Today, Civil Network OPORA turns 17 years old. During this time, we have become one of the leading non-governmental and non-partisan all-Ukrainian organizations of public control and advocacy in the field of political human rights. 

Civil Network OPORA has joined many democratic processes in Ukraine. First of all, the network has organized about 20 civic observation campaigns since 2007. Since then, about 26,000 observers have monitored the order at the polling stations and adherence to the law, at all stages of the election process. We managed to conduct 23 parallel vote tabulation campaigns, which helped prevent falsifications and interference in the election results. 

The results of our observation and analytical efforts were reflected in the comprehensive electoral reform. OPORA's experts actively contributed to the reform, from the writing of the first draft of the Electoral Code in 2010 to its adoption in 2019. Besides that, OPORA actively defended the voting rights of 6 million IDPs and internal migrant workers. Despite the fact that the Electoral Code of 2019 is not perfect, it has allowed Ukraine to advance in the implementation of democratic principles in electoral institutions and processes. 

OPORA has also worked to ensure that the punishment for electoral crimes is inescapable. Over the past five years, the number of electoral cases submitted to the courts has almost doubled. We were the first in Ukraine to talk about the new role of law-enforcement bodies in the election process. Since 2014, OPORA's experts have trained almost 73,000 police officers to correctly record electoral crimes and violations in the protocols. 

We can confidently say that every OPORA⁠member (in fact, before the war in 2014 we had representatives in each of 24 oblasts and in the ARC) is a human rights activist watching over the observance of electoral and political rights of citizens.As a result, international and local observers have recognized free and fair elections in Ukraine since 2015. According to the 2021 Democracy  Index from Economist Intelligence, Ukraine received a high score in the category "Electoral Process and Pluralism" — 8.25.

Over the years, in addition to election observation, OPORA has worked in different areas — parliamentarism, education, joint property management, energy efficiency, local self-government, and implementation of the open data principle. 

After russia's full-scale invasion into Ukraine, in February 2022, when Ukrainian democracy went to defend not only their own achievements but also the entire democratic world, OPORA began to work in the field of human rights, from political rights to international law. OPORA documents the war crimes committed by russians and promotes the creation of the Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression. 

Currently, Civil Network OPORA is actively working  on the following focus areas: 

Observation of elections and referendums, legislative reform, as well as security in communities and the first post-war elections, in particular in the de-occupied territories

Our lawyers and experts actively participate in specialized working groups, develop provisions and amendments to the laws on elections, parties, opposition, and the media. 

We are preparing for the next election campaign as soon as it becomes possible. Although the timing and type of elections may vary depending on the political and security situation in the country, OPORA will organize a comprehensive observation of the upcoming parliamentary, presidential, and local elections. Currently, the elections have been scheduled for 2023, 2024, and 2025, respectively. They may turn out to be the most difficult cases in Ukrainian history, and will become fundamental to ensure the legitimacy of Ukrainian institutions during the country's reconstruction and recovery. 

In addition, we are working on a study on how to ensure the right to vote for displaced Ukrainian citizens (according to the UN, as of May, 2022, almost 12.8 million people were forced to move, mainly within Ukraine, and more than 7 million people left the country as refugees) and enable them to participate in the building of the political and electoral system.

Monitoring misinformation on social networks and countering russian propaganda

We are aware that inaccurate political advertising and misinformation on social networks are global challenges for free and fair elections. Furthermore, in the conditions of war, it is a real threat for Ukrainian victory. The aggressor state successfully uses misinformation as a tool of hybrid warfare. Thus, OPORA systematically analyzes the content of publications on social networks and identifies the topics and mechanisms that their "stakeholders" use to create such an impact. 

Moreover, sociological surveys conducted by OPORA in May-July, 2022 indicate the growing influence of social networks, which have become the main source of information for more than 69% of Ukrainians and are instrumental  for the making of social and political attitudes. Also, for Ukrainian refugees abroad, social networks have become by far the only source of news and information about developments in Ukraine. That is why social media research is important in the context of the reintegration of Ukrainian refugees into public and political life in Ukraine. 

OPORA will conduct a series of studies on the information environment in the temporarily occupied territories in order to identify problems in the field of information support, and develop recommendations for its restoration and reduction of impact from russian propaganda. 

Facilitating the documentation of the war crimes committed by russians

Civil Network OPORA  opened a War Crimes Documentation Assistance Center in Warsaw. This is a safe space in the Polish capital, where every person from Ukraine who has witnessed or been a victim of the war crimes committed by russians can tell their story in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. It employs professional lawyers who compile personal stories in the form of testimonies and transfer them to prosecutors for consideration in international courts. Psychologists also work in the Center. The collection, processing, and transfer of data to international courts take place safely — from secure web services on international servers to the physical storage and anonymyzing written files in line with European standards.

Advocacy for the establishment of the Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression

Full-scale aggression on February, 24, 2022 was possible for several reasons.  This is related to a weak response of the civilized world to russia's aggression against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine in 2014, and to an inefficient policy of appeasement, but most importantly, it is also related to the failure of existing international legal mechanisms to counter the aggression of one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Sanctions-based pressure mainly aimed at the entourage of russia's top leaders, rather than directly at the leaders themselves, did not have a proper effect. In addition, the prosecution of international criminal responsibility for the crime of aggression has not even been considered. To this day, none of russia's top officials have been convicted. The impunity can provoke new invasive wars coming from the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Furthermore, aggression that precedes the commission of all other international crimes. 

To counter aggression in Ukraine and its spread to other countries, it is necessary to ensure the inescapable punishment for the act of aggression, which is the source of all other crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide). That is why OPORA, together with the international community, is advocating the need for the Special Tribunal on the crime of aggression. 

However, russia's 2022 full-scale invasion threw Ukrainian political dynamics and processes into a completely new paradigm. Civil Network OPORA, as one of the leaders of civil society, accepts the challenge. We are working with new focus areas, and we are also watching that stepping back from hard-won democratic achievements during the martial law does not become a real risk for Ukraine in the long term. 

We stay tuned, and our experts are open to comments for the media. 

Our email: [email protected]