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UKRAINE: Children’s right to school education under threat despite EU funding

The children’s right to school education under threat despite EU funding


Teachers paid around 100 EUR per month


By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers


HRWF (15.09.2021) – At the beginning of September, the EU Delegation to Ukraine announced the implementation of a number of projects related to school education in Ukraine with EU funding, such as the renovation of School Nr 41 in Odessa under the European Investment Bank’s Ukraine Early Recovery Programme (UERP). A press release published by the EEAS (European External Action Service) stresses that 4000 pupils will benefit from this renovation. There is however no reason to boast.


Despite the EU financing renovation of school premises in Ukraine, the future of children’s education is under real threat because teachers and professors are dramatically underpaid and leave their job. For the same reason, young people do not want to teach for a miserable wage.


A comparative study


A recent study has revealed dramatic figures. In average, Ukrainian teachers are paid

5 times less than in Russia

13 times less than in Poland

27 times less than in France

33 times less than in the US

42 times less than in Germany


In 2020, the minimum wage for teachers was 2,800 UAH (90 EUR) from January to April. From May to November the minimum salary was considered to be 3000 UAH. At the beginning of 2021, the minimum wage rate was increased to 3,300 UAH (110 EUR).


After three years of service the teacher is required to attend an in-service training course, after which his pay increases by 150 UAH (5 EUR). After three years of seniority he/she is entitled to a raise of 10% of his/her salary.


Some in Europe may think life in Ukraine is very cheap but it is not. According to an article published earlier this year by LB/UA/Economics, the cost of communal maintenance of a one-room apartment for January was 2300 UAH (about 75 EUR). It is easy to calculate how much is left for teachers to “survive.”


With such a situation, you cannot expect to see many Ukrainian teachers spending their holidays on the beaches of Spain or Italy.


They prefer to look for another job in Ukraine or to emigrate. While they make their studies in their own country on the state budget, the return on investment is dramatically collapsing and the quality of state education is following the same curve downwards.


Another issue impeding the quality of school education that never makes the headlines in Ukraine and in EU countries is the closure of school premises for weeks and months for lack of heating due to the lack of budget to this end.


The full and detailed report about the situation of teachers can be found here. Using the Deepl.com website will make it easy to understand the content of the research work.


Photo credits: visasam.ru

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AFGHANISTAN : The fall of Kabul, the sunset of Western interventionism?

The fall of Kabul, the sunset of interventionism for the West?




Is there a sustainable future for human rights in Afghanistan, asks Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers? Almost 20 years after US forces ousted the Taliban from power with some support by the UK, their ‘Blitzkrieg’ was more a quiet victorious march towards Kabul than a war against an evaporated national army. A number of political analysts say this geopolitical earthquake sounds the end of the claimed moral duty of the West to promote and export democracy and human rights.


By Guest contributor


EUReporter (13.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3EirCZo – The military and political debacle of the West in Afghanistan had been announced by the US military as a credible possibility but their warning was ignored by Washington.


Yet, the US administration does not bear the full responsibility of this strategic blunder. All the NATO countries subsequently involved in the war and the occupation failed to anticipate a possible accelerated collapse of the Afghan administration and its army, and to plan in due time the needed exfiltration operation of the Afghans who assisted them.


Beyond the chaos and the individual tragedies that we all witnessed on television, this geo-political earthquake questions the Western theories of regime change and nation-building as well as the exportation and construction of democracy with the support of the military. The ‘right to interfere’ on alleged humanitarian grounds under the umbrella of foreign occupation forces and a proxy political leadership is also at stake.


Kabul is now the most recent place where such theories will be buried for a long time, if not forever, according to many political analysts.


But is there still a future for the promotion of human rights by Western governments and NGOs in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan where they are militarily engaged? And with which actors? Should human rights NGOs refuse to work under the umbrella and protection of NATO or Western occupation forces? Will they not be perceived as Western GONGOs and accomplices of foreign armies as Christian missionaries were in colonial times? These and other questions will need to be addressed by the international community.



