I’m pleased to welcome you at the first meeting of the Public Humanitarian Council.
I am confident that today we will have a substantial talk about government policy in the humanitarian sector.
It is an extremely important problem, no less important than fighting recession. So I will personally supervise the process of its solution. In my efforts I would like to rely on you - intellectuals, cultural, educational and scientific community. To that end, I have established the Public Humanitarian Council that is a consultative and advisory body to the President of Ukraine.
Humanitarian policy in modern Ukraine certainly has its own specifics. Unlike many European countries, it is called not only to promote the development of science, culture, education and healthcare, but also to be an instrument for achieving civil accord in the society, split after various historical events in our country, including the ones in 2004.
Humanitarian policy in contemporary Ukraine should gradually bring our society to the point where differences in the historical development of the regions and their cultural traditions won’t be used for political purposes. Only then we will be able to state that we have integrated into the cultural space of the united Europe.
Certainly, this problem is not new. And we felt in our daily lives the results of all political forces exploiting this issue. But, in fact, nothing has been done. Why? Because a poor person can be fed, dressed slapdash, but this person will remain poor, rather than a full member of society, where culture, science and healthcare are accessible to everyone.
Therefore, I directly connect effective implementation of humanitarian policy to our success in pulling the country out of deep economic crisis.
Nothing humbles a man more than poverty. I believe we all have the same opinion. Having adopted the 2010 state budget, we begin to fulfill the law on increasing social standards, although our opponents called it utopia last autumn. The Government has decided to increase pensions for 10 million retirees and salaries for 3.5 million employees of budgetary institutions from January 1, 2010. I think you know that compensation from the beginning of the year is paid now. And later, by the end of the year, we will move on to current funding. Pensions and wages for January-April 2010 will be recalculated and the difference will be paid during May-June 2010.
Significant investment will be required to ensure citizens' right to access effective systems of education, healthcare and culture. However, there are issues we can solve without specific appropriations in the budget.
Large funds are not needed to cure society from politicization, to avoid actions that contradict the recognized ethical and moral standards, to eradicate attempts of discrimination and humiliation of an individual or a group by racial, ethnic, linguistic or other characteristics. To ensure that, the state must constantly keep an eye on the situation in these sensitive issues and timely intervene if such intervention is necessary.
By the way, I am late, I’m sorry, because I was working on a humanitarian problem. This is an issue of the Crimean Tatar people, whose 66th anniversary of deportation is observed on May 18. Many problems suddenly arose there. They don’t surprise me. And I would say these are the consequences of government’s inaction observed in recent years. So we certainly need to supervise the situation and intervene in sensitive issues. I emphasize once again – to intervene effectively.
It would be a mistake to sacrifice originality of a separate region for the idea of political expedience; it would mean bringing the state to a common cultural denominator. It is generally impossible. It humbles both those who do it and those towards whom it is done. We witnessed that in our history, including modern times.
I am also against the escalation of confrontation on the issue of interpretation of events and historical figures. We must agree on that. How? I would like to hear the answer to this question from you during our today’s dialogue. I think it will last long enough.
In the whole civilized world history plays a role of cementing factor in creation of nation and people. In our case it is the most destructive factor. It is a difficult task, indeed. I do not think there is one universal recipe how to solve it. I can only say that, certainly, this problem can’t be solved by idealization of some heroes at the expense of others’ humiliation. We have already seen that, and I will not be speaking much about it.
Gradualness, delicacy, understanding that we are dealing with the historical process and, therefore, the results of our efforts can only be felt by the next generation, are the imperative, that should change policy of forced brainwashing, conducted in our country for many years and in various periods of its history.
In the context of current global changes in the world, UNESCO pays attention to basic aspects of humanitarian policy, including ensuring people’s health and prolongation of their life duration, development of creativity, economic support to cultural industries (publishing, filmmaking, media) and efficient protection of cultural heritage, both material and spiritual.
