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> The information battle: Brussels

The information battle: how governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

DATE: Wednesday 29th March 2017

TIME: 4.30pm - 6:00pm

VENUE: Open Society European Policy Institute, Rue du Trône 130,Brussels B-1050, Belgium

Speakers:

  • Rebecca Harms MEP, Chair, Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly
  • Kati Piri MEP, Committee on Foreign Affairs
  • Jakub Kalensky, East StratCom Task Force, European External Action Service
  • Dr Justin Schlosberg, Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London

Chair: Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

This event will focus on the ways in which governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their points of view and exert pressure on those who oppose them. The event will look to build on and broaden the existing literature on Russian-backed internationally focused media outlets and pro-government media elsewhere in the region. It will explore how they operate to shape global narratives about their countries, influence thinking on international disputes, blunt criticism of their actions while challenging Western values and behaviour. It will look at similarities and differences between the operation of outlets from the FSU and Western supported global news services.

The event will examine the ways in which authoritarian regimes work to project their image abroad beyond the use of the media. This includes the use of sponsorship and advertising to shape international perceptions in addition to the way in which regimes create or support their own think tanks, pressure groups, diasporan organisations, parliamentary groups and work with others (such as public affairs agencies) to promote their policy agendas and influence the responses of international institutions and policy makers.

The event may also explore how government backed broadcasters, press and websites from the FSU run stories to attempt to discredit the work of diasporan and other activists challenging official narratives from outside the country. At the direction or encouragement of the authorities this can involve direct harassment, the production of untrue or politically distorted stories that aim to make activists' lives difficult even when abroad (as well as putting pressure on friends and family who remain in the country). The event will explore the growing fight for control of the social media space - with organized pro-government activity becoming increasingly visible both in responding to the actions of opposition and independent civil society and in directly promoting their agenda online. These methods include the use of paid-for trolling and the mobilization of 'patriotic youth movements' to target opponents and spread pro-government narratives to national, diasporan and international audiences.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and affiliation (if you have one). Free copies of the new publication will be available. The event is free and open to all.


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> The information battle: how governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

DATE: Tuesday 21 March 2017

TIME: 18:00 - 19:30

VENUE: Committee Room 9, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Speakers:

  • Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Dr Justin Schlosberg, Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Dr David Lewis, Senior Lecturer and Director of Education, University of Exeter
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

Chair: Maeve Shearlaw, Commissioning Editor– World Networks, The Guardian

This event will focus on the ways in which governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their points of view and exert pressure on those who oppose them. The event will look to build on and broaden the existing literature on Russian-backed internationally focused media outlets and pro-government media elsewhere in the region. It will explore how they operate to shape global narratives about their countries, influence thinking on international disputes, blunt criticism of their actions while challenging Western values and behaviour. It will look at similarities and differences between the operation of outlets from the FSU and Western supported global news services.

The event will examine the ways in which authoritarian regimes work to project their image abroad beyond the use of the media. This includes the use of sponsorship and advertising to shape international perceptions in addition to the way in which regimes create or support their own think tanks, pressure groups, diasporan organisations, parliamentary groups and work with others (such as public affairs agencies) to promote their policy agendas and influence the responses of international institutions and policy makers.

The event may also explore how government backed broadcasters, press and websites from the FSU run stories to attempt to discredit the work of diasporan and other activists challenging official narratives from outside the country. At the direction or encouragement of the authorities this can involve direct harassment, the production of untrue or politically distorted stories that aim to make activists' lives difficult even when abroad (as well as putting pressure on friends and family who remain in the country). The event will explore the growing fight for control of the social media space - with organized pro-government activity becoming increasingly visible both in responding to the actions of opposition and independent civil society and in directly promoting their agenda online. These methods include the use of paid-for trolling and the mobilization of 'patriotic youth movements' to target opponents and spread pro-government narratives to national, diasporan and international audiences.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and affiliation (if you have one). Free copies of the new publication will be available. The event is free and open to all.

Download The information battle: London, 21 March 6pm (310 kilobyte PDF)


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> Iran Human Rights Review: Where now for human rights in Iran?

