Ukraine not forgotten: France expresses solidarity and support to populations affected by the conflict in Donbass

Mr. François Croquette

On 7 May 2019 Ukraine NGO Forum hosted an important meeting of Mr. François Croquette, Human Rights Ambassador of the French Republic, and the Embassy of the French Republic in Ukraine with humanitarian NGOs, working in the east of Ukraine to support the conflict-affected population: People in Need (PIN), Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH), Medicos del Mundo (MdM), Right to Protection (R2P), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC)/Danish Demining Group.

The discussion centered round a number of issues of humanitarian action and operational environment for NGOs: the urgency of ensuring a necessary humanitarian access to non-government controlled areas (NGCA) for NGOs that provide assistance to the affected populations (impediments to registration and activities by the de facto authorities, politicization of the access by Ukrainian authorities); the need to adopt a comprehensive legislation on humanitarian aid in crisis situations (the draft law no 4360 being stuck in the Parliament for over 3 years) and to resolve the issues of humanitarian assistance taxation.

Humanitarian NGOs also informed the Ambassador about the main human rights challenges, that the affected populations face, and necessary responses: to simplify and speed up procedures for crossing the line of contact and improve conditions at entry-exit checkpoints in the east of Ukraine; to ensure effective demining activities; to guarantee payment of pensions and other social benefits to NGCA residents; to simplify procedures for instruments of civil status registration for NGCA residents; to ensure a necessary funding for the IDPs’ Integration Action Plan; to revise and adopt an appropriate and comprehensive national strategies on mental health and psychosocial support, but also on sexual and reproductive health and on gender-based violence, in order to provide the local levels with means and regulatory base for implementation of such interventions; and others.

Participants expressed a concern that in Ukraine there is a lack of reliable and unbiased information about human rights and humanitarian situation in the east of Ukraine, everyday hardships and suffering of the population that strive to survive. Another problem is a hate speech as regards people, living in NGCA, and IDPs on behalf of some Ukrainian officials and mass media. All this leads to misunderstanding, a lack of empathy, stigmatization and discrimination, as well as a split in the society.

Mr. F. Croquette thanked NGOs for providing a comprehensive update on the humanitarian situation and emphasized that it is extremely important to keep high on the political agenda at the international and regional levels the mentioned above issues (within the Minsk Group and Normandie Process, the European Union diplomacy in particular). The parties agreed to continue the open dialogue and exchange of information.

Mr. F. Croquette is visiting Ukraine to attend an International Conference on Antisemitism and meet Ukrainian authorities and civil society to discuss challenges to human rights and possible solutions.

NGCA residents waiting to cross the line of contact at an entry-exit checkpoint in the east of Ukraine

An abandoned house in one of devastated villages located near the line of contact