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Changing ethical approaches as a component of improving institutional sustainability of the Legal Development Network

Publication date: July 8, 2024

Author: Yuliia Bilyk, communications manager of the Legal Development Network

Over 15 years of its activity, and especially in the last few years, the Legal Development Network (from now on — LDN, the Network) has undergone significant transformations due to both organizational crises and those in Ukrainian society. In 2024, the LDN began to improve institutional resilience to respond to wartime challenges systematically. Along with changes in anti-corruption policies and standards of legal aid provision, the Network is updating its Code of Ethics. This article describes what tasks of the LDN are intended to be solved by fundamentally different ethical approaches.

Today, the Legal Development Network has a Code of Ethics that was created at the beginning of the Network’s activity and does not meet the current realities and needs of its member organizations. The document does not work in practice as an effective tool for preventing controversial situations and resolving them. 

In the photo: Olga Nastina, Executive Director of the LDN. Photo by the LDN

“All the participants of the General Meeting in March 2024 agreed that changes are overdue. That is why we, as the Executive Directorate, organized a session to develop a new Code of Ethics a few months after the AGM, in June. Representatives of our member organizations joined the joint work. As a result, we have a basic document and hope to finalize it taking into account the wishes and suggestions of all the NGOs of the Network,” says Olha Nastina, Executive Director of the LDN.

“Over the past few years, we have begun to rapidly develop ties with international organizations,” adds Iryna Chaika, Director of Organizational Development at the LDN, “For example, among our partners is People In Need, and we hope to complete the procedure for obtaining the status of a strategic partner shortly. Cooperation with organizations of this level requires the Network to have written and effective policies and procedures, including those related to ethical issues. Although it has been a long time since we rethought the experience gained over the years and transformed it into new internal agreements, we were able to do all this at the session.”

In the photo: Iryna Chaika, Director of Organizational Development of the LDN, during the strategic session on the development of the Code of Ethics. Photo by the LDN

The structure of the session (June 2024) included three modules. The first one assessed the state of affairs in the Network in terms of ensuring ethical interaction of all members and stakeholders, determined the purpose of development and further implementation of the LDN’s Code of Ethics.

The second module concerned the principles on which the Code of Ethics and the ethical conduct of the Network as a whole will be based. In particular, they outlined the principles of responsible membership in the Legal Development Network: what member organizations undertake to do for the development of the Network and their responsible membership, how they interact with each other and the LDN governing bodies, and how they resolve conflicts.

The third module focused on defining ethical approaches to the institutional development of the LDN. It was about the ethical requirements for networking at the regional level and the formation of internal and external ethical partnerships.

In the photo: Ruslan Bakhtiyev, facilitator, PhD in Political Science, head of the Garnet Social Technology Studio. Photo by the LDN

“We have identified many problems that we are turning into tasks for further development – not only in terms of ethics but also in general so that the Network can be renewed and healed by new approaches and principles. Among other things, we raised the issue of the content of the Network’s activities, because life is changing, we live in new conditions, in the conditions of war, in the conditions of the rebirth of Ukraine as a whole,” says Ruslan Bakhtyiev, facilitator, PhD in Political Science, head of the Garnet Social Technology Studio.

In the photo: Bohdan Slobodian, lawyer of the Podilska Legal League (Khmelnytskyi) (second from right). Photo by the LDN

“Almost the entire process was interactive, we actively interacted with each other and jointly sought answers to questions. I am grateful to everyone for the warm atmosphere and the opportunity to work together,” says Bohdan Slobodyan, lawyer of the Podil Legal League.

In the photo: Solomiya Zinets, member of the LDN Board, head of the NGO “Trikutnyk” (Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast), during the strategic session on the development of the Code of Ethics. Photo by the LDN

“The session caused me a lot of emotions: sometimes I was angry, sometimes I disagreed, sometimes I supported my colleagues. And all this is because we were talking about really painful issues and wanted to achieve the best possible result. I have a feeling that we squeezed the impossible out of ourselves. It was difficult, but we found rational things,” says Solomiya Zinets, member of the LDN Board, head of the NGO “Trikutnyk”  (Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast).

According to Iryna Chaika, the biggest achievement of the session is that its participants found a solution to how to implement the Code of Ethics in the activities of the NGO and how to make it effective in the long run.

In the photo: the work of the strategic session on the development of the Code of Ethics, 12-15 June 2024, Kyiv region. Photo by the LDN

“The new document lays down specific things, such as the policy of responsible membership and the functioning of the ethics commission. We have defined what ethics is for the member organizations and governing bodies of the YHRM, what values we profess and what principles we follow, which disputes will be resolved by the Ethics Commission and which will be considered in another way. While the current Code is vague on these points, we are now focusing on the real challenges that we see both from our own experience and from the experience of similar organizations,” emphasizes Iryna Chaika.

The challenge for the LDN in the near future is to finalize the draft Code of Ethics and then implement it by its member organizations. Changing the ethical approaches to the activities of the Union will require everyone to be ready to accept and apply the new rules not in words, but in their daily practice.

The material was prepared within the framework of the project “Strengthening the Legal Development Network’s Member Organisations” with the financial support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

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