Western supremacists and colonialism


Throughout the centuries, various Western European countries have felt superior to other peoples. As colonial powers, they have invaded their territories on all continents to allegedly bring them civilization and the values of the Enlightenment, an alleged good cause.


In reality, their purpose was mainly to exploit their natural resources and their workforce. They got the blessing of the dominant Catholic Church which saw a historic and messianic opportunity to spread its faith and values, and to project its power around the world.


After WWII and along the decolonization process, the progressive emergence and development of democracy in Western countries reinvigorated their ambition to conquer the world again, but differently, and to reshape other peoples in their image.


The values of political democracy were their spearhead, and their religion was human rights.


This political-cultural colonialism underpinned by their belief in their own supremacy looked generous in the sense that they naively wanted to share their values with the whole world, with all the peoples and against their tyrants. But that missionary-like project and process often ignored their history, their culture and their religions as well as their reluctance to share a number of specifically Western liberal values.


In Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries, the US, the UK, France and others have waged wars on security grounds and then used the magic word ‘nation-building’, equivalent to regime change by force if needed, to justify their actions. However, these Muslim majority countries have become the cemeteries of the so-called moral right to interfere on humanitarian grounds so much cherished by the West. This doctrine is now dead and being buried, many policy-makers say.


It does not mean that the values of democracy, rule of law and human rights professed by the West do not correspond to the aspiration of other peoples. However, the fight for these values must first of all be their own fight. They cannot be artificially transplanted in a social body that is not ready to receive it.


In the case of Afghanistan, 20 years were used for capacity-building programs to empower and equip women’s groups, journalists, human rights activists and other segments of civil society. To what extent will they be able to resist the Taliban’s regime and grow is unpredictable once most foreign media and observers will have left the country willy-nilly? Nothing could be less sure.



Is there a future for human rights in Afghanistan?


A number of NGOs have already left Afghanistan along with the NATO forces, which reinforces the Taliban perception of their lack of neutrality and impartiality in their year-long engagement in Afghan society.


If all humanitarian and human rights organizations leave the country, the driving forces of the Afghan civil society will feel abandoned and betrayed. They will be vulnerable to Taliban repression and will feel resentment towards their former Western supporters.


The social services and infrastructures put in place in the last 20 years need to be preserved as a humanitarian crisis is looming in the short term according to the UN Development Agency. For the sake of the Afghan population, foreign humanitarian assistance needs to be maintained and developed but in a safe environment and apart from political negotiations between the former occupation powers and the Taliban authorities.


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has decided to stay. In a long interview with France24, its president, Peter Maurer, has recently declared that their objective will be to stay with the Afghans, to go on sharing their lives and to find solutions to their problems in the respect of the Red Cross principles and values.


The place of Afghan women in their staff and projects will be their first human rights challenge and their first test for inevitable deals to be negotiated with the Taliban authorities.


Photo credits: eureporter

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UKRAINE/ RUSSIA: Relatives of MH17 crash victims speak in court

‘I couldn’t stop crying’: Relatives of MH17 crash victims speak in court




Euronews (06.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/38M7PDo – Relatives of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash have spoken for the first time in court.


All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the aircraft was downed over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.


Prosecutors say the plane was hit mid-air by a Buk missile system trucked into Ukraine from a Russian military base.


Russia denies any involvement in the downing.


After a years-long international investigation, prosecutors charged four suspects with multiple counts of murder for their alleged involvement in shooting down of the aircraft.


The trial opened in March 2020 with a long series of preliminary hearings before lawyers began discussing the merits of the case in June.


Under Dutch law, the relatives are allowed to make a victim impact statement to the court, without being asked questions.


Around 90 people plan to do so over the next three weeks, some speaking via live video links from abroad.


“Next to the verdict, I think it is probably one of the most important days for the family members because they can speak to the court,” said Peter Langstraat, a lawyer representing victims’ relatives.


“Through speaking to the court, they speak to the suspects and also to the responsible people wherever they are hiding,” he added. “This is a form of communication with the people who are responsible for this disaster.”


The first to speak on Monday was Ria van der Steen, who lost her father and stepmother in the crash.


Speaking at the courtroom at Schiphol airport near Amsterdam, van der Steen told of the nightmares that woke her up screaming and of the impossible goodbye to her loved ones.