Ukraine cannot ignore such world trends as globalization and intensive development of information technologies. Therefore, humanitarian policy should be oriented towards both the domestic space, and foreign perceptions. However, the relevance of a cultural production should not mean substitution of aesthetic values with commercial, as well as national culture with mass culture.
Further humanitarian development of our country is inconceivable without development of domestic media. It is connected with media pluralism and absolute ensuring of human right to free expression of opinion.
Ukraine will continue to ensure press freedom and maintain high standards of journalism. At the same time we will do everything to prevent pressure on media, manifestations of violence against reporters and hindering them in performing their professional duties. Each case will have the appropriate legal consequences.
Dear members of the Public Humanitarian Council!
I would like to inform you that among members of the Humanitarian Council there are also journalists, who will support further development of freedom of speech in Ukraine.
In this connection it is important to create public radio and television. I would like a law on public radio and television to be adopted as soon as possible. It will be an essential step toward balanced and unbiased media. It is very important for me. I am confident that we will achieve that.
Now let’s consider the state of affairs in our education, I mean 11 million students, pupils, their parents and teachers.
Our important task is to create appropriate conditions for strengthening the educational potential of Ukraine, to provide talented youth with broad access to obtaining new skills and knowledge regardless of their parents’ financial capabilities and place of residence.
How to solve this task? Let's think about it and suggest specific steps the government must take.
Now let’s discuss preschool education. There are nearly 1100 kindergartens that temporarily do not work for various reasons. Today, only 57% of children (including 33% in rural areas) are covered by the service of these institutions. The situation should be corrected immediately. This is a task both for the Cabinet of Ministers and local authorities.
Maintaining the network of schools, especially in rural areas, in connection with worsening of demographic situation, remains a painful issue.
Transporting students to schools, in case they live beyond walking distance, wasn’t established. Last year, no buses were purchased within the program "School bus" for budget funds.
Printing textbooks still remains a problem. Usually it is undertaken with considerable delay and incomplete. For example, last year, new books were coming sometimes as late as in December.
Drastic reforms need to be implemented in vocational education. Perhaps we should adopt the experience of the EU countries where this issue is largely supported by business, commerce and industry chambers that flexibly respond to changing labor market.
Obviously, we should pay more attention to increasing the quality of higher education. After all, today none of the Ukrainian universities is on a list of best universities in the world.
Maybe, establishment of a single state database on request for the amount of certain specialists will help to solve this problem. This is especially true for technical professions. Shouldn’t experimental educational base be developed along with the production? This process can involve business more closely. It seems that education in Ukraine provides high-quality fundamental knowledge yet fails with applied skills.
In the shortest time we must prove that high school is able to transparently and honestly perform its duties. External independent testing for university entrants will remain, but at the same time conditions of admission must be improved.
Another important issue is improving the image of faculty and teachers’ social protection. We must increase the wages of those who teach the young generation and create proper living conditions for them.
The state must promote the development of science and efficient use of existing scientific and technological potential. However, because of poor coordination, problems in funding and lack of clarity in prioritizing, this potential is not fully utilized in state-building.
We need to re-establish the prestige of scientific work and involve talented youth in it.
Another strategic direction of our work should be creation of a new vision of culture in Ukraine that will be modern, dynamic and competitive.
The use of linguistic and cultural diversity of the Ukrainian nation as its development potential can be considered one of priority directions of development in this field. I am convinced that activation of intercultural dialogue and use of broad cultural autonomy of the regions to determine their own cultural policy in Ukraine will guarantee preservation of interethnic and interfaith peace. I am confident of that. Implementation of administrative-territorial reform will be the first important step in this direction.
Equal access to cultural heritage must be also ensured. Therefore, I would like to focus on one painful topic, which is culture in the village. We must work together with the public, state authorities and local communities to achieve improvements in this area.
