Ukraine

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Persistent violations
  • High incidence of domestic violence [1]
  • Trafficking of children [2]
  • Stereotypes in school text books [3]
  • Exploitative child labour, including in the sex trade [4]
  • High number of children deprived of their family environment and the poor quality of State care for these children [5]
  • High number of street children and their vulnerability to drug use [6]
  • Obstacles for Roma and Crimean Tatar children in accessing education, health care and other social services [7]
  • Lack of a separate juvenile justice system [8]

For full details, go here

Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Committee against Torture, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee against Torture, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Children, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also commented on Roma children
  8. UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Universal Periodic Review, Working Group on arbitrary detention



Introduction

Український

An Eastern European country bordering the Russian Federation, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, the Ukraine is the largest solely European country. The first years of independence from the USSR were marked by economic turmoil and creeping authoritarianism, culminating in the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005, which replaced one government but failed to permanently resolve concerns of corruption and electoral interference. Child labour, particularly the high number of young girls involved in sex work, is a major problem in the Ukraine, as is domestic violence and child trafficking.

An Eastern European country bordering the Russian Federation, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, the Ukraine is the largest solely European country. The first years of independence from the USSR were marked by economic turmoil and creeping authoritarianism, culminating in the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005, which replaced one government but failed to permanently resolve concerns of corruption and electoral interference. Child labour, particularly the high number of young girls involved in sex work, is a major problem in the Ukraine, as is domestic violence and child trafficking.


Geography

Ukraine is located on the Black Sea coast and shares borders with Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Russia to the East. It is the second largest State in Europe after Russia. The capital city is Kiev.

Population and language

In the early nineties, at the fall of the Soviet Union, the population was 50 million. In 2010, the population of the Ukraine was approximately 46 million and is still decreasing, despite government incentives to increase the number of children per family. According to the 2001 census, Ukrainians make up 78 per cent of the population, Russians 17 per cent. The remaining five per cent is composed of minorities from neighbouring countries including Belarusians, Moldovans as well as members of the Crimean Tatar and Jewish communities.

Ukrainian is the official language. Russian is also widely spoken by the majority of the population.

History and Politics

For centuries the Ukraine was dominated by a succession of foreign powers. Frequently the site of bloody confrontations between empires and kingdoms, notable historical battles have been fought in the Ukraine between Russians, Poles, Swedes, Turks and other regional powers. By the late nineteenth century, most of the modern Ukraine was dominated by either the Russian or Austro-Hungarian empires. The dawn of the twentieth century saw an upsurge in nationalist and radical political sentiments, particularly in the slightly more liberal areas of Austrian control. When these two empires went to war in 1914, Ukrainian troops fought on both sides. With the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, however, several competing Ukrainian nationalist movements sought to fill the gap left behind - a process further accelerated with the subsequent crumbling of the Austro-Hungarian empire as well. The subsequent Civil war in the Ukraine saw Socialist, Liberal, Nationalist and Anarchist columns marching against each other, as well as a bloody war between Ukranian and Polish troops in the west of the country. Intervention by the Soviet Red army saw the east of the country assimilated into the Soviet Union in 1919 while the West became part of Poland.

The inter war period saw dissatisfaction with Polish rule in the West and devastation in the East. Failed Soviet economic policies, a brutal policy of collectivisation and forcible export of food to Russia saw the creation of a cataclysmic famine that killed millions of Ukrainians. Additionally, during the 1930s, renewed attempts to suppress national identity by the Soviet Union saw hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, primarily political and cultural figures, executed or deported. During the Second World War the Ukraine was on the front line of the Axis-Soviet confrontation. Looking to escape Soviet rule, some Ukrainian troops fought alongside Axis forces, while others formed partisan units to support the Red Army's advance. The Ukraine was the site of numerous atrocities, including the mass slaughter of its Jewish population by Axis forces.

