One of the oldest youth organizations in the history of Ukraine, the National Scouting Organization, known as Plast, was not recognized by the state until 2020. In 2019, Plast leaders advocated before the parliament to have a Draft Law on Plast, but newly elected President Zelensky did not sign the bill due to/referring to some troubles which could arise afterwards.  The new version of the law was passed in early 2020, and the president signed it. However, the current law does not ensure financing for Plast. It reduced the chances for Plast, as a youth organization that has branches in Ukraine and outside the country, to grow.

Roman Tymotsko

Scouts lost financial support

In 2019 newly elected president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky rejected the law on “State Recognition and Support of Plast – National Scouting Organization of Ukraine”. The legislation was approved by the previously elected parliament at the end of May 2019 and awaited the president’s action for more than three months. Zelensky did not sign the law; instead, he returned it to the Parliament with his own proposals. It was up to the later elected Rada to act on Ukraine’s recognition and support of this scouting organization.

The Ukrainian scouting movement known as Plast was formed in Lviv in 1911. Throughout more than 100 years of its activity, Plast has endured various historical trials. Today Plast has over 12,000 members in 20 countries – 8,500 of them in Ukraine – which makes it the largest Ukrainian youth movement in the world. Last year Plast volunteers in Ukraine invested more than 668,000 hours in working with children and teens in camps, during trips, competitions, mentorship, and regular group meetings.

Plast had various forms of cooperation with the state once Ukraine re-established its independence. For example, in the last three years, Plast scouts’ activities had some financial support directly from the national budget. It was expected that the proposed new law on state recognition and support of Plast could form the basis for a more effective form of partnership. Notably, the U.S., Canada, Israel, Singapore, Australia, and other countries already have similar legislation recognizing their national scout organizations.

I would like to mention what was in the proposed law that was not signed by the president, and what exactly was included in this legislation. First of all, there was a statement regarding the state’s recognition of Plast’s “historic contribution to the civic education of children and youth, to the achievement and establishment of Ukraine’s statehood.” Also, the law expressed support for Plast’s continuous activity for the course of more than a century.  The legislation should have recognized the Plast scouting movement in Ukraine and the world, as well as its unique role in educating Ukrainian children and the youth, and should have made it impossible for other organizations to claim Plast’s legacy as their own.

The practical aspect of the law should have included forms of cooperation with government institutions and mechanisms of support. The legislation also outlined the decision-making process regarding financial support for Plast on both national and local levels. It stated that the aim was to help Ukrainian scouting organizations engage more young people with patriotic values in civic education.

Considering that this earlier version of the law had been rejected by the president and then amended to take into account his comments, there were very few doubts that the president would sign and finally enact the legislation. On January 13 Volodymyr Zelensky signed the law on state recognition of the Plast movement. Almost a month earlier, on December 17, the Parliament of Ukraine passed the law with 316 votes (with at least 226 required) in the second affirmative vote on this legislation.

The state finally recognized Plast as a Ukrainian scouting organization and its historic contribution to civic education for young people, as well as Plast’s contribution to the achievement of Ukraine’s independence and development of statehood. However, the approved law does not provide direct financing. Plast remains a non-governmental, non-political organization, that is why Plast needs the support of Ukrainians and is continuing the campaign to raise 10.5 million hryvnias needed to grow the organization in 2020.

Roman Tymotsko - Development Manager for Ukrainian Scouting