Uniting for the Electoral Rights of Ukraine’s Internally Displaced Community
On March 24, 2017, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) partnered with the Group of Influence and Civil Network OPORA to hold an international conference titled, “Ensuring Electoral Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Ukraine.” The conference was organized in Kyiv, within the framework of the United Kingdom (UK) government-supported “Strengthening Electoral Preparedness and Political Participation in Ukraine” project. It is a part of an ongoing, united effort led by IFES to strengthen democratic progress in Ukraine, supported by the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada, and the UK government.
The conference accents a period of growing consensus on the part of key stakeholders, including civil society leaders and Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) members, on a new bill that is to be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada for consideration. The bill proposes to eliminate key barriers to IDP enfranchisement in Ukraine, and to guarantee full voting rights to a large segment of Ukraine’s electorate, including IDPs and internal economic migrants; the latter also face electoral obstacles arising from antiquated and overly burdensome registration requirements.
Through this conference, participants highlighted legal and administrative barriers faced by IDPs regarding voting in local and parliamentary (majoritarian) elections in Ukraine. Participants discussed international standards and good practice in this area as well as assessments and recommendations stemming from a national awareness and advocacy campaign led by IDPs. The gathering also included a presentation by IFES Director of Monitoring and Evaluation and Survey Research Rakesh Sharma of IFES’ recent, national, face-to-face survey that examined IDPs’ levels of awareness and attitudes toward the political and electoral process in Ukraine.
The event was opened by a distinguished panel of guests, including the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine Judith Gough, IFES Board Director and President of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Central Election Commission (CEC) Irena Hadžiabdić, Deputy Chairperson of the CEC of Ukraine Zhanna Usenko-Chorna, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs Yuri Grymchak, and Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations Grygoriy Nemyrya. They were joined by Chairperson of the CEC of Georgia Tamar Zhvania, alongside national and international experts, representatives from civil society, government, ministries, the Verkhovna Rada, and the diplomatic corps.
“Ensuring IDPs’ electoral rights is not only important for IDPs themselves. It is crucial on a broader plane: for the legitimacy of the electoral process overall and the practice of good governance. It is imperative that Ukraine’s IDPs have a voice – and a vote – in determining the future direction of the country, including how best to approach the truly urgent imperative of building peace.”
– Judith Gough, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine
IFES, through the support of the UK government, facilitated a range of activities designed to give a voice to Ukraine’s IDPs and to strengthen their ability to communicate their aspirations and desires at the national level. Additionally, IFES provided support to legislative deliberations and technical expertise to drafting efforts with an eye to international standards and good practice in the area of IDP enfranchisement.