With Soviet triumph on the Eastern Front, Ukraine returned to Soviet control as a Socialist Republic within the USSR and soon became a centre of industry. The post war period was initially characterised by repression, particularly against Ukrainian nationalists, ethnic German and Tartar populations. The premiership of Nikita Khrushchev, however, saw less overt repression and some limited moves towards putting the Ukraine on a more equal footing. The Ukraine's industrial development would prove to have disastrous consequences, however, in 1986 when the countries first ever nuclear power plant, located near the cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat, went into meltdown. The subsequent radioactive disaster led to the evacuation of millions of people who lived in the surrounding area and lead to the sealing off of the site as a quarantined zone, still maintained to this day.

In 1991 Ukraine achieved independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. While independence was initially greeted with great optimism, with the Ukraine's strong industrial base expected to ensure growth and prosperity in years to come, the country suffered immensely from a recession during the 1990s. At the same time, the democratic revolution that had brought independence to the Ukraine in the first place was seen to have been undermined by the second president Leonid Kuchma who was accused of election fraud, widespread corruption and empowering a class of oligarchs. In 2004, Kuchma's former prime minister, Victor Yanukovich, won an election largely considered to be fraudulent against the reformist, pro-European Victor Yushenko. Yushenko challenged this result through the courts and, leading a popular movement known as the Orange Revolution, had the result overturned in 2006.


His premiership brought hopes of further democratisation, better living standards, and important reforms. However, his presidency was characterised by mismanagement and intense political intrigues with, among others, his political ally turned foe, Julia Timoshenko. As a result, in early 2010, Victor Yanukovich, now largely seen as a pro-Russian candidate, was elected president. In the months that followed his election, Yanukovich signed a series of agreements with Russia including the extension of Russia’s lease on naval facilities in the Black Sea until 2042 in exchange for discounts on Russian gas. For many political observers such measures were a symbol of Ukraine’s rapprochement with Russia.

Economy

Post independence Ukraine was the second richest of the former Soviet states in terms of agricultural and industrial production. By 1999, however, the country’s output had fallen to less than 40 per cent of the 1991 level. Things did improve in the following years and, from 2001-2008, economic growth in Ukraine averaged 7.5 per cent [1]. Due to a lack of structural reforms, corruption and aggressive foreign borrowing, however, the Ukraine today remains vulnerable to external shocks and highly dependent on Russia for its energy supplies. In 2009, as a result of the world economic crisis, the country’s GDP or real growth rate fell from 7.9 per cent 2007 to minus 15.1%, significantly contracting on the preceding year. Its main agricultural products are grain and sugar beets, its primary industries are coal, electric power, and metals. Ukraine’s main trading partner is Russia.


Media and Civil Society

Ukraine has risen in Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index in the past few years. However, RWB has expressed concern about increasing restrictions on media activities and harassment of journalists since the presidential election in early 2010 [2]. A number of journalists working for privately-owned television station TVi have urged the president to prevent interference in their work by SBU, the country’s main security agency.

In addition, the Commission for Establishing Freedom of Expression has now been dissolved and incorporated into the president's office, reports RWB.

Human Rights and Children's Rights

According to the World Bank, the percentage of people living below the poverty line in the Ukraine has dropped dramatically in recent years – from 32 per cent in 2001 to eight per cent in 2005 [3]. The number of children without parental care has been increasing steadily since the fall of the Soviet Union, a testament to increasing social problems especially in the more rural and less developed provinces of the country. According to UNICEF, within a decade - from the mid 90s onwards - the number of children without parental care doubled in the Ukraine. UNICEF has that adolescent girls aged 10-19 make up some 20 per cent of the sex worker population [4]. It further notes that the prevalence of HIV among female sex workers aged 15-19 is around 19 per cent [5]. In response to this situation, Ukraine is working to lower the age of parental consent for teenagers seeking medical services [6] The Committee on the Rights of the Child has raised concerns about the high rate of suicide, drug use and mental health issues affecting adolescents[7]

Footnotes:

  1. World Bank "Ukraine: Country Brief 2010"
  2. Reporters Without Borders, "Disturbing Deterioration in Press Freedom Situation since New President Took Over", 15 April 2010
  3. World Bank, Human Development Sector Unit , Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova Country Unit , Europe and Central Asia Region, "Ukraine: Poverty Update", 20 June 2007
  4. UNICEF Blame and Banishment: The underground HIV epidemic affecting children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, July 2010, p. 19
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid p.25
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations, February 2011

Sources:


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