Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Movement on solidarity. Outflanking the siege. And more coverage.

Firstly, please see what Zahar Prilepin from Nizhny Novgorod, Andrei Kolomoisky from Viborg and Andrei Dmitriev from St. Petersburg wrote about the Civic Forum.

In those pages of our guests there are also some photos of the forum. And if you want to have (more) fun, try the Google translator (into English), it should be linked there, somehow.


But then.

Answers. At last.

This is what Neil Hicks from Human Rights First wrote for the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. This is just the end of his paper, and a very rare comment:

Finally someone says what should be done, instead of telling how bad and difficult everything is.

(the last chapter only)
How to Promote Human Rights and Democracy: Outflanking the Siege

Neil Hicks, Human Rigths First

The goal of international support must be to outflank the official siege that has been placed around independent Russian human rights defenders. One way to do that is to build an international coalition of support for Russian human rights defenders that mobilizes prominent individuals from the worlds of politics, academia, the arts and even sport and popular culture – people who will not be ignored by the international and even the Russian media, and who will reach an audience in Russia beyond the small constituency that is already associated with human rights and democracy.

In its efforts to resist the closure order imposed on it and to continue to function the Russian Chechen Friendship Society in Nizhny Novgorod has provided one example of how this can be done. Through inviting prominent individuals to become “supportive members” of the RCFS it has attracted public support from a number of leading European parliamentarians, as well as from internationally recognized intellectual figures like Francis Fukuyama, Andre Glucksman and Moises Naim. Such figures, and others like them, can command an audience in Russia and cannot be ignored or swept aside by the authorities.


The point of such initiatives, if they are to be different from what has gone before, is that they should be innovative, they should involve new constituencies, they should adopt a positive tone: emphasizing in the face of official hostility and apparent popular indifference that human rights are inclusive, universal values that are good for Russia. As many such events as possible should take place inside Russia, with the expectation that the involvement of prominent international figures, and the adoption of a message that is first and foremost pro-human rights, not anti-Putin, should provide some protection from the type of repression that has faced activities like the marches of dissent. It is also vital that international interest, support and participation in events must be sustained until such a time as the level of threat against the independent Russian human rights movement diminishes.

I hasten to add that conventional efforts to promote human rights and democracy in Russia should not be abandoned. By this, I mean the political pressure on the Russian government to abide by its international obligations in the human rights field from other governments and from international organizations, as well as the monitoring and exposure of violations and campaigning against injustices carried out by local and international non-governmental organizations. We have to recognize, however, that such conventional pressure alone has not been sufficient to bring about the desired change in the behavior of the Russian authorities.

It is vital that a sophisticated official response to international human rights pressure should not be seen to deter such pressure in the case of Russia. Repressive governments around the world seek to undermine and discredit their critics using some of the same methods. If Russia is able to get away with it, because it is a large influential country, then this would be a setback for the international human rights movement not only in Russia, but also globally.

My answer to the question -- on how to promote human rights and democracy in Russia is that we need a new international people’s movement of solidarity with independent Russian human rights activists. The institutions for exerting pressure on the Russian government to improve its human rights practices exist and we should make use of them, but the time has come for a new approach that can reach a new constituency in Russia that is sympathetic to human rights and democracy, but which has been placed beyond the reach of conventional human rights mechanisms and organizations.

No comments: