dear members of the preparation-committee
for the first CBSS-initiated NGO-meeting in Luebeck,
Today we would like to inform you about some important news from the NGO Baltic Sea Conference, which took place on March 24th/25th in Copenhagen. For us, as we are working with partners from the Baltic States Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania already for 10 years, this Conference was an important event, as it opened a good opportunity for getting to know experiences and perspectives from NGOs all around the Baltic Sea. Thanks to our Danish friends, who again took the lead and invited many different kind of initiatives from all countries around the Baltic Sea, it was possible to meet a lot of very engaged people. Workgroups on "peace and security", "Human rights and development of democracy", "Cultural exchange", "Environment" and "Gender" showed not only the capability of non-governmental initiatives to develop visions for the Baltic and work seriously on the problems, but also showed the need for inter-sectorial cooperation. After having seen the establishing of outstanding projects like NGO Information and Support Centers in many of the Eastern Baltic countries, after big conferences like for example Tampere NGO-Forum in Dezember 99, we regard it as an important step forward having already two chances this spring to strengthen inter-sectorial NGO-networks: Copenhagen and Luebeck.
As we worked until the very last minute of the conference last Sunday on the text of the final declaration papers, they will be accessible only end of this week. We will mail it to you all, and we hope it will be an interesting input to your discussions regarding preparations for Luebeck.
We ourselves may beg your pardon for addressing you so late: The German Foreign Office refused to publish the list of all members of the preparation committee, and as a result, may be only few of you have heard about our (and may e others?) participation in this discussion so far. As a surprise came for us in Copenhagen the fact, that except our two representatives from INFOBALT only one more NGO-person (Danish minority in Germany) came from the country which is organising the Luebeck-meeting: Germany. This, and the fact that many questions regarding common Baltic NGO-perspectives are still left for discussion, brought us to the point not waiting for the "virtual reality" the CBSS-presidency has prepared for us, but open a direct discussion among us.
What do we have in common?
The Copenhagen declaration describes some common visions: Sustainable, environmentally friendly development of the region, strengthening of civil society, not forgetting social aspects. After decades of cold war, peace and security seems to be a must, economical stabilisation may form the base of all development. But what really is happening? The regional institutional forums are in crisis and have lost momentum. A lot of conferences were organised and tons of papers lost to produce phrases and expertises. Some new development in economy show even that it will take not much time to get lost all chances which were given to us after the fall of the "iron curtain" and after democratisation and regaining of independence in many eastern european states. Maybe the Baltic Sea region is just at a turning point: Again it will be the people of the Baltic Sea region to decide what they want. To get active, to work together, to establish contacts, friendship and co-operation. Not only so called "new democracies", but also the often unflexible and arrogant West have to realise, that they have to build future together with the CITIZENS OF THE BALTIC.
Well, we'll try to think constructively, and make some proposals. Please excuse that they are made without any further consultations until now, but, by having conctact to only few members of preparation committee so far, we did not want to repeat certain interests only. Our proposals are made on the base of our own NGO-database, our information-work which we do in Germany regarding Baltic States, and many personal visits and meetings with NGO-activists in their countries. Finally I myself have spend some three weeks in Lithuania and Latvia in february this year, to ask NGOs about their actual situation, about problems and items discussed. Regrettable enough was how little information NGOs had about the plans to organise a meeting in Luebeck - also NGOs have to plan their time and to dispose forces, as you all know.
Build on of these experiences we would make the following proposals:
1) Please review the list of invited NGOs again carefully. As some of you might have been asked for proposals at beginning of february, but seen the full list of NGOs invited only now, some important key-factors of NGO-work especially in the Eastern Baltic Sea States may be have been forgotten. We regard inter-sectoral support for NGOs as especially important, and from this point of view we don't understand that nearly all NGO Information and Support Centers are missing: Not the one in Tallinn is mentioned, not in Riga, and not Kaunas - and there are even more. As German Government may have an excuse of not knowing them - they mostly were supported by Scandinavian countries or USA - we don't understand that NGO-networks themselves do not have contacts to the NGO-Centers. Secondly also the network of Regional Environmental Centers (REC) is not mentioned at all.
2) After some weeks of irritation regarding the number of workshops planned, and having seen the results of the discussions in Copenhagen, we propose a slight change in structure of the workshops. We understand that you - in opposite to Copenhagen organisers - decided not to work on perspectives of cultural exchange. Indeed the number of active NGOs on this field may deserve even an own conference. On the other hand we regard the results of the gender workshop in Copenhagen as of outstanding importance and strongly recommend to add such a workshop also in Luebeck. It would not cause a lot of additional work for you: I am sure that an invitation to those who organised the workshop in Copenhagen as moderators would be possible and logical also for them (as additional motivation to participate in Luebeck).
3) Together with our friends in other countries participating in Copenhagen we feel the need to establish a National NGO-Forum for to initiate, stabilise and support discussions, co-operation and linking of NGOs in future. A German NGO Forum on Baltic Sea Cooperation could also ensure tools for international co-operation and inter-sectoral exchange of experience, and our friends in Poland, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Latvia and Lithuania already seemed to have understood the positive spirit of this idea. Our proposal is that any of us should start to work for this in the respective country: INFOBALT will try helping to advertise the idea in Germany and will be happy about any interested partners.
4) We ask the German Government not to stop its activities supporting NGO-projects after the short period of CBSS-presidency. The Luebeck-meeting possibly provides further tools to evaluate the situation of NGOs around the Baltic Sea, but especially Germany needs much stronger support for the non-governmental (and often also non-commercial) organisations working on Baltic Co-operation. We are asking the German Foreign Office and the State Officials represented in Luebeck to decide on a Governmental representative working constantly on Baltic Sea Co-operation already untill the meeting of CBSS-ministers in June. Not only NGOs need a strong partner for support, consulation and help in contacts and funding. If it will be a decision of Luebeck NGO-meeting to ask for an annual NGO-forum parallel to the actual presidencies, help will be needed for all NGOs interested in participating in such meetings.
5) Having in mind the positive and constructive atmosphere of the NGO-meeting in Copenhagen, we would like to see less speeches and long general reviews, but more speakers from the non-governmental side. Not only so called "key note speeches", but also work as a moderator in the workshops will be quite essential for expressing NGO-positions and opinions clearly, openly and understandable.
6) We regret that no further meetings for preparation are planned. We hope that the organisers of Luebeck-meeting have worked on a common view for what to get realised, working styles, informing each other and future perspectives.
With kindest greetings and hope in future co-operation!
Bremen, April 2001
© 2001 - Initiative Ostsee-Kooperation der
Nichtregierungsorganisationen - www.cbss-ngo.de/2001
c/o Albert Caspari / INFOBALT, Helgolander Str. 8, D - 28217 Bremen,
E-Mail: <email@example.com>, Tel.: +49 (0)421-391571