Russian NGOs today

Presently. Russian NGOs are working in conditions or of recessioin of democratic tendencies. The peak of democracy constructed from above was surpassed in the middle of the nineties. Now, authorities of all levels try to neglect public opinion and avoid cooperation with NGOs. In 2000, this was most vividly demonstrated by prohibition to organise the national referendum on import of radioactive waste to Russia, though over 2,6 mln signatures were collected all over Russia in support of this referendum.

On the other hand, during the last 15 years Russian NGOs gained extensive experience of independent existence and became a force that can sometimes defend interest of the public and of the third sector. NGOs in Russia has become a force that must be taken into consideration, and authorities are trying to adjust themselves to this new situation. In particular, it is done by attempt to "tame" different NGOs, and to newly organise controllable NGOs of different kinds.

The most important upcoming event in the life of Russian NGOs is the Civil Forum of all Russian NGOs to be held in Moscow on 21-22 November 2001. The Civil Forum will have 5000 NGO representatives from all over Russia. The Forum was initiated by the Administration of the Russian President. In the years 199 to 2001, the Presidential Administration has already successfully seized control over the State Duma (the Russian parliament), regional governors, big business, and mass media. Obviously, now the time has come for the fifth target, the civil organisations. The idea of the Forum implies some dangers. It can be used to create a theatrical scenery of the civil society in Russia. Moreover, the authorities can try to create some mechanisms for controlling (manipulating) civil organisations.

Now, NGOs are working strongly to prevent this Forum from being a formal meeting that will demonstrate unanimous support to the present administration. Also, important point is to avoid creation on the Forum of some committee that would formally represent the Russian civil society. The NGO opinion is that the only body that may legally represent the public in Russia is the State Duma. During preparations to the Forum, Russian NGOs succeeded to insist on changes in the Preparatory Committee, and to introduce equal NGO representation in it.

A group of influential environmental NGOs has prepared the Declaration "On creation and development of the Civil Society in Russia". This group proposes to adopt this Declaration at the Forum. The declaration states that presently, construction of the civil society in Russia has slowed down, and in some sectors stopped or even turned back. The Declaration greets the initiative of the Presidential Administration to summon the Civil Forum. The Declaration underlines the reasons for the present unsatisfactory situation with development of the civil society in Russia, and proposes definite measures and activities to improve the situation. Presently, this Declaration is widely discussed by Russian NGOs and is successfully used in activities directed on working out a common NGO platform at the Forum and development of the civil society on the whole.

In St.Petersburg, a preparatory Meeting of NGOs was held on 4 october. It was organised mainly by the St.Petersburg administration, though its representatives sat in the Meeting presidium as NGO representatives, but not as representatives of the authorities. At the meeting, its organisers tried to pass a resolution whose text was not even discussed by the audience. NGO representatives succeeded in insisting on cancellation of the main body of this resolution. Only the introductory and conclusive parts of it with general support to the idea of the Civil Forum were adopted.

It is important that the public in Russia is overtired with unification during 70 years of the communist regime. Also, these 70 years did not contribute to development of democratic procedures, including negotiation processes, delegation rights, sharing responsibilities etc. Therefore, NGOs are usually unwilling to unite, to cooperate, to build any hierachical structures etc. The best acceptable structures for Russian NGOs presently are of umbrella type. This hinders the process of joining efforts and forming joint executive bodies.

The next Baltic NGO Forum is to be held in spring 2002 in St.Petersburg. The process of its preparation may meet the same difficulties and conflicts, as the preparation of the Civil Forum. The experience of previous international fora with NGO participation in Russia shows that the foreign NGOs can contribute strongly in their better preparation and results. Therefore, international cooperation of NGOs is very important for success of the Baltic NGO Forum 2002.

Alexander Fedorov, GREEN WORLD St.Petersburg, October 2001.


Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)

Priorities of the Russian Presidency 2001-2002

The Council of the Baltic Sea States is playing the role of an important forum for political guidance and co-ordination of regional co-operation, both among the actors of the region and as a partner of the European Union. Through implementation of the decisions of the Baltic Sea Summit in Kolding in April 2000 and the CBSS Ministerial Sessions in Bergen (2000) and Hamburg (2001), the Council holds today a key position in the co-ordination of all regional intergovernmental, multilateral co-operation among the group of CBSS members. Co-operation in the framework of the CBSS will continue to complement the bilateral relations between the states of the region and with the EU.

The Council has an enormous potential not only for its member countries, but also with respect to the over-arching objective of creating a united greater Europe. Practical interaction within the CBSS makes a substantial contribution to the development, throughout the continent, of a new architecture of inter-state relations, based on democratic values, respect for human rights and supremacy of international law.

Co-operation in the Baltic Sea region is developing intensively, spreading to new spheres of inter-state relations. The main objectives of the Russian Presidency of the CBSS are, therefore, to ensure continuity and consistency in the work of the Council, on the one hand, and to promote further dialogue on urgent issues and long-term prospects of the region, on the other.

During its term between July 2001 and June 2002, the Russian Presidency will therefore focus on the following priority areas and issues:

In the context of these priorities, the Russian Presidency envisages initiating the following efforts within the framework of the CBSS during its term:

1. Strengthening the economic component of Baltic Sea co-operation, including such issues as energy, transport and border area infrastructure and removal of trade barriers: the Presidency plans to convene in Moscow in March 2002 a regular meeting of CBSS Ministers of Trade and Economy to examine the progress in the implementation of the Bergen Action Plan on economic co-operation in the Baltic Sea region and identify measures of promoting economic activities in the region and ensuring its sustainable and balanced development. A strong emphasis shall also be placed on transport issues with a view to optimise the transport flows in the region. The meeting of CBSS Ministers of Transport in Gdansk in September 2001 is of particular importance in this regard.

2. Strengthening the interaction between the CBSS and the European Union, with a view to promote and implement the EU Northern Dimension Action Plan: this shall include monitoring of the implementation of the "List of Priorities and Projects" submitted by the CBSS at the Luxembourg Ministerial Conference on the Northern Dimension in April 2001, as well as supplementing it with new initiatives.

3. Promoting fruitful work on the Kaliningrad dossier: Problems of Kaliningrad Oblast are inseparable from the Baltic Sea and all-European agenda and it is therefore vital to find their constructive and commonly acceptable solutions.

4. Special importance shall be given to the top-level CBSS meeting on information technologies in Riga in September 2001, so that it gives the necessary impetus to regional co-operation in this field in accordance with the instructions given by the Heads of government at their meeting in Kolding in 2000.

5. Preserving clean marine environment, including enhancing the safety of navigation in the Baltic Sea in accordance with the decisions of the 10th Ministerial session in Hamburg.

6. Promoting further interaction of the Baltic Sea States in the area of non-military security: the Presidency shall lend full support to the CBSS Lead country for this area of co-operation and invite the Member States to consider establishing special CBSS mechanisms to co-ordinate on-going and future co-operative activities in this field.

7. Giving priority attention to issues of democratic development, including human rights and the rights of national minorities, based on the understanding that human rights issues should be an area of co-operation, rather than confrontation: the Presidency shall closely collaborate with the CBSS Commissioner on Democratic Development and contribute to the preparation of the next Seminar of national/parliamentary Ombudsmen of the Baltic Sea States in Russia in the spring of 2002.

8. The Russian Presidency will carry on with the work aimed at establishing a fund for sub-regional development in the Baltic Sea States.

9. Strengthening the authority of the CBSS not only as the co-ordinator but also as the initiator of co-operation in the Baltic Sea region: the Russian Presidency will lead the preparation of, and appropriate follow-up to, a number of planned top-level meetings, such as the 4th Baltic Sea States Summit meeting in St.Petersburg in June 2002, 11th Ministerial session of the CBSS, which shall coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Council, as well as various CBSS ministerial meetings on specific areas of co-operation.

10. Optimising the working methods and structure of the CBSS, building on the foundation, which has been laid under previous Presidencies: the Russian Presidency will continue to rely on the Council Troika, which has proved to be an effective mechanism of consultations, and host a follow-up meeting of political directors of the CBSS Ministries for Foreign Affairs.

Other tasks of the Russian CBSS Presidency:


STATEMENT in connection with the assault upon Oleg Bodrov, the Green World leader

On 18 February, 2002, in Sosnovy Bor, Leningrad Oblast, an unknown criminal has assaulted Oleg Bodrov, the Green World Council chairman, a member of the Coalition Clean Baltic Board.

This happened at about 8 p.m., when Oleg Bodrov was walking home from the Green World office. The criminal hit Oleg twice in his head with some heavy object. As a result, Oleg was hospitalised with the diagnosis: concussion of the brain.

The purpose of the attack was not robbery, because the assaulter left all the money and the mobile phone untouched. Without any doubts, this assault was undertaken in response to the Green World activities on protection of legal procedures connected with environmentally hazardous projects. Presently, Green World and personally Oleg Bodrov are active in revealing violations of the Russian legislation at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, illegal operation of Ecomet-S plant on remelting radioactive scrap metal, and threats to the environment from new ports on the shores of the Finnish Gulf, and the Baltic Pipeline System.

Discreet and well-grounded demands of Green World to observe the legislation cause extreme irritation of those, who violate the laws. Environmental NGOs hinder uncontrolled and illegal activities that cause damage to our environment and threaten environmental safety of inhabitants. Therefore, commercial and power structures in Russia frequently use the controlled mass media to inculcate in mass consciousness the concept of "greens" as extremists, foreign capital agents and opponents to industrial development of Russia.

We consider inadmissible to create in such a way confrontation in the society and atmosphere of intolerance with respect to public environmental movement. We are deeply indignant with the criminal assault upon the Green World leader Oleg Bodrov, demand thorough investigation of this incident and strict punishment of the culprit and those behind him.

A.V.Fedorov, Green World, Council member,

O.N.Senova, Children of the Baltic, Board chairperson,

A.Ye.Shkrebets, Transboundary Environmental Information Agency, co-director,

V.F.Levchenko, Environmental North-West Line, moderator,