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Labor Initiative is working with the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Valeria Lutkovska on the campaign “Solidarity Against Corruption,” which aims to combine the anti-corruption efforts of the Ombuds’ office with the grassroots solidarity work of Labor Initiative and partner trade unions.

On February 23, trade unions, NGOs, and the Ombuds’ office met at the Labor Initiative worker rights center in Kyiv to discuss the project and recommit to the effort for 2017.  Participants shared their experiences and discussed next steps, in particular working to improve Ukraine’s legal protections for workplace rights, for whistleblowers, and for broader freedom of association.

The participants discussed how corruption fundamentally threatens Ukraine’s progress on democratic reforms.

Human Rights Ombuds Valeria Lutkovska said, “Creating effective mechanisms for the realization worker rights, including the right to strike and whistleblower protections, will help the defense of human rights and the development of democracy in Ukraine.”

Tristan Masat, Ukraine Country Director of the Solidarity Center, told participants that “without a serious struggle against corruption, especially at the top level, efforts to improve the socio-economic situation in Ukraine will remain fragile. Every day there are examples of impunity. Reforms cannot take root alongside this top-level corruption. The environment undermines other progress on reforms, especially threatening the public’s faith in government and democracy. We are excited to help Labor Initiative and the Ombud’s office in the much-needed effort to broaden the struggle against corruption.”

Mykhailo Volynets, President of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine also spoke in support of the need for a systematic approach to the fight against corruption, which he said requires the cooperation of trade unions and human rights activists. “The future of Ukrainian society greatly depends on the success of the fight against the disease of corruption, especially in light of the current political situation and the growing threat of a social upheaval.”

According to Labor Initiative staff speaking at the event, corruption in Ukraine cannot be understood as just a matter of public politics, it encompasses the private sector, individual relationships, and occurs at all levels of the economy.  In 2016 the Corruption Perception Index ranked Ukraine as 131 out of the 171 included countries.  Although there is progress, including in areas such as procurement, the general environment remains toxic to sustainable social and economic development.

NGOs take a leading role in the struggle against corruption, but there is a need to approach the issue in broad alliances to be truly effective.  Civil society, including mass membership organizations such as trade unions, can provide key support to institutions that are engaged in building transparency and rights protection.

The project is supported by the Solidarity Center and partner Ukrainian trade unions.