Community Foundations as Tools to Promote Ideas of Social Justice >>


Staying Open - Promoting the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Sweden >>
Consultations on a New Forum's Strategy in St. Petersburg >>

Invitation to the Discussion "Afraid of the "Fifth Column"? - Independent Civic Engagement in the Russian Federation in Danger" >>
Training on Forum's Internal Communications in Moscow >>

Statement "The European Union Should Remain Free of Authoritarianism" >>

Interview with Andrei Suslov, Head of the Centre for Civic Education and Human Rights (Perm. Russia) >>


People in Need: A New Civil Society Centre Opened in Prague >>
GRANI Centre: The Decision of the Ministry of Justice Is Ludicrous and Dangerous >>
Legambiente: Clean Up the Med >>


Community Foundations as Tools to Promote Ideas of Social Justice

On the occasion of the World Day of Social Justice, which has been celebrated on 20 February, representatives of the Working Group “Social Issues and Civic Participation“ prepared an essay on a role of community foundations in promotion of ideas of social justice.

Please note that the contents of the essay are sole responsibility of the authors and don't necessarily reflect the views of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum as a whole:


‘Can the community foundations, which serve as a tool to accumulate and divide necessary resources in every particular region, influence such a global notion as social injustice? Indeed, the highest and most competent organisations (the UN, International Labour Organisation - ILO), as well as governmental, intergovernmental, and international institutions are involved in solving this problem.

The UN Special Resolution of 18 December 2007 acknowledges a necessity for the international community to further augment efforts to eradicate poverty and to provide full-time employment, decent working places, gender equality, social welfare, and justice for everybody. At the same time, the ILO Declaration on social justice for a fair globalisation notes that labour is not a good, and poverty, regardless of its location, presents danger to the world’s prosperity. The Declaration focuses on the guarantees for everybody’s just achievements through provision of employment, social protection, social dialogue, and basic principles and rights in the working place. One of the main tasks is to secure employment by creating a stable institutional and economic environment, where everyone will be able to develop and improve his or her potential and skills, which are necessary for a productive work, personal goals’ achievement, and common welfare.

An extract from the Declaration mentioned above are very optimistic. It is important to note, however, that - apart from the employers who, in this case, are to guarantee social justice and responsible for implementation of the  Declaration’s commitments - there is another party – those people, for whose sake such work and declarations are made. Do those people know about their rights, their abilities, about the fact that their interests are presented at the highest level?..

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Staying Open - Promoting the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Sweden

Anna Sevortian, Executive Director of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF), and Barbara von Ow-Freytag, Co-Ordinator of the Contact Group with the Eastern Partnership CSF, used a special meeting with Swedish NGOs working with Russia at the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) on 12 February 2015 in Stockholm to present the Forum and consult on new strategies with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SIDA.
Opening the Partners' Meeting with some 40 Swedish NGOs, Mirja Peterson, Head of SIDA 's  Eastern Europe division, noted that the visit of CSF representatives came at a perfect time as the agency was beginning consultations on its operational policy to implement the new Russia strategy of the Swedish government.  Passed last August, the 'result strategy for Sweden's support  to democracy, human rights, and environment in Russia 2014-2018' forsees a budget of 360 million crowns (around 37.5 thousand euros), of which 320 million go to SIDA.
The government strategy aims at supporting the 'democratic development in Russia, contributing to a wider respect for human rights and a better environment in the Baltic Sea Region and the North-West of Russia.' Human rights, democratic develpment, and civil participation would be given a priority 'in view of recent developments in Russia'. 
In small working groups, NGO representatives discussed two themes - which of the government aims were realistic and what new forms of co-operation should be invented. The central challenge, most participants agreed, was to find a new balance between pragmatism ('do what is still possible') and defending principal European values and issues. Like that of Swedish NGOs, SIDA's principle was to stay open and continue working with Russian partners wherever possible.
Presenting the EU-Russia CSF as a special guest, Anna Sevortian invited Swedish NGOs to join the Forum and use it to share Swedish promising practices with CSF members - both from Russia and the EU countries.

'In challenging times, joint strategy debates on civil society co-operaton with Russia were needed between governments and NGOs as well as between individual EU countries,' underlined Barbara von Ow-Freytag. '"Staying open" also means including NGO partners from Ukraine and other Eastern partnership countries in projects, where possible,' she said, speaking for the Contact group with the Eastern Partnership CSF.

