Property rights and legal aid: Making life a little easier in Ukraine

Young man showing sheets to an old rural couple

Ivan Kalyta’s pension allows him to buy his medication and basic food (like milk, bread and potatoes), and pay his utility bill.

 

Two years ago he decided to sell two plots of his land to raise money to repair his house.

 

He started trying to register his land in 2010, but wasn’t able to get the necessary documentation – simply because the administrative fees for obtaining different documents were too high.  

 

Mr. Kalyta would have had to pay more than $500 in various administrative fees, which he didn’t have. He also didn’t know what documents were necessary or where to get legal assistance.

 

Millions of Ukrainians don’t know their land and property rights. The state legal aid offices of the Ministry of Justice often lack the knowledge to address these issues and sometimes don’t even have computers.

 

Another challenge is insufficient and ever-changing legislation. There is a crucial need to consolidate and develop a comprehensive pro-poor land and property rights policy framework.

 

The Government adopted recommendations from UNDP on how to improve land and property rights legislation - including getting rid of the heavy administrative fees for obtaining different documents.

 

The adoption of these recommendations will help people like Mr. Kalyta register their land plots, and access free legal aid.

 

Ukraine also adopted a law on free legal aid in 2011, prompting an increased demand for legal services - especially related to land and property rights.

 

A urban man showing sheets to an old rural couple. The woman points at something on them.

Since then, UNDP in Ukraine has been supporting legal aid providers through seminars and easy to use information to help them navigate land and property rights.

 

All 742 state legal aid offices, 55 NGO legal aid providers, and four legal aid clinics were trained on land and property rights legislation; and state legal aid offices provided advice to 180,000 people in one year.

 

Together with Open Society Foundations and NGOs, UNDP helped to document good practices when it comes to providing legal aid in Ukraine, together with a manual (pdf) for civil society organizations on how to set up a legal aid centre.

 

For the most part, free legal aid centres are located in towns and cities, so four state legal aid offices, in cooperation with local libraries, have started to provide free legal consultations via Skype. This saves time and money for people in rural areas.

 

All people need to do is find a local library that participates in the programme.

 

Assistant Minister of Justice, Lidia Gorbunova, would like all legal aid offices in the country to introduce the same online service.

 

"The money I got from selling part of my land came in very handy," said Mr. Kalyta with a smile.

 

"My roof is not leaking anymore. I also was able to put some money aside for medication. Life is so expensive here, and I am glad it worked out."

 

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