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NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2015


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Human Rights House Network: 20 Years of Solidarity and Tolerance in Human Rights >>

TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Budapest: A Record Number of Applications Ever >>
Open Call Mechanism - Promoting Cooperation of Civil Societies Beyond Borders >>
"Refugees Welcome: European Citizens on Watch": Discussion Round in Berlin on the International Day for Tolerance >>

FLASHBACK
German-Russian Talks in Baden-Baden: Is a Cooperation of the Civil Society and Business Possible? >>
Killing Stereotypes and Finding Common Values and Points for Interaction - A Conference in Copenhagen >>


MEDIA
Lenka Surotchak (Pontis Foundation, Slovakia): 'Thanks to Foreign Funds, We Granted the First Chance to Slovak Citizens for Implementation of Their Projects' >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Public Verdict Foundation: Natalia Taubina Selected for 32nd Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award >>
Donors' Forum: Social Values in the Times of Crisis >>
FOJO: Journalists in Exile Face New Challenges >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Human Rights House Network: 20 Years of Solidarity and Tolerance in Human Rights

Ane Tusvik Bonde, Regional Manager for Eastern Europe and Caucasus at the Human Rights House Network (Oslo, Norway), looks back on 20 years of the history of the network in the run-up of the International Day for Tolerance to be celebrated on 16 November:
 
Solidarity and tolerance are essential for the Human Rights House Network. Without them, we would be isolated and divided.
 
Human Rights House is a community of independent non-governmental organisations working in partnership to promote human rights; the House itself is a test of tolerance. Each organisation within a House participates as an independent partner retaining its autonomy. The Houses are run and managed according to democratic principles of equal participation and representation. They allow room for debate, diversity of opinion, and differences of method and focus; a Human Rights House is tolerance in practice.
 
A key component of tolerance is respect for dissenting views. This is one of the key principles in the UN Resolution on Protection of Human Rights Defenders adopted in March 2013. Members of the Human Rights House Network have promoted the principles in the resolution making sure that the words and principles would be known outside Geneva in the countries we work.
 
Within the EU Russia Civil Society Forum, respect for dissenting views is key to fruitful discussions and possible cooperation. The Forum`s strengths are its diversity and the possibilities this brings as a platform to exchange views.

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TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Budapest: A Record Number of Applications Ever

Final countdown started for the 6th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum - the largest annual event and the highest decision-making body of the Forum. This year’s GA will be held on 7-9 December 2015 at the Benczúr Hotel in Budapest, Hungary.

The number of applications - both from Forum members and from observers - has significantly exceeded that of the previous years. So this Assembly will likely host the highest number of participants and local NGO guests.

At the opening On 7 December, welcome words will be delivered by István Íjgyártó, Minister of State for Cultural and Science Diplomacy (Hungary); Mikhail Fedotov, Head of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights (Russia); and Vygaudas Ušackas, Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation.

The major GA topic 2015 is cross-cutting issues for civil societies in the EU and Russia. Discussions will focus around the refugee crisis, Forum's outreach to various audiences including young professionals, experts on civilian oversight, etc. Attendees will also talk about solidarity and current developments in Hungary, anti-corruption work, the Helsinki +40 agenda, social innovations in their constituencies. Side events include the launch of the "Different Wars" Exhibition by the Forum's Working Group "Historical Memory and Education", site visits, workshops, etc.

The up-to-date programme version is always available here.

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum would like to thank all the members, supporters, partners, and donors for their assistance. We look forward to three days of productive exchange in Budapest.

TOP NEWS

Open Call Mechanism - Promoting Cooperation of Civil Societies Beyond Borders

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum calls for applications to its Open Call Mechanism (OCM) that shall support at least 7 projects designed by Forum members.

The eligible applicant must be a registered NGO - member in the Forum, operating in partnership with one or more Forum members. The application team must include at least one member organisation from Russia and one member organisation from the EU. Project proposals have to address topics of general interest for the EU-Russia relations and civil societies and be consistent with the Forum's Mid-Term Strategy (2015-2018).

The OCM will support thematically diverse projects and, among other topics, cooperation and solidarity for civil society organisations as well as efforts to promote shared values in the EU-Russia dialogue. All proposals should include face-to-face meetings and public events. Projects can receive a minimum of EUR 8,000 and a maximum of EUR 30,000 and run from 6 to 18 months.

Applications and all related materials in English or Russian shall have been received before 20 January 2016, 10pm CET / 12am MSK. Applications and all inquiries shall be marked “OCM” and sent to opencall@eu-russia-csf.org.

For further information, please go here.

TOP NEWS

"Refugees Welcome: European Citizens on Watch": Discussion Round in Berlin on the International Day of Tolerance

On 16 November 2015, the International Day for Tolerance, representatives of European bottom-up initiatives for assistance to refugees, refugees themselves, civil society activists, researchers, and further interested public will come together in Berlin for the Discussion Round “Refugees Welcome: European Citizens on Watch”. The event will take place at the "Literaturwerkstatt" (Kulturbrauerei, 97, Knaack St., 10435 Berlin).

For the discussion round, the main organiser - the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum - invited Julia Eriksson Pogorzelska, Law Clerk, Litigation Department, Swedish Migration Agency (Stockholm, Sweden); Nora Hauptmann, NGO Relations Coordinator, Kiron University for Refugees (Berlin, Germany); Julija Kranjec, Director, Centre for Peace Studies, Coordinator of the “Welcome“ Initiative (Zagreb, Croatia); Rossi Nkamani, Refugee from Cameroon arrived on the Mediterranean way to the EU (Berlin, Germany); Zsuzsanna Zsohár, Media Officer, Migration Aid (Budapest, Hungary). The moderation will overtake Ralph du Long, Member of the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, lawyer, UNITED for Intercultural Action (Assen-Amsterdam, Netherlands).

After the event, there will be an open space for individual talks and share of ideas and experiences.

The next day, 17 November 2015, will be devoted to site visits to Berlin initiatives assisting the refugees and advocacy meetings with City and German Federal authorities involved in the resolution of the refugee crisis.

We invite Forum members and all interested public to join the discussion round on 16 November. Please briefly send your confirmation of attendance to Sergei Tereshenkov, Forum's Senior Coordinator for Public Relations.

FLASHBACK

German-Russian Talks in Baden-Baden: Is a Cooperation of the Civil Society and Business Possible?

Anna Sevortian, Executive Director of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, took part in the 8th German-Russian Talks in Baden-Baden (Germany).

German-Russian Talks is an annual meeting of business elites, politicians, and active civil society representatives from Germany and Russia aimed at strengthening transborder responsibility for social and political development as well as networking. The event was held on 5-11 October 2015.

'It was a valuable experience for the Forum, as we have not so far interacted with business community,' says Anna Sevortian. 'It was important to present the agenda and the viewpont of the civil society in this audience, to speak about social entrepeneurship and social responsibility. Likewise, it is crucial to look afresh at how we, NGOs, are reaching out to various groups. We have got this opportunity in Baden-Baden, as the Forum was taken up as a case study at one of the sessions. We have discussed with business colleagues how to best build our Advisory Board and to better engage business community in Forum's activities. The insights from this session will guide our work in the next months.'

The event was organised by the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations in cooperation with the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the BMW Foundation.

FLASHBACK

Killing Stereotypes and Finding Common Values and Points for Interaction - A Conference in Copenhagen

Kristina Smolijaninovaitė, Project Coordinator at the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, was invited to take part in the Denmark/Russia Conference “Killing Stereotypes and Finding Common Values and Points for Interaction”. The event was held on 25 September 2015 at Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament. Kristina joined in a diverse circle of NGO representatives, media experts, businessmen, and politicians from Russia and the EU.

The panel discussion was devoted to a variety of topics ranging from establishment of institutions for a democratic society, economics, or media and up to human rights and the civil society engagement in the East-West dialogue.

In her turn, Kristina presented the Forum as well as its mission and diverse projects - such as the "EU-Russia Legal Dialogue", the Donors’ Event, the Visa Expert Group, or the Forum for Young Professionals "Europe Lab". The audience could learn that the Forum experiments with new formats, search for new audiences as well as new and exciting partnerships served as an effort to overcome current freezing of the EU-Russia relations on the civil society level.

'The conference in Copenhagen was also a good opportunity to meet Forum's local members, for instance, the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, as well as engage in networking with expert communities, NGOs, and younger generations interested in the Forum's work,' sums up Kristina Smolijaninovaitė.

