Examples of discrimination against a 'foreign agent' NGO

posted 24 Jan 2016, 13:28 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Jan 2016, 13:30 ]
22 January 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
After thirteen years of collaboration, the ‘United Way’ (‘Doroga vmeste’) charitable foundation has withdrawn its support for the well-known Russian NGO, Civic Assistance Committee, due to it being labelled a ‘foreign agent’.

Elena Burtina of Civic Assistance Committee comments as follows:

"At the start of November 2015, the Civic Assistance Committee received a letter from the new head of programmes of the United Way Foundation, Olga Elesina. It said that our organisation had been "selected as a beneficiary of funds" and suggested that we send an application for a project for the sum of 1,511,649.50 roubles.

“We were pleased, but not surprised: Civic Assistance Committee has been collaborating with the Foundation for many years – since 2002, to be precise. During this period the Foundation made fifteen charitable donations to our organisation: mainly to support the Centre for Adaptation and Education of Refugee Children, which is attached to the Committee, but also to give humanitarian and medical assistance to refugees.

“We prepared an application for a project entitled ‘Access to education for the children of refugees and migrants’, envisaging support for the Centre for Adaptation and Education.

“At the Centre, volunteer teachers teach Russian and other subjects to refugee and migrant children who do not attend school or who encounter difficulties with their school education. Most volunteers are students at universities in Moscow.

“Experienced subject-specialist teachers help the volunteers. Since the children who attend the centre all have different levels of prior education, they are usually taught individually, but there are also some group lessons. A psychologist works with some of the children. In addition, the centre organises excursions, walks, trips and parties for the children.

“Since the children who come to the Centre are from underprivileged families, we feed them during their lessons and also buy them metro or bus tickets so they can travel to the Centre. 73 children attended the Centre in 2015, and 65 volunteers worked with them.

“For the hundreds of children who have attended the Centre over the 19 years of its existence, it has been a place where they got to know and came to love Russia. For the hundreds of young volunteers who have worked at the Centre, it has been a real school of altruism.

“The application prepared by the Committee did not meet with any objections on the part of the Foundation. In mid-December, representatives of the Foundation came to the Centre for Adaptation to witness its work (a standard element in the Foundation's procedure for evaluating projects). The Foundation's representatives did not pass comment on the results of this visit or express any doubts.

“The only thing which worried the Foundation’s staff was the fact that Civic Assistance has been designated an organisation which fulfils the function of a 'foreign agent'. However, Foundation staff stated that they fully understood that the inclusion of our organisation on the 'foreign agent' register was unjustified.

“Nevertheless, after the New Year holidays, Olga Elesina informed us that the Foundation's Council of Directors had decided to withdraw support for our project precisely because our organisation is on the register of 'foreign agents'.

“It is a shame, of course, that our children's centre will not receive the support it needs. It is also impossible not to regret the loss of one of our long-term partners.

“But another issue is much more important: the decision by the United Way Foundation shows that the policy of smothering independent NGOs is bearing fruit.

“While foreign sponsors are driven out for allegedly being 'undesirable organisations', Russian sponsors simply refuse to help 'foreign agents'.

“We are grateful to the United Way Foundation for our many years of collaboration. We are continuing to help refugees, migrants and their children. It is not our fault that our ways have now parted.”

Elena Burtina, Civic Assistance Committee

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts