Ukrainians have come a long way from mental exaltation and romanticism of 1991 till today’s frequent skepticism and apathy. At the beginning the Independence seemed to open all the doors and Ukraine will be gladly accepted to a variety of alliances, unions and organizations as an equal partner. And now the prospect of membership in the European Union looks remote and almost unattainable. We are now rarely thinking of the times when our country used to be the breadbasket for the whole Europe – if we could only succeed to maintain our own country.
But the worst thing is that our state regularly takes the last positions in various rankings as to human rights protection. First of all, it concerns the rights for life, free labor, education, freedom of speech and religion. This is despite the fact that Ukraine has ratified a number of international instruments on human rights. However, the most important problem is that the state is violating its basic law – the Constitution. But on the 21st year of independence in Ukraine, figures speak much better for the difference between declarations and facts.
Education: quantity without quality
At first glance, it seems that that the average Ukrainian has vast opportunities to realize his/her right to education in Ukraine. Thus, our country now has 854 higher education institutions, which educate 2 million 491 thousand students.
In particular, we have 505 universities of I-II accreditation levels and 349 of level III and IV. Their dynamics since independence is really interesting: the former decreased in number from 742 to 505, the latter, which provide the highest level of education, are now half as much again. The number of students wanting to have university diploma instead of vocational training increased in 2.5 times.Thus, if in 1990/91 academic year, the total number of university students reached 1,638,000 of which 55% were enrolled in universities, in 2010/2011 this figure increased to 83%.
The number of students enrolled in institutions of III-IV accreditation levels also provokes much interest. Specifically, in 2010, 364,000 school graduates received th certificate of general education while the institutions of III-IV accreditation levels admitted 392,000 students. The number of graduates with higher education, who have been educated in the universities in 2010 has reached a record figure since independence – 543.7 thousand people, which is four times more than in 1991. Also, according to statistics, the country’s increasing number of postgraduates and doctoral candidates has tripled since 1991.
However, these figures again show that the number does not always mean quality: Ukrainian universities remain on the outboard of various international educational rankings, or, and this maybe the best option, trailing somewhere in the end. Besides, employers often complain about the level of knowledge and skills of yesterday’s university graduates. Moreover, such a huge amount of specialists with higher education simply cannot find a decent job. Even the current government recognizes that youth unemployment in Ukraine reaches up 20%.
7 billion profit from the "unemployed" Ukrainians
Unfortunately, the right to work is another freedom that is often violated and can not be guaranteed in Ukraine. Recently, mass media distributed information about five million unemployed. The International Labour Organization using its own methodology estimates 1.7 million of unemployed in Ukraine. The Ministry of Social Affairs hastened to refute these figures and said that there were 506 thousand unemployed officially registered in the State Employment Center. The authirity assured: in Ukraine as of the end of April, there were 20.3 million employed people, 0.5 million unemployed and 13.7 million retired of which 1.8 million were still employed. Well, when based only on official information, the situation really does not look so bad. That’s just the Ministry which forgets about the millions of Ukrainian laborers who are forced to work outside their own country because Ukraine failed to provide its citizens with jobs.
Number of labor migrants working abroad for 10-12 years but keep Ukrainian citizenship and consider themselves Ukrainians, is 2.5-3 million – the data cited by the director of Institute of Demography and Social Studies Ella Libanova. Half of labor migration flow is aimed to Russia, the other half – to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic and the United States. Majority of Ukrainians earn their living abroad, working as nurses, construction workers or gathering agricultural products.
Three million Ukrainian citizens working abroad import about 7 billion US dollars into Ukraine annually. These are the major investments in the domestic economy.
By the way, official statistics as to the number of Ukrainian migrants also differs from experts’ data. Thus, according to the State Migration Service last year 83 000 people have left from Ukraine, of whom 17.7 thousand returned. 46,000 went to Russia, 7 – to the U.S., 5.5 – to Germany, 5.2 – to Israel, 4.9 – to Belarus. The Transcarpathians have their own "geography" – for many years whole families are working at low-skilled but high-paid employees in Czech Republic, Portugal, Poland, Italy, and Russia.
Freedom of speech or freedom of owner’s choice
Often, the significant divergence of official statistics and information provided by human rights activists and civil society organizations is the result of violation of another natural human right – freedom of speech. It is no secret that in Ukraine censorship exists in commercial as well as public media. This is constantly emphasized by international experts, and this is also the reason why our country is criticized by European parliament members. Besides, the journalists themselves are unhappy with what is happening. Several media organizations (including representatives of the movement "Stop Censorship", Ukrainian Media Association, Independent Media Trade Union with support of the international human rights organization "Reporters without Borders") issued a joint statement to summarize yearly results for the Ukrainian journalism, noting significant deterioration in press freedom in Ukraine in 2011.
"Reporters without Borders" portrayed Ukraine as a country with a difficult situation on its map "freedom of speech in the world" by 2011. Among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe the same difficult situation is observed only in Belarus and Russia.
The deterioration of the media freedom, and strengthening the threats to freedom of speech in Ukraine was also reported in Media Sustainability Index-2011 (IREX).
For the years of independence, 63 journalists died in Ukraine. The cause of these deaths as related to the profession was officially recognized only in a small number of cases. Meanwhile, colleagues and relatives of the victims have reasons to believe that the tragedy was caused exclusively by their profession. In most cases, the perpetrators were not punished. The case related to the death of "Ukrajinska Pravda" editor Georgy Gongadze had the deepest resonant. Despite the fact that the case became internationally known are the customers of George’s death still remain unpunished.
The only positive development in this direction was adoption of law on access to public information. But at the same time there were many attempts to adopt amendment to the law which would level off its essence. Also in certain regions this law sometimes operates in a very narrow limits.
So do we live or survive?
Finally, the last but most important right – the right to live. But in this case I do not even want to cite any statistics. Sad leadership in HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis spread in Europe and the world. In addition, the second highest death rate from alcohol abuse, including alcoholic psychosis, within the European Region of WHO. Worst of all is that according to the World Bank, 94% of these deaths could have been avoided with appropriate preventive measures.
Even more figures of special "interesting" – mortality rate in Ukraine in 2011 was almost twice higher than the average in Europe: 106 people per million against 61 in the EU. Experts explain this terrible difference in terms of corruption in the issuance of driving licenses in our state. And generally Ukraine annually loses more than 700,000 of its citizens, and a third of them constitute people of working age. This figure is also up to twice the rate of the Europe. The result is that the Ukrainians living worse and less than in civilized countries.
We want to work, but are often looking for well-paid jobs outside our country. We have an education, but do not work by profession for no possibility to find the core job. But the worst thing is that we live "in silence." After all, the government’s encroachment on freedom of speech is usually of journalists and human rights activists concerns only .