22:02 03.07.2023

A group of public intellectuals proposes changing the Constitution: "A New Birth of Ukraine" Manifesto is signed

6 min read

On the eve of the Constitution Day of Ukraine a group of public intellectuals signed a document in Lviv that declares the need to make significant changes to the basic law of the state after the victory: to balance the declared ideals and the real situation and to establish a new public consensus. The constitutional manifesto "A New Birth of Ukraine" emphasizes the unique historical opportunity to channel the unity of Ukrainians created by the war into the formulation of common values and ideals which may become the foundation for building a new Ukrainian society. "The basic law that can be easily ignored by those in power is by definition a bad constitution," the manifesto reads. — The main purpose of the constitution is actually to structure the system of power and create incentives to comply with its prescriptions. Our constitution will continue to be an empty declaration until we change it in a way to create the conditions for its effective application." The best time for change is the end of the war, according to the authors of the manifesto, – when the unity of the country will be maximal.

The manifesto had been developed for about six months. Among the co-authors: David Williams, professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law, head of the Indiana University Center for Constitutional Democracy; Svitlana Khilyuk, director of the Ukrainian Catholic University School of Law; Gennadi Druzenko (who previously studied with Professor Williams), chairman of the board of the Center for Constitutional Modeling, co-founder and president of the First Volunteer Mobile Hospital named after Mykola Pirogov.

Among the first signatories: Nobel laureate Oleksandra Matviychuk; president and deputy rector of UCU, Metropolitan-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia Borys Gudziak; founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group Myroslav Marynovych; philosopher, head of PEN Ukraine Volodymyr Yermolenko; judge of the European Court of human rights from Ukraine (2010-2022), member of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Hanna Yudkivska; doctor of historical sciences, UCU professor Yaroslav Hrytsak; "The First of December" Initiative group member Yosif Zisels; ILF law firm managing partner, co-founder of the foundation "Health Solutions" Tetyana Gavrish; journalist, editor-in-chief of "Den" newspaper Larisa Ivshina; serviceman of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ihor Lutsenko.

The authors of "A New Birth of Ukraine" remind us that for decades: "...the political system was getting less and less sensitive to the needs of ordinary Ukrainians", but the new public consensus will depend on the new quality of politics, which should offer Ukrainians "reasons to trust their political system" and "feel unity which does not suppress diversity, and national identity which is based on something more than resistance to a common enemy." Now, during the war, when power is inevitably concentrated, the authors emphasize that it is necessary to remember that "when peace reigns, it will be extremely important to decentralize it (the power). In order for this to happen, it will first be necessary to change the very way of Ukrainian thinking from a military to a peaceful one. A new social consensus is needed to form in Ukrainians a vision of their own country, focused on the opportunities that the future can offer and which require thoughtful reflection."

The document does not provide any suggestions as to what exactly needs to be changed in the Constitution of Ukraine, because the authors want to refrain from imposing or advocating specific ideas, they emphasize that "this should be decided by the people of Ukraine" — after extensive discussion. For the openness and inclusiveness of the constitutional process, they suggest using recorded public hearings, constitutional discussion communities or clubs in each city, an elected constitutional assembly together with expert support and a referendum.

The co-author of the manifesto, dean of the UCU School of Law, Svitlana Khilyuk, emphasizes: "We must redefine the relationship between a person and the state: decide whether we want to develop the idea of personal freedom and responsibility, or whether we want to preserve a paternalistic system with an excess of positive rights. If we declare our commitment to the idea of freedom, we must be ready to take responsibility. A new social contract should start not with isolated solutions, but with a general framework, a jointly defined strategy: where we are going and what we strive for."

One of the signatories of “A New Birth of Ukraine”, co-founder of “Health Solutions for Open Society” foundation Tetyana Havrysh believes that the Manifesto text is incredible for the Ukrainian legal tradition: "It absolutely resonates with the conceptual vision of “Health Solutions” - about achieving a public consensus on the idea that at the center of post-war reconstruction should be a person, not only their life and security, but also their freedom and dignity. Because the current Constitution, I remind you, perceives a person as a means, while freedom as a value is absent - the current Constitution does not contain that concept. It is essential for us that the new social contract should respect human subjectivity and be based on shared responsibility. As of today, we have a post-communist Constitution, which in its essence stimulates paternalistic models and does not stimulate greater responsibility of citizens."

The document is currently open for discussion.


  1. Bishop Borys (Gudziak), President of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Archbishop and Metropolitan of Philadelphia for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in USA
  2. Myroslav Marynovych, vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, a founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group
  3. Oleksandra Matviichuk, laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize 2022 and the head of the Center for Civil Liberties
  4. Yaroslav Hrytsak, Doctor of Historical Sciences and professor of the Ukrainian Catholic University
  5. Ganna Yudkivska, judge of the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Ukraine (2010-2022), member of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  6. Tetiana Gavrysh, managing partner of the "ILF" Law Company, leader of the Kharkiv expert group for medical reform support, honorary consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Kharkiv
  7. Gennadiy Druzenko, Chairman of the Board of the Center for Constitutional Design, co-founder and Chairman of the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital
  8. Larisa Ivshina, Ukrainian journalist, the Editor-in-Chief of the Day newspaper
  9. Ihor Lutsenko, soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
  10. Yosyf Zisels, member of the "First of December" Initiative Group
  11. Volodymyr Yermolenko, philosopher, President of the Ukrainian PEN
  12. Svitlana Khyliuk, director of the law school at the Ukrainian Catholic University
  13. Vsevolod Rechytskyi, Head of the Council of Kharkov Human Rights Protection Group, Associate-Professor of Constitutional law at the Ukrainian Catholic University
  14. David Williams, John S. Hastings Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, head of the Indiana University Center for Constitutional Democracy