Press conference: Presentation of the analytical report “Code of Ethics for Parliamentarians: Structure, Content, Topics. Realities and Suggestions for Ukraine”

On September 7, 2017, the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center hosted a presentation of the analytical report “Code of Ethics for Parliamentarians: Structure, Content, Topics. Realities and Suggestions Concerning Codification”, which was attended by:

  • Svitlana Matviyenko, Chairwoman of the Board of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives;
  • Ihor Kohut, Director of the USAID RADA Program;
  • Olena Sotnyk, MP of Ukraine;
  • Ostap Yednak, MP of Ukraine;
  • Serhiy Leshchenko, MP of Ukraine.

This report was drawn up within the framework of the project of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives “Support to Democratic Political Culture in the Verkhovna Rada Political Dialogue and Ethical Standards”. The report aims to summarize the discussions of MPs of Ukraine, international experts, OSCE ODIHR experts and other stakeholders on the basis of the dialogue platform that ensures an inclusive process of the elaboration of a Code of Parliamentary Ethics coming from parliamentarians themselves. In addition, the document proposes a codification of the existing legislation in the areas covered by the Code.

Discussions based on the dialogue platform will make up the basis for the future Code of Ethics for Parliamentarians and are subject to broad discussion.

Svitlana Matviienko, Chairwoman of the Board of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, stressed the following:

This report is an important intermediate step towards the adoption of the Code. It summarizes MPs’ discussions held in the Verkhovna Rada for several months. The codification contained in the report will boost MPs’ awareness of ethical dilemmas and provide the basis for the future Code. The Code of Parliamentary Ethics is not only about the subtleties of ethical conduct; due to the lack of trust in deputies and the Verkhovna Rada as a whole, this Code is a necessity of our parliamentary reality.

Ihor Kohut, Director of the USAID RADA Program, pointed out the following:

The issues of parliamentary ethics are included in the roadmap for the reform of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and this was made possible due to the long-term work of partner organizations that raised the topic. This topic has resonated with many members of the Ukrainian parliament who have contributed to the discussion of the principles and provisions of the Code by convincing their colleagues-parliamentarians. We only provided expert support and a platform. Drafting of such a code is one of the expected outcomes of the USAID RADA program. We are grateful to our partners for the great contribution to this cause, and to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada for the support of the initiative.

Olena Sotnyk, MP of Ukraine, said the following:

Today, when the Ukrainian parliament has the lowest level of trust among all other state institutions, we urgently need to look for tools that can restore people’s confidence. The initiated dialogue on the standards of parliamentary ethics, rules of conduct, and conflict of interest is beginning to change the voters’ view of the deputy they would like to elect. This process inevitably changes the behavior of politicians themselves. Only when people realize that decisions affecting their lives are taken in accordance with well-established ethical rules, standards, and procedures, will they have more confidence in such decisions and in the parliament as a whole. In addition, the very process of drafting a code of parliamentary ethics will be the first step towards standardizing the behavior of parliamentarians since they will have to personally determine whether the behavior is acceptable. Thus, they will familiarize themselves with current models and experiences. In the future, the implementation of this Code will bring the work of the Ukrainian parliament closer to the standards of developed and civilized European countries. The adoption of a code of parliamentary ethics is important, first of all, for Ukrainian citizens, who deserve to have deputies who represent their will in a decent and professional manner.

Ostap Yednak, MP of Ukraine, remarked,

The elaboration and adoption of a Code of Parliamentary Ethics is a logical and necessary step in the development of Ukrainian parliamentarism and professionalization of politics. Various people are elected to the Ukrainian parliament – with different backgrounds, education, experience, and ideological convictions. Every convocation, the Parliament is renewed. Therefore, I would like the document drafted within this convocation to become a behavior reference point for current and future parliamentarians, to get integrated into the parliamentary tradition and legislation, and to become imperative. The Code should strengthen Parliament as a democratic institution.

Serhiy Leshchenko, MP of Ukraine, said,

The Code of Parliamentary Ethics is a tool for preventing conflicts of interest and averting corruption risks. In civilized countries, it has long been settled that politicians cannot deal with state policy issues in a field where they have a personal stake. Because there is always a risk of blackmailing or rewriting rules as they see fit. If you have a business manufacturing equipment for railroads, you cannot head the committee on transport. But Dubnevych can. If you have a bank, you do not have the right to be a member of the bank committee. But Demchak and Klimov can. By blocking conflicts of interest, we prevent corruption. It is much easier and more effective than tolerating conflicts of interest and then investigating criminal cases for years, wasting state resources, and involving the repressive arms of the state. Therefore, a Code of Parliamentary Ethics should resolve this issue in the Verkhovna Rada, bringing it closer to the standards of the European Parliament.

The activities are carried out within the framework of the project of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives “Support for Democratic Political Culture in Parliament via Political Dialogue and Ethical Standards” implemented with the support of MATRA Program (Netherlands Embassy) and in partnership with the OSCE ODIHR Project “Strengthening Dialogue Among Civil Society and With Key Government Stakeholders in Ukraine on Human Dimension Issues”, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, and USAID RADA Program: Responsible Accountable Democratic Assembly implemented by East Europe Foundation.

For more information, contact Project Coordinator, Agency for Legislative Initiatives, Uliana Poltavets 044 531 3738, 063 180 3083, u.poltavets@laboratory.kiev.ua

Photos: Ukraine crisis media center