Statement made at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council  (27 February to 24 March 2017) under Item 10: Technical assistance and capacity-building, Interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Ukraine

Picture of Katrin Geyer speaking into a microphone.

Katrin Geyer from WILPF International reading the statement at the Human Rights Council.

The humanitarian consequences of the conflict in the east of Ukraine have significantly affected civilians in the conflict area and have had an impact throughout the whole country. Parts of the population are on the brink of survival. In this statement, we draw attention to some of the policies and measures having a particular impact on women’s economic and social rights in Ukraine.

The situation remains extremely difficult for IDPs and those living in rural areas, where about 1/3 of the total population is located; most IDPs and rural residents are women [1].

Since the spring of 2016, the Government has systematically blocked social payments for IDPs depriving them of the right to essential social benefits, such as pensions, payments for maternity leave and assistance for childcare. Without reference to an IDP certificate, they have been facing major difficulties in securing the most basic means of survival [2].

Like the High Commissioner for Human Rights, we are concerned that at least 160,000 pensioners residing in territory controlled by armed groups have been deprived of their pensions since November 2014 [3]. WILPF supports the High Commissioner’s recommendations that the Government de-link access to pensions from IDP registration and elaborate a mechanism “through which social entitlements including pensions are paid and accessible to all eligible persons, irrespective of where they live and with particular attention afforded to persons living in conflict-affected areas.”[4]

Conditionalities linked to increased interventions by international financial institutions, mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have had a devastating impact on the population and on women in particular. WILPF, jointly with several Ukrainian NGOs, highlighted such impact in a report to the CEDAW Committee for its review of Ukraine last month.[5]

Some of the conditions attached to the provision of IMF funding are: the elimination of fuel subsidies, which has caused higher prices for gas, heating, electricity and transportation; and sweeping spending cuts on areas such as health, education and social services. One of the consequences of these cuts has been that 12,000 social workers and 25,000 healthcare professionals employed by the State lost their jobs and so did 160,000 civil servants. The reduction in public spending has disproportionately affected women in two ways: firstly, women tend to be among the primary beneficiaries of social spending. Secondly, women tend to be employed in the sectors where most jobs were cut.

WILPF urges the Human Rights Council to call on Ukraine to:

  • conduct human rights, gender and environmental impact assessments before accepting conditionalities linked to funding from IMF or other international financial institutions;
  • raise the outcomes of these assessments with these funding institutions; and
  • identify and implement alternative policies that can limit the negative impact of austerity measures on the population.

[1] For more information, see page 5 and 12 in the report by WILPF and others to the CEDAW Committee The Effects of Intervention by International Financial Institutions on Women’s Human Rights in Ukraine, available in English and Ukrainian.
[2] For more information, see page 9-15 of report cited in endnote 1.
[3] See paragraph 108, OHCHR Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, 15 March 2017.
[4] See paragraph 167 (f), of OHCHR Report. See also page 12 of report cited in endnote 1.
[5] See endnote 1.