New laws for NGOs – Dramatic and radical changes for the better (possibly)April 24, 2012
As I have written here before many times about NGOs, civil society and Ukrainian academia, occasionally in a supportive way when writing about specific individual NGOs, but also in a robust and critical way when writing about them in general, I should not let the new radically and dramatically better Ukrainian laws relating to NGOs pass unnoticed.
I have issues with NGOs collectively in Ukraine as anybody who puts “NGOs” in the search facility of this blog will see, however the RADA, with massive bipartisan support, has passed a significant piece of legislation that comes into effect in January 2013 which may (or not) dramatically improve the below par performance of most Ukrainian NGOs.
Certainly it will dramatically increase the number of NGOs and civil society groups, but as we all know, quantity does not always deliver quality.
To summarise the main features of the new law, actively lobbied for by Yuri Miroshnichenko (Party of Regions) and Andriy Shevchenko (BYuT, and no, not the footballer of the same name) it reduces the registration time from what is currently a month or more to about a week, there is no longer a need for 42 like-minded people to stand up and be counted as part of a NGO and the 23 documents required for registration have been slashed comprehensively to 4.
Not for profits will be able to register without any fees whatsoever and conduct business activities and thus raise funds to continue and expand.
The new law no longer regionalises NGOs to activities within the region of registration but allows for national activity regardless of location of registration and allows NGOs to act on behalf of those who have no connection with that NGO.
In short a very heavy bureaucratic and unevenly applied boot will be removed from the neck of NGOs and civil society in January 2013.
Excellent news for small, local NGOs and civil society groups who we will hopefully see begin to hold local administrations more accountable in a much more formal and publicised fashion.
Maybe the expatriate and immigrant community will form a NGO and hold State agencies like the OVIR to account for the inconsistent and foggy interpretations they apply to the immigration laws or the customs service that applies random “taxes” that differ from one point of import to another. Blimey! If so, I volunteer to be part of the Odessa regional infrastructure of such an NGO. (I am joking, perseverance and patience is all that is required to win those frustrating battles.)
I would be interested in any newly formed human rights, human trafficking, rule of law or domestic violence NGOs that may appear in Odessa. I may actually be an asset to a newly formed NGO/NFP in Odessa. Who knows?
The new law is also something of a god-send for the EU, who, having given up on the dysfunctional Ukrainian opposition and being stone-walled by the current government over several issues, have decided on a public strategy of NGO/civil society engagement for Ukraine at great expense through numerous platforms.
All very exciting! It will be even more exciting if government, society and academia will actually agree on what civil society actually is. On that note, I will leave you with an excellent piece by Michael Edwards contemplating exactly that.
I should also thank Sir Mike Aaronson, for bring Mr Edwards’ sterling article to my attention two days ago. – Thank you Sir Mike (but no cheque in the post for your timely assistance!)
Still, a good piece of legislation passed. Let’s hope that civil society and quality NGOs will flourish under the new law when it comes into effect, as the current landscape is somewhat barren to put it politely.
(By the way, the law passed with 334 votes in favour from those present in the RADA at the time of voting. The only party not to vote in favour was the cancerous Communist Party – No surprises there!)