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NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 2015


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
2016: Five Years and Going >>

TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Budapest: A Paragon for the EU-Russia and Global Dialogue >>
Open Call Mechanism - Apply Until 20 January 2016! >>

STEERING COMMITTEE
New Members of the Steering Committee Elected in Budapest >>

WORKING GROUPS
Address by the Working Group "Environment" to the 21st Conference of the UN FCCC in Paris  >>
"Different Wars": Exhibition Opened in Prague >>
Report "Russian "Black Money" in the EU: Indicatiors of Transborder Corruption" Presented on the International Anti-Corruption Day >>


MEDIA
Dmitri Shevchenko (Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, Krasnodar, Russia): 'I am Motivated by the Thought that Our Activities Will Deliver Their Benefits Someday, Be It Even a Distant Future' >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Youth Human Rights Movement: Andrei Yurov Received an International Award >>
MitOst Association: Zoya Lukyanova: 'The International Dialogue is as Important as Never Before' >>
Save Pechora Committee: New Paths of the "Green Backpack" >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

2016: Five Years and Going

Dear colleagues, / Dear friends,

With this shot from festive Budapest - the location of the 6th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful, happy, healthy year 2016.

The departing year was everything but easy for civil societies worldwide – due to on-going conflicts in Syria, Eastern Ukraine, and in dozen other places; refugee and migrant crisis; terrorist attacks... In single countries like Russia or Hungary, the crackdown on independent voices persisted. The law on "undesirable" organisations and “foreign agents” in Russia or definition of "problematic" organisations in Hungary became a major hurdle to operations of many groups. Intimidation of activists, inspections in the offices and homes of our colleagues, some based on absurd accusations, like in the case of Magomed Mutsolgov, Head of the Ingushetian NGO "MASHR", contributed to an uneasy picture of 2015. 

Yet, the civil society groups carry on, and their work and achievements in 2015 inspire us all.

In this issue, we only mention a few such achievements by international members of the Forum. In December, the "Different Wars" Exhibition opened in Prague. This project, which started through the Forum's Subgrant Programme, tells how textbooks from six countries view history of the Second World War. Photographs of human rights leaders profiled in another project precede the announcement of the Open Call Mechanism (OCM) - a successor of the Subgrant Programme. Forum members, alone or in cooperation with external organisations, are encouraged to apply for available project funds until 20 January 2016.

Besides, we publish a piece on the new report by the Expert Group "Fighting Transborder Corruption" and an address of the Working Group "Environment" to the 21st Climate Summit in Paris. Finally, we hope that Evgeni Vitishko, an imprisoned activist of the "Environmental Watch on North Caucasus", would be released by the moment you receive this newsletter, as his colleague Dmitri Shevchenko wishes in his interview

2016 will be a special year to the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Five years ago this coming March, 58 NGO representatives from the EU and Russia gathered for the Forum’s Founding Meeting. Last week the Steering Committee accepted the 154th member of the Forum from Italy and discussed CSF next steps – as implementation of the Forum’s Strategy, renewed “Legal Dialogue” Project and the upcoming “Europe Lab” assembly in Croatia.

How to best celebrate the 5th anniversary of our Forum together? This is our question to you, dear readers. Help us  mark this important occasion in March 2016 by sending your ideas and initiatives via e-mail info@eu-russia-csf.org, on Facebook or Twitter, or calling the Secretariat.

We are most grateful to all our supporters and donors and we look forward to another rewarding year for the Forum!

Sincerely Yours,
Anna Sevortian
Executive Director
EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Budapest: A Paragon for the EU-Russia and Global Dialogue

On 9 December 2015, the 6th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) ended its work in Budapest, Hungary. It gathered almost 200 representatives of member organisations, observers, donors, and the media.

‘The main topic of this General Assembly was discussing cross-cutting issues for the civil societies in the EU and Russia,’ says Anna Sevortian, Executive Director of the EU-Russia CSF. 'We touched on a variety of topics equally pertinent to both sides – observing international law obligations, migration, LGBTIQ rights, climate change, and much more. Civil societies has a lot to say on these issues and should be better heard by policy-makers in the EU, separate member states, and in Russia. However, the reality for the third sector actors in many places is quite different. One of the reasons to choose Hungary for GA this year was our wish to express solidarity with civil activists under pressure.’

Read more

TOP NEWS

Open Call Mechanism - Apply Until 20 January 2016!

Less than one month left until the application deadline for the projects submitted within the Open Call Mechanism (OCM) - a succession format of the Subgrant Programme implemented in 2014-2015. Within the OCM, a competent jury shall select at least 7 projects, which will get between 8,000 and 30,000 euros each with the implemetation period varying from 6 to 18 months.

