Mariupol is the largest front-line city in Donetsk Oblast and was visited by monitors of the Local Human Rights Index in March. The city’s living standards received high marks.
However, positive impressions aside, the project team of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union did not witness enough of the city Hotline’s practical work. During the visit, team members found it difficult to reach the operator – they only managed it on the sixth attempt.
In addition, an anonymous survey conducted by representatives of UHHRU Mariupol-based legal aid center showed that not all citizens are even aware of the existence of a hotline on social protection issues. What does it indicate? Mainly that, despite the complex social situation in the city, the citizens’ awareness of the matters lying within the purview of the city council is insufficient.
At a public event and in the report, we provided recommendations on how to expand the opportunities for the public to find out about the Hotline in ways that are accessible to the average resident, specifically through announcements in local media and billboards in public places (e.g. train stations, public transport and recreation areas).
And lo and behold – a member of the monitoring team saw today a brand new poster advertising a “Local Authorities’ Hotline” in public transport. Before the monitoring report was published, there had been no such thing there.
Will this improve the human rights situation in a large front-line city with special problems (large numbers of conflict-affected people and those displaced from the combat zone, complicated state of infrastructure, reorientation from an industrial city to an innovation-based)? We shall see. The #Local_Human_Rights_Index is involving local activists for this very reason – to inspect how the implementation of recommendations is progressing.
However, the citizens’ awareness regarding their opportunities will undoubtedly increase. We are thankful to city authorities for taking our recommendations into account.