On the sidelines of the event, Anna Sevortian and Barbara von Ow-Freytag also made separate appointments with some Swedish NGOs and other interested actors.


Consultations on a New Forum's Strategy in St. Petersburg

On 12-13 February 2015, a mid-term development of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum was discussed in the course of the 2nd Strategy Group meeting in St. Petersburg. A new strategy is a common product of Forum members: They were invited to contribute to the first draft of the document before the General Assembly in Tallinn and to amend the document before this February meeting.

The most debated questions turned out to be demands on a future legal registration of the Forum as well as definition of priority directions for 2015-2018. As a new task, support for peace efforts evolved - a reaction to the war in Eastern Ukraine. Besides, a desired balance between the topics around NGOs in the EU and in the Russian society was on the agenda. Finally, measures of support and solidarity were also mentioned, as long as Russian internationally engaged NGOs have been massively persecuted and labeled as "foreign agents".

In March 2015, all 145 Forum members will get the final draft of the strategy document for voting and approval.


Invitation to the Discussion "Afraid of the "Fifth Column"? - Independent Civic Engagement in the Russian Federation in Danger"

Amnesty International Germany, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, and the House of Democracy and Human Rights invite the interested public to a debate on current conditions of independent civic engagement in Russia. The event will take place on 3 March 2015, at 7:30 p.m., in the Robert Havemann Hall of the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin (4, Greifswalder St.). 

Invited speakers are Sergei Lukashevsky, Director of the Sakharov Centre (Moscow), Tatiana Kursina, Executive Director of the NGO "Memorial Centre of the History of Political Repressions "Perm-36" (Perm), and Prof. em. Wolfgang Eichwede, Founding Director of the Research Centre Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen (Bremen/Berlin). The talk will be moderated by Peter Franck, Russla Expert at Amnesty International (Berlin).

It will be inter alia debated, which influence the state has on civic engagement in Russia and which options for actions remain for the related organisations.


Training on Forum's Internal Communications in Moscow

On 26-27 February 2015, a Training on Forum's internal communications took place in Moscow. It was attended by Steering Committee and Consortium members, Co-Ordinators and representatives of Working Groups and project teams (in particular Transborder Corruption Group) as well as Secretariat associates.

The target of the training was to foster communication within mentioned Forum structures as well as cross-sector co-operation. Single tasks included more active involvement and broader representation of the Forum members in its activities, improvement suggestions for internal communications, presentation of new online communication tools, and others. 

The training was closely linked to the strategy meeting of the Forum, which took place two weeks earlier in St. Petersburg. As a starting point, internal communication patterns within different member groups in the course of debates on the future projects was taken. At the end of the meeting, participants came back to that discussion and elaborated road maps for their groups for 2015-2018 with use of new communication tools. They also brainstormed which services they can provide to improve the Forum's work and what they may expect from the Forum as a common platform and the Secretariat as its operating mechanism.

Representatives of Forum member organisations had different opportunities to attend the meeting - in person, via Skype, or by writing messages on a special Facebook group and getting answers in a real-time mode.

The training was conducted by Konstantin Kolomeets, Product manager in Intranet and communications, former Head of Intranet Department at Yandex.


Statement "The European Union Should Remain Free of Authoritarianism"

On the day of President Vladimir Putin's visit to Budapest, the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum reiterated its serious concerns about shrinking space for fundamental rights and freedoms in Hungary and continued pressure exerted on Hungarian civil society organisations Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hosted President Putin on 17 February 2015 to discuss bilateral, geopolitical, and energy issues.

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia-Civil Society Forum urged the governments of Hungary and Russia to stop the pressure on civil society and freedom of expression and provide equal opportunities to unhindered participation of citizens in the development of their countries. Moreover, it called on relevant European Union authorities and the international community to react to these disturbing developments within and beyond the EU and to more actively contribute to ensuring a safe environment for civic engagement in Europe.

Controversial legislative and policy measures taken by Hungarian government in the last several years demonstrate evolution of the political system in this European Union member state towards “illiberal democracy”. It includes tightened control of the media, restrictive amendments of electoral legislation, and increasing administrative pressure on independent non-governmental organisations. In 2011, a controversial media law adopted by the Hungarian Parliament was later amended only after strongest criticism by the European Union. Nevertheless, a number of further steps by the government, including attempts to shut down independent channels like Klubrádió, dismissals of Gergő Sáling, editor-in-chief of “Origo”, the most popular Internet portal in Hungary, and other journalists from its editorial office, or discredit to “Átlátszó”, a prominent NGO running an investigative journalism news portal, and of the Roma Press Center are all clear signals of a serious threat to the media freedom in Hungary.

