Russia: leading NGO set to close due to funds shortfall

The instigators of Russia’s punitive NGO law argue that civil society groups should seek domestic funds instead of overseas backers.  

But, Interfax reports: One of Russia’s leading human rights organizations, the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, might have to close its Moscow office and stop operation due to the lack of funds.

“We haven’t paid for rent and utilities since 2010. We just have no money,” executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers Valentina Melnikova (above) told Interfax today.

“If we do not pay at least part of the debt by 1 December, they will turn off electricity and telephone at our office. It will be impossible to work. This is almost certain. We appealed to various organizations but could not find support. Colleagues cannot help us, they have no money either,” Melnikova said.

The group has not received a Russian grant since 1992 and most of their funds come from the West – from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, and funds in Norway and Germany.

Russia’s Defense Ministry should support the group, says Lev Ponomaryov, the leader of the For Human Rights movement.

“If the state respects the organization – and its representative [Melnikova] is on the Defense Ministry’s Public Council – how could it have gotten to the point that the organization has nothing to pay with?” Ponomaryov told RIA Novosti:

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said financing issues for many human rights came to the fore after a new law on NGOs was adopted in Russia.

“The only thing I can advise is creating an electronic wallet. The Union of Russian Soldiers’ Mothers Committees has done a lot of good and helped a lot of people, so maybe there are a lot of people who will raise funds for them, especially considering they do not need a big sum,” Alexeyeva told RIA Novosti.

For Human Rights and the Moscow Helsinki Group are also grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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The world’s next genocide?

At a recent meeting hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Peter W. Galbraith, a former American ambassador who witnessed ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, made a chilling prediction. “The next genocide in the world,” he said, “will likely be against the Alawites in Syria.”

“A few months ago, talk of possible massacres of Alawites, who dominate Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, seemed like pro-regime propaganda. Now, it is a real possibility,” writes Simon Adams:

The Syrian government’s actions have deepened the sectarian divide. ….As the civil war intensifies, Mr. Assad is increasingly outsourcing the dirty work. In Damascus, militia groups within Druse, Christian and Shiite areas are being armed by the government. While the justifications for these militias are “neighborhood self-defense” and the protection of religious sites, the shabiha emerged in a similar way before becoming killing squads for Mr. Assad. And by drawing Christians, Druse, Shiites and Alawites into the civil war on an explicitly sectarian basis, the Syrian government has all but guaranteed that there will be reprisals against these communities if Mr. Assad falls.

Governments committed to supporting Syria’s newly unified opposition must take immediate action to help prevent violence against Alawites and other minorities, says Adams, executive director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect:

First, they must impress upon the newly united Syrian opposition that support depends on strict adherence to international humanitarian law. Armed groups who advocate fracturing Syria along sectarian or regional lines should be denied funds…

Second, outside governments should intensify their efforts to hold all perpetrators of mass atrocities accountable at the International Criminal Court, regardless of their allegiance.


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Nabeel Rajab

Amnesty International USA holds an event outside Washington, DC’s Newseum to launch more than 200 tethered balloons depicting the face of Bahraini political prisoner Nabeel Rajab (left) in order to highlight the power of free speech, and to launch its annual Write-a-Thon to mobilize activists, and supporters of human rights to write letters, Tweet, and blog on behalf of prisoners of conscience and victims of persecution worldwide.

November 20, 2012. 8 a.m. The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. Contact: Anya Palkowski, 212-633-4268,

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Jordan’s economic woes spark political unrest

For any astute observer watching Jordan over the past several months, this week’s violent protests against fuel price hikes were certainly no surprise, writes Danya Greenfield. What is remarkable about the latest round of demonstrations is that some voices are calling for an overthrow of the monarchy, an unthinkable and shocking demand even a year ago. The protests may prove that the palace’s strategy to appease popular frustration is coming to a crashing halt.

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Democratic internationalism: a new strategy for a ‘post-exceptionalist America’

A new grand strategy for US foreign policy should promote democracy through the attractive “pull” of successful example rather than the coercive “push” of power, say two leading scholars of international affairs.  

The strategy should “be refocused on initiating a new phase of liberal internationalism that renews and deepens democracy globally, prevents democratic backsliding, and strengthens and consolidates bonds among democratic states,” write Daniel Deudney, associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, and G. John Ikenberry, Albert G. Milbank, a Princeton University professor of politics and international affairs:  

By pursuing this strategic focus, the United States would once again embrace democracy promotion, but based on a strategy of attraction—the pull of success rather than the push of power. In short, it must aim to ensure that the dominant reality in world politics in the coming decades is a community of democracies leading global efforts to solve problems, rather than a world of weak global institutions and rising great power rivalries. 