The eligible applicant must be a registered NGO - member of 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. The OCM will support thematically diverse projects on cooperation and solidarity for civil society organisations, efforts to promote shared values in the EU-Russia dialogue as well as other topics consistent with the Forum's Mid-Term Strategy (2015-2018).

Applications and all related materials in English or Russian shall have been received until 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.

STEERING COMMITTEE

New Members of the Steering Committee Elected in Budapest

On 8 December 2015, at the 6th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Budapest, Hungary, the new strength of the Forum's Steering Committee (SC) was elected.

The Forum members re-elected three SC members - Yuri Dzhibladze (Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Moscow), Anna Skvortsova (NGO Development Centre, St. Petersburg), and Natalia Taubina (Public Verdict Foundation, Moscow).

Three other members from the last SC strength stepped down - Katarzyna Batko-Tołuć (Citizens' Network Watchdog, Warsaw), Evgenia Chirikova (Environmental Defence of the Moscow Region, Moscow), and Stefan Melle (German-Russian Exchange, Berlin). Instead of them, the majority of votes was received by Elena Belokurova (German-Russian Exchange, St. Petersburg), Alexei Kozlov (Solidarity with the Civil Movement in Russia / Solidarität mit der Bürgerbewegung in Russland, Berlin), and Łukasz Wenerski (Institute of Public Affairs, Warsaw).

The new SC had the first online meeting on 21 December 2015 already. A personal meeting is planned for February 2016.

WORKING GROUPS

Adress by the Working Group "Environment" to the 21st Conference of the UN FCCC in Paris

Based on the articles 2 and 5-8 UN FCCC and with regards to the decision of the Forum of the Indigenous People on Climate Change (COP-6 Part 1, the Hague, 2000), the Statement of Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian NGOs on Climate (St.Petersburg, 13 November 2009), the Statement of Environmental NGOs (St. Petersburg, 2015), Manifest of the Civil Society in Support of Real Solutions on Climate (30 November 2015), and other documents we urge to include in the final COP-21 documents:

  • To emphasise importance of the world forests as contributors to the mitigation of the anthropogenic influence to climate
  • To view forests as not only absorbent of the greenhouse gases but also an important regulator of global climate change processes. In addition, forests are the ancestral habitat of indigenous peoples, who live close to nature and are the most vulnerable to climate change
  • We are unanimous in saying that large hydropower dams and nuclear energy are not a solution to address climate change and should not be supported under the new agreement. We urge governments, financial, and other institutions not to include large hydropower and nuclear power stations in their initiatives for fighting climate change.

Read more

WORKING GROUPS

"Different Wars": Exhibition Opened in Prague

On 9 December 2015, at the International Conference "History versus Propaganda: Relating to the Past in Contemporary Russia", the ceremonial opening of the Exhibition “Different Wars” took place in Prague. The exhibition was composed by the Working Group "Historical Memory and Education" and funded within the Forum's Subgrant Programme 2014-2015 as well as by donors of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

The exhibition’s aim is to discover national history narratives from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia and discuss them in order to understand some of people's deeply rooted images and perceptions of the past.

In Prague, "Different Wars" were well received by academics as well as interested public. The visitors were discussing their own memories of historical narrations presented in the textbooks during their school years and the changes the WWII stories have undergone lately.

One of the topics of the following panel on education was how the current narratives have been constructed and used by the governments. Nikita Lomakin from Memorial International, a Working Group member, described the situation in Russia, where a unified history textbook is used to explain the past, and the problems connected to it.

Prior to the opening in Prague, the exhibition was presented on 1 December 2015 at an International Conference of historians in Vienna and introduced in an exclusive opening the next day in Berlin.

‘In 2016, our group will continue to work on developing methods for exhibition presentation and its promotion,' sums up Kristina Smolijaninovaitė, Project Coordinator at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and one of the Working Group Coordinators. 'We are going not only to show the exhibition but to connect this with events as well as discussions related to the topic. Now we have been searching for further partners. In particular, we are leading talks on further cooperation with the European Association of History Educators. It would be great to reach out to wider public circles and contribute with the exhibition to the dialogue on conflicting memory and beyond.’

The introduction video to the exhibition may be seen here.

WORKING GROUPS

Report "Russian "Black Money" in the EU: Indicators of Transborder Corruption" Presented on the International Anti-Corruption Day

Photo by the Hungarian Chapter of the Transparency International

On the International Anti-Coruption Day being marked on 9 December 2015, the Expert Group "Fighting Transborder Corruption" of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum presented its new Report "Russian "Black Money" in the EU: Indicators of Transborder Corruption".

