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NEWSLETTER JANUARY 2015


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Financial Officer at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum >>

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement of the Steering Committee and the NGO "European Exchange" "International Community Should Urgently Provide More Humanitarian Aid for People in the Donbass Region Affected By the Conflict in Eastern Ukraine" >>
Statement "'Je Suis Charlie' - Condemning Terrorist Attacks in France and Urging Against Rise of Anti-Islamic Ideas" >>

Statement "Russian Government Should Repeal the "Foreign Agents" Law and Restart a Dialogue with Independent Russian NGOs" >>

WORKING GROUPS
The United Nations and Peacekeeping in the Times of the Conflict in Ukraine >>
Human Rights Activists Are Looking for Ways of Direct Interaction with Citizens >>

A Meeting of the Working Group "Citizenship Education" Took Place in Prague >>

MEDIA
Interview with Jos Boonstra, Head of the Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia Programme (FRIDE) >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS

FIDH: Russian Bill to Criminalise Cooperation with Foreign Organisations - A New Threat to Human Rights Work >>
UNITED for Intercultural Action: Invitation to the Conference "Overcome All Borders: UNITED Against Intolerance" >>
Buryat Regional Union on the Baikal Lake: Emergency at the Baikal Lake Caused by Hydropower Plant Officials >>

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Financial Officer at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

The EU-Russia-Civil Society Forum (CSF) is looking for a part-time Financial Officer responsible for smooth execution of all financial matters connected with the CSF project supported by the EU and other donors.

The work starts from 16 February 2015 at the CSF Secretariat, which is based in the premises of the "German-Russian Exchange" (GRE), Berlin.

The deadline for applications is 5 February 2015. Interviews will take place in February 2015 in Berlin. Work permit for Germany is a prerequisite for applying.

The job can be complemented by financial management tasks within the GRE Project work (subject to additional agreement).

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STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement of the Steering Committee and the NGO "European Exchange" "International Community Should Urgently Provide More Humanitarian Aid for People in the Donbass Region Affected by the Conflict in Eastern Ukraine"

This winter puts millions of people affected by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine in an imminent danger of an overwhelming humanitarian crisis. First and foremost, the humanitarian crisis may have a dire impact on lives of the population of the parts of the Donbass Region in Eastern Ukraine which are controlled by insurgents in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics.

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the NGO “European Exchange” therefore appeal to the international community and all parties of the conflict to ensure fast and extensive delivery of humanitarian aid to the communities affected by the conflict in the territory of the Donbass Region. This aid should be delivered through politically neutral international organisations and channels which have trust of all parties in the conflict.

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STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "'Je Suis Charlie' - Condemning Terrorist Attacks in France and Urging Against Rise of Anti-Islamic Ideas"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of victims of hideous hate crimes in France between 7 and 9 January 2015.

The journalists from the weekly satire paper “Charlie Hebdo” fell victim to fanatics, who called into question essential democratic freedoms – the freedom of expression and the freedom of media. In a series of terrorist attacks, 17 people were murdered, including kosher supermarket customers and police officers. These were misanthropic acts but also acts against rights and values adopted by the world community in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

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STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Russian Government Should Repeal the "Foreign Agents" Law and Restart a Dialogue with Independent Russian NGOs"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is extremely concerned about significant deterioration of the situation of independent non-governmental organisations in Russia in 2014. The Law No. 121-FZ (so-called “foreign agents” law) plays a dramatic role in the persecution of prominent non-governmental organisations and their members.  The Russian state authorities keep performing unannounced inspections of NGOs leading to expansion of “foreign agents” list. A number of court appeals on past decisions have resulted in negative verdicts for NGOs; some are on- going. Several NGOs are to pay huge fines for failing to register voluntarily and may be financially unable to do that. These actions by the Russian authorities have already caused discontinuation of activities or even shutdown of several leading NGOs and have had dramatic negative impact on activities of dozens of other organisations and the overall ability of independent civil society to operate freely and without fear of persecution.

In December 2014, the official list of NGOs registered as “foreign agents” was expanded by inclusion of further 11 organisations.  Among them are several members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – “Citizens’ Watch” (St. Petersburg), “Human Rights Resource Centre” (St. Petersburg), “Man and Law” (Republic of Mari El), and the All-Russian Movement for Human Rights (Moscow). On 16 January 2015, yet another member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – “Committee Against Torture” (Nizhny Novgorod) – was announced a “foreign agent”. Besides, such prominent organisations as the Moscow School of Civic Education (Moscow) and the Sakharov Centre (Moscow) were also labeled as “foreign agents” last month.

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WORKING GROUPS

The United Nations and Peacekeeping in the Times of Conflict in Ukraine

Special for the January edition of the newsletter, representatives of the Working Group "Democratic Structures and Processes" prepared an essay marking the 70th Anniversary of the Foundation of the United Nations.

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:

 

This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations. Initially, the UN was a project of the Second World War allies, who were looking to establish a more just and peaceful international platform for cooperation in the post-war world. Representatives of fifty countries gathered at the founding conference in April 1945 in San Francisco. The first session of the newly formed organisation followed in January 1946 in London.

The United Nations regrouped countries with a democratic and communist background and remained a place of encounter between the two blocks throughout the Cold War. Eventually, it expanded to become today’s universal organisations of 193 member states.

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WORKING GROUPS

Human Rights Activists Are Looking for Ways of Direct Interaction with Citizens

On December 9 2014, the Working Group "Human Rights and the Rule of Law", as well as experts, journalists, and documentary cinematographers gathered in Warsaw to discuss the information campaign to increase confidence levels for the work of human rights organisations in Russia.

At the meeting, the issues of lack of human rights values in the Russian media space have been raised; as well as issues of creating a common language understood by the society; use of manipulative techniques in state propaganda and fighting them through telling stories about the topics most easily understood and accepted by the society.

'The participants were unanimous in the opinion that under today’s circumstances the authorities ceased to be the audience of human rights defenders,' said Elena Shakhova, Chairwoman of the Human Rights NGO "Citizens Watch" (St. Petersburg). 'We must appeal directly to the society for which we work.'

As first steps on the way to implementation of the new communications policy, human rights non-profit organisations, have planned, in particular to create videos about their activities and to distribute via online channels.

WORKING GROUPS

A Meeting of the Working Group "Citizenship Education" Took Place in Prague

On 15-17 December 2014, the Working Group Working Group "Citizenship Education" met in Prague within the framework of the Sub-grant Programme initiated by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. The meeting was hosted by Agora Central Europe. It was a first step in a two-phase project, whereas the second step will be a joint visit to Brussels. Fourteen members from EU countries and Russia participated in the meeting.

The main aim of the workshop was to closely get to know each other, discuss current challenges and opportunities of civic education, and plan future steps of the WG. In the course of the meeting, participants visited the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and learnt about their programmes for teachers on how to present modern history and how to tackle previous non-democratic regimes. They also visited the Czech NGO “People in Need”. The project “One World for Schools”, which is based on screening documentaries with human rights thematic, was presented. Participants also met Czech experts on citizenship education and learnt about the Czech context and developments.

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MEDIA

Interview with Jos Boonstra, Head of the Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia Programme (FRIDE)

To watch the interview please follow the link

Mr Boonstra, was there a progress towards a common European security in 2014?

Jos Boonstra: I think 2014 has been a very important year. Unfortunately, in a negative way. The EU and Russia are really at odds with each other. The hope for the secure community that once was being built can’t be built in the future anymore. Is this a new Cold War? Definitely, not. I think the common interests between Russia and the EU at the moment are just too close and too important to prevent a new Cold War.

How do you see the shape and future of the EU in the mid- and long-term perspective?

I see the future of the EU as still growing. I think the importance of the EU, though there is a lot of skepticism and criticism in Europe, is still expanding. Perhaps, it is dependent even on geography – thanks to enlargement. But I also see a lot of threats and challenges for the EU. The European continent needs to be very careful to stay engaged with neighbours. If we close up and become a fortress, are afraid of people and countries from our South or our East, it will have a very negative effect on our future. In that sense, the EU and Russia have a lot of interest in common work and will need to work, at some point, together again.

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MEMBERS' VIEWS

FIDH: Russian Bill to Criminalise Cooperation with Foreign Organisations - A New Threat to Human Rights Work

The State Duma must drop the Bill on “undesirable foreign organisations” that was debated on 20 January, said the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. If adopted, the law will complement an already very restrictive legislative arsenal used to silence all the forms of criticism against the regime in contradiction with international human rights instruments ratified by Russia and will allow authorities to ban legitimate human rights activities, though they are protected under international law.

 

UNITED for Intercultural Action: Invitation to the Conference "Overcome All Borders: UNITED Against Intolerance"

UNITED invites your organisation to nominate for the UNITED Conference near Malaga “Overcome all borders; UNITED against Intolerance”. This conference will focus on the intolerance migrants face in Europe.

The aim of this conference is to create ideas, vision, and strategies to counter this intolerance and the lack of a strong and humane political vision.

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Buryat Regional Union on the Baikal Lake: Emergency at the Baikal Lake Caused by Hydropower Plant Officials

On the coast of the Baikal Lake, an emergency is about to start, warn environmentalists the "Buryat Russian Water Resources" Company and and the Russian Ministry of Emenrgencies.

Due to the early lowering water level of the Baikal Lake by Irkutsk hydropower plant officials in spring and summer 2014, the water level in the lake at the moment was 40 cm lower compared to the last year. This has already led to a deterioration of the water supply in the Buryat Republic and can lead to outbreaks of infectious diseases in coastal villages.

In addition, fishermen, who took to the fishing in the area of the Selenga River delta (the largest tributary of the Baikal Lake), complain about the lack of fish, which puts many fishing bloodlines on the brink of survival.

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