“I saw the wreckage, bodies, personal effects, I could not stop crying until I woke up screaming,” she said.


After first being told it would not be possible to identify the bodies of her loved ones, van der Steen finally learned that her father had been identified thanks to a tiny piece of bone of his hand.


“I knew it was them, but emotionally I did not want to accept it,” she told the court.


Sander Essers also told the court that his brother Peter had called him about 20 minutes before boarding MH17 in Amsterdam.


“He was dead scared and asked me urgently whether or not he should board the plane. I often suddenly feel that I am partly to blame for his death,” Essers said.


None of the four suspects on trial — Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko — has appeared in court.


Only one, Pulatov, has lawyers representing him, while all four men deny the charges.


Last week, investigators appealed to Russians to come forward with information about the deployment of the missile that investigators say downed the plane.


Photo credits: AP

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HUNGARY: 20 Hungarian lessons the West is still missing

20 Hungarian lessons the West is still missing


By Erik D’Amato


Quillette (13.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3mB51B4 – I lived in Budapest from 1999 to 2014, and for 10 of those years I ran a nonpartisan daily news service focused on Hungarian politics. For me, and for the small number of foreign journalists and analysts based in Hungary in the years before Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s 2010 return to power, the West’s recent interest in that small, long-overlooked Central European nation and its pugnacious nationalist leader provides its own source of fascination.

While most recent interest has tended to focus on the behavior of the Orbán government or its opponents in the EU, Hungary’s current moment in the spotlight seems to be mostly due to outsiders arguing over whether and how it might serve as either a model or cautionary tale. Unsurprisingly, this argument has mostly used Hungary as a proxy for domestic dramas. And unfortunately, it is likely that the spotlight will move on, with relatively little attention paid to many of the lessons the country actually can offer to Right, Left, and center.

List of the 20 points addressed by the author. The full article can be read on https://bit.ly/3mB51B4

  1. Hungary was once the West’s darling, and that’s why it’s not anymore.
  2. The lingering presence of Western-fêted ex-Communist elites was tragically corrosive.
  3. Hungarian politics is usually much less ideological than you think.
  4. An overweening state fuels corruption and toxic politics. 
  5. Fears of demographic decline and “population replacement” should not be scoffed at. 
  6. The populist Right will co-opt the welfare state. 
  7. It will also co-opt minority groups. 
  8. …and speech curbs initially cheered by the Left.
  9. Markets will shrug off really kooky populist economic policies.
  10. The West’s own example hasn’t always been exemplary.
  11. It takes good lawyers to really mess with the rule of law.
  12. The efforts of Western NGOs and media can backfire spectacularly.
  13. Internationalists flee, nationalists fight.
  14. There is always a further right far-Right. 
  15. Desperate liberals will make illiberal allies (and vice-versa).
  16. The Left and Right long had a cozy graft-splitting arrangement. 
  17. Borderlands gonna borderland.
  18. On the ground nationalist conservatism looks more liberal than you might think. 
  19. Successful populists eventually become the establishment. 
  20. Change itself is the only constant.

Erik D’Amato is a New York-based writer and corporate intelligence operative, and the author of The Little Book of Left-Right Equivalence. A former editor of the Budapest Business Journal and columnist for the Budapest Times, from 2004–2014, he ran a network of websites focused on Hungarian politics, business, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter @erikdamato.

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TAIWAN: Human rights, the EU and Taiwan: Time to upgrade ties

Human rights, the EU and Taiwan: Time to upgrade ties

HRWF (23.08.2021) – EU-Taiwan relations, the effectiveness of the EU as a normative power and Taiwan’s journey to advance human rights in a hostile environment were issues discussed by a panel of experts and academics in a webinar hosted by Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association (TDDA) on August 20. TDDA is a non-governmental organization which promotes public diplomacy through digital platforms.


The seminar, entitled “European Perspectives on Taiwan from a Human Rights Angle” contributed to ongoing reflections on how to upgrade EU-Taiwan relations with human rights at the centre. Within a global context dominated by geopolitical rivalry leaving human rights increasingly marginalized, the discussion presented timely and constructive reflections and recommendations for the EU and Taiwan to strengthen their cooperation.


The panel included Joseph Liu, Taiwanese lawyer and initiator of ‘Taiwan My Name My Right’, Dr. Fu-Te Liao, Researcher at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, Mr. Philip Anstren, former Research Assistant at Stockholm Free World Foru,m as well as Dr. Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy who represented Human Rights Without Frontiers.


The panel also discussed developments in the campaign “Taiwan My Name My Right”, which seeks legal remedies against the Norwegian government’s decision to register Taiwanese citizens as Chinese on their residence documentation. The group claims that the government in Oslo has violated their right to personal identity protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In May this year they filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. At the end of July, the Court declared the case inadmissible.


In her presentation, Dr. Ferenczy elaborated on the notion of ‘European Normative Power’, and its relevance in the context of the debate on Europe’s ‘geopolitical’ ambitions. She presented a comprehensive overview of the EU’s existing cooperation with Taiwan in the field of human rights and democracy, as well as the emerging dynamics in EU-China relations. Finally, Dr. Ferenczy stressed that the EU needs a strategic debate on its relations with Taiwan in the context of the ongoing reflections on its China policy and its broader foreign policy ambitions. Concerning ways to support “Taiwan My Name My Right”, Dr. Ferenczy stressed the importance of awareness raising inside Europe; NGOs, such as HRWF, are valuable platforms in this regard, she stressed.


In 2019, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that as “we see the rebirth of geostrategic competition between China, Russia and the US […] the EU has the option of becoming a player, a true geostrategic actor, or being mostly the playground”. In 2020, HR Borrell also noted that the question of how the EU should deal with a China increasingly pursuing a strategy of global influence is an issue of fundamental importance for the future of the block.


These statements are indicative of the reflections inside the EU on how to equip itself to be able to address the long list of emerging global challenges; self-perception remains a key element in these reflections, Dr. Ferenczy noted. HR Borrell’s statements have also inspired extensive academic and policy debate on the role and relevance of the EU as an international actor, and the kind of relationship it wants to maintain with China. Considering the EU’s multi-layered governance system and internal fragmentation, coordination in its Common Foreign and Security Policy has always been a challenge. This is the context that has shaped EU-China policy, where a conceptual shift is now unfolding.


The EU recently labeled China a “systemic rival”, indicative of a new reality in bilateral ties. This shift should serve as a strategic opportunity for Brussels and EU member states to rethink their approach to Taiwan and expand bilateral cooperation, Dr. Ferenczy stressed.


“The EU and Taiwan are like-minded partners. Their relationship is grounded in a normative convergence. This can’t be said of the EU’s relationship with China, burdened by a normative divergence”, Dr. Ferenczy stressed.


The European Parliament (EP) has remained the most vocal EU institution on China, advocating for closer cooperation with Taiwan. The fact that the EP is currently working on a stand-alone report on Taiwan is indicative of an increased level of awareness and willingness to expand ties with Taiwan, as a technologically advanced economy and thriving democracy. Taipei has also expressed in increased cooperation, in addition to its ongoing efforts to strengthen ties with democracies in the Indo-Pacific. In the words of Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Taiwan is ready to embrace the Indo-Pacific. “Together we can realize a free, open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific”, he said recently.


Keeping the above in mind, Dr. Ferenczy concluded that there is international consensus that China is a threat to Taiwan’s security and a source of regional anxiety. The EU has its own interests to protect in the Taiwan Strait. Brussels and the EU member states must therefore be ready to reassess the EU’s overall interests as a ‘geopolitical’ actor in the Indo-Pacific. At the same time, they must be willing to consider Taiwan on its own merit and support its democratic government.


For a sustainable and constructive way forward for a ‘geopolitical’ EU, the EU must develop a better understanding of China’s political and economic system, as well as its structural weaknesses and strengths. Taiwan can be a valuable partner in these efforts. Going forward, internal unity inside the EU, as well as international cooperation among democracies are vital for the EU’s international relevance, for the future of Taiwan and that of democracy in the face of an authoritarian advance in the world.

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