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Interview with Andrei Suslov, Head of the Centre for Civic Education and Human Rights (Perm, Russia)

To watch the interview in Russian please follow the link

The Centre for Civic Education and Human Rights has been working with an audience that is often left outside the field of human rights education – schoolchildren and students. Your centre has been created over ten years ago. Please tell us, why exactly this audience was chosen and which projects you implement with them.

On the contrary, this audience has been traditionally wider represented in human rights education. When we started our work in the late 1990s, educational activities of NGOs were highly popular. We got involved in them. It had to do mostly specifically with students. Of course, we also conducted training sessions for NGO activists. The students have always been an important well-represented target audience. Certainly, we also worked with teachers who were our main target audience at that time already. They keep being such an audience now, since they are the ones, who would later work with children. Our further target audiences are smaller in size, activities with them are carried out from time to time. In contrast, we have been working with teachers and students throughout all 17 years of our professional activities.

Please tell us, which specific projects you implement, which knowledge do you bring to students and teachers?

If we talk about teachers, we train them to provide human rights educational programmes at school. It may be a separate course, if the teacher is ready for this and it has been agreed with the school. These may be lessons within any academic subjects - such as social studies or history, literature, etc. These may be extra-curricular classes - such as class meetings. These may be school events, etc. When we train teachers, we, certainly, pay attention to theoretical aspects of human rights to give them an understanding of what they are. And afterwards, the procedure is as follows: They work with their students. We do not have much work directly with children. From the very beginning, we had a lot of training activities, as we were accumulating learning techniques. Sometimes, trainings may be arranged within various projects. Systematically, these are competitions aimed at enabling students to use knowledge of human rights. Every year for the past fifteen years, we have organised regional Human Rights Olympiad for high school students. For eight years, we held an essay contest on human rights for students "I Have Rights". We haven’t carried out this in last two years, because we felt that that competition, unfortunately, didn’t attract such interest as it used to be before. Besides, there are сompetitions that we started holding recently - a contest of amateur films on human rights. Basically, we operate within a frame of competitions - something that is not addressed directly to students. We have in mind that their tutors work with them.

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People in Need: A New Civil Society Centre Opened in Prague

On 19 February 2015, a new Civil Society Centre was opened in Prague. The Centre was set up by a consortium of three renowned NGOs - "People in Need" (Czech Republic), the Institute of Public Affairs (Poland), and the Human Rights House Foundation (Norway). All of them are members In the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

According to Rostislav Valvoda (“People in Need”), Centre’s Executive Director, the mission of the Centre is to empower civil society actors in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia with flexible and innovative tools to work towards more open and democratic societies under conditions of respect for human dignity and rights. The opening of the Centre is also an important sign of solidarity with the organisations in the regions mentioned above, which have been recently experiencing marginalisation and persecution of civil society actors. 


GRANI Centre: The Decision of the Ministry of Justice Is Ludicrous and Dangerous

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its solidarity with its member - the GRANI Centre for Civic Analysis and Independent Research, which was unlawfully included on the list of "foreign agents", and publishes a position of the GRANI Centre on this occasion.


'On Friday, 13 February 2015, the Ministry of Justice published on its website an announcement that the GRANI Centre was enlisted in the registry of the NGOs that work as foreign agents. According to the announcement, the decision to enlist the NGO into the registry was based on the materials accumulated by the Perm Regional Branch of the Ministry of Justice during an off-scheduled on-site audit of the GRANI Centre.

On the subject mentioned above, we state:

The conclusions of the audit are inconsistent; the content of demands is ludicrous. The NGO does not have foreign funding...

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Legambiente: Clean Up the Med

Clean Up the Med: Since 1995 Legambiente has been coordinating associations, schools and local institutions which decide to commit themselves to clean up beaches and natural sites on the last week end of May. The action is diffused in 21 Mediterranean countries to clean up the coasts and natural reserves from litter of any sort generated by wrong human activities. The main purpose of our Campaign is not only that of physically removing waste but also raising awareness and educating the community. In 2015 the appointment will be on 23-24 and 25 May.

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