On February 24, 2022, just a few hours after Russia launched its full-scale aggression on Ukraine, members of the country’s parliament gathered for a working session. And they kept going. Despite the danger of being targeted by rocket attacks, the Rada has passed over 200 laws since the start of the war. These laws have been critical for Ukraine’s perseverance under relentless attack. Ukraine has made it clear to the world that it values its democracy and cares about keeping it running under the most dire conditions, where others would suspend the work of “complicated” multi-party institutions.
The Parliamentary Centre unequivocally condemned Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression. It has worked with its partners to continue providing practical and significant support to Ukraine, bravely defending its sovereignty and democracy. Today, as we mark the first anniversary of this invasion, it is essential to reflect on the progress that has been made.
With support from Global Affairs Canada, the Parliamentary Centre and the Agency for Legislative Initiatives have been implementing “Parliament and Accountability of the Security Sector in Ukraine” (PASS Ukraine). Adjusting to the rapidly evolving roles and needs of project interlocutors at the Verkhovna Rada, PASS Ukraine has helped connect Canadian and Ukrainian MPs, greatly expanding communications opportunities at the onset of the war.
On February 26, the PASS team organized a video meeting between Ukrainian and Canadian MPs. Twenty-two MPs, eleven from Canada and eleven from Ukraine, participated in the discussion. This initiative presented a vital opportunity to express solidarity and readiness to support Ukraine, build relationships and create peer-to-peer communication channels between MPs.
Supporting International Advocacy and Outreach
From March 31 to April 2, PASS Ukraine supported a visit to Ottawa of five senior female Ukrainian MPs. The visit included a series of high-level meetings with the Canadian government and parliamentary officials such as the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Development, Members of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Members of the Canada-Ukraine Friendship Group in the Canadian Parliament and Senators. Ukrainian legislators shared perspectives on the ongoing war, stressing the importance of the toll that the Russian atrocities and alleged war crimes are having on Ukrainian women. Their message was consistent: an appreciation for Canada’s support for Ukraine and an appeal to do more.
“Ukraine is very grateful to Canada for the support provided to date; however, more aid is needed, and it’s needed fast. Our delegation’s visit to Ottawa is an opportunity to meet with Canadian officials face-to-face, encourage Canada to further support Ukraine with the necessary military equipment and financial aid, and impose more severe sanctions against Russia.”
-MP Lesia Zaburanna, Delegation Chair, MP from the Servant of the People party and Chair of the Sub-Committee on Public Expenditures of the Budget Committee of the Verkhovna Rada.
PASS Ukraine also facilitated two international dialogues that featured insightful discussions led by Ukrainian MPs on the impact of the war and the challenges of promoting democracy in a conflict-ravaged Ukraine. The events brought together 17 MPs, 15 parliamentary staff members, and 5 Senators from 18 countries, providing a valuable platform for exchanging ideas and perspectives.
To inform the Parliament of Canada, Global Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and other institutions about the work of the Rada in wartime, PASS started compiling regular briefing notes highlighting a total of 27 were created and disseminated, reaching at least 100 individuals across 15 institutions.
PASS Ukraine reached millions of Canadians to raise public awareness about the situation in Ukraine. We organized press conferences and print, radio and TV interviews with Ukrainian MPs and human rights defenders (including the Centre for Civil Liberties, which won the 2022 Nobel Price for Peace). Hundreds of social media posts followed these engagements, amplifying this influence.
The PASS Ukraine team played a significant role in assisting the Rada in identifying the top priorities for parliamentary reform during the post-invasion and reconstruction phases. 4 out of 7 priorities were connected to inputs made by the PASS team and inspired by project results:
- Improving research and analysis in support of the legislative process;
- Ensuring the independence and professional capacity of parliamentary staff;
- Strengthening parliamentary oversight and ensuring business continuity in the work of parliament.
PASS Ukraine has been supporting committees of the Rada focused on security and defence issues to develop knowledge and capacity to conduct rapid legislative impact assessments (LIAs) of draft laws. LIAs help elected members to be informed and confident about their decisions as representatives of the people: which is particularly important where legislating is a matter of life and death.
With PASS guidance, Rada staff have conducted assessments of more than 15 draft laws since the start of the war. This includes bills focused on facilitating the process of war crimes investigation, issues related to policing, complex but important issues such as gun ownership, and measures to help Ukraine’s economy survive, to name a few.
A Handbook on Legislative Impact Assessments (LIA), including gender analysis, will introduce the practice across the Verkhovna Rada and the Ministry of Defence, which is now also interested in this methodology.
These activities symbolize a small yet meaningful contribution to the global efforts supporting Ukraine. However, much more remains to be done, and ongoing support from Canada and other established democracies is critical for the survival of Ukraine’s statehood and its democracy.
The Ukrainian Parliament has played a vital role in pivotal moments in the history of Ukrainians, as it did when the Declaration on State Sovereignty was adopted in 1990 and the declaration of Independence in 1991. It is rising to the current challenges in inspiring ways.
We will continue to work closely with our partners and consistently explore additional ways to help Ukraine.
These results were achieved collaboratively by the Parliamentary Centre and the Agency for Legislative Initiatives under the Parliamentary Accountability for the Security Sector (PASS Ukraine) project, supported by the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOPs) at Global Affairs Canada.