Experientia docet

REGIONAL THOUGHTS

Post Traumatic Disorder

The soviet state was extremely efficient in achieving one of its goals: breaking down the society into a collection of individuals. The society acted collectively only when mobilized by communist party and government. Under the almighty party, no civil society organization could function (unless an affiliate), any attempt of intervention placing its initiator under the definition of "opponent to the regime".

After the collapse of the communism in Central and Eastern European Countries and of the Soviet Union, there was a constant increase of numbers of civil society organizations. But the development of civil society and its substantially differs in central and Eastern Europe (that had longer history of civic engagement) compared to the one in former soviet countries. The process of democratization of CIS countries lead to establishment of non-governmental organizations in the region, but their number and activities is still at their first steps. While their number has constantly grown since 1990 (Russia), it remained still very low in some of the states (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan).

Observing the transition process in CIS and the activity of non-governmental organizations in the region, it can be concluded that their effectiveness remained largely underdeveloped. The development of non-profit organizations is not merely a matter of increased financial resources; it depends on many other factors, among them being:

  • Developing adequate legal and institutional frameworks and its enforcement (CSOs in many countries in the region are faced with ambiguous laws which, though they may guarantee CSOs the basic democratic rights, they do not provide a clear or favorable legal framework for receiving donations or fundraising);
  • Increase the financial sustainability of the organizations and their capacity to attract diverse funding;
  • Improve the organizations capacity in terms of good governance, transparence and planning (accountability, constituency, strategic planning, financial management etc.);
  • Effective use of local resources;
  • Increasing the capacity and commitment of central and local governments to engage civic partners and recognize the value of public advocacy and scrutiny and increasing the organizations capacity to act as partners or watch dogs;
  • Increase the capacity of CSOs for analysis, research and documentation, to enable CSOs to draw from concrete experience to demonstrate more effective service approaches and needs;
  • Develop organization participatory planning techniques and community organizing skills;
  • Develop advocacy skills including civic/voter education, lobbying, negotiation and coalition building, increase cooperation and networking skills etc.

It is important that these capacities should be urgently developed since democratization has not progressed too far in the countries of the Confederation of Independent States (CIS), these countries ranking far below the post-communist Central and Eastern European countries (especially Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) and sometimes being a matter of deep concern.

Image by Flickr/pedrosimoes7


The Right Choice

Generally speaking, there shouldn't be a choice between human rights and trade. Not for Russia, not for any other country in the world. However, if we speak about trade with Russia, we probably think about gas.

Early 2006, the Russian energy company Gazprom forced Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova to pay sharply higher prices for natural gas, and envisaged to negotiate new prices for Eastern European countries. Although many would say these increases could be linked to the Kremlin's political games - on a seller's market such as gas supply - the truth is that these new prices only reflect an extensive control of the Russians towards their own natural resources and an attempt to get more money for the same product. Soon, this trade policy will probably hit the EU (especially Eastern and Central Europe countries, as it already did in 2009), but its impact will be, most likely, only positive. The use of new, alternative sources of energy will be speeded up, research will boost, and other suppliers (e.g. Algeria, the Far East countries), will emerge.

Nevertheless, all EU countries must have a coherent attitude and build their individual trade strategy on the same basis. And, last but not least, EU's potential to support human rights in Russia should clearly move beyond seeking agreement on general commitments for the sake of a lower gas price.

Image by Flickr/^riza^



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