The presentation took place within the Anti-Corruption Festival in Budapest hosted by the Hungarian Chapter of Transparency International. At the conference within the Festival, both civil society activists and foreign diplomats as well as members of state and inter-state authorities including a representative of the Prime Minister of Hungary, the Prosecutor at the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Hungary, the Strategy Director at the European Anti-Fraud Office, the US Ambassador to Hungary, and others.

Read more

MEDIA

Dmitri Shevchenko (Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, Krasnodar, Russia): 'I am Motivated by the Thought that Our Activities Will Deliver Their Benefits Someday, Be It Even a Distant Future'

To watch the interview in Russian please follow the link

Dmitri, you have been working with the “Environmental Watch on North Caucasus”. This organisation became well-known before the Olympic Games in Sochi. Your important activities were restricted and even discontinued for a time-being. Has the situation improved as of today?

I would have loved to say that the situation has changed, but it is not true. Of course, we had great expectations that after the Olympic Games all that madness, which had happened in last several years in the course of the preparation process for the event, would pass, including the situation of crackdown on civil society in the Krasnodar Region. We believed that that wave would decline. But, unfortunately, a new madness came into play on the side of regional elites, which have been involved in the all-Russian campaign on fighting against the Ukrainian Maidan and integration of Crimea - and a new stage of pressure on the civil society started. Our organisation has suffered from that in full. Now we are monitoring construction works of the bridge over the Kerch Strait and experiencing a lot of various environmental disruptions. We faced with the fact that our authorities, including law enforcement ones, directly connect our activities on monitoring this project with the Crimea’s blockade and accuse us of playing into the hands of the Ukrainian government. There is a surveillance on us, when we go to the Temriuk Region, where the construction works are on-going. In other words, a new reason for the pressure on the Russian civil society emerged, which had not existed before. Now they are trying to put us in connection with political motives and activities and so on.

How hard is it to be inside of this confrontation? So, your colleague Suren Gazarian had to flee abroad. Another colleague of yours - Evgeni Vitishko - is still in prison, and it is not clear whether he would have been freed before the New Year. What is your forecast regarding Evgeni Vitishko?

Regarding Evgeni Vitishko, my forecast is more or less positive. But, unfortunately, the unfavourable moment is that all this 1.5-year campaign in support of Evgeni Vitishko, while he was imprisoned, had no effect. The progress happened only after the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights directly reported to the President on that situation. Vladimir Vladimirovich asked the Prosecutor General to handle this specific situation with this specific citizen. Only afterwards, the procedure was initiated via the power vertical to the court, where Vitishko’s lawyers appealed for a parole application and recommendation to mercy many times. Finally, the full mechanism turned over - and the decision on Evgeni’s freedom was made. And that is a really sad situation: Even on the international level, power of the civil society is nil, and only Vladimir Vladimirovich’s word improved the situation. And all that advocates’ work, international solidarity campaign in support of Evgeni Vitishko in various countries showed that all these practices didn’t work in Russia, unfortunately.

Read more

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Youth Human Rights Movement: Andrei Yurov Received an International Award

On 19 November 2015, the prizegiving ceremony of the Helsinki Civil Society Award took place in the Hague (Netherlands). The award was launcged by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, in 2015. Its first awardees are Arzu Abdullaeva, an Azerbaijani human rights and peacekeeping movement activist, and Andrei Yurov, a human rights activist from Voronezh (Russia), Founder of the Youth Human Rights Movement, another Forum member.

 

MitOst Association: Zoya Lukyanova: 'The International Dialogue is as Important as Never Before'

In the beginning of December, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education published an interview with Zoya Lukyanova, Project Coordinator for Russia and Eastern Europe at the MitOst Association. The major topics of the interview are civic engagement in Russia, local organisations working in the field of citizenship education and their working conditions, fundraising and crowdfunding opportunities for NGOs and bottom-up initiatives in Russia, and others.

Read more (in German)

 

New Paths of the "Green Backpack"

In Pechora, the joint project of the Branch No. 17 of the Pechora Central Libraries' System and the "Save Pechora Committee" is going on, which was launcg in March 2015. Thanks to this project, its first participants - students of the 4th "B" grade of the Secondary School No. 10 – were going hiking and getting familiar with the only geological reserve in the Republic of Komi - "Kamenka Cliffs". As next project participants, the smallest readers of the library were invited - the eldest group from the "Svetliachok" Kindergarten.
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