Volunteers and volunteer organizations make a huge contribution to solving Ukraine’s social problems, saving budget resources. In order to increase volunteer assistance and introduce best international volunteering practices, civil society organizations involve Ukrainian and foreign volunteers.
In order to develop the volunteer movement in Ukraine, changes in the current legislation on volunteering in Ukraine should not restrict public organizations and institutions to attract foreigners and stateless persons in Ukraine or complicate such an order.
The agenda of the sixth session of October 6, 2021 of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine includes the draft Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Support of Volunteering” № 4521. The changes provide for:
Currently, the process of involving a foreign volunteer and a stateless person by public organizations and institutions is informative. However, the draft law provides for organizations to obtain the appropriate permission from the Ministry of Social Policy. The project also increased the list of documents that are mandatory for a public organization to include in the list of organizations that have the right to attract foreigners and stateless persons. In addition, there is a requirement to conclude an agreement with a foreign volunteer on volunteering and submit to the Ministry of Social Policy a certified copy of the permit of a foreigner and a stateless person to process his personal data. In general, the proposed changes significantly increase the bureaucratic burden on public organizations and institutions that involve foreigners and stateless persons in volunteering.
According to the National Classification of Ukraine DK 009: 2010 “Classification of economic activities” the main type of economic activity of a religious organization is determined by the code 94.91 “Activities of religious organizations”. The draft law stipulates that the right to attract foreigners and stateless persons only belongs to non-profit organizations operating under codes 88.99 “Provision of other social assistance without accommodation,” and 94.99 “Activities of other public organizations”. This means that religious organizations will be limited in their ability to attract foreign volunteers.
According to the draft law, public organizations and institutions must submit an application to the Ministry of Social Policy for the involvement of every foreigner and every stateless person no later than 20 calendar days before the date of involvement. The volunteer candidate must be outside Ukraine. This procedure does not allow to promptly and timely attract additional resources to provide urgent volunteer assistance.
If a non-governmental organization or institution submits an application for the involvement of a foreign volunteer and receives a refusal after verification of information by law enforcement agencies, the draft law does not provide for the process of appealing such refusals to the Ministry of Social Policy. The procedure for appealing against the refusal to involve foreign volunteers and stateless persons in court requires additional time and financial resources from public organizations and institutions.
The draft law proposes to check foreigners and stateless persons who are already on the territory of Ukraine and want to join the implementation of volunteer activities. It is planned to use the same verification procedure provided for foreign volunteers and stateless persons who need a temporary residence permit in Ukraine. Given that the draft law is designed to prevent foreigners and stateless persons from obtaining a temporary residence permit in Ukraine, additional verification of information about persons already in Ukraine is an unjustified expenditure of law enforcement resources and will make it impossible to quickly involve such persons in volunteering.
The draft law provides for the right of the Ministry of Social Policy to apply to recipients of volunteer assistance in order to verify the facts of its provision by a foreigner, a stateless person. If such information is not confirmed, the NGO or institution will be deprived of the opportunity to attract foreign volunteers. It does not take into account the fact that, for example, in the provision of first aid (man-made) in emergencies of man-made and natural nature, during mass sports and cultural events, participation in the distribution of humanitarian aid, identification of a volunteer may be difficult or impossible. This creates risks of formal inspections and unjustified exclusion from the list of organizations and institutions that involve foreigners, stateless persons in volunteering in Ukraine.
Counteraction to illegal migration, including verification of information, which is the basis for obtaining a temporary residence permit, is not the task of the Ministry of Social Policy, but belongs to the exclusive competence of the State Migration Service of Ukraine. The use of existing legal instruments, in particular those provided for in Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine № 322, allows regulating the stay of foreigners and stateless persons on the territory of Ukraine by issuing and revoking a temporary residence permit. Accordingly, the legislation on volunteering cannot be considered as a form of control over the illegal receipt of temporary residence permits.
The idea of legal regulation of volunteering in Ukraine requires careful study of the peculiarities of domestic practice and elaboration of the implementation of European best practices of volunteering simultaneously with a preliminary inclusive dialogue on the principles and legal mechanisms of such regulation with all stakeholders.
The position of civil society organizations was formed as a result of expert discussion of draft law № 4521, which was held on April 26, 2021 by the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law and the Ukrainian Independent Center for Political Studies within the project “Sectoral Support to Civil Society Initiative”.
Given the threats posed by the draft law on the involvement of NGOs and institutions of foreigners and stateless persons to volunteer, we urge MPs of Ukraine not to support the draft Law of Ukraine № 4521 “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Support of Volunteering”.