the methodological and financial resources had to be in place before a new system of medical insurance could be implemented. A system of medical insurance needed to take into account the economic potential of the State, in order to cover all members of the population regardless of their income. At the moment, the economic situation of the State did not allow the introduction of such a system.
The delegation spoke about the report of United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonovic following his mission to the Ukraine, which of course the Government recognized and was indeed studying very closely with a highly responsible attitude. Ukraine was doing everything possible to make sure the mission could function in the near future.
A delegate said the report of United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonovic, published 15 April 2014, stated that the law on languages remained in force despite it being an imperfect law, according to many European experts. The Rada wanted to draft a new bill on the development of languages in Ukraine which would replace the original bill. The new draft bill would be sent for consultation to bodies including the Venice Commission, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe and representatives of all national minorities, to receive their suggestions. That decision was taken before Mr. Šimonovic’s report was issued, the delegate noted. The Government had not had any information that minority parties had declined to take part in the consultation process, and would be grateful to know the source of such information.
The report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, who visited Ukraine at the start of April, cited evidence of inter-ethnic harmony within Ukrainian society, a delegate said. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur reported no sign of systemic violations of the rights of minority languages. The delegate quoted one of the conclusions of the Special Rapporteur, in which she said the majority of the people she met who identified as a member of a minority community, described a harmonious policy environment conducive to the protection of their rights, including cultural rights. Most of the people described conditions of non-discrimination in all spheres of life, and said cases of discrimination against them based on their minority status was rare, even at this time of heightened tensions. The findings of that report cast doubt on accusations that the Government of Ukraine had had a part in incitement to violence and ethnic hatred.
Regarding persons with disabilities, a delegate confirmed that according to current data there were 2,769,149 individuals – 6.2 per cent of the total population – living in Ukraine with a disability. Of those, there were some 165,000 children living with disabilities or congenital diseases. There were 324 accommodation centres for disabled persons which accommodated over 1,000 people. There were also centres for homeless people, and currently some 20,000 people were being handled in them.
Response by the Delegation
On gender equality, the delegate gave statistics on how many women had places in the Rada (parliament) and at all levels of local government, as well as on the board of companies. Regarding complaints of gender discrimination, the delegate described an expert council which worked to combat gender discrimination, and gave the example that in 2013 the council considered 18 applications of complaints from civilians and non-governmental organizations which resulted in eight discriminatory adverts being taken down.
Regarding the economy and consultations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a delegate said one IMF condition was to reduce the deficit in the pension fund. Other ways of alleviating the economic situation and reducing the deficit of Ukraine included raising tariffs for utilities. They had not been increased for a long time, but discrepancies at the local level led the Government to revaluate its tariff policies and decide to increase them. In line with conditions laid down by the IMF a reliable situation of social protection had been introduced for low-income families that struggled to pay the increased tariffs, as well as a programme of housing subsidies which cost not more than ten or 15 per cent of the family income. As the poverty level was approximately 24 per cent of the local population, the IMF said the housing subsidy alone was insufficient to ensure social protection for the poorest, so the Government also decided to pay compensation to families that did not benefit from the housing subsidy.
There were many provisions to support victims and eradicate domestic violence. A delegate highlighted an annual campaign called ’16 Days Against Violence’ led by legal bodies, and international and national non-governmental organizations, which was widely covered by the mass media. There were shelters and legal assistance available for victims. Last year some 990 people who had suffered domestic violence were assisted.
The delegation spoke about poverty-reduction measures. The high rate of poverty in some areas was linked to unemployment and was due to several reasons, including lack of competitively and entry into the labour market for young people, and other reasons. Social measures to help raise people out of poverty included child benefits which would help young families. By supporting the poorest families who could not exist without social benefits and State support, the Government hoped to help them come up above the poverty line.
Regarding the high infant and maternal mortality rate, the Government had improved maternal healthcare, and by 2012 had increased the number of natural births to 70 per cent, which reduced the number of birth complications and consequently halved the maternal mortality rate to approximately 12.5 of 100,000 live births. There has also been a two-third decrease in the number of still births, and a marked decrease in the mortality rate of children under five years to 11 of every 100,000 live births, thanks to the implementation of best practice and new technology. Child health facilities throughout the country were being reviewed, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was advising on a strategy to provide primary medical care to children.
