Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine must reject draft law № 4521 which harms volunteer and charitable organizations – joint statement of the civil society representatives

October 11, 2021

Non-governmental, charitable and volunteer organizations call on the MPs of Ukraine to reject  Draft Law No. 4521 “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Support for Volunteering”. Its adoption will pose a threat to the activities of organizations that engage foreign volunteers, as the procedure for engaging foreign volunteers will be significantly more complicated. The draft law is aimed at combating fictitious volunteer activities that foreigners allegedly use to obtain a residence permit in Ukraine. However, the proposed mechanisms are not effective and will not achieve the goal of the draft law.

More than 75 civil society organizations have already signed the petition, which lists key risks for volunteer organizations. On October 11, the position of the public sector was voiced by representatives of organizations implementing the project “Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity” and other NGOs  press conference in Kyiv.

“The common position of all organizations that joined the discussion of this draft law in April is to reject it as harmful and undemocratic,” said Anna Isichko, coordinator of the Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity Project from the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM). Experts identify several provisions of the draft law that harm the public sector. 

While now the organization simply informs the Ministry of Social Policy about a foreign volunteer, the new rules will require a permit from the ministry for each of them, volunteers will be checked by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Security Service of Ukraine, and the number of required documents will increase. Moreover, officials will be able to consider the application for up to 20 days – therefore CSOs will not be able to quickly attract volunteers if there is an urgent need. There is no procedure for appealing the refusal to grant such permission. 

“If we want to stimulate rather than limit volunteering in Ukraine, we need to see whether the draft law poses a threat. And there are many risks, because the draft law assigns non-typical functions to the Ministry of Social Policy that will lead to the bureaucratization of volunteers. A more complicated procedure for their engagement can threaten the high rates of development of volunteer organizations that we observe after the Revolution of Dignity, when concerned citizens get involved where the state does not have enough time to respond and help people in need,” said Anna.

“Draft Law 4521 attacks volunteering, Ukraine’s international European integration in every way and, worst of all, deprives Ukrainians of the opportunity to receive charitable assistance through international volunteer initiatives. Just have a look at cynical title of the draft law “..on support for volunteering…”, in fact in the text there is no support that will strengthen or improve volunteering. In fact, monitoring by intelligence services over the charitable work of international volunteers is being introduced. Thus, Ukrainian NGOs and charitable foundations must stand in line and ask for permission to engage an international volunteer from the National Police, the Security Service of Ukraine, the Migration Service and the Ministry of Social Policy. Draft Law 4521 does not address the problem of illegal labor migration at all and is completely illogical, because it forces foreigners who are already legally in Ukraine and who want to help on a volunteer basis to ask permission from a bunch of intelligent services,” said Maksym Latsyba, Head of the UCIPR Civil Society Development Program.

Draft Law No. 4521 was developed by the Ministry of Social Policy, and the document was initiated by the Cabinet of Ministers. The official goal of the project is to fight illegal migration. In an explanatory note, the authors claim that the invitation of foreign volunteers often becomes a cover for illegal entry into Ukraine, but does not provide any data. “We asked the State Migration Service, the Security Service of Ukraine and the police to confirm this, but we did not receive any answer. That is, either the state hides from us data on offenses, or they do not exist at all. Therefore, most likely, these allegations are unfounded,” said Vostok-SOS lawyer Daniil Popkov.

Roman Lozynskyi, MP (Holos faction), added that from his experience in the Scout Organization “Plast,” he understands the importance of the role of foreign partners, foreign friends with whom they worked together. “This draft law cannot be changed in the second reading. It must be rewritten, changed, because at the conceptual level it is harmful. We will discuss this, we have already agreed at the beginning of the next plenary week to talk in detail with colleagues from the inter-factional union. I would like to add that in my opinion, any draft law should be based on specific data, and it is very important that draft law for volunteers not be developed without the participation of volunteers. I think this should serve as a lesson for the government,” he said.

The Head of the ZMINA Human Rights Center, Tetiana Pechonchyk, noted that their human rights organization constantly engages foreign volunteers, most of whom are Belarusians who are forced to leave their country. According to her, this draft law is one of the 10 laws dangerous for civil society, which are now registered in parliament, and is the only one submitted by the Cabinet – all the others were submitted by MPs. She added that in most countries the same legal regime is applied to foreign volunteers and volunteers-citizens.

In the joint statement, human rights activists and experts called on the Verkhovna Rada to reject Draft Law No. 4521 “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Support for Volunteering”.

We invite CSOs to join the common position! We encourage our partners to use the hashtag #Відхилити4521 when sharing this statement on social media.

The event was organized as part of the Project Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity implemented by the Initiative Center to Support Social Action “Ednannia” in partnership with the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (UCIPR) and Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM) with the sincere support of the American people through United States Agency for International Development.