In the 250 years since its founding, the United States has been both exceptional and indispensable: exceptional because it was the most liberal and democratic state in world politics, and indispensable because it had sufficient size and power to protect and expand the community of free states during an era when they were rare, and when rival great powers animated by radical antiliberal ideologies made serious bids to extinguish liberal democracy and dominate the world,” they write in a new paper for the Council on Foreign Relations 

“By the turn of the twenty-first century, the United States had played a major role in producing a world order that was more peaceful, prosperous, and free for more people than ever before in history,” but today the US is no longer as exceptional or indispensable “precisely because of its success in creating a free world order in which so many states are liberal, capitalist, and democratic.” 

“This democratic world is America’s greatest accomplishment, but it also provides a new set of opportunities and challenges that the United States has been slow to recognize and address,” they assert.

The collapse of Soviet-style communism at the end of the Cold War and the global spread of liberal, market-based democracies generated a sense of triumphalism that proved to be as misplaced as it was shortlived:  

This triumphalist moment is over. Within the United States, the domestic foundations of liberal and democratic internationalism have eroded, casting doubt on the country’s continued ability to advance or lead the free world. Public support for an expansive U.S. international role has declined, and the United States has shifted from generally supporting international law and organization to adopting a much more ambivalent and selective posture.

US public opinion is still largely internationalist, they contend, but opponents of fresh international commitments have “grown more vocal and influential,” while the democratic ‘brand’ has been tarnished by democracies’ poor performance and failure to deliver essential public goods: 

Democracies everywhere are facing internal difficulties. The older Western democracies are experiencing rising inequality, economic stagnation, fiscal crises, and political gridlock. Many newer and poorer democracies, meanwhile, are beset by corruption, backsliding, and rising inequality. The great “third wave” of democratization seems to have crested, and may be receding. As democracies fail to address problems, their domestic legitimacy is diminished and increasingly challenged by resurgent nationalist, populist, and xenophobic movements. These collective shortcomings cast a dark shadow over the democratic future. 

“Enduring ideologies of anticolonialism and anti-Americanism can impede solidarity” between the US and other democracies, and shifts in the global distribution of power have led to the relative decline in the global leverage of the United States and its European democratic allies, China and Russia have emerged as “revisionist challengers, offering alternative nondemocratic models of political and economic development,” some observers suggest.  

“Policy toward these two authoritarian states must continue to be a mix of ‘pull’ and ‘push, informed by the hope for the success of the ‘pull’ with prudent preparations to ‘push back’ against whatever revisionist agendas these states might pursue,” say Deudney and Ikenberry:  

Realizing the goals of democratic internationalism increases the likelihood that nondemocratic countries will choose engagement and democratization rather than revisionist agendas. If the democracies cannot successfully address pressing world problems, and if they fail to live up to their own values, then the legitimacy and attractiveness of democracy will diminish. Conversely, if the enlarged democratic world is able to realize its potential, then advocates of democracy everywhere will be strengthened and its enemies undermined. Improved democratic world performance will also lay the foundations for a larger and more powerful coalition to counter revisionist efforts from nondemocratic countries. 

Nevertheless, the US remains “the wealthiest, most powerful, and most ideologically influential country in the world, and its potential to shape the world in positive ways remains greater than that of any other nation,” Deudney and Ikenberry submit. “Furthermore, the world of democracies is threatened less by lethal external adversaries and ideological challengers than by the problems of modern democracy itself. In short, the fate of democracies rests largely in their own hands.”  

The post-Third Wave expansion of democratic states has increased diversity among the democracies, a trend that has reduced political and policy cohesion, but also enhanced interdependence and prospects for collaborative problem-solving.

“The democratic world is no longer primarily Anglo-American or even Western,” they note:

It now includes countries in every region of the world, spanning civilizational lines (Japan, South Korea, India, and Turkey), former rivals (Germany and Japan), historical allies (Canada, Britain, and France), former colonial states (India, Indonesia, Ghana, and South Africa), and hemispheric neighbors (Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina). Democracies are old and new, Western and non-Western, colonial and postcolonial, and highly developed, rapidly developing, and underdeveloped. These diverse members of the democratic world also have divergent views about themselves, their place in the world, and their futures that are heavily burdened by historical legacies.

The diversity, success and growing size of the democratic world opens the opportunity to advance democracy promotion through “a strategy of ‘pulling’ by attracting,” Deudney and Ikenberry:

If the democratic world becomes a community and successfully addresses internal, bilateral, and multilateral problems, then democracy becomes more attractive. In so doing, it strengthens the prodemocratic forces in countries that are nondemocratic or are only partially so. Conversely, a failure of existing democracies to democratically solve problems and cooperate among themselves will reduce the appeal of democracy. Furthermore, democratic cooperation diminishes the opportunities for revisionist challengers, systemic alternatives, and unfavorable realignments.

“But before these opportunities can be realized, democracies must develop a stronger sense of community,” they suggest:

Paradoxically, as the world has become more democratic and interdependent, solidarity among the democracies is now much less than it was during the period of American preeminence. This growing “democratic community gap” is a reflection of both a greater diversity and a lessened sense of mortal external threat. And that gap among the democracies is eroding at precisely the moment when community—and the cooperation it fosters—is most needed. 

A new Community of Democracies? What a wonderful idea!



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