The number of new HIV infections had dropped, and in 2012 the number of people diagnosed as HIV positive fell to 45.5 of every 100,000 of the population. There was a steady positive trend in the decrease in new HIV cases in young people, as well, with a fall of over 40 per cent in that age group.
Regarding the living conditions of the Roma minority, the Government planned to improve their access to housing. Roma children studied in general schools, free of charge, alongside children of other nationalities, a delegate explained. No complaints had been lodged by Roma about the education of their children. Roma children were being schooled, which helped their social adaptation. Several Roma non-governmental organizations were active in supporting the communities to realize their rights and communicate with the authorities.
The integration of Crimean Tatars into Ukrainian society was described. A delegate confirmed that the Rada had adopted a law recognizing the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Ukraine. Integration was strengthened through close communications by representatives at all levels of local and regional authority. On 20 March 2014 a decree was adopted which guaranteed the rights of the Crimean Tatars to remain Ukrainian citizens, and guaranteed their religious and cultural identity as an indigenous people. The inalienable right of the Crimean Tatars to be part of the sovereign State of Ukraine was recognized, as was their representation at all levels. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was also recognized. On 25 April 2014 the acting President of Ukraine signed a bill asserting the rights of deported persons, and the principles of State policy in their dealings with those individuals.
Regarding the language of instruction in schools, a delegate said today 15 schools used Crimean Tatar as their language of instruction. In the autonomous republic there was a secondary education with two or three languages of instruction. There were 27 schools that had Ukrainian, Tatar and Russian as their language of instruction, while 368 schools taught in Russian. The delegate spoke in detail about educational institutions in Crimea, some 56 of which taught in the Crimean language, and their system of language education. Language was the soul of the people and there were many cultural events which promoted minority languages, he said.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
In view of the recent annexation of the Crimean peninsula, what measures could be undertaken to ensure that those rights of the Crimean Tatars could continue to be promoted and protected, since the Government of Ukraine had no physical control, an Expert asked.
Response by the Delegation
The Head of the Delegation said they understood they were limited in implementing the humanitarian policy pursued in the last few years ensuring social guarantees for the Crimean Tatar population in the autonomous region of Crimea. It was very difficult to say what sort of activities Ukraine as a State could engage in to uphold the rights and guarantees of the Crimea Tatar sector of the population. At this state Ukraine could count on active international contributions in monitoring the situation in Crimea, and could signal any violations of their rights to the Committee.
VITALII MUSHCHYNIN, First Deputy Minister for Social Policy of Ukraine, said today’s dialogue had been a very important day that was full of resonance for Ukraine, which very much valued its interaction with the United Nations in strengthening the principle of the rule of law, especially given events occurring in Ukraine right now. The Government would continue to craft and implement a State humanitarian policy which would take into account ethnic, cultural and confessional diversity in Ukrainian society. It would improve its legislation to ensure equal access to social protection programmes and other reforms, paying particular attention to upholding the rights of citizens to free use of language and culture.
MOHAMED ABDEL-MONEIM, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Ukraine, said corruption and discrimination were two global epidemics, but he was sure Ukraine would continue to work on addressing their root causes. Mr. Abdel-Moneim took note of Ukraine’s negotiations with international financial institutions, and said it was up to a State party to consider whether limitations concerning subsidies would trigger social instability. He was sure Ukraine would uphold the principles of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during its negotiations. The report referenced the global economic crisis, but one had to ask whether it was the crisis that was the issue or the policies. Ukraine was a country with very, very significant economic and social infrastructure and a lot of potential. He thanked the delegation for the detailed information provided and the spirit in which it had approached today’s dialogue.
ZDISLAW KEDZIA, Chairperson of the Committee, in concluding remarks, expressed the wish that Ukraine’s problems would be resolved in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and sovereignty, and with the protection of all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee was encouraged by the Government’s determination to uphold those rights in the face of ongoing financial challenges and its declared wish to protect the most marginalized groups.
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