No less important is preserving national historical and cultural heritage. In this field we must immediately legitimize preservation of historic environment of our cities, first of all – historic area of St. Sophia Cathedral and Kyiv Pechersk Lavra in Ukraine's capital. Illegal construction on the Dnipro slopes and banks, as well as in the parks, squares of Kyiv and other cities must be stopped.
Observing the 150th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko’s death and his reburial in Ukraine and celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Great Poet’s birth are our primary tasks. I am personally engaged in this issue and hope that we will hold one of the next meetings of our Council in Kaniv already this year. I promise you that.
Providing effective protection to domestic cultural industries has been a long need. I have recently signed the law aimed at supporting Ukrainian filmmakers, stimulating film industry to fill our cultural space with our own movies.
However, cultural industries should be the impetus for regional development and creation of new jobs, as well as the source of investment flows and financial income. We need a new quality of government support to Ukrainian book publishing and distribution.
Adequate development of all these areas demands favorable legal framework. We must prevent any encroachment on the property and premises of newspapers, publishers, creative unions and charitable foundations. The Government should also provide reduction of utilities tariffs to creative unions and charitable funds.
The Government must quickly finish preparation of the new Law "On Culture”. It is also necessary to work out the efficient methodology of promoting private investment and sponsorship, in particular, through the adoption of the Law “On Patronage”.
The question of integration of the Ukrainian culture in European and global cultural and Ukraine joining European cultural projects also remains important.
One of powerful factors of spiritual development of the society, raising moral responsibility before current and future generations remains the Church.
For the Ukrainian state, all the churches and religious organizations are equal. We will demand strict observation of this principle from all government officials at all levels. The state will not interfere in the affairs of the Church. These affairs should be left to communities and souls of every person. Division of people in accordance with religious, national or linguistic grounds is a serious sin.
Ukrainian state will not interfere in internal clerical affairs, but we must always do our best to facilitate reconciliation and overcoming any confrontation and misunderstanding.
The main task in the field of state-church relations is to create favorable conditions for the Church to perform its spiritual mission.
Every person, regardless of social status and place of residence, should be able to get high-quality medical care. This is the inherent condition of humanitarian development.
However, the situation with healthcare system in Ukraine today can be assessed as very poor. In particular, we have unacceptably high mortality, which according to the European database "Health for All” is lower than such rates only in Russia, Kazakhstan and Moldova; there is also a problem of low life expectancy (the lower is only in Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), the highest natural population decline in the European Region.
All of these problems are proof that organizational principles of the Ukrainian healthcare system do not meet the requirements of today. Inadequacy of management techniques to the new economic relations leads to any amount of public funds spent on healthcare being not enough. Ukrainian healthcare still remains unreformed.
Therefore, the primary task is to reform healthcare system, making practical and decisive steps to ensure high-quality and accessible healthcare.
At the same time I would like to note that the term "health of the nation" means more than only physicians’ domain. Promotion of healthy lifestyle must and will occupy its rightful place among the priority programs for the state.
It is time to define predictable time constrains for introduction of health insurance, rationalize functioning of family doctor practices, restore preventive medicine, introduce effective state control over the quality of drugs, improve social security of healthcare workers.
Making healthcare system modern is the basic way of reaching the ultimate goal: "Healthy people - secure future.”
More than one third of Ukraine's population is youth. There are about 15 million young people of age 14 to 35. On the values that youth professes, on its patriotism, the level of its education and culture, eagerness to develop and willingness to work, depends Ukraine's place in tomorrow's world.
It is crucial to ensure such conditions of development to youth, that it grew physically and spiritually healthy, received good education and had all the possibilities of full self-realization. At the same time, young people should be helped realize their political and civil rights and duties, be responsible for the future of their country.
I am confident that together we will find the correct address to these important issues.
I suggest building our work upon the foundation of discussing ways to solve these problems.
I deliberately delivered such a long speech to bring up the broadest possible range of problems, on which we will have to work hard. Hopefully, we will find solutions and bring them into life together - each of us in his/her own place.