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CSOs ask the government to rework the draft bills on lobbyism

29.11.2023, 16:56
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Civil society organizations call on the Cabinet of Ministers to give the draft laws on lobbying submitted by the NACP back for revision and to ensure further meaningful, open and inclusive consultations on such projects by the end of 2023.

The public issued such a statement on November 29.

The organizations remark that the National Agency for Corruption Prevention released two draft bills on lobbying in Ukraine on November 6, 2023. Both drafts, the statement says, were prepared by the NACP with no involvement from public organizations and no consideration for the Council of Europe's comments during further revision.

The draft bills in question are the Law of Ukraine "On Honest Lobbying and Advocacy in Ukraine" and "On Amendments to the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses Regarding Lobbying and Advocacy Violations."

According to the statement, the draft bills submitted by the NACP may impede the work of civil society institutions, complicate the involvement of their expertise and the development on necessary changes to the legislation. The reason being that the draft bills prepared by the NACP essentially consider advocacy as a form of lobbying.

According to the draft bills, public organizations must voluntarily add themselves to the Transparency Register and publish annual "general reports on each subject of advocacy and on the sources of funding for their advocacy in free form" to do any advocacy work.

"The NACP's commitment to preserving the clauses regulating advocacy go against the opinions expressed at public consultations. This can only be perceived as an intention to create a bridgehead for further pressure on civil society associations and a conducive environment for constraining the work of public organisations," the statement reads.

During the consultations with the NACP, the CSOs insisted on removing public organizations that advocate for social change from the scope of the law. However, these proposals were not taken into account. The NACP has already forwarded both draft bills to the Cabinet of Ministers, which is supposed to submit them for parliamentary consideration.

Furthermore, the CSOs point out other shortcomings of the draft bills:

  • The scope of the draft bills extends to the citizens exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms.
  • Several provisions that were positively assessed by the Council of Europe (for example, regarding officials' duty to disclose their contacts with lobbyists, etc.) have been removed from the draft bills.
  • Certain regulations, some of which do not align with the Constitution of Ukraine, international standards and European best practices in lobbying, have been added. Some of these new provisions were not discussed during public consultations (e.g., the ban on lobbying for changes to the Constitution, etc.).
  • The draft bills provide for administrative liability for lobbying-related violations, but do not specify who exactly should enforce the penalties.
  • The drafts do not oblige officials to disclose their contacts with lobbyists.

The CSOs also point out that the draft bills do not meet any of the three recommendations by the European Commission in terms of their content and the process of their discussion. The European Commission's recommendations, issued on November 8, 2023, say that the law regulating lobbying should meet European standards; be the result of an open and inclusive discussion with a wide range of stakeholders (including civil society organizations) and broad public consultations; should not constrain the legal work of civil society organizations or impose a disproportionate administrative burden on such organizations.

The NGOs call on the Cabinet of Ministers to give the draft bills submitted by the NACP back for revision and to ensure that the NACP holds further meaningful, open and inclusive consultations on such projects before the end of 2023.

"Such consultations should result in bringing the draft bills into line with international standards, taking into account the recommendations by the Council of Europe and participants in the previous and future discussions, namely in terms of removing the work of CSOs and advocacy from the scope of the draft bills on lobbying," the statement reads.

The organizations also ask the government to submit the draft bills reworked by the NACP to the parliament no later than March 20, 2024, provided that they are in line with European standards, and that the provisions of the projects take into account the preliminary recommendations by the Council of Europe and the stakeholders' proposals.

At the same time, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is urged to immediately adopt in the second reading and pass as a law the October 23, 2020 draft bill No. 4254 "On public consultations", which will include provisions on mandatory public consultations regarding the draft bills introduced by Ukrainian deputies.

You can sign the petition here. It has been signed by over 80 CSOs so far.

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