Major changes are happening to Ukraine’s democracy. We’ve been up and down the country listening to what students and young people have to say about the big issues and engaging them in a debate competition on constitutional changes “The Constitution: the road to change”
We went to Kyiv to debate changes to the Central Election Commission shortly after President Poroshenko put forward 11 new candidates in a long overdue process. The debating team from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy proposed open competition for new members to boost public trust and take the politics out of appointments.
While the team from the Open Ukraine Foundation Youth Community argued that appointments should be made in proportion to the size of the parties in parliament.
In the last three years, Ukraine has created 350 new local authorities in a big drive towards decentralisation. We travelled to Vinnytsia to debate the controversial changes.
Vinnytsia’s local debating club argued that proposed changes could encourage separatism and lead to security threats
Donetsk National Vasyl Stus University countered that the reforms would formalise the decentralisation process, allowing new financial resources to be allocated to local public services.
Human Rights are under threat in Ukraine from corruption, poor transparency and a weak justice system. 31 debating teams from across Ukraine gathered for the Rector’s Cup in Kharkiv to have their say on what to do about it.
Debaters discussed a broad range of issues from access to internet as a basic human right and positive discrimination, to human rights during wars, and education rights for children.
We returned to Kyiv to debate reforms to the Constitutional Court – a lot is changing, including open contest for judges, new powers to review claims of citizens and businesses, and greater independence of the court.
The European Youth of Ukraine argued that members of the selection commission should be proposed in equal measure between the President, parliament, Congress of Judges and civil society groups.
Open Ukraine Foundation Youth Community disagreed, saying the selection commission should be drawn from the best former Constitutional Court judges with strict tests applied.
On to Odesa to debate ‘constitutional complaints’ – a legal novelty in Ukraine which allows citizens and companies to make complaints against the state.
National University “Odessa Academy of Law” (NUOAL) team supported the full introduction of constitutional complaints, arguing it protects rights and freedoms and is supported by international bodies like the Venice Commission.
A second team from NUOAL argued that the Constitutional Court could be overloaded with complaints, harming the quality of the Court’s decisions.
Meanwhile, DRI held a national essay competition for students and invited the participants and budding writers for a day of training from a journalist, think tank researcher, and legal writers.