#39 - JRL 2009-176 - JRL Home
Subject: From Assistance to Engagement: U.S.-Russian Civil Society Relations
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2009
From: "Lucy Moore" <LMoore@csis.org>

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and in two years, the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. decision makers and practitioners are debating privately whether the era of “assistance” to Russia should end, be modified, or continue. By 2009, even liberal Russians, let alone Kremlin insiders, are arguing that many of the programs appear ineffective, inefficient, and in some cases, unwelcome. At the same time, given the human rights situation inside Russia and the need for non-profits all over the world to have support, leaving Russian civil society in isolation does not serve either U.S. or Russian interests.

Today, CSIS has published this policy memo by Sarah Mendelson that explores what a new approach to supporting and engaging Russian civil society would look like. Mendelson argues that the time has come to shift from traditional “democracy assistance” where Americans go to Russia to help teach and train­to a new model of peer-to-peer engagement­where Americans who work on relevant issues in the United States come together periodically with Russians who work on similar issues to share best practices, explore common problems, and undertake joint projects. The memo addresses the numerous challenges that need to be overcome in order for the new approach to stimulate a more organic relationship between American and Russian civil societies.

The link to the memo is here: http://csis.org/files/publication/090911_Mendelson_FromAssistEngage_Web.pdf. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the memo, please let us know.

This memo draws on the Civil Society Summit that CSIS co-convened with the Eurasia Foundation and the New Eurasia Foundation in July 2009 in Moscow. President Barack Obama spoke on the second day of the meeting. For his comments, see his speech available here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/REMARKS-BY-THE-PRESIDENT-AT-PARALLEL-CIVIL-SOCIETY-SUMMIT/ .

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