How to survive as a ‘foreign agent’ NGO in Russia: 10 cases
The Lawyers’ Club NGO has brought out a book which includes the stories of 10 Russian NGOs the Government has classified as “foreign agents”. Called “Ten stories: an account of the survival of foreign agent NGOs”, its appearance has been timed to coincide with the publication of an NGO response to the Russian State’s official position on the “foreign agents” law.
For the first time, civic leaders and activists from various sectors across Russia, from Sakhalin to Kaliningrad, explain what it’s like to be on the “foreign agents” register, why they were fined and actually forced to close down. The book includes the experiences of Sakhalin Environment Watch, the “Women’s World” Development Society (Kaliningrad), the Centre for Independent Social Research (St Petersburg), the environmental youth organisation “ETAS” (Archangel) and the Youth Training and Advisory Centre (Volgograd).
“By their own example, civic leaders are showing the level of effort which is required to ensure public initiatives can survive in Russia today”. These 10 first-hand accounts highlight the utter absurdity of the “foreign agents” law which affects organisations across very diverse areas of civil action”, said Maria Kanevskaya, Head of the Lawyers’ Club NGO.
The Lawyers’ Club says that many organisations have tried unsuccessfully to obtain protection in the Russian courts, with a number of NGOs appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for help. In March last year, the Court publicised a general complaint from 49 organisations and 12 civil activists on the “foreign agents” law. In September, the Government made available the Court’s response and today (12 March) the organisations concerned are making their views known on the Russian State’s position.
The complainants are the heroes of the book. “The effect of the “foreign agents” law has been to suppress civil society in Russia”, says Maxim Olenychev, head of the Lawyers’ Club legal service.
The authors hope the book will succeed in making society aware of the sorts of pressure that NGOs included on the “foreign agents” register are having to work under.