The event was organised by the Danish Social Liberal Party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and the "Yabloko" Party (Russia). The return visit was held on 24 October 2015 in Moscow.

MEDIA

Lenka Surotchak (Pontis Foundation, Slovakia): 'Thanks to Foreign Funds, We Granted the First Chance to Slovak Citizens for Implementation of Their Projects'

To watch the interview please follow the link

The Pontis Foundation was established in 1997. Which programmes and projects may you be especially proud of in your history?

I would say, every milestone of the Pontis Foundation had something we are proud of. We are proud of having been in the beginning of development of the civil society. Thanks to foreign funds, we granted the first chance to Slovak citizens for implementation of their projects and introduction of their concepts of the public policy in Slovakia. I am very proud of all the projects we have done so far. One of the examples is mobilisation of young people for participation in the 1998 and 2002 elections, which brought change to the country. I am very proud of that we were the first foundation, which started to work with corporations. These were us, who initiated awarding of the corporations for their credits, philanthropy, and - later on – the corporate responsibility. I am proud of that a number of projects, we have been implementing in cooperation with corporations, brings a real systemic change. The way we work with the homeless and hearing-impaired people or our current work with watchdog organisations – nothing would have been possible without the wonderful Slovak civil society, which we were able to support. And I am also very proud of a number of tools that we had developed at the Pontis Foundation – tools assisting individual fundraising, tools helping corporations to be responsible, or those helping the volunteering. Now we are also heading to a private philanthropy.  And the last point that I am very glad to mention is that now we are working in other countries like Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, or Russia, but also, for instance, in Kenya. And I am glad to have been a part of the foundation for all these years.

Nowadays, the activities of the Pontis Foundation reach out far beyond Slovakia. How did you develop societies in these countries?

Well, I would say that, first of all, the most important subject today is partnership. But when I think of the past trying to find people, who were among the dissidents, people, who were healthy voices of those societies, we did our best to provide support and encouragement to them, express the solidarity of our people with them.  In countries like Cuba, we really focus on dissidents and other voices expressing the solidarity with them. We also bring some financial support and let them know that they are not alone. But we also reach out to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the European MPs and try to bring them message that the healthy voices of civil society should not be abandoned there. In countries like Belarus, Moldova,  Ukraine, or in the Balkans, we have been bringing a know-how we have learnt in our country, when we were trying to establish an independent state in Slovakia and build its independent institutions. That is what we have learnt while joining the European Union or NATO and later on, while building a civil society and going through a series of reforms. In places like Kenya, it is about partnership, like it is in any other place. We always go into a partnership with a strong organisation with a similar mission, similar visions, similar ideas. In Kenya, we work with a wonderful partner on establishing the IT knowledge among children. And now it has shown such a progress that we found training companies already. We are working together with the iHub on creating the first start-ups there. That is very exciting!

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MEMBERS' VIEWS

Public Verdict Foundation: Natalia Taubina Selected for 32nd Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award

Natalia Taubina, Director at the Public Verdict Foundation (Moscow, Russia), has been selected as the honoree for the 2015 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, now in its 32nd year. The award recognises her courageous work seeking justice for the most serious human rights violations in Russia and initiates a partnership to support her efforts to promote and safeguard human rights.

 

Donors' Forum: Social Values in the Times of Crisis

On 1 October 2015, European Day of Foundations and Donors, the Donors’ Forum (Moscow, Russia) presented the 4th regular report on the state and development of foundations in Russia.

The report covers 2014 year, which was dedicated to the social values in the Donors’ Forum. 'The questions of social values and motivation of the charity work are addressed to all of us, people think about them, but there has never been any open discussion on the subject of social values which are followed by the donors and foundations,'  emphasised the importance of this subject Viacheslav Bakhmin, Board member of the Donors’ Forum.

 

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FOJO: Journalists in Exile Face New Challenges

Journalists from 13 countries, forced to flee repressive media environments, met in Stockholm to share experiences and discuss the future.

Reporters and editors from countries as diverse as South Sudan, Tibet and Azerbaijan gathered to exchange stories of state harassment, threats, imprisonment and violence and to have training in online security and business development
.

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