IHRR

Date: Tuesday 21st February 2017

Time: 6 - 7.30pm

Venue: Committee Room 9, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA

Speakers:

  • Dr Ahmed Shaheed, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and current UN SR on Freedom of Religion or Belief
  • Mehrangiz Kar, Iranian Lawyer and Chairperson of the Siamak Pourzand Foundation
  • Tahirih Danesh, Chief Editor, Iran Human Rights Review
  • Roya Kashefi-Ladjevardi, Head of Human Rights - Association des Chercheurs Iraniens

Chair: Rt Hon. Ann Clwyd MP, Chair of the Human Rights APPG

This event will take place as Iran looks ahead to a Presidential election in May 2017, where even the challenging human rights situation under the Rouhani Presidency is at risk of deteriorating further under growing pressure from hardliners. It will explore the current culture of human rights in Iran and attempts by sections of the regime to position personal freedoms as threats to Iran's security. The seminar will focus on the themes of the three latest editions of the FPC's Iran Human Rights Review: the human rights impact of the economy as sanctions are slowly lifted; issues of women and human rights; and the upcoming edition on due process (due to launch in early 2017).

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and any affiliation.

Download IHRR event February 21 2016 (210 kilobyte PDF)


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> Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy- Leeds Conference

Date: Friday 25th November 2016

Time: 3.30pm-7.00pm (followed by drinks; registration from 3pm)

Venue: Lecture Theatre (G.02), Maurice Keyworth Building, Leeds University Business School, Moorland Road, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS6 1AN

Speakers include:

  • Richard Corbett MEP
  • Linda McAvan MEP
  • Dr Victoria Honeyman, Lecturer, University of Leeds
  • Dr Jim Buller, Senior Lecturer, University of York
  • Dr Matthew Wood, Lecturer, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Mette Wiggen, Lecturer, University of Leeds
  • Professor Iyiola Solanke, Professor of EU Law and Social Justice, University of Leeds School of Law
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre
  • Further speakers to be announced shortly

In the wake of the British vote to leave the EU, this conference will examine concerns across Europe around the democratic legitimacy of EU institutions and the European project as a whole. It will look at how the debate about EU democratic legitimacy across member states fit within the context of a crisis of trust in institutions at both national and international levels in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

The conference will explore the mechanisms through which EU institutions have sought to gain democratic legitimacy, comparing and contrasting with other national and international organisations. The conference will look to explore the potential democratic basis for a future UK-EU relationship post-Brexit, examining the emerging UK Government and EU thinking. The conference will explore the findings of the recent FPC publication Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy that assessed the major challenges the EU faces and set out ideas for potential democratic and organisational reform.

This conference series is supported by the European Commission Representation in the UK Call for Proposals for civil society organisations 2015-16, though the event is independently organised by the FPC and will contain a wide range of views on the matters under discussion.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and any affiliation.

Download Europe and the People: Leeds (300 kilobyte PDF)


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> No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union

Date: Tuesday November 22nd 2016

Time: 6.00pm-7.30pm

Venue: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London

Speakers:

  • Chris Bryant MP
  • Dr John Heathershaw, Associate Professor in International Relations, University of Exeter
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre
  • Further speakers tbc

Chair: Rt Hon. Fiona Mactaggart MP, Member of the Intelligence and Security Committee

This seminar will examine the experiences of a wide range of civil society activists, opposition politicians, religious leaders and others who have had to leave their former Soviet country of origin due to the risk of persecution at home, but who are unable to escape the pressures of their country's security services, even in exile. It will discuss the experiences of activists being monitored, followed, harassed, attacked, kidnapped or killed across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

The seminar will analyse CIS security service cooperation, when the intelligence service of the country where an activist is seeking shelter either formally collaborates with or turns a blind eye to the activities of the intelligence services of the activist's home country in tracking, harassing, attacking or kidnapping them. There will be a particular focus on the activities of the security services of Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, against whom there are strong allegations of involvement in a number of murders, attacks, kidnappings and threats against activists and opponents outside their borders. It will also look at the countries where activists in exile seem to be most at risk of harassment, noting in particular the situations in Russia and Turkey.

The No Shelter seminar will also explore issues around the monitoring of activists' emails, phone calls and other forms of communication by intelligence services and the practical challenges human rights defenders and others face in keeping their information secure from prying eyes.

The seminar may also look at the role played by Western companies in exporting technology and consultancy services that help develop the surveillance systems of authoritarian regimes, or that can be used for torture and ill-treatment. It may also explore the extent to which Western intelligence cooperates with intelligence agencies from the former Soviet Union involved in such practices.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and any affiliation.

Download No Shelter Seminar flyer (360 kilobyte PDF)


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> Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy- London Conference

Date: Wednesday October 26th 2016

Time: 2.30pm-7.30pm

Venue: Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3EU

Speakers include:

  • Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, former Shadow Foreign Secretary and Chair of the Exiting the EU Select Committee
  • Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, former Attorney General, Conservative
  • Douglas Carswell MP, UKIP
  • Emma Reynolds MP, Labour
  • Stephen Gethins MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)
  • Baroness Smith of Newnham, Director of the European Centre, Cambridge University and Liberal Democrat Peer
  • Lord Liddle, Chair of Policy Network and Labour Peer
  • Professor Vernon Bogdanor, Research Professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History, Kings College London
  • Dr Marina Prentoulis, Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics, UEA
  • Marie Le Conte, Buzzfeed
  • Oli Henman, Head of International Networks, Civicus
  • Jacqueline Minor, Head of Representation, European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom
  • Stephen Booth, Co-Director, Open Europe
  • Karin Christiansen, Chair of Open Knowledge
  • John Peet, Political and Brexit Editor, The Economist
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

The After Brexit: Can we build a new democratic foundation for UK-EU relations? panel is available to watch on Youtube. Hilary Benn's keynote speech is available to watch on Facebook.

In the wake of the British vote to leave the EU, this conference will examine concerns across Europe around the democratic legitimacy of EU institutions and the European project as a whole. It will look at how the debate about EU democratic legitimacy across member states fit within the context of a crisis of trust in institutions at both national and international levels in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

The conference will explore the mechanisms through which EU institutions have sought to gain democratic legitimacy, comparing and contrasting with other national and international organisations. The conference will look to explore the potential democratic basis for a future UK-EU relationship post-Brexit, examining the emerging UK Government and EU thinking. The conference will explore the findings of the recent FPC publication Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy that assessed the major challenges the EU faces and set out ideas for potential democratic and organisational reform.

This conference series is kindly supported by the European Commission Representation in the UK Call for Proposals for civil society organisations 2015-16. The event is independently organised by the FPC and the wide range of views on the matters under discussion are those of the speakers alone.

Download Europe and the People: London conference flyer (300 kilobyte PDF)


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> Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy- Edinburgh Conference

Date: Thursday 16th June 2016

Time: 4.00pm-7.30pm (registration from 3.30pm)

Venue: Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22-26 George St, Edinburgh, EH2 2PQ

Speakers include:

  • Alyn Smith MEP, SNP Member of the European Parliament
  • Lewis MacDonald MSP, Labour Shadow Cabinet
  • Jim Sillars, ScotLeave.eu
  • Ross Thomson MSP, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Member for North East Scotland
  • Professor Jo Shaw, Salvesen Chair of European Institutions, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor James Mitchell, Professor of Public Policy, University of Edinburgh
  • Jonathan Stanley, Bow Group
  • Professor Laura Cram, Professor of European Politics and Director of NRLabs Neuropolitics Research, University of Edinburgh
  • Adam Hug, Foreign Policy Centre

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and any affiliation.

This Europe and the People conference will examine public understanding around the democratic legitimacy of the EU institutions and conceptually of the union as a whole, particularly in the light of the referendum debate around the UK's future membership of the EU. It will look at the ways in which the different EU institutions receive democratic legitimisation and where there are shortcomings. The conference will include explore the way in which members of the European Parliament are elected in the UK and how the institution operates, looking at what more could be done to promote transparency or greater partnerships with the general public and national political institutions. It will explore the European Commission and its processes, including the process for the appointment of Commissioners and the ways in which it consults with national governments and stakeholders in the development of directives. Europe and the people would also examine the way in which the member states operate through the European Council and the Council of the European Union to achieve their objectives. The conference will also examine public attitudes to the European Court of Justice in the context of wider UK attitudes around international legal institutions, such as the European Court of Human Rights, and the role they play in UK political debates.

Read more…

Download Europe and the People- Edinburgh (320 kilobyte PDF)


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> Exporting Repression: the spread of human rights violations in the former Soviet Union and how institutions respond

Date: Thursday 26th May 2016

Time: 1.00pm-2.30pm (light lunch available from 12.30pm)

Venue: European Endowment for Democracy, Avenue des Gaulois 29, 1040-Brussels, Belgium

Speakers:

  • Heidi Hautala MEP, Delegation to the EU-Armenia and EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committees and the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee; Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and Co-Chair of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly
  • Fernando Andresen Guimarães, Acting Director for Europe East, EEAS
  • Tinatin Tsertsvadze, International Advocacy Manager, International Partnership for Human Rights
  • Kate Levine, Lawyer, European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC)
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre
  • Chair: Richard Howitt MEP, Socialist & Democrat Group Human Rights Spokesperson

Please RSVP via this form http://goo.gl/forms/KSWOjGK1Hz

The panel discussion, held in partnership with the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), will examine the role the EU can play in responding to the development of repressive laws and practices across the former Soviet Union including: 'foreign agents' laws and other restrictions on NGO activities, laws restricting LGBTI rights, security sector cooperation, limits on freedom of assembly and crackdowns on media and internet freedom.

The panel discussion will examine not only the role played by regional institutions such as the CIS, Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the promotion of such laws, but the ways in which repressive governments in the former Soviet Union work to influence how the European Union and international institutions such as the Council of Europe, OSCE, the UN, CIS, INTERPOL, EITI and international financial institutions respond to human rights abuses in the post-Soviet space.

The discussion will be based on the findings of two FPC reports in this Exporting Repression series: Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union and the forthcoming publication Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression.

Please RSVP via this form http://goo.gl/forms/KSWOjGK1Hz providing your name and any affiliation.

Download Exporting Repression: Brussels Seminar (550 kilobyte PDF)


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> Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union

DATE: Tuesday 9th February 2016

TIME: 6.00pm-7.30pm

VENUE: Committee Room 12, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA

Speakers:

  • Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Chair, APPG on the Rule of Law and former Attorney General
  • The Rt Hon. the Lord Anderson of Swansea, UK Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
  • Anna Chernova, formerly Programme Director,Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE
  • Tinatin Tsertsvadze, International Advocacy Manager, International Partnership for Human Rights
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

Chair: Luke Harding, Foreign Correspondent, The Guardian

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and any affiliation.

This Westminster Seminar will examine the work of a range of international institutions active in the former Soviet Union including the Council of Europe, OSCE, EU,CIS, UN, EITI, Interpol and the international financial institutions, looking at how they respond to the major human rights challenges in the region. It will act as the launch event for a new FPC publication bringing together essays examining these issues from a range of experts.This seminar is the first component of a major new FPC project entitled Exporting Repression, kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations.

Institutionally Blind will explore the ways in which human rights activists and governments from the former Soviet Union region operate within and towards these organisations to promote their own positions and challenge each others narratives. It will examine how Western Governments and parliamentarians engage with and work through these organisations, looking at how their domestic political debates, such as around the UK's relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights, influence the behaviour of authoritarian regimes in the region towards these institutions.

Read more…

Download Institutionally blind? seminar flyer (420 kilobyte PDF)


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> Traditional religion and political power: Examining the role of the church in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova

OSF Logo

DATE: Wednesday 28th October 2015

TIME: 6.00pm-7.30pm

VENUE: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, Victoria Embankment, Westminster, London, SW1A 2LW

Speakers:

  • Gordon Marsden MP, Secretary, All Party Parliamentary Group on Georgia (Labour)
  • Dr. Katja Richters, Department of Orthodox Christianity, University of Erfurt
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre
  • Felix Corley, Editor, Forum 18 News Service

Chair: Baroness Berridge, Chair of the All Party Group on International Freedom of Religion and Belief, (Conservative)

This Traditional religion and political power: Examining the role of the church in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova seminar (kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations) will provide an opportunity to examine the political and social role of the Orthodox Churches in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova and of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The seminar will examine some of the key themes addressed in a new Foreign Policy Centre publication, including:

  • the role the churches play in the development of new and re-emerging national identities
  • the role of religious institutions as civil society actors in their communities
  • the relationship between the church and the state, exploring the mutual support dynamic in the states that have given political space for the church to grow in return for political backing, examining the developing role of the church as a political actor
  • the approach of the churches in promoting 'traditional' values in their societies and challenging the influence of 'Western/Liberal' values, with a particular focus on traditional gender roles and sexuality
  • the reaction of the church to minority religions, particularly newer proselytising groups, exploring the approach to freedom of religion in these countries
  • the way in which churches are expanding their role in education systems and the curriculum
  • the role of religious institutions as economic actors and how this impacts their organisational strength and resources
  • the parallels with Russia where the Orthodox Church has formed a central part of President Putin's national agenda
  • the links between the Russian Orthodox Church and its counterparts in the region exploring the extent to which ecumenical collaboration and the supervision of certain denominations is used to extend or restore Russian influence

The event is free and open to all. Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk

Free copies of the new publication will be available

Download Traditional religion and political power seminar flyer (510 kilobyte PDF)


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