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Adam Hug


Adam Hug became Director of the Foreign Policy Centre in November 2017. He had previously been the Policy Director at the Foreign Policy Centre from 2008-2017. His research focuses on human rights and governance issues particularly in the former Soviet Union. He also writes on UK foreign policy and EU issues. His previous roles included work as a consultant on EU consumer protection issues and working with Israeli and Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups.

Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2679 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2018-07-18 00:14:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-18 00:14:40 [post_content] => This publication examines the growing influence of illiberal, anti-Western and socially conservative civil society groups, popular movements and political forces in five post-Soviet states: Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. It finds that illiberal social attitudes remain prevalent across the region, particularly in relation to LGBTI rights, and that they are increasingly being used as opportunities for political mobilisation within these societies. While there have been attempts to create illiberal civil society groups that mirror pro-Western/liberal NGOs or think-tanks, they remain significantly less influential than the institutions and groups linked to the dominant religious organisations in these countries such as the Orthodox Church, or political factions with influence over state resources. What is clear, however, particularly in Ukraine and Georgia, is that there has been a significant rise in far-right and nationalist street movements, alongside smaller but active homophobic gangs. These ‘uncivil rights movements’ still lack broad public support but their political energy and rate of growth is influencing the wider politics of the region. It is clear that illiberal civil society is on the rise in these five countries but it is growing in its own way rather than simply aping its liberal counterparts. Russia has an important role in the rise of illiberal civil society across the region, in particular, the way it has disseminated and promoted the concept of ‘traditional values’; however it is important to recognise that while some groups have direct or indirect contact with Russia, many do not and that the primary drivers of such activity are to be found in the local societies of the countries at hand. The Russians are being increasingly joined by US evangelical groups who see opportunities to promote a shared traditionalist agenda in the region. Attempts by the EU and other international actors to encourage or require countries to implement measures on anti-discrimination or tackling domestic violence have been used effectively by illiberal civil society groups, religious institutions and political factions as a rallying point for illiberal opposition. The publication argues that there is a need to more robustly tackle corruption and malpractice by politicians who may be notionally liberal or pro-European but who are bringing these concepts into disrepute. Civil society should work to identify the ‘moveable middle’ groups in society who are currently skeptical about liberal social values but are not passionate in their opposition to them and who might be open to engagement and persuasion. The publication makes a number of recommendations: The Governments of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan should: • Take urgent measures to tackle corruption and improve transparency; • Investigate attacks on minorities and scrap any partnerships with nationalist groups involved; • Protect the ability of liberal civil society groups to operate freely without intimidation; • Disband any armed militias affiliated with political parties or extremist groups. The international community should: • Increase political pressure and sanctions on the activities of ostensible ‘pro-European’ or ‘liberal’ allies whose corruption or malpractice brings such principles into disrepute; • Insist on action to tackle hate crimes and offer greater support and resources to do so if political willingness to act can be ensured; • Look for opportunities for diplomatic dialogue with the dominant religious institutions; • Continue to refine and improve ‘myth-busting’ and anti-propaganda responses; • Support efforts to improve survey and research data about illiberal civil society attitudes; • Work with liberal-minded NGOs to find new ways to engage the ‘movable middle’. [post_title] => The rise of illiberal civil society: Executive summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-rise-of-illiberal-civil-society-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-09 12:53:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-09 12:53:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2682 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2018-07-18 00:12:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-18 00:12:26 [post_content] => From Trump to Duterte, from Orbán to Erdogan, from Putin to PiS, socially conservative, nationalist and populist political forces are on the rise across the globe. The claim that we are living through a crisis for liberal democracy seems less hyperbolic by the day. After almost two decades which saw the advance of liberal democracy in the wake of the cold war, the period since the 2008 financial crisis undermined faith in and the perceived inevitability of the ‘Western model’, just as Russia (actively) and China (somewhat more passively) are displaying alternative economic and political models. It is a time of uncertainty fuelled not only by political instability but increasing concerns over rapid economic, technological and social change. It is this latter dimension – the pace of social change and reactions to it – that are at the heart of this publication which examines the extent of the counter-reaction. This publication assesses the growing influence of illiberal, anti-Western and socially conservative civil society groups, popular movements and political forces in five post-Soviet states – Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova – looking at who they are and what they are seeking to achieve and trying to understand why. These countries have been selected as they remain the five freest societies in the region that are not already part of the European Union (the Baltic States), and they are the sites of geopolitical competition for influence between the ‘West’ (predominantly the EU but also the historically the US) and Russia. As societies at the more open end of the regional spectrum, they all have the ability for groups of citizens to come together to advocate for political change in relative freedom. These countries also have well established ‘liberal’ non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that often receive funding from international donors including western nations and institutions, as well as private philanthropy such as the Open Society Foundations, the supporters of this publication. This research is primarily focused on the activity of four, often overlapping, types of group:
  • NGOs, think tanks and other research institutes that promote socially conservative values, both in relation to domestic policy and as a reason for closer ties with Russia, but whose form and function ostensibly mirrors that of liberal civil society
  • Socially conservative pressure or campaigning groups
  • Far-right or radical nationalist groups
  • Groups linked to religious institutions (which may well include a number of the above)
Social attitudes: the power of religion and tradition All of the five societies under examination in this publication can be defined as broadly retaining socially conservative social values and traditions, despite their varying degrees of openness to engagement with the West. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, these countries have been developing – both rediscovering and creating – their national identity. In the context of emerging national identity and the desire for stability in the wake of the political and economic upheavals of the early 90s, it can become easy for individual rights to be seen as a threat to social cohesion (as well as entrenched power structures), something that is particularly pointed in the context of four of these five countries having either an active or unresolved territorial conflict. Furthermore since the collapse of Soviet atheism religious identification and observance has boomed, with faith returning to the public square in a significant way. The identity of the dominant faith group has been used as a tool to define national identity across the region, either formally with special provisions in constitutions such as in Georgia and Armenia for the dominant church, or informally with politicians using religion as a way to define the identity of the nation, notably in Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. The dominant religious organisations are the most trusted institutions in the five countries examined, with trust levels far exceeding those of civil society and secular politicians. For example, 70% of Georgians rather or fully trust their religious institution;[1] despite having one of the most established and active NGO sectors in the region, the comparable figure for NGOs is only 23%.[2] In Georgia and Armenia, the churches are independent institutions. While the Georgian Church leadership is more pro-Russian than the country as a whole, has good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and shares a distaste for Western social liberalism, it operates on its own terms and has become an extremely powerful force for social mobilisation and political influence. While the Armenian Church has traditionally been a less proactive and more passive part of the previously ruling elite, it stakes a claim to be the keeper of Armenian identity, a role it played for centuries after the destruction of the Armenian state of antiquity. Neither church has a dependent relationship with its Russian counterpart: the Georgian Church is autocephalous (self-governing) within Eastern Orthodoxy, and Armenia’s Apostolic Church is part of the separate Oriental Orthodox church family. This is unlike the situation in Moldova and Ukraine where the largest branches of the Orthodox Church are branches of the Russian Orthodox Church, though in Ukraine its dominance is being challenged by the rival Kiev Patriarchate. In Kyrgyzstan, Islam remains dominated by the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan, a centralised Muftiate with close relations to the state. As this publication makes clear, these religious institutions are the most-powerful non-governmental actors[3]in their societies and there are clear links with pressure groups on conservative social issues. While overall levels of religious identification and practice have risen, this rise in religious sentiment dovetails with longer-standing cultural attitudes prevalent in these societies, helping to provide a firm foundation for a cultural backlash against liberalising legislation often encouraged by ‘outside powers’, such as the EU through its Eastern Partnership processes. Persistent hostility to LGBTI rights has been a common feature across the region. In Moldova, 87% of people in 2016 saw homosexuality as not being justified, up from 85% in 2008.[4] Similarly, the 2014 World Values survey showed that 86% of Georgians, 95% of Armenians and 68.5% of Kyrgyzstanis believed homosexuality was never justifiable.[5] There is also data in a number of countries suggesting that there are not the dramatic variations in views by age seen in Western societies (where young people are dramatically more liberal), with Eric McGlinchey’s essay highlighting that levels of homophobia in Kyrgyzstan are broadly static across the age spectrum and data suggesting that examples of extreme homophobia may be higher amongst young Georgians than the older generations.[6] Both Georgia and Kyrgyzstan[7] have taken steps explicitly to outlaw gay marriage in their constitutions.  The one bright spot in the data has been the significant improvement in Ukrainian attitudes on LGBTI rights in the wake of pro-European reorientation brought about by the Maidan protests and the Revolution of Dignity, despite the clear rise in far-right pressure discussed in this publication. Research by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) shows that in 2017 56% of Ukrainians supported equal rights protections for LGBTI people while only 21% were opposed, with 59% supporting workplace discrimination laws to protect them.[8] Ten years earlier only 34% of Ukrainians were willing to support equal rights protections for LGBTI people.[9] Despite its legality during most of the Soviet-era, there are signs that cultural acceptance of abortion remains far from certain. 67% of Georgians believed that ‘an abortion can never be justified’[10] while in Moldova the similar figure was 53%.[11]The essay contributions in this collection show how women’s health issues, issues around sex education, domestic violence, and in the case of Kyrgyzstan bride kidnapping and polygamy, are being used as wedge issues by conservative and religious groups. The term ‘gender’ has been adapted by illiberal actors as a shorthand conflate a range of liberalising measures from attempts to promote gender equality to LGBTI rights as something to resist.[12] Local politics and external actors The ‘traditional values’ debate is one rooted in power and influence. Given that illiberal social attitudes towards LGBTI rights, immigration and women’s role in society have significant domestic support, it is far from unusual that political figures would seek to harness such forces, in some cases out of genuine support and often for more cynical motives to provide a compelling narrative to distract from state capture and corruption. A number of our authors highlight how leading figures of notionally pro-European governments have been seen to utilise illiberal forces to achieve their political ends, including the close relationship between Georgian Dream and the Georgian Church, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov’s relationships with far-right militias, and the murky relationship in Moldova between pro-European government power broker and oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc and the socially conservative, pro-Russian President Igor Dodon. The nature of and tools for Russian influence in promoting illiberal values in the post-Soviet Space have been addressed in detail in the previous Foreign Policy Centre publications Sharing Worst Practice and The Information Battle.[13] These publications show how Russia has tried to promote a ‘traditional values’ agenda that places the Russian political model as a guide for emulation by those in the region wary about the pace of social change, supportive of the Orthodox Church, opposed to LGTBI rights and sympathetic to a vision of a male-headed nuclear family. It disseminates these messages through its media, both domestic television rebroadcast across the region and targeted tools such as the Sputnik News Agency, whose messages are then adapted and repeated by local channels and websites. Media penetration is buttressed by the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church and a series of soft-power foundations and organisations that promote Russian values abroad, such as the state-backed Russkiy Mir (Russian World) Foundation and the private initiatives of oligarchs close to the Kremlin.  When starting this project one of its goals was to seek to analyse the extent of Russian involvement in orchestrating local activities by traditionalist groups. Given the opaque nature of the funding structures of many of the groups analysed,[14] it has been difficult to definitively map direct Russian involvement; however the essay contributions identify a number of groups which are seen to have close ties (in some cases a direct financial relationship) with the Russian government and Russian institutions. For the most part, however, the approach by local groups is emulation or imitation rather than direct control, with a few examples of movements as ‘franchises’, such as the operationally separate but closely related ‘Occupy Paedophilia’ organisations. As Kristina Stoeckl shows in her essay about the World Congress of Families, Russian influence is increasingly dovetailing with the efforts of a number of radical US evangelical groups that are seeking to form a common front against the spread of liberal values, particularly on LGBTI rights and abortion. [15] Work by Melissa Hooper in previous FPC publications[16] and others such as Chris Stroop[17] and Casey Michel[18], highlight this evolving collaboration to promote illiberalism in the post-Soviet space and across Europe, trends that predate but are magnified by the impact of the Trump presidency on the relationship between the US right and Russia. The Five Countries: Georgia In this collection, our three Georgian authors clearly set out the web of interlocking personalities and organisations that have developed a series of illiberal NGOs and institutes. This is the clearest example of mimicking the form of liberal civil society from all five case studies, perhaps unsurprising given Georgia’s comparatively well-established and active NGO sector providing a model for emulation.  The authors confirm the analysis clearly expressed in past Foreign Policy Centre publications that the Georgian Orthodox Church is the most powerful illiberal force within Georgian society.[19] It is clearly the most proactively influential of the religious institutions within the five countries assessed in this publication, and it is probably fair to see it as being the most influential non-state[20] actor within an individual society from across the five countries assessed. As in Ukraine, the issue of direct Russian involvement in Georgian society is particularly fraught, with the wounds of the 2008 conflict still raw. However, there has been a limited thawing in relations, in part led by contact between the Georgian Church and its Russian counterparts, despite Georgia’s continued steps towards the European Union. Research in 2015 by Nata Dzvelishvili, [21] which is expanded upon in her contribution to this collection, by the Media Development Initiative in 2017[22] and Transparency International Georgia in 2018[23] have helped map some of the potential links between an intertwined set of Georgian organisations and donors and partners in Russia. Some Georgian groups do directly advocate improving ties with Russia; however, it is clear that analysts believe there remain links between Russia and organisations that promote opposition to liberal values who frame such activity as ‘pro-Georgian’ rather than ‘pro-Russian’. This is seen as an attempt in the short term to undermine Western influence, an approach that has a greater potential audience than explicitly pro-Russian activity. Of particular concern is that the three Georgian authors clearly identify a growing presence on the street of burgeoning nationalist, far-right movements that pose a major challenge to the promotion of liberal values in Georgia. These groups are building on the momentum of past protests by the Church and its allies against the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)[24] but they have been broadening out their attacks to a wider selection of liberal targets from nightclubs to vegan restaurants. [25] There seems some evidence of links between members of the emerging nationalist protest groups and Russian groups, just at a time when Russia has cracked down on its domestic far-right movements.[26] Ukraine The debate over the extent of the involvement of the Ukrainian far-right in the Maidan movement, the Revolution of Dignity and its aftermath can be a painful one. This is in part because of the narrative, projected to the (physical) exclusion of all others to the citizens of Crimea and Donbass, by the Russian government, intelligence service and media outlets, was the ludicrous and slanderous narrative that ‘the fascists have taken Kiev’. It is also due to the deep emotional investment in the Maidan Movement from across large sections of Ukrainian society, particularly amongst liberal civil society. In this context, the analysis provided by Volodymyr Ishchenko here and elsewhere[27], which argues that the far-right had a greater involvement than some observers are willing to recognise, can be challenging for those who see the Maidan as a decisive national moment for liberal social change. While the extent of its involvement is clearly a matter of heated debate, Ukrainian far-right groups were clearly disproportionately involved in the physical confrontation elements of the protest movement, notably at the denouement when Yanukovych’s security forces ended up shooting protestors – the act that led to his ouster. Furthermore, from the example of protest movements elsewhere in the world, it can be argued that organised groups with clear agendas, structures and experienced members tend to have an outsized role in the coordination of protest action, irrespective of their size relative to the overall number of people ultimately participating in the protest or movement. [28] As a result they may come into contact with new recruits and more broadly their influence may, as a result of their attachment to a popular cause particularly over time, shape the mainstream debate in their direction. This ability to influence the wider political environment is particularly relevant in a society where political parties are primarily personality-led rather than built on firm ideology and organisational structures. Such analysis should be tempered by the recognition that the coalition of forces that came together to support the Maidan was extremely broad, from LGBTI Rights activists to Catholic and Kiev Patriarchate Orthodox priests, while many of the public faces of the movement tended to be a mix of mainstream pro-European politicians and more liberal activists. What is undoubtedly true is that, while the power and presence of the far-right were strengthened by involvement in the revolution, the outbreak of conflict and the far right’s direct participation in leading pro-government militias, both inside and outside official Ukrainian government structures, has dramatically enhanced their position. Volodymyr Ishchenko’s essay analyses in detail the rise of the three largest organisations:
  • the Azov Battalion and its affiliated organisations (including the National Corps political party and a vigilante group)[29] which are seen as having ties to the current Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov
  • the Right Sector far-right coalition (including its Tryzub –Trident- militia, whose members see themselves as heirs of World War II guerrilla movement the Ukrainian Insurgent Army)[30]
  • the Svoboda (Freedom) party a far-right populist, socially conservative party and organisation, whose influence has somewhat waned with the rise of Azov.[31]
Not only are such groups and their affiliates active on the battlefield in Donbass, but they are seeking to play a role domestically too. For example, despite the Azov-affiliated vigilante group National Druzhyna being involved in intimidation and violence against civil society groups and minorities as noted below, it is seeking under provisions of the law ‘On the participation of citizens in protection of public order and the state border’ to involve 600 of its activists in a legally sanctioned ‘civic formation’ that would seek to shadow the police and notionally assist them in tackling anti-social behaviour and public order issues.[32] There is also c14, a group often accused of being neo-Nazis, whose structures mirror Azov and which recruits actively amongst football club ‘ultras’, formerly had been affiliated with Svoboda. Its primary focus has been on targeting Russians and institutions seen as pro-Russian, since its time leading street battles against pro-Yanukovych gangs at the time of Maidan.[33] It has been listed by the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium as a domestic terrorist group,[34] been involved in attacks on Roma camps across Ukraine[35] and yet it has also been the recipient of government funding from the Youth and Sports Ministry for ‘national-patriotic’ education projects.[36] As with other countries in the region, there are a number of Ukrainian organisations that seek to copy the model of the Russian Occupy Paedophilia movement such as the White Lions, Heritage and perhaps the most notable group Fashion Verdict.[37]These groups deal in entrapment, public humiliation and violence against LGBTI individuals and groups. [38] Efforts to promote the rehabilitation and promotion of nationalist groups from Ukraine’s past, such as the World War II nationalist movement the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought against both the Soviets and the Nazis, has been supported by more mainstream organisations such as the government-funded ‘Ukrainian Institute of National Memory’.[39] Despite the substantive improvement in public attitudes towards LGBTI rights and some legislative progress in the post-Maidan period, these anti-LGBTI groups and the larger far-right groups are becoming increasingly brazen in their attacks on LGBTI people and on organisations working with them. Incidents have included an attack on the international human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in a Kiev incident in May 2018[40] and the disruption in April of a Freedom House event in Poltava by the National Corps.[41] As Vyacheslav Likhachev puts it, while these groups are unlikely to achieve direct political power for themselves, they are, however, aggressively trying to impose their agenda on Ukrainian society, including by using force against those with opposite political and cultural views. They are a real physical threat to left-wing, feminist, liberal, and LGBT activists, human rights defenders, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.’[42] In addition to these violent extremists, a number of non-violent anti-LGBTI groups and movements such as the All Together-for a family! The movement led by evangelical activist Ruslan Kukharchuk are emerging.[43]The All Together for a Family 2017 two-day festival claimed an attendance of 30,000,[44] with musicians, clowns and other family-friendly entertainment to complement the religious preaching and anti-LGBTI activism. There is also the Orthodox conservative group Katehon, relatively small but heavily engaged in homophobic protests in Ukraine and with alleged ties to the much larger conservative group in Russia with the same name. There is also the Orthodox conservative group Katehon, relatively small but heavily engaged in homophobic protests in Ukraine and with alleged ties to the much larger conservative group in Russia with the same name. The mainstream religious institutions in Ukraine have been somewhat more muted in their attacks on LGBTI rights than their counterparts elsewhere. However, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO), the umbrella body comprising most of the church groups in the country, does actively promote an annual All-Ukrainian March for the protection of the rights of children and families.[46] Of the major institutions however, it is only really the Moscow Patriarchate which has institutionally spoken out actively against the Equality March and taken a more proactive position.[47] Given the understandable sensitivities around anything to do with Russia, despite emulating some of the rhetoric and behaviours of the Russian-inspired ‘traditional values agenda’, Ukrainian conservative and religious groups are often looking towards a concept of ‘traditional European values’ that they seek to return to as the country reorients westwards, as opposed to the liberalising tendencies of the EU as in institution. It is worth noting of course that tensions over language rights and historic territorial sensitivities may be limiting the potential for collaboration with the emerging European illiberal forces in Hungary and Poland, a position that may evolve in a more collaborative direction over time. As Andrew Wilson of ECFR has pointed out, at time of writing in summer 2018, the post-Maidan political environment looks pretty bleak.[48] Continuing political dominance by oligarchs and their supporters has provided fertile ground for anti-elite populists who may seek to fuse their anti-corruption messages to other less savoury populist causes. Such a febrile political environment can only encourage the radical groups identified here to further expand their memberships and influence. Moldova Of the five countries under analysis Moldova is the country where the tensions between Russian and Western influence, liberal and illiberal social and political forces are most delicately balanced. What at first glance may seem like a standoff between a pro-Russian President and a pro-European Government with their respective outriders in civil society, is, in fact, a good deal murkier. The geopolitical fault lines are real and significant, although they are sometimes exaggerated and often used cynically by the ruling elites of both factions to preserve a political system that concentrates their hold on power and access to resources and in ‘rents’. The ingrained anger against corruption in the ruling government, including forces close to it such as former PM Vlad Filat being involved in a $1 billion bank fraud, has helped to undermine the credibility of pro-European forces in Moldova. At time of writing the EU has frozen a €100m euro aid package as a result of the Moldovan Supreme Court’s decision to nullify the election of a pro-European Mayor of Chisinau who narrowly beat the candidate of President Dodon’s pro-Russian socialist party. The court decision is seen to have been influenced by forces close to billionaire power broker Vladimir Plahotniuc[49] , of whom would be Mayor-elect Andrei Nastase is a longstanding critic. While the power behind Prime Minister Pavel Filip’s Democrat Party and the Deputy President of the Socialist International, many Moldovan observers argue that Plahotniuc has close ties with President Dodon, a ‘binomial’: Plahotniuc-Dodon has become a short hand for the oligarchic nature of the ruling elites.[50] The EU’s decision is part of a somewhat belated shift in taking concerns about malpractice by its notional allies in the ‘pro-European’ Moldovan government increasingly seriously, given that claims of corruption against the government have been used successfully to undermine support for Europeanisation by both pro-Russian political forces and illiberal civil society actors alike. However it is worth noting that the largest EU political grouping, the centre-right European People’s Party (not always on the side of the angels when it comes to democratic values in the region), has taken as new observer members the two main pro-European but ‘anti-system’ opposition parties, 2016 Presidential Candidate Maia Sandu’s Action and Solidarity Platform and Nastase’s Dignity and Truth platform. Subsequently, EPP President Joseph Daul has been vocal in criticism of the government and in particular the decision to overturn Nastase’s Mayoral win. [51] EU-required legislation and reforms have provided some of the main cultural flashpoints for the mobilisation of illiberal civil society, most notably the 2014 Anti-Discrimination Law. In their essays both Mihaela Ajder and Dumitru Sliusarenco look at the ways in which illiberal political organisations, civil society groups and the Moldovan Orthodox Church have actively challenged efforts to bring in equalities legislation and pushed back against groups pushing for LGBTI and women’s rights. Armenia While, as set out above, Armenian social attitudes remain deeply conservative, the debates on LGBTI issues or women’s rights have been somewhat more muted than in some of their neighbouring countries, lacking the passionate intensity of the debate in Georgia or the sharp geopolitical divides of Moldova. The Armenian Apostolic church, traditionally close to past Armenian governments and its oligarchic elite, has so far not shown concerted efforts to dominate debates over social policy, pursuing a more ‘quietist’ approach, in part with one eye on how its actions be would be seen by US- and French-based diaspora donors. There is a reasonably small sector of research institutes whose work is often focused directly at internally to government or to an international audience (notably the diaspora) with limited levels of public engagement in their own country.[52] Armenia has also an array of more nationalist organisations either focused on Nagorno-Karabakh and others, such as Aragats Akhoyan’s Return Foundation looking west to Turkey, operating with support both from the state and the diaspora. It is clear that until now the state has been the dominant institution in promoting nationalist and sometimes socially conservative positions. Anna Pambukhchyan’s essay shows how the state sought to directly engineer popular mobilisation behind its ‘nation army’ concept, bringing together government institutions and agencies with the backing of the church to push a controversial values agenda. Perhaps the longstanding co-option of nationalist positions and rhetoric by the state has somewhat closed the political space for the emergence of street-based far-right organisations along the lines seen in Ukraine and Georgia. Like elsewhere in the region there have been cases where internationally supported equalities legislation received a backlash from illiberal campaign groups. In autumn 2017 conservative groups targeted the Armenian government’s attempt to pass legislation against domestic violence. Perhaps unsurprisingly the legislation was attached to the conditions for the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed on 24th November 2017. These protests [53] were led by the For the Sake of Sovereignty Restoration organisation headed Hayk Nahapetyan and the Pan Armenian Parental Committee headed by Arman Boshyan[54], a group that was active the 2013 ‘Anti Gender Protests’[55] and has a Facebook following of over 18,000 likes. Boshyan is also President of the pro-Russian Yerevan Geopolitical Club.[56]Arman Gukasyan, leader of a small NGO called International Humanitarian Development, also used the protests against the law as a way of getting public attention, having previously gained notoriety in 2015 claiming that Western-funded NGOs were fomenting a ‘colour’ revolution[57] and became the editor of the ‘Stop-G7’ website dedicated to attacking LGBTI rights and their supporters including the EU and Western donors. [58] In the wake of the 2018 Velvet Revolution that brought liberal opposition politician Nikol Pashinyan from the streets to the office of Prime Minister, it is clear that Russia will be reconsidering the extent of its soft-power engagement in Armenia. Given Armenia’s security dependency on Russia, Russian control of leading companies and, until recently, a broadly Russia-sympathetic political elite whose governance style followed a similar model, Moscow has not engaged particularly intensively or effectively in promoting its values agenda in the country. Leading Armenian policy analyst Richard Giragosian has described Russia’s soft power in Armenia as ‘neither soft nor powerful’ and that Moscow was taking its dominant position in Armenia for granted[59], particular given the 2015 public protests against the Russian owned  energy monopoly (the Electric Yerevan Movement) and over the killing of an Armenian Family by a Russian solider. However, the sudden collapse of Serzh Sargsyan’s government, in a botched attempt to replicate Putin’s 2008 switch from President to the role of Prime Minister, and his government’s replacement by a reformist group with cautiously pro-Western inclinations has shifted the terms of the debate. The change in Armenia has not gone unnoticed in Azerbaijan, which has been strengthening its relationship with Moscow in recent years as its engagement with the West suffered setbacks over human rights, with some Russian politicians arguing that Azerbaijan should supplant Armenia as Russia’s primary partner in the South Caucasus.[60] While new Prime Minister Nikol Pashayan shows no sign of wanting to radically shift Armenia’s geostrategic position, going out of his way to reassure Russia about the strength of their partnership and his narrow focus on domestic reform, Yerevan-based analysts are confident that Russian interests may start to play a more active role in Armenian civil society to hedge against future overtures to the West. Particularly given that the anti-corruption crackdown on the business elite close to the formerly ruling Republican Party is likely to lead to resentment against the new government from the groups being targeted it is an open question as to how such forces might choose to retaliate by challenging the popularity of Pashayan’s administration. There are already signs that nationalist activists such as Arthur Danielyan, Narek Malyan, Narek Samsonyan who were involved in the ‘Army Propaganda Team’ to support the nation army concept and with connections to ex-defence minister Vigen Sargsyan are now mobilising to attack the new government as being too liberal (and LGBTI friendly) and not patriotic enough through a new online channel called Adekvad (Relevant).[61] Any snap parliamentary elections may provide an opportunity to assess how both Russia and the old elite are responding to the new political environment. Kyrgyzstan The one Central Asian state under examination in this collection displays a number of shared characteristics. As set out in the essay contributions by Rsykeldi Satke and Eric McGlinchey, new nationalist movements have emerged in the last decade, most notably Kalys (Justice), Erkin El and Kyrk-Choro (Forty Knights). Kalys, led by Jenishbek Moldokmatov, staged protests in favour of an anti-gay propaganda law, publically challenged Western funded NGOs and burning a photo of a Ukrainian blogger who they claimed was an LGBTI activist. Erkin El, led by Mavlyan Askarbekov, protested against sex education leaflets, claiming they were ‘destructive brochures that ruin the minds of youth.[62] Kyrk-Choro, the most eye catching (in their traditional felt kalpak hats and often riding on horses echoing the forty knights of the Epic of Manas – the mythological tale after which they are named), has been active in attacking ethnic minority groups, such as ethnic Uzbeks, Uyghurs and Chinese migrant workers[63], as well as those seen as promoting LGBTI or women’s rights. ‘Patriot’ groups linked to Kyrk-Choro have been involved in attacking Kyrgyz women perceived to be dating foreigners – particularly when they are working in Russia as migrant workers. They also claim inspiration in their recent actions from the Ukrainian Right Sector.[64] These overt nationalist groups are seen as a ‘lunatic fringe’[65]; while we live in times when groups and personalities can move swiftly from the fringe to mainstream, at present these are not the primary non-governmental actors in reinforcing conservative attitudes. As elsewhere in the region it is religious institutions (including their popular social support networks) and clerics, particularly in South Kyrgyzstan, that are the driving force for such change. Both the Grand Mufti Maksat Hajji Toktomushev and the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan have issued Fatwas against same-sex relations, with the Mufti challenging Human Rights Watch and other NGOs by calling on the authorities “to pay special attention to the activities of some public organizations that disseminate social discord while using humanistic ideas.” [66] With some similarities to Georgia, there is some evidence to suggest that levels of religiosity and conservative social attitudes are higher among young people than older generations who lived through Communist-era official atheism. A 2015 USAID study argued that ‘older people tend to view religion, particularly Islam, with suspicion, and are concerned about the spread of more austere forms of Islam into the Kyrgyz Republic. Younger people, on the other hand, seem to be identifying more with religion. In UNDP’s analysis of young people, 68% of respondents identified themselves first as Muslims and second as citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic’.[67] As part of the drawdown from Afghanistan the US closed Manas air force base in 2014 under pressure from both former President Atambayev and the Russians. Since that period Western influence has been seen to decline in comparison to Russian and Chinese economic and political influence. There are limited political tools to change this situation, particularly as the country falls outside the range of the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative. What our authors say: Nata Dzvelishvili discusses how a pro-Russian narrative has been renamed as ‘pro-Georgian’, yet its objective still implies a discrediting of the West and stimulating euroscepticism. Some pro-Russian NGOs have stopped functioning, though the number of media organizations remains unchanged. However, there is an apparent increase in the number of Facebook pages that promote anti-Western sentiments, focusing on the cultivation of nationalist ideas and using the fear of losing national values and traditions to distribute anti-Western information, which is mostly homophobic, xenophobic or misinformation. The growth of nationalist aspirations has affected public attitudes and driven legislative changes. The State Security Service has recognized the peril of Russian propaganda, but hasn’t specified the exact responsibly for the distribution of anti-Western or nihilistic sentiments in the country which has dramatically increased. Eka Chitanava and Katie Sartania examine the rise of socially conservative, illiberal groups in Georgia, who have recently become increasingly active in public spaces, media and social networks. These groups try to shape the modern concept of Georgian nationalism. Chitanava and Sartania attempt to start mapping urban and digital frontiers of social hostilities and put the events in social and political contexts. Their essay briefly provides general profiles of those involved, their demands and targets of their physical and verbal violence. Extremism against liberal groups is not a new phenomenon in Georgia and there are some ideological and institutional affiliations with the Georgian Orthodox Church. The frontline of the conflict between social groups is a public space which embodies political power and cultural hegemony. The article employs the concept of a ‘revanchist city’, where who wins the public space, has his or her national identity reaffirmed. Mariam Ubari argues that Georgia has witnessed a significant rise in violence and aggression towards liberal groups since 2017. The rise of Neo-Nazi groups has been consolidated as a protest in response to the government’s migration policies or as need to protect national identify from the emerging threats in Georgia. Some ultra-right groups have Russian backing, whilst within others with an openly fascist ideology- no direct Russian links can be established. The Georgian Orthodox Church officially supports the Euro- Atlantic aspiration of the Georgian state, but the behaviour of its clergy and Church policies sometimes suggest otherwise. Volodymyr Ishchenko’s essay looks at the Ukrainian far right, meaning a range of Ukrainian ultranationalists including parties, organizations and informal groups committed to the ideology of radical Ukrainian nationalism, who see the nation as of absolute value and the nation-state as a tool to realize the nation’s will. Contrary to the position of moderate Ukrainian national-democrats, the radical nationalists see liberal-democratic values as a danger to Ukraine rather than embracing them. Pro-Russian ultranationalists did exist in Ukraine, however, they used to be by far weaker even before Maidan uprising and has become completely irrelevant after the start of the war in Donbass in 2014, with exception of in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Instead, Ishchenko argues that the strength and political impact of Ukrainian radical nationalists has been systematically underestimated, even as they are significantly contributing to the fragility of the post-Maidan political settlement and have become a real threat to political freedoms and human rights in Ukraine. Mihaela Ajder‘s contribution catalogues and analyses the range of different groups that seek to challenge liberalism in Moldova. These include far-right organisations and conservative pressure groups that have been building a following in Moldova, often through attacks on and pressure against LGBTI groups and other minorities. However, the most powerful group active on conservative issues remains the very influential Moldovan Orthodox Church. Ajder places these players in the context of a Moldovan political environment lacking in trust due to years of corruption and mismanagement that breeds the societal resentment in which reactionary groups can thrive. Dumitru Sliusarenco and Ion Foltea write that the Republic of Moldova is a former Soviet Union country facing many difficulties in its transition to democracy. One of the important causes of these is the growing influence of illiberal and conservative groups, which promote an anti-Western values agenda. They are linked in particular with the two largest socially conservative forces in Moldovan society: the Socialist Party and the Moldovan Orthodox Church. The values pursued by these organisations and ‘illiberal civil society groups’ with ties to them can be seen as endangering human rights and fundamental freedoms. Anna Pambukhchyan’s essay provides a short introduction to the ‘nation-army’ concept, a nationalist education and social mobilisation project that was introduced to the Armenian public in October 2016. The concept which despite being the core of the Armenian defence agenda for one and a half years was never down written on paper. This led to misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the concept. This paper analyses the essence of the concept and argues that rather than being natural ideology it was an artificially created top-to-bottom propaganda tool that was spread through society to deflect criticism over the former Governments’ failure to tackle corruption in the military. Dr Eric McGlinchey writes that Kyrgyzstan, the only democratic-leaning post-Soviet Central Asian state, has seen periodic upticks in uncivil society. Extreme ethno-nationalism, anti-LGBT rhetoric, and militant Islam have all found a voice among elements of the Kyrgyz polity. One shared driver is behind each of these forms of illiberalism: competitive politics. Illiberalism sells in Kyrgyzstan, just as illiberalism is now popular in Europe and the United States. Kyrgyzstan, along with its European and North American counterparts, demonstrates that democracy is no sure guarantee against illiberalism. Only through sustained and local advocacy for human rights and civil liberties can competitive polities offer enduring safeguards for civil society. Ryskeldi Satke argues that in these challenging times of transition in a politically unstable region, the rights of women in Central Asia can no longer be ignored as the women’s rights movement picks up speed elsewhere around the globe. He suggests that the international community and donor states that are providing crucial aid and political support to Kyrgyzstan must address the blatant disregard of the rights of women. It is important for policymakers in the West and international development organizations to implement proactive policies on gender equality and women’s rights in Kyrgyz Republic and the wider region. Kristina Stoekl examines the development of the World Congress of Families looking at the way radical US evangelicals are developing partnerships with conservatives from Russia and elsewhere in the post-Soviet space to promote illiberal values and push back against LGBTI rights and other liberalising social measures. She charts the development of the organisation and looks at the preparations for the meeting in September 2018 in Chisinau. [1]Caucasus Research Resource Centre, Trust-Religious Institutions respondent belongs to, Caucasus Barometer 2017, [2]Caucasus Research Resource Centre, Trust-NGOs, Caucasus Barometer 2017, The same number 23% distrust NGOs, with the majority (39%) unsure either way. [3] Though in some cases the divide between ‘church’ and state has become blurred. [4] Ovidiu Voicu, Jennifer Cash and Victoria Cojocariu, Church and State in the Republic of Moldova, The Center for Public Innovation and Soros Foundation Moldova, 2017, [5]Inglehart, R., C. Haerpfer, A. Moreno, C. Welzel, K. Kizilova, J. Diez-Medrano, M. Lagos, P. Norris, E. Ponarin & B. Puranen et al. (eds.). 2014. World Values Survey: Round Six - Country-Pooled Datafile Version: The figure in Kyrgyzstan was notably lower because respondents gave less intense negative answers rather than a significant positive score, with only 4.9% of Kyrgyz respondents saying homosexuality could be to some extent justifiable. [6] CRRC, Five data points about homophobia in Georgia five years after a homophobic riot, OC Media, May 2018, [7] Bruce Pannier, What's In Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Referendum?, December 2016, [8]ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey, October 2017, [9]Nash Mir Centre, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Situation of LGBT in Ukraine in 2010-2011, 2011, [10]Caucasus Research Resource Centre, JUSABOR- justified/never justified: having an abortion, Caucasus Barometer 2017, [11]Ovidiu Voicu, Jennifer Cash and Victoria Cojocariu, Church and State in the Republic of Moldova, The Center for Public Innovation and Soros Foundation Moldova, 2017, [12] Samson Martirosyan, The ‘Gender Equality Law’ Hysteria in Armenia, The Armenian Weekly, September 2013, [13] Adam Hug (ed.), Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, Foreign Policy Centre, May 2016, and Adam Hug (ed.), The information battle: How governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad, Foreign Policy Centre, March 2017, [14] While NGO donor transparency is desirable care needs to be taken to avoid encouraging requirements that would echo Russian ‘Foreign Agents’ laws. [15] Southern Poverty Law Centre, How the World Congress of Families serves Russian Orthodox political interests, May 2018, [16]Adam Hug (ed.) ibid [17] Christopher Stroop, Between Trump and Putin: The right-wing international, A crisis of democracy and the Future of the European Union, May 2017, [18] Casey Michel, The Rise of the ‘Traditionalist International’: How the American Right Learned to Love Moscow in the Era of Trump, March 2017, ‘Traditionalist International’ had been a working title for this research before the FPC became aware of its use by Michel and that our research findings more clearly emphasised the local dimensions of illiberal mobilisation. [19] Adam Hug (Ed.)Traditional religion and political power: Examining the role of the church in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova, Foreign Policy Centre, October 2015, [20] While there is much debate about the closeness of church and state in Georgia, the perception is not that the state controls the church but there are concerns around the extent of the Church’s influence over the state. [21] Nata Dzvelishvili and Tazo Kupreishvili. Russian influence on Georgian NGOs, May 2015 [22] Media Development Fund,  Kremlin Influence Index 2017, [23] Transparency International. ‘Anatomy of Georgian Neo-Nazism’’, May 2018, [24]JAM News, Georgian ultra-rightists promise to prevent Tbilisi from celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, May 2018, [25] Matthew Collin, Georgian techno fans and extremists clash in Tbilisi in fight for club culture, Guardian, May 2018, and Georgian vegan cafe attacked by 'sausage-wielding nationalists', Guardian, May 2016, [26] Mariya Petkova, The death of the Russian far right, Al Jazeera, November 2017, [27] Volodymyr Ishchenko, Denial of the Obvious: Far Right in Maidan Protests and Their Danger Today, Vox Ukraine, April 2018, [28]For example in a UK context you could note the disproportionate influence of small far and radical left groups in organised protests in the UK. The Socialist Workers Party for example is a tiny organisation, yet their placards are a major feature of all most any left-leaning public demonstration because they are well organised and turn up to each protest with huge numbers of posters and placards with their name and slogans on that are handed to any rally attendee who will take them. Similarly such small groups can play dominant roles in the coordination or executive bodies of ‘popular front’ organisations with a notionally much broader reach and remit. [29] Open Democracy, The rise of Azov, Denys Gorbach and Oles Petik, February 2016 [30] Information about Tryzub is available on this website [31] The Svoboda Party website is here: Their facebook page has 57k likes. [32] Hromadske international, What’s Behind Ukraine’s Shocking “National Druzhyna” Militia?, February 2018, [33] Hromadske International A Fine Line: Defining Nationalism and Neo-Nazism in Ukraine, May 2018, [34] Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, C14 aka Sich – Ukraine, [35] Halya Coynash, Ukrainian neo-Nazi C14 vigilantes drive out Roma families, burn their camp, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, April 2018, [36] Christopher Miller, Ukrainian Militia Behind Brutal Romany Attacks Getting State Funds, June 2014, [37] Hromadske International, Russian Anti-Gay Vigilantes Find New Home in Ukraine, May 2017, [38] Stephanie Marie Anderson, 6 things 'Gaycation' taught us about Ukrainian LGBT+ culture, SBS, [39]Mariya Shchur, Are scholars from the Institute of National Memory “whitewashing” the history of Ukraine? Volodymyr Vyatrovych responds to Josh Cohen’s article in Foreign Policy, RFE/RL via Euromaidan Press, May 2018, [40] RFE/RL, Amnesty Says Attack On Gay Event In Kyiv Shows Police Inaction, May 2018, [41] Via the twitter feed of Bellingcat’s Aric Toler, [42]Vyacheslav Likhachev, Far-right Extremism as a Threat to Ukrainian Democracy, Freedom House, May 2018, [43]LGBT Human Rights Nash Mir Center, On the Rise: LGBT situation in Ukraine in 2017, 2018, The organisation’s website is and Ruslan’s personal site is available in English, [44]Ruslan Kukharchuk, United Together – For the Family! A national movement in Ukraine, July 2018,
[46] Religious Information Service of Ukraine, Ukrainian Churches call to join on June 2nd the All-Ukrainian March for the Protection of the Rights of Children and Families, May 2018,
[47] LGBT Human Rights Nash Mir Center, On the Rise: LGBT situation in Ukraine in 2017, 2018, [48] Andrew Wilson, Ukrainian elections: Poroshenko and proliferating populists, ECFR, May 2018, [49]Eugen Tomiuc, Moldova's Andrei Nastase: The Man Who Would Be Mayor -- Or More, RFE/RL, July 2018, [50] Kamil Całus, Moldova’s odd couple: Plahotniuc and Dodon, New Eastern Europe, June 2017, [51]EPP, Plahotniuc-Dodon cartel have robbed Moldovan citizens of their last democratic right, June 2018, [52] Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan, Think Tanks in Armenia: Who Needs their Thinking?, On Think Tanks, October 2015, [53] Joshua Kucera, Armenia: EU Officials Making Tactical Retreat in Values War, Eurasianet, October 2017, [54] Pan Armenian Parental Committee website (in Armenian) [55] Anna Nikoghosyan, In Armenia, gender is geopolitical, Open Democracy: Russia, April 2016 [56] Anna Nikoghosyan, The paradox of Armenia’s domestic violence law, Open Democracy: Russia, November 2017, [57] Arman Ghukasyan, Sakunts has confirmed the findings of our survey, July 2015, [58]Arthur Minasyan and Olya Azatyan, The battle against the Kremlin’s online homophobic propaganda, Global Information Society Watch, [59]Richard Giragosian, Soft power in Armenia: Neither soft, nor powerful, ECFR, August 2015, and Malgosia Krakowska, Giragosian: Russia is taking Armenia for granted, Georgia Today, November 2017 [60] Joshua Kucera, Following Armenian uprising, Azerbaijan’s sabre rattling grows louder, July 2018, [61] Their Facebook page is at and their Youtube at [62] Eurasianet, Kyrgyzstan: Conservatives Cite ‘Family Values’ to Fight Sex Ed, November 2013, [63] Based on concerns about increasing Chinese economic influence. [64] Gulzhigit Ermatov, Understanding Illiberal Sentiments of Kyrgyz Youth in Marlena Laruelle (ed.), Kyrgyzstan: Political Pluralism and Economic Challenges, The George Washington University Central Asia Program, 2017, [65] In the blunt assessment of a head of a leading Western organisation based in the country. [66] RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Toktomushev, Known For Antigay Fatwa, Elected Kyrgyz Grand Mufti, March 2014, [67] USAID, Youth of the Kyrgyz Republic: Values, Social Mood and Conflict Behaviour, 2014 [post_title] => Introduction: The Rise of Illiberal Civil Society? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => introduction-the-rise-of-illiberal-civil-society [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-12 21:40:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-12 21:40:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2730 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2018-07-18 00:01:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-18 00:01:23 [post_content] => The contributions to this collection make a number of important observations about the social and political landscape in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan. With the partial exception of Ukraine, illiberal social attitudes remain stubbornly high and entrenched across the societies of the region, particularly in relation to LGBTI rights. This is despite some attempts to introduce important legislation to improve women’s and LGBTI rights, which, while necessary, have provided a focal point for mobilisation in support of less tolerant views by socially conservative forces. This includes in particular both politicians and religious institutions, with the support of conservative or pro-Russian media outlets.[1] While the attractiveness of such ideologies may be boosted by wider global trends, particularly within the post-Soviet space, they are often playing to longstanding national sentiments, which make them attractive for those looking to promote themselves within the local power politics of these countries. What the findings of this collection suggest is that political and social forces challenging liberal ideas have been emboldened in these five countries, they still predominately utilise traditional mechanisms of institutional power (such as the church or mosque or existing political elites) rather than fully mimicking the form and function of liberal civil society. At this stage many of the attempts to create illiberal NGOs or think tanks remain comparatively marginal in the political debates on socially conservative causes, or act as window dressing for politicians and priests rather than being the driving force of campaigns. That campaign groups or think tanks have a strong relationship with individual political figures or major donors is common practice across the world. The somewhat dependent nature of these organisations in the five countries highlights their institutional fragility and that the politicians, priests and oligarchs involved are the driving forces for the promotion of illiberal values. Other groups are very much ‘one-man bands’ (it still usually is men) providing a platform for a particularly vocal academic or activist to gain media attention, often lacking even a basic web presence or formal registration, and prone to dissolving and reforming. A number of the same faces appear again and again in different groups. While it can be tempting to dismiss some of the more garish and vocal illiberal activists as marginal figures, they are acting to promote messages that unfortunately have a wider resonance, and around the world we live in times where the fringe positions can quite quickly become mainstream. What this publication shows that the illiberal energy is on the street rather than in the conference hall. This is an ‘uncivil rights movement’ of overlapping far-right, radical nationalist and anti-LGBTI groups, rather than a simple cut and paste from the technocratic liberal NGO playbook. That the rise of the far and radical right has been most noticeable in the countries that have moved closest to the West – Ukraine and Georgia – is of relevance not only as a reaction to liberalising efforts in those societies but because these are countries with deeply strained relations with Russia. Indeed the active conflict with Russia has been one of the main drivers of far-right support in Ukraine. The Russian dimension in this debate can sometimes be amplified to unhelpful levels. The overall findings of this publication make the case that Russian influence is absolutely real, particularly indirectly in terms of ‘norm diffusion’ (promoting and spreading illiberal ideas) and in certain cases media penetration. Moscow does directly support some groups on the ground, with varying degrees of intensity and success (as of course their Western opponents do); however their engagement, both real and perceived, can often be seen to undermine local conservative causes, particularly in the conflict contexts of Georgia and Ukraine. It also leaves these groups open to the same accusation nationalists and others level at Western-backed liberal groups that they are being controlled by outside forces. Overall Russia may help set the tone of debate, but it is not the puppet master of all that Western liberals and their local allies might decry in the region. Expecting harmonious collaboration and dialogue between liberal and illiberal civil society in these countries is in many cases unrealistic given the levels of political polarisation, where neither side believes anything could be gained from such dialogue. In truth, liberal and conservative or left and right leaning NGOs, academics and activists in more established democracies often (and increasingly) remain in their own silos, talking to their own audiences for much of the time. However the spaces for interaction are perhaps even more limited in these post-Soviet societies. Changing this will require long-term engagement, identifying well-structured opportunities either through international institutions or respected academic institutions, to bring more emollient liberal and conservative groups together on less controversial topics to attempt to find areas of common ground. As part of this the EU and other international actors should continue to increase their direct engagement with the Orthodox Church and other institutions to reduce the opportunity for accidental misunderstanding of their intentions, while accepting a probably permanent divergence of priorities in relation to social policy and human rights. [2] As this publication shows, many governments have been unwilling or slow in reacting to the challenges posed by illiberal street and extremist movements. For example, when faced with pressure from religious or far-right counter-protestors, the Moldovan and Georgian governments have chosen to remove the liberal protestors on the grounds of protecting their safety rather than ensuring their right to free speech by adequate policing of the nationalist counter-demonstrators. It is vitally important to end the culture of impunity where attacks by radical groups are not effectively investigated or prosecuted, due to either nationalist patrons in government or incompetence and lack of interest by the police.[3]These governments must protect liberal civil society campaign groups from the increasing intimidation and in some cases attacks they face from these far-right groups. Furthermore the international community must insist as a condition of continued support that the governments of the region prohibit the state funding of or collaboration with extremist groups, such as the relationships of the Ukrainian state with Azov and C14. More robust measures to tackle corruption must be undertaken to avoid growing cynicism in society, particular in relation to corruption by governments and politicians who claim to be liberal and pro-European. We know that evidence-based rebuttals and myth-busting only go so far, and there is a clear need to build a case for equal rights that wins hearts as well as minds. While illiberal social attitudes are widespread within these societies, there remains a clear need to identify how best to build arguments in favour of LGBTI and women’s rights and liberal values of equality that resonate outside elite circles. There is scope for further data-driven research to identify the sections of society who may be described as ‘the moveable middle’;[4] those who may well hold conservative social views but who do not prioritise them or who may be open to changing their opinions over time with the right message and evidence. There is clearly further scope for comparative work on the situation in Eastern Europe,[5] notably in Poland and Hungary, where the slide towards illiberalism has been dramatic. The findings of this project make clear that illiberalism is on the rise as a political and social force in these five post-Soviet countries, and that this situation is influenced by the wider trends across the region and the world, but is rooted in the local environments of each country. It identifies that there is a rise of illiberal civil society, but while there has been some growth in illiberal NGOs and think-tanks they have yet to mirror their liberal counterparts. Where there has been a significant growth has been in nationalist, far-right and anti-gay street movements ,whose growing size and self confidence in their agenda has a significant knock-on effect across society. Russian influence on the development of illiberal civil society in the region is an important factor but a far from all-encompassing one, while US evangelicals continue to expand their influence. The research is clear that by far the most influential organisations in the respective societies in relation to the rise of illiberalism are religious institutions – the Orthodox Church and major Islamic bodies – which can collaborate with illiberal or opportunist politicians to pose a major threat to equality and human rights in the region. While individual authors make recommendations relevant to each country, the publication makes a series of recommendations for action: The Governments of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan should:
  • Take urgent measures to tackle corruption and improve transparency ;
  • Ensure that attacks on minorities are properly investigated and scrap any formal or informal partnership with nationalist groups that have conducted them;
  • Protect the ability of liberal civil society groups to operate freely without intimidation;
  • Disband any armed militias affiliated to political parties or extremist groups.
The international community should:
  • Increase political pressure and be willing to sanction the activities of ostensibly ‘pro-European’ or ‘liberal’ allies when their corruption or malpractice brings such principles into disrepute;
  • Insist on action to tackle hate crimes and offer greater support and resources to do so if political willingness to act can be ensured;
  • Look for opportunities for diplomatic dialogue with the dominant religious institutions to reduce the opportunity for unnecessary misunderstanding about respective priorities;
  • Continue to refine and improve ‘myth-busting’ and anti-propaganda responses, while recognising the limits to such an approach;
  • Support efforts to improve survey and research data about illiberal civil society attitudes;
  • Work with liberal-minded NGOs to find new ways to engage the ‘movable middle’ sections of public opinion.
 [1] For the most part discussion of local and regional media influences is not the focus of this publication. For a more detailed analysis please see the contributions to: Adam Hug (ed.), The information battle: How governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad, March 2017, [2] Adam Hug (ed.) Traditional religion and political power: Examining the role of the church in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova, October 2015, [3] [4] A concept used by a number of experts at a private roundtable that the editor coordinated. [5] See Human Rights House, Resisting Ill Democracies in Europe, December 2017, [post_title] => Conclusions and recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => conclusions-and-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-18 06:15:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-18 06:15:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2185 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:20:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:20:05 [post_content] => The expert contributors to this essay collection describe an extremely challenging situation for political and NGO activists, along with other at-risk people from the former Soviet Union (FSU) who are trying to claim asylum or get temporary refuge from persecution. In the face of rising populism and the continuing pressures of the Mediterranean migrant crisis it is becoming even harder for activists from the region to get protection.   The publication notes with concern the wildly variable asylum acceptance rates across different European countries for applicants coming from the same former Soviet Union countries. It shows that some states are deliberately allowing onward transit to neighbouring countries who are more willing to offer asylum, and that for example Poland is preventing large numbers of people from Tajikistan and Chechnya from crossing their border with Belarus to claim asylum.   The publication raises concern about the increased use of ‘safe third country’ (where people are returned to the country they transited through) and ‘internal protection alternative’ (where people are told to move to supposedly safer areas of their country of origin) processes to return people to Russia or Belarus, where they may be at risk of being forcibly returned to their country of origin or face targeting from the Russian or Chechen security services. Where asylum applicants are identified as being at genuine risk they should not be made to return to Russia or Belarus, which cannot be trusted to give them protection. In relation to this, the UK and a number of other European countries need to play a more proactive role, directly working with Russian civil society groups to facilitate LGBTI Chechens to be able to claim asylum. Western countries also need to improve the ways in which they assess the risk faced by family members of activists who may be being targeted by their home regimes.   The publication also examines the deteriorating situation inside Russia for those from Central Asia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union who are trying to seek shelter from their home regimes. It explores the surprising continued cooperation between the Ukrainian and Russian security services over extraditions. It also investigates the way in which Crimean Tatars and other opponents of the Russian occupation of Crimea are being deported from the area.   Western nations and the international community should: 
  • Refrain from mandatory use of safe third country concepts for those deemed to be at risk in their country of origin. Russia and Belarus should not be considered safe third countries for citizens of other post-Soviet states.
  • Resist the obligatory use of the internal protection alternative. It should not be applied in Russia, particularly not in relation to at-risk citizens from Russia’s North Caucasus republics such as Chechnya.
  • Work with Russian NGOs to provided safe routes for LGBTI Chechens to receive asylum in the UK and other countries which are not yet providing direct support.
  • Take appropriate measures to ensure people can apply for asylum at border crossings, with particular note to the Poland-Belarus border.
  • Improve the ways in which they assess the risk to the family members of activists and look to provide additional opportunities for those under threat.
  • Persist with efforts within INTERPOL to deliver on recently enacted reforms that restrict the ability of states in the former Soviet Union to use its mechanisms to harass opponents abroad.
  • Work to ensure all Council of Europe member states fully abide by European Court of Human Rights rulings in relation to protection against refoulement (being returned to face persecution).
  • Address deportations and the transfer of population from Crimea within resolutions and other human rights decisions, while looking at the use of enhanced sectoral and individual sanctions in relation to this issue.
[post_title] => Closing the Door: Executive summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => closing-door-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:20:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:20:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2188 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:19:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:19:03 [post_content] => It is not a good time to be seeking refuge from authorities who wish you harm. The cumulative impact in recent years of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, increasing fear of terrorist attack, and rising nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment have all helped to frame an international approach to asylum, extradition and temporary refuge that is increasingly unsympathetic to those seeking assistance. Some governments have been fanning the flames of political pressure against migrants, while others who have traditionally been welcoming to those seeking asylum are beginning to reach the limit of their willingness and their capacity to help. From the rise of the radical-right AfD in Germany, seen as a response to Merkel’s decision to provide sanctuary for up to a million refugees, to the wider implications of immigration forming the driving force behind the UK’s move to leave the European Union, this is a debate that has real consequences. Inside the former Soviet Union, too, anti-migrant tensions further encourage the Russian government to put expediency and collaboration with the regimes of Central Asia over returning those at risk ahead of the country’s commitments under European Human Rights law.   So across Europe and the former Soviet Union (indeed the world) negative public attitudes towards migrants, stoked by populist politicians and press, help create an environment where there is public pressure to reject claims for asylum and send back individuals who may be at real risk of harm upon return to their home countries. As the paper in this publication by Claire Rimmer Quaid and Minos Mouzourakis shows, there are dramatically different acceptance rates across the main European receiving countries. For example, in relation to the main European recipients of asylum claimants from Tajikistan, the 2016 protection rate ranges from 11% of those who went to Poland for assistance, to 81% in Austria.[1]   At the same time across the former Soviet Union the human rights picture has for the most part continued to decline, most notably in Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Russia, from which there was an increase in asylum applications to European countries in the most recent 2016 figures compared to recent years.[2] Not only has the internal political and human rights climate worsened, making it more likely that civil society and opposition activists may seek to leave for their own safety, but in the wake of the St Petersburg bombing in April the atmosphere in Russia towards migrants from Central Asia (who include those utilising freedom of movement within the CIS to avoid political pressure at home), and indeed Russian citizens from the North Caucasus, has got more fraught, as the two contributions by  Daniil Kislov and Ernest Zhanaev, and Daria Treninina and Kiril Zharinov show.   The primary focus of this publication is on the ways in which European and other Western countries are responding to those activists and other at-risk groups from the countries of the former Soviet Union. In numerical terms the countries of the FSU are far from being the most common countries of origin for those seeking international protection in the West, the numbers being dwarfed by the total flows from Syria and other flows received across the Mediterranean, although Russia accounts for 2% of total EU asylum applicants, making it the ninth most common country of origin.[3] Nevertheless this publication highlights a number of significant challenges in relation to those seeking shelter from the repression they face by the governments of the former Soviet Union.   The publication also brings to attention the surprising continued collaboration between Ukraine and Russia on extradition and the way in which Russia is deporting minority groups and political opponents from occupied Crimea. It also seeks to build on the work of the previous Shelter from the Storm and No Shelter publications to look at the risks people from elsewhere in the former Soviet Union face within Russia.[4]   Safe third countries and internal protection As governments wrestle with the domestic challenges posed by asylum requests, an increasing focus has been placed on trying to abide by their international obligations to ensure applicants remain safe whilst ‘passing the buck’ elsewhere.   Firstly of concern is how the ‘safe third country’ concept is being applied to countries a person may have passed through before arriving in the country where they lodge their asylum application. The principle is that this provision should only be applied where the country they passed through could have adequately provided them with international protection. In the context of this publication, however, it is clear that the transit countries for many activists and at-risk persons from the former Soviet Union are countries with dubious human rights records of their own and a history of collaboration with their home country security services, most notably Russia, Belarus and Turkey.   In early 2016 Norway classified Russia as a ‘safe third country’ in an attempt to reduce the number of people crossing its land border with Russia[5]as part of an overall package of restrictive measures that has seen the number of applicants drop by 95%. Bulgaria has also classified Russia as a safe third country for several years.[6]In 2016 the Estonian government attempted to apply the safe third country concept to asylum applicants who transited through Russia; however this was thrown out by its courts who deemed that there ‘are serious obstacles in the Russian Federation with effective access to its asylum procedure as well as substandard protection of rights of asylum seekers, including respect of the principle of non-refoulement’.[7]   As shown in the No Shelter publication Turkey is not able, or in some cases willing, adequately to protect citizens from the former Soviet Union from the predations of their home country security services, with notable cases relating to Tajikistan. Yet under the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan for refugees, the returns programme attempting to stem the flows of migrants across the Mediterranean, Turkey has been designated as a safe third country – a designation that could put Tajikistanis and others at potential risk in future.[8]   Georgia and Armenia increasingly being added to ‘safe country of origin lists, where the presumption is made automatically to return nationals from those countries.[9]Following the concerns set out in the previous No Shelter publication about Georgia’s vulnerability to pressure from Azerbaijan’s security services, the subsequent abduction in late May of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli would suggest the need for a reappraisal. It is important to ensure that this trend does to extend to adding the country to safe third country lists where they exist. Similarly it cannot be assumed that Armenia would be able to fully provide international protection were Russia seeking the return of one of one its nationals.   The situation in Poland is highlighted by Elena Kachanovich-Shlyk and Yan Matusevich in their essay contribution showing the particular risks that citizens from Chechnya and Tajikistan face at the Poland-Belarus border, also spelling out the significant risks faced by those forced to wait in Belarus. Human rights organisations are also concerned that Poland is looking to create lists of safe countries of origin and safe third countries that could potentially include the Russian Federation, Belarus, and Ukraine.[10] As Kachanovich-Shlyk and Yan Matusevich show in relation to Belarus, and many in this and past publications have shown in relation to Russia, the level of security service collaboration and poor human rights protections in these countries mean that returnees face a clear and unavoidable risk of refoulement, i.e. being transferred back to their country of origin, often outside legal processes, to face the risk of torture and ill treatment.   Similarly, as shown in this publication, the No Shelter publication and a range of others, it is beyond doubt that Chechen security services are able operate without restriction, often approaching impunity, across the whole of the Russian Federation, as well as being increasingly active outside its borders. Yet a number of European countries still consider it appropriate to use Internal Protection Alternative (IPA)/ internal flight mechanisms, whereby asylum applicants are made to return to other ‘safe’ parts of their country of origin, as a first option for Chechens. For example Germany and Poland have directed Chechen applicants to ‘unspecified urban areas, or areas where Chechen communities are established elsewhere in Russia’, even though the latter scenario may actually put those from minority groups more at risk.[11] Finland has applied a test of whether the Chechen applicant is ‘publically known’ to determine whether internal flight might be applicable, while many others operate on a case-by-case basis assessing the suitability of this process for those who might be at risk.[12]   LGBTI Chechens Of particular current relevance to the suitability of the internal flight approach and the wider response to asylum applicants from the former Soviet Union is the situation regarding LGBTI Chechens. 2017 has seen Chechnya’s small LGBTI community targeted with shocking brutality by the local regime of Ramzan Kadyrov.[13]While politically discouraged, homosexuality is not illegal within the Russian Federation, of which Chechnya remains part. While Chechen citizens therefore remain notionally under Russian constitutional and legal protections, in practice they are at the mercy of a local regime operating semi-autonomously even elsewhere in the Federation or beyond. The Kadyrov regime is known to have undertaken a spate of kidnappings and detentions in what have been described as concentration camps, and there are claims of extrajudicial killings, including by family members of LGBTI people at the encouragement of the authorities. Not only is the Russian government attempting to deny and deflect that such practices are occurring, but a July 2017 report by the Russian LGBT Network also shows that there is collaboration between the Chechen and Russian security services in relation to Chechens who have fled to other parts of Russia, despite the fact that being LGBTI is not a crime in Russia and therefore not within the remit of law enforcement.[14] This cooperation apparently has included the disclosure of the addresses of safe houses elsewhere in the Russian Federation. This again highlights the dangers of applying the internal protection/internal flight principle in the context of Chechens being returned to Russia.   Given the UK’s strong statements against the actions of the Chechen authorities, its global commitments to LGBTI rights, and both a comparatively welcoming environment for LGBTI people and sizable communities of Russian speakers without a major Chechen diaspora, it should be well placed to provide protection to LGBTI Chechens seeking shelter. However, while Germany, France, Lithuania and Canada worked directly with local NGOs to facilitate asylum procedures, is disappointing that the UK has so far refused to work with Russian LGBTI organisations to help find safe havens for LGBTI Chechens at risk.[15]   What our authors say   Closing the Door contains contributions from a range of leading experts in the field of asylum and extradition:   Claire Rimmer Quaid and Minos Mouzourakis discuss current issues for those from the former Soviet Union seeking international protection in Europe and how changes to the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) may affect them in future. They note that current obstacles faced by some asylum seekers from the region include widely divergent chances of obtaining asylum depending on the country of destination; the Internal Protection Alternative (IPA) being invoked to deny refugee status to persons at risk of being persecuted for a Convention reason in part, but not all, of their country of origin; physical barriers to accessing EU territory; the use of “safe third country” and “safe country of origin” concepts; and the risk of refoulement. Proposals to change the CEAS as they stand mean these obstacles could continue and become worse in some cases, for example in the case of a mandatory examination of the internal protection alternative by Member States.   Elena Kachanovich-Shlyk and Yan Matusevich explain that Poland has been a major destination for asylum seekers from Russia's North Caucasus, and recently from Tajikistan. Most asylum seekers transit through Belarus and then lodge an application for international protection at the Polish border crossing Terespol, which for years has been the most accessible and affordable route for those fleeing persecution. Since 2016, however, the Polish Border Guard has started to systematically deny the right to lodge an application for asylum in Terespol. The problem persists despite ongoing legal pressure, including from the European Court of Human Rights. Denial of the right to ask for asylum not only contradicts Polish, EU and international law, but also puts asylum seekers in a situation of uncertainty and potential danger both in Belarus or back home. What is more, those who manage to apply for international protection face the reality of the low recognition rates and the increasing number of forced returns to Russia. This article looks at the reasons why so many asylum seekers prefer to make numerous attempts (even up to 50!) to cross the border rather than settle in Belarus, apply for asylum there or return back home.   Dr Leila Alieva argues that the dramatic fate of political refugees and asylum seekers from energy-rich authoritarian Azerbaijan shows their increasing vulnerability under the influence of regional and global trends. Their increasingly difficult position also reflects the growing tension between international norms and interests of states worldwide. This tension is more profound in the regions with weaker democracy, such as the former Soviet Union, where norms on protection of refugees become hostage to the strategic cooperation between the neighbouring states. Nevertheless Dr Alieva believes that in Europe the issue should also be watched to prevent possible effects of the refugee crisis, increasing illiberal trends, and the EU’s (and UK’s) internal problems on the status and safety of asylum seekers escaping from Azerbaijan, which is tied to Europe by close economic partnership.   Dr Edward Lemon, Dr Saipira Furstenberg and Dr John Heathershaw explain that following the banning of Tajikistan’s leading opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party, in 2015 and the widespread crackdown on dissenting voices in the country, hundreds of citizens have fled and sought asylum in the European Union. While the government of Tajikistan had cooperated with the local authorities to have activists detained and returned to the country from Russia and Turkey, when targeting exiles in the EU it has fewer options. Faced with these limitations, the authoritarian regime of Tajikistan is increasingly trying to silence its dissidents abroad by threatening and targeting family members on the basis of their association with the individual in exile. The government has subjected them to public humiliation, detained them, confiscated their passports, and seized their property. Given the situation, it is imperative that foreign governments place greater pressure on the government of Tajikistan to halt these human rights abuses and for countries in the EU to grant asylum to exiles from Tajikistan and their family members.   Bruno Min discusses how issues around the recent arrests of journalists and writers from Azerbaijan, Central Asia and Turkey have highlighted how INTERPOL Red Notices and Diffusions continue to be misused by certain states that use international cooperation mechanisms to export human rights abuses. The adoption of various reforms by INTERPOL is a positive sign that the organisation is aware of this challenge, and that it is trying to address it, but it is apparent that the success of these reforms will depend heavily on the roles that INTERPOL, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, and civil society play towards ensuring their effective implementation. There should also be further efforts to ensure that abuses of other international cooperation mechanisms are identified and prevented.   Eugenia Andreyuk and Philipp Gliesche argue that in Crimea, occupied by the Russian Federation, deportations and state-driven transfers of civilian populations are used to achieve loyalty to Russia from the local population. Forced Russian citizenship automatically granted to the whole population of the peninsula enables the de facto authorities to deport anyone who refuses it. They write that the deportations took place including those living permanently in Crimea. The other forms of population transfer have included a planned policy of persecution of disloyal groups of population, such as Crimean Tatars, Crimean Muslims, Ukrainians and others to encourage their (often forced) displacement to the mainland of Ukraine. Going in the other direction Russia is encouraging ‘loyal’ Russian nationals to settle in Crimea.   Halya Coynash believes that both the major political changes of recent years in Ukraine and Russia’s ongoing aggression and occupation of Crimea have created new challenges and highlighted the disturbing lack of reform within Ukraine’s SBU and Migration Service. With a million and a half Ukrainians forced to flee their homes, Ukraine is not in a position to take in large numbers of refugees, but its track record on asylum seekers is, nevertheless, pitiful. Recent statements from Migration Service officials suggest that there is awareness of the mounting repression in Russia and the number of Russians who are or could be in danger for their support of Ukraine and/or opposition to Russia’s undeclared war. This has not so far been reflected in the attitude towards Russian asylum seekers, and a change in policy towards such people, and a rejection once and for all of old methods of SBU collaboration with the Russian Security Service, are urgently needed.   Daria Trenina and Kiril Zharinov’s essay deals with the problem of the lack of effective remedies in Russia at the national level able to prevent expulsion of aliens to countries where they might be subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The authors show that although the Russian legal system provides some remedies in theory, they do not work in practice in the majority of expulsion cases. Particular attention is paid to the recent alarming trend of using deportation procedure instead of extradition or administrative expulsion, which hardly provides any legal guarantees at all. As a conclusion the authors suggest a number of practical recommendations aimed at improving the situation.   Daniil Kislov and Ernest Zhanaev discuss the reality of external migration to Russia, providing case studies of asylum seekers and terror suspects. It also discusses the atmosphere of xenophobia and corruption that has been partially encouraged federal officials. It reveals details of continuous abuse of vulnerable migrants in Russia and indulged by the governments of Central Asia.     [1]UNHCR Global Trends 2016 Survey Annex, Table 12 Asylum applications and refugee status determination by origin and country/territory of asylum, [2]Tajikistan’s figures have increased substantially in 2015 and further into 2016 while the Russian figures for 2016 were the highest since its 2013 peak. [3]European Asylum Support Office, Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union 2016, 2017 [4]Adam Hug ed. No Shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union, Foreign Policy Centre, November 2016, and Adam Hug ed. Shelter from the Storm? The asylum, refuge and extradition situation facing activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe, Foreign Policy Centre, April 2014, [5]Lizzie Dearden, Refugee crisis: Number of asylum seekers arriving in Norway drops by 95%, The Independent, [6]European Migration Network, Ad-Hoc Query on safe countries of origin and safe third countries, Requested by the BG EMN NCP on 10th October 2014 [7]European Asylum Support Office, Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union 2016P.101 [8]The case of Turkey is not a significant focus of this publication and it is worth noting that non-Europeans do,  Bill Frelick, Is Turkey Safe for Refugees, and Orçun Ulusoy, Turkey as a safe third country, March 2016, Oxford Faculty of Law, [9]European Asylum Support Office, Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union 2016,;see also European Commission, AN EU ‘SAFE COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN’ LIST [10]ECRE, Poland: Draft amendment to the law on protection of foreigners – another step to seal Europe’s border, Op-ed by Polish Helsinki Committee, March 2017, [11]ECRE, Asylum Aid et al., Actors of Protection and the application of the internal protection alternative (see p 58), July 2014, [12]European Migration Network, Ad-Hoc Query on Asylum Seekers from the Russian Federation, 2013, [13]Benjamin Butterworth, Chechnya: Names of 27 men slaughtered and buried in bloody night revealed as gay purge continues, July 2017, [14]Russian LGBT Network, LGBT Persecution in the North Caucasus: a Report, July 2017, [15]As confirmed to the author by a leading Russian NGO working directly on the issue. See also Aleksandra Eriksson, Only five countries are helping gay Chechens leave Russia, EU Observer, July 2017, [post_title] => Introduction: Closing the door on those in need [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => closing-door-introduction [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-15 15:42:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-15 15:42:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2259 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:07:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:07:01 [post_content] => The contributors to this essay collection have described some of the main challenges that activists and other at-risk people from the former Soviet Union face in trying to seek asylum or temporary refuge. Given the wider stresses and strains from the Mediterranean migrant crisis and the rise of nationalist governments in a number of European countries, the ability to achieve international protection in Europe (and now post-Trump in the United States) is getting more difficult, even as the human rights situation in a number of the countries in the region continues to deteriorate.   No Shelter As highlighted in the paper by Minos Mouzourakis and Claire Rimmer Quaid and shown in the introduction, different European receiving countries have dramatically different acceptance rates. For example Russians are more than four times as likely to be accepted for asylum in Austria than they are in Germany. Different countries may receive different types of population flow depending on factors including the main entry point (for example a land border with an FSU country compared to arrival by air) and local demographics leading to different mixes of economic migrants and genuine applicants. However such wide variations reflect clear policy by the receiving state not only around evidence and the risk an applicant faces but, put bluntly, around the country’s desire to push the ‘problem’ elsewhere. Elena Kachanovich-Shlyk and Yan Matusevich show that Poland’s artificially low recognition rate assumes that asylum seekers will deliberately transit through it to elsewhere in the EU, while the problem of preventing people from entering and applying is creating a real problem at the Belarus boarder.   The findings of this publication[1] make it very clear to European countries revising their asylum procedures that it is completely inappropriate for Russia and Belarus to be considered as ‘safe third countries’ for those believed to be at risk in their country of origin elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Experience has clearly shown that Russia, and to a certain extent Belarus, cannot be relied upon to provide international protection to nationals from countries with which they have close political ties or a history of security service cooperation. The designation of Georgia and Armenia as ‘safe countries’ should not be stretched to being considered a safe third country for Azerbaijani and Russian nationals respectively, given the risks that they could face from their home country’s security services. Norway, Finland, and Bulgaria should look to end their blanket adoption of the safe third country principle in relation to Russia, while Poland, Estonia and others should stop moving towards adopting such a position.   Similarly it is completely inappropriate to apply the internal protection alternative to citizens from Russia’s North Caucasus republics, most notably Chechnya, who are genuinely at risk from their local security services or other powerful groups within those societies. Chechnya’s security services for example are able to work with their Russian Federal counterparts to threaten the security of Chechen nationals and other opponents of Kadyrov irrespective of where they are in within the Russian federation, and increasingly beyond its borders. With this in mind the UK and a number of other European and countries need to play a more proactive role, directly working with Russian civil society groups to help LGBTI Chechens to be able to claim asylum in their countries.   Family matters The family dimension to the asylum and refugee picture is often one of the most challenging, with family reunification a politically and practically fraught process. Setting to one side for the purposes of this publication the huge challenges in this regard relating to the wider group of asylum seekers and refugees, there at least needs to be greater scope for enhancing the existing collaboration between embassies in the applicant’s home country and immigration officials to properly assess the level of specific risk faced by the family members of identified activists and other targeted people from the countries of the former Soviet Union. The respective contributions by Alieva and by Furstenberg, Lemon and Heathershaw remind us of the widely known fact that repressive regimes routinely target families and other loved ones those who dare to speak out against them, to pressure them into silence or in some cases to force those in exile to return to face punishment. However as this threat to family members increases in countries such as Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, it is becoming harder to offer them opportunities to rejoin the activist or other at-risk person who has already received refugee status. Immigration authorities need to understand the growing risks activists’ families face, and should provide greater opportunities for family reunification in these circumstances.   Similarly, as Alieva points out, there is a need for a more intelligence-led approach to providing support in cases where the applicant is themselves the family member of an activist still based in-country who is bravely continuing to operate on the ground. While some activists are willing to take huge risks with their own safety and wellbeing, immigration authorities need to be able to identify when there is a real risk that their sons, daughters or other relatives may be targeted for repressive treatment as a form of leverage against the activist, and be able to give international protection to these family members in such circumstances.   Getting a clearer picture A way for immigration officials to better understand the challenges faced by families and indeed activists themselves is by improving the formal country information that they use to inform their decision-making. Firstly the UNCHR has not conduced an in-depth country report on Russia since 2012, as part of its 2011 Global Report, despite Russia being a major source and transit country for those claiming asylum. The same applies to many other countries in the region and there may be scope for updating such information to help advise countries in developing their approaches to sensitive topics such as the application of safe third country and internal protection alternative principles. The same lack of systematised information can be found at the country level too. The UK Home Office does not have Country Policy and Information Notes on any of the countries in the region, even though Russia does send [2] a reasonable number of applicants (between 125 and 200 most years) to the country every year. The low numbers from other FSU countries are in part a reflection on the high thresholds the UK sets that deter people from applying.   Recommendations In order to address the growing challenges identified in the publication the authors and editor have made a number of recommendations for action[3]:   The UK, European and other western countries should:
  • Refrain from a mandatory use of safe third country concepts for those deemed to be at risk in their country of origin. Russia and Belarus should not be considered safe third countries for citizens of other post-Soviet states.
  • Resit the obligatory use of the Internal Protection Alternative. It must not be applied in Russia, particularly not in relation to at risk citizens from Russia’s North Caucasus republics such as Chechnya.
  • Work with Russian NGOs to provided safe routes for LGBTI Chechens to receive asylum in the UK and other countries that are not yet providing direct support.
  • Take appropriate measures to ensure people can apply for asylum at border crossings, with particular note to the Poland-Belarus border.
  • Improve the ways in which they assess the risk to family members of activists and look to provide additional opportunities for those under threat.
  • Look to provide more official country information from both the UNHCR and national immigration authorities.
  • Persist with efforts within INTERPOL to deliver on recently enacted reforms to restrict the ability of states in the former Soviet Union using its mechanisms to harass opponents abroad.
  • Work to ensure all other Council of Europe member states fully abide by European Court of Human Rights rulings in relation to protection against refoulement (being returned to face persecution).
  • Address deportations and the transfer of population in Crimea within resolutions and other human rights decisions, looking at the use of enhanced sectoral and individual sanctions in relation to human rights violations in Crimea. Support the Ukrainian government and civil society organizations in assisting internally displaced persons from Crimea.
  Donors and NGOs should:
  • Increase support to the organisations taking care of asylum seekers, activists and scholars at risk.
  Ukraine should:
  • Review, restrict and potentially revoke security cooperation with the Russian Federation in relation to extradition procedures.
  Russia should:
  • End deportations of Crimean residents who refuse to adopt Russian citizenship or who otherwise oppose the occupation.
  • Reform deportation order procedures to consider the risk of harm posed by returning people to their country of origin, ensuring that appeals against an order must be completed before it is actioned. Make it easier for people to access asylum procedures including protection against the refoulement of holders of ‘temporary asylum’ and other interim statuses.
  • Abide by rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to asylum and extradition, including interim measures taken to stop deportations.
[1] Building on the findings of the No Shelter, Shelter from the Storm and Sharing Worst Practice publications [2]UK Government, Country policy and information notes, [3] The list here is compiled by the editor from a mix of recommendations in individual articles and his own suggestions. All of them together may not necessarily represent the views of individual authors. Similarly they may not represent the views of the Foreign Policy Centre. [post_title] => Closing the Door: Conclusions and recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => closing-door-conclusions-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:26:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:26:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1474 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2017-11-24 21:03:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-24 21:03:45 [post_content] => The Council of Europe (CoE) and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are two regional bodies that bring together European, post-Soviet (and in the case of the OSCE) North American states to address fundamental issues relating to human rights and security. Here in the UK beyond periodic political attacks on the European Court of Human Rights[1], little is known by the public about their activities. However particularly in the countries of the former Soviet Union these institutions can play a significantly more central role in influencing political change, yet both are organisations under significant strain. This paper is based on the findings of an expert roundtable that took place in July 2017 bringing together academics, human rights activists and officials[2] to debate the challenges facing these two organisations, building on the research conducted in the Foreign Policy Centre’s February 2016 publication Institutionally Blind: International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union[3]. Overview Both institutions are facing significant tensions over geopolitics and allegations of influence and corruption. In June 2017 the OSCE overcame months of deadlock between liberal and authoritarian state actors over who should fill key positions within the organisation, with the approach to the OSCE’s human dimension as a significant stumbling block and with all candidates requiring consensus. Switzerland's former OSCE envoy Thomas Greminger has been appointed Secretary General, Iceland's former foreign minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir becomes head of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), former OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier becomes the High Commissioner on National Minorities and French former Socialist Party leader Harlem Desir takes over as Representative on Freedom of the Media[4]. The deadlock was broken too on the 18 months of wrangling over the 2017 annual budget finally approved on 1st June 2017, half way through the year[5]. The financial pressures faced by the human dimension bodies such as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) remain acute, while the crisis in Ukraine has taken up a lot of the institution’s focus and time. The CoE has been rocked by a corruption scandal in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a crisis that observers had long seen coming, as set out in the Institutionally Blind publication and most notably in reports by the European Stability Initiative in its Caviar Diplomacy series. Luca Volontè, former chair of the Centre-Right European People’s Party grouping at PACE is being investigated for allegations that he received a bribe of £2.39 million from groups linked to the Government of Azerbaijan[6], while current PACE President Pedro Agramunt has been stripped of his powers. Although the trigger for Agramunt’s defenestration has been the result of a visit to Syria as guest of the Russians, it follows years of concerns over his tendency to overlook human rights violations in well-resourced states, notably in relation to Azerbaijan and the issue of political prisoners. The future of both institutions as key players in supporting democracy and good governance remains uncertain at a time when liberal institutional values are being pressured by resurgent authoritarianism and ‘illiberalism’ across the region, particularly in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe; increasingly insular and economically focused politics in Western nations and the related reduction of Western influence in the post-Soviet space. This paper does not seek to address all of the challenges that the OSCE and Council of Europe face in relation to human rights issues but focuses on the priorities raised by experts at the roundtable. Parliamentary Assemblies The role of PACE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE (OSCE PA) are a major focus of NGO and activist concern about the operation of these institutions and their impact on human rights standards. The key issues of the roundtable matched those of the 2016 publication, the need for transparency and accountability, so that what Parliamentarians do in these institutions does not happen in the dark, that their participation does not get used as an opportunity for personal enrichment, whether through legal (but unethical) business deals or corrupt practices. There is some hope amongst experts that the probe into the PACE corruption scandal has the potential to be a significant lever for change. The investigation is being led by internationally respected judges, including the UK’s Sir Nicolas Bratza (former President of the European Court of Human Rights), and has been given a wide remit to address structural problems in the organisation. The scandal too has given an opportunity for Parliamentarians themselves to speak up about the problems the organisation faces, with the UK’s Roger Gale MP noted as playing a positive role in response to the crisis. Furthermore the CoE’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) was invited by PACE to play an active role in strengthening the organisation’s code of conduct[7]. Its assessment of the code, published in June 2017, has been widely praised by activists for drawing attention to significant shortcomings in its current formulation and implementation[8]. The report criticised the supervision PACE provides of its members as ‘weak’ and ‘excessively discretionary’ with no sanction against members so far recorded. The GRECO report calls for mechanisms to remove immunity and for greater awareness raising around existing standards. Despite the focus on corruption at PACE it was noted that the OSCE PA doesn’t even have a code of conduct against which to hold its members to account. Roundtable participants wanted to see new ways to increase public awareness of the activities of Parliamentarians who take part in the two Parliamentary Assemblies, with the lack of scrutiny noted as a potential reason why positions taken by members of the Assemblies can often diverge from their national foreign policy. There was a focus on the desire for votes at PACE and OSCE PA to be recorded via national level transparency and accountability mechanisms, such as for example through the ‘They Work for You’ website in the UK. While there have been steps to record information about voting behaviour by the institutions themselves and regional level resources, such resources are likely only to be accessed by experts rather than a politician’s constituents. Where Parliamentarians are doing a good job using their roles at OSCE and the Council of Europe effectively, roundtable participants felt that there needs to be scope for civil society to praise their efforts, albeit perhaps in a targeted way to NGO supporters, as not all MPs, even when they are doing the right thing, are keen to have their involvements overseas publicised to all their constituents. It was also noted that a number of members of national delegations may be from unelected or indirectly elected chambers such as the UK House of Lords, limiting the scope for public pressure. Improving the status of delegations within Parliaments remains another important tool in order to encourage the involvement of active, high quality members. It was noted that in the UK the status of the delegations is not high but that the former Europe Minister David Lidington took an active role in meeting with the delegation ahead of plenary sessions, and his successors have also looked to provide regular meetings, particularly with the delegation chairs. There needs to be scope to more widely promote within Parliament what the delegations can do, increasing the links with relevant Parliamentary Committees, and dispelling misperceptions to help recruit better candidates for the available posts. In the UK it has been noted that there is higher than usual competition for places amongst Labour politicians in the new 2017 UK Parliament[9]. The UK Parliament’s role in providing clerking services to the OSCE PA was noted as an opportunity for influencing its operation and its rules of procedure. The Council of Europe’s attempts to apply political sanctions to Russia after its actions in Crimea by the withdrawing of voting and other rights from Russian delegates at PACE has triggered a refusal by Russia to pay its £33m annual subscription to the organisation as a whole, a source of political tension to come and of further pressure on already stretched budgets[10]. The Council of Europe will be forced to wait 2 years before formal enforcement action can be taken against the Russians for this action, though other options are being considered to break the deadlock. The Venice Commission and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Both the Council of Europe and OSCE are home to a range of specialist mechanisms that contain vital technical expertise, which can support efforts to promote good governance, democracy and human rights in the organisation’s respective regions. The roundtable drew attention to some specific issues related to two of these mechanisms. The CoE’s European Commission for Democracy through Law (known as the Venice Commission) is one of the most widely respected bodies in the two institutions, drawing support both from Governments and the expert and activist communities. Seen as a ‘lode star for the rule of law in the region’ it is not regularly criticised by authoritarian regimes, unlike other human rights focused bodies. However, while this is a reflection of the quality of the legal work undertaken to scrutinise proposed legislation across the region, it is also perhaps a reflection that a positive report from the Venice Commission around the written text of national legislation can be used to promote an image of compliance with international human rights standards, irrespective of whether such laws are implemented in an appropriate manner. Scope to fully scrutinise post-legislative implementation requires political will in other parts of the Council of Europe and other bodies, something that is often lacking. Furthermore, there is a noted tendency that officials and politicians often defer to the Venice Commission when a contentious issue is being scrutinised as a way of avoiding having to take a stand on controversial issues. The treatment of the previous OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Astrid Thors, by the Russians has been the source of much anger within the expert community. Thors was seen to be denied the opportunity of a second term of office due to robust statements in relation to the situation in Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where she hewed close to the line put out by the ODIHR in a public way not previously seen by holders of this security-focused post, who had previously levelled their criticisms behind closed doors[11]. Election monitoring The OSCE’s ODIHR sets the gold standard for election observation in the region, as the only group with a significant long-term presence ahead of ballots taking place and the political independence to take critical stances based on the evidence found. The Institutionally Blind publication had been clear that ‘the OSCE must defend the role of ODIHR in providing long-term election observation, ensuring that it remains an assessment mechanism judging countries election practices, rather than simply becoming a method for information exchange.’ The roundtable audience were broadly in agreement on this, however some notes of caution were sounded over both the high cost of delivering the method of observation that ODHIR provides and the way in which regimes in the region are becoming ever more adept at promoting their own local or regional (e.g. CIS) observers to provide a more pro-Government spin on the election process, sometimes co-opting Western Parliamentarians to give a veneer of international respectability to the narratives fed to their compliant medias. The all too regular role of PACE and OSCE PA observation missions in diluting strong ODIHR messages on political grounds have been well documented by the FPC, ESI and others. ODIHR observation faces three particular practical problems. Firstly, forces at the OSCE Permanent Council, most notably Russia, have blocked additional funding to support ODIHR in delivering its missions. This has been exacerbated by the wider budget struggles ODIHR faces, where, for example, extra Warsaw-based staff posts have also been blocked by Russian veto. Secondly, OSCE member states are not providing the number of observers (both long-term and short-term) that ODIHR believes it requires to do its job properly. For example, the ODIHR mission to the (highly contentious) 2016 US Presidential election only received a quarter of the long-term observers that were requested, with local consulates and Embassies having to make up the gap through short-term observers. Despite the concerns about the extent to which authoritarian regimes have become adept at diluting the impact of critical ODIHR observation missions, the independent research they produce can still have an impact and can make independent civil society feel that there is some solidarity with their experience from the international community. Clearly there is more other institutions and civil society can do to focus attention on the implementation of observation findings. Roundtable participants also argued that it was unwise and counter-productive for PACE and/or the OSCE PA to send observation missions to countries where ODIHR believes it is unable to operate freely. The third problem that the OSCE faces is the lack of implementation of the recommendations which appear in the final report of an ODIHR Election Observation Mission. In the absence of an agreement to provide an obligatory report, all states should be encouraged to voluntarily make a statement as to what they have done to implement the EOM recommendations to the Permanent Council, as some states do already. The future of field offices The number of field offices for both the OSCE and Council of Europe have been on the wane due to push-back from host countries and geopolitical wrangling at ministerial level[12]. For example, following a decision in May 2017, the OSCE will no longer have a field presence in the South Caucasus due to the withdrawal of the OSCE Office in Yerevan due to an Azerbaijani veto of an extension to its mandate[13]. Even where downgraded missions or offices are able to be on the ground (as ‘project offices’ or ‘project coordinators’), their ability to support independent civil society is limited. The Institutionally Blind publication called for a greater political focus on defending the ability of the CoE and the OSCE to have a meaningful presence on the ground across the region. However, it is clear that at present these organisations are absent from a number of countries, and in several countries where they do have a presence, they are not able to operate freely. Roundtable participants were critical of the level of organisational priority given to the country presences, with some Heads of Office and Ambassadors seen as diplomats serving their last post before retirement, lacking the vigour or political will to fight their corner on human rights issues. In challenging political environments, independent civil society has sometimes seen officials reticent to meet with them or speak out on controversial issues. Funding and holding activities that only involve GONGOs (sometimes the only organisations that are officially registered) is seen to undermine the standing of the Council of Europe and OSCE amongst those most active on human rights issues. There is a significant debate around whether having any presence in a repressive country is ‘better than nothing’, a platform for future activity and soft engagement, both with the regimes and with civil society. Outspoken activity clearly creates a risk that the permission for the office to exist in a country would be withdrawn. However the roundtable participants argued that the OSCE and CoE need to reassess this approach. They gave two particular examples, the Council of Europe’s office in Azerbaijan and the OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan, as offices that should be closed, with their presence seen as counter-productive to the reputation and goals of their respective organisations. Therefore both the OSCE and Council of Europe should review the activities of their field offices and consider whether it may be better to withdraw their presence on the ground, at least in capacities relating to human rights and governance reform. The alternative model could be that international donors (such as the EU or UK) directly support the creation of ODIHR project offices for particular countries/regions based out of Warsaw, following the recent EU-backed model ODIHR is developing for the Western Balkans[14]. Final thoughts The discussion at the roundtable ranged widely across the challenges facing the region. It noted a number of additional challenges. The first related to the future role of the UK in these organisations. Concerns were raised that ‘Brexit’ could lead to the current Conservative Government reopening its long-held plans to implement a British Bill of Rights and seek to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and thereby from the Council of Europe. Despite the Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto pledge not to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights in the current parliament[15], given the Prime Minister’s past belief that the UK should withdraw from the Convention[16] and separate political statements that the reason for not withdrawing is due to the focus on achieving Brexit, it is clear that as and when the UK leaves the EU, the discussion around the future of its membership of the Council of Europe will reopen in earnest. However, in the wake of the UK’s departure from the European Union, the OSCE and Council of Europe will become the main pan-regional bodies that the UK remains involved with, making them even more important forums for collaboration and engagement amongst ministers, Parliamentarians and officials. The second relates more broadly to the future of these institutions. Created in a different time and in different political contexts, the question of whether they continue to have relevance remains a live issue. Perceptions of corruption need to be cleared from the Council of Europe if it is to reestablish its standing as the European continent’s institutional champion for human rights. The OSCE will continue to be dogged by the challenge of gaining consensus for most of its activities and appointments. With Russia unlikely to relent on that point in the near future, creative ways will need to be found to fund the important work delivered by existing institutions such as the ODIHR. As noted above, the future of the UK and Russia in the Council of Europe is far from certain. Similarly, the extent to which Central Asian states stay engaged in Western-facing organisations as US and European regional influence wanes, remains an open question. So the outlook remains cloudy for these institutions, however there remains significant scope for civil society and ethically-minded politicians and officials to help deliver institutional change that can still have an important impact on the standards of human rights, democracy and good governance across the former Soviet Union, Europe and beyond. Recommendations
  • Resolve the institutional budget freeze, or find creative solutions to directly fund the activity of the ODIHR and other special mechanisms from EU, UK and other donor funding.
  • Provide adequate staffing for election observation missions and to fill other posts from Western diplomatic services.
  • Improve transparency and accountability of the work of national politicians in the international Parliamentary Assemblies.
  • Fight for better functioning field offices, but where they cannot operate independently and effectively, they should be withdrawn and their functions delivered directly from Strasbourg (CoE), Vienna (OSCE) and Warsaw (ODIHR).
[1] Often conflated with the EU and its European Court of Justice [2] In this paper where there are references to ‘some experts/activists/participants’ this means that this position is based on comments made at the July roundtable by specific people (or groups of people) who were speaking under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution. [3] Adam Hug (ed.), Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, Foreign Policy Centre, February 2016, [4] Reuters, OSCE member states, including Russia, reach deal to fill vacant posts, July 2017, [5] The previous 2016 budget had been approved on 31st December 2015  see OSCE Funding and Budget,, OSCE, Permanent Council approves OSCE budget for 2017, June 2017, and OSCE, DECISION No. 1197 APPROVAL OF THE 2016 UNIFIED BUDGET, December 2015, [6] Jennifer Rankin, Council of Europe urged to investigate Azerbaijan bribery allegations, The Guardian, February 2017, [7]PACE, Corruption allegations at PACE: Bureau decides on three-step response, January 2017, [8] GRECO, Assessment of the Code of Conduct for Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, June 2017, [9] Perhaps reflecting the current state of that party’s Parliamentary politics with some who would otherwise have been considered for Shadow Ministerial posts now looking for new roles in the Parliament. [10] Tom Batchelor, Russia cancels payment to Council of Europe after claiming its delegates are being persecuted over Crimea, Independent,  June 2017, [11] Melissa Hooper, Russia and the OSCE: Anatomy of a takedown, Human Rights First, September 2016,  See also Christian Nünlist, The OSCE and the Future of European Security, Center for Security Studies (CSS), February 2017, Finnish Broadcasting Company, Daily: Russia blocks re-appointment of Finn as OSCE Minorities High Commissioner, August 2016, [12] OSCE, Closed field operations and related field activities, [13] US Mission to the OSCE,  Statement on the Closure of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, May 2017, [14] OSCE, EU Commissioner Hahn, ODIHR Director Link launch project supporting democratic elections in Western Balkans, June 2017, [15] Christopher Hope,  Britain to be bound by European human rights laws for at least another five years even if Tories win election, Daily Telegraph, May 2017 [16]Anushka Asthana and Rowena Mason, UK must leave European convention on human rights, says Theresa May, April 2016, The Guardian, [post_title] => Institutionally Blind: The next steps in reforming the Council of Europe and the OSCE [post_excerpt] => This paper is based on the findings of an expert roundtable that brought together academics, human rights activists and officials to debate the challenges facing the OSCE and Council of Europe. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => institutionally-blind-next-steps-reforming-council-europe-osce [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 19:45:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 19:45:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1513 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:50:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:50:56 [post_content] => The information battle examines the ways in which the governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their worldview and challenge the people, institutions and ideas that oppose them. This publication examines the influence of Russian media content in the former Soviet Union and in the wider world. This is delivered through the impact of Russian domestic TV channels reaching Russian speaking audiences in the region, the developing role of the news agency Sputnik and the international broadcaster RT. It examines how these outlets are used not only to promote Russian political narratives but to challenge Western approaches and sow confusion about what is going on in the world. It offers ideas for how independent broadcasters and international outlets can provide effective alternatives.   Despite cracking down on Western backed NGOs at home, the governments of the former Soviet Union are seeking to directly influence the European and US political debate through NGOs, think tanks and lobbying organisations. This publication looks at how to improve the transparency and accountability of such actions. Repressive regimes that use advertising and the hosting of international events to promote themselves, are increasingly being challenged by human rights defenders through the publicity such activities bring. The publication argues that, in what is increasingly becoming a battle involving the use of soft power and information, Western institutions have been losing ground and must take action in order to meet the challenge.   Recommendations   To the donor and NGO community
  • Fund the creation of new, independent Russian and local language news content, news coordination and dissemination
  • Provide increased funding for independent consortiums of investigative journalists
  • Support in depth independent survey work in the countries of the former Soviet Union to assess the audience reach of both domestic and Russian media outlets
  • Facilitate non-partisan support of Parliamentary engagement on issues relating to the former Soviet Union, including country visits
  To Western governments and regulators
  • Track the spread of misleading and untrue content emanating from Russian sources, working with civil society to rebut it where appropriate
  • Actively monitor online threats to Western based critics of regimes in the former Soviet Union
  • Strengthen lobbying registry requirements, including looking to expand the scope of the UK’s statutory register and delivering the proposed formal EU lobbying register
  • Re-examine the governance structures of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors
  To international broadcasters
  • Expand the range of voices asked to provided comment on Western networks
Collaborate with independent partners in the post-Soviet space to develop content [post_title] => The Information Battle : Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => information-battle-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 00:56:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 00:56:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1515 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:49:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:49:26 [post_content] => Events can move a debate quickly. When initially developing the idea for this essay collection in the summer of 2014[1], it was clear that the role of media and social media activity originating from the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the links between lobbyists and regimes from the region were issues of growing importance. However it would have been difficult to predict the extent to which much of this debate would become part of mainstream political discourse. The 2016 US Presidential Election saw allegations of Russian government directed hacking and the use of social media to influence political debate; the now ubiquitous term ‘fake news’ bandied about to encompass everything from state directed propaganda, to poor journalism or just stories that one disagrees with; and the rise of anti-establishment forces across Europe and the United States who are gaining ground both in the political debate and at the ballot box, who find common cause with political forces in Russia, all make now an important time to address these issues.   Countries in the post-Soviet space using soft power tools to influence the agenda beyond their borders is not a new phenomenon, and the flow of ideas and information is very clearly not one-way traffic with Western countries using these tools in the FSU for decades. This publication examines the ways in which the governments of FSU countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their worldview and challenge the people, institutions and ideas that oppose them.   In recent years, governments from the region have sought to influence international and Western debate to encourage investment and or tourism, to increase their international standing (or at least create a perception of enhanced prestige they can package back to a domestic audience) or to deflect or rebut criticisms about their own behaviour. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have been particularly active in attempting to promote themselves internationally in a positive light, while Georgia was an enthusiastic early adopter of Western public relations and lobbying as part of developing a distinctive national brand. Other states, particularly some of the more closed states of Central Asia, have focused more narrowly on engaging with economic stakeholders and Parliamentary groups to attempt to manage the debate on their own terms. Armenia has utilised its complicated relationship with its influential diaspora to counter-balance the influence of rivals with deeper pockets.   Russia, however, has significantly more ambitious goals for its international engagement. As a number of contributions in this publication show, it seeks to proactively change the international ideological and political environment through its use of broadcast media, both through an overt and covert online presence and through its support of organisations and institutions in Europe and beyond that share their values. It seeks to build on[2] and subvert the style of Western values promotion practiced both during the Cold War and its aftermath, but instead of promoting liberal democracy Russia prioritises supporting ‘traditional values’ and ‘state sovereignty’ across the globe. Furthermore, this publication shows that the goal is also to discredit Western behaviour and models of political organisation, in order to blunt Western criticism of their actions on the grounds of hypocrisy and muddying the waters of global discourse through saturating the debate on particular issues with a high volume of ‘alternative facts’.   Media impact With respect to the use of broadcast media the focus of attention in this publication is understandably on the role of Russia given the small and often poorly developed media institutions across the rest of the region. The Russian influenced media landscape under discussion in this publication falls into three main areas: the level of access to domestic Russian television in the region (including in the Baltic States), the impact of the Russian state news agency Sputnik and the global role of Russia’s internationally focused television channel RT.   The Soviet and Russian imperial legacies have left Russian as a shared language across much of the region particularly for the older generation, as well as for ethnic Russians and minority groups[3] in the rest of the region. All countries in the region except Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan have either active or passive Russian usage at over 50 per cent of their populations.[4] Rasto Kuzel’s contribution to this collection gives an important overview of how Russia’s domestic channels (often through their international counterparts)[5] and local channels that directly rebroadcast content[6], form the core of Russian language media consumed within Russia’s immediate environs, including the countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership and its three Baltic member states. Russian television penetration is lower in Azerbaijan and Central Asia through a mix of lower Russian language use and more restrictive media environments. The primary point of access for these channels is through cable and satellite packages, though internet access is growing. Both Russian state and commercial channels have higher production values and more diverse content than the local offerings in the region, making these channels an attractive viewing option, which in turn provides access to Russian news narratives and, often already shared cultural norms.   As addressed in the contribution by Ben Nimmo, the second dimension is the role of the Sputnik news agency - a combined newswire service, radio station, website and multi-media content provider that replaced the international arm of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti in 2013.[7] Sputnik provides 6 newswire services, three in English (one international, one Russia focused and one covering Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States) and one each in Spanish, Chinese and Arabic. It produces its own content in 30 languages directly to 34 countries, with a significant focus on Russia’s immediate neighbourhood.   Sputnik’s English service may have 1,091,238 Facebook likes and its content via its public facing outlets and its wire service may resurface on blogs and smaller websites on the alt-right and radical left (depending on the story), however the agency’s real value is in the lower volume news markets in the FSU and Eastern Europe, where easily accessible and usable national language content can be used by local broadcasters, newspapers and websites. So just as wire stories from traditional news agencies disperse across the media landscape, repackaged and rebranded but their core the same story, so now do Sputnik stories proliferate on different sites across the region.[8] Sometimes this is the result of a direct ideological choice. For example in Georgia, a country with low direct penetration of Russian channels due to strategic tensions, Sputnik content has been utilised by a number of emerging domestic outlets such as Obieqtivi TV, [9] Iberia TV, Asaval-Dasavali newspaper and websites such as News Georgia, Saqinformi and Georgia and World[10] that challenge the country’s Western-focused foreign policy and EU backed social reforms. In others, state channels will adopt Russian narratives and news stories when they dovetail with the approach of their national governments. However such content is also being used by hard-pressed newsrooms and websites to fill time or space in their output.   The third dimension of the media dissemination strategy is one best known in the West - RT (formerly Russia Today). RT describes itself as ‘an autonomous non-profit organization’[11], with a budget of 19 billion rubles (around £264 million at time of writing)[12] and claims an audience reach of 70 million viewers per week and 50 million unique online users each month. This puts it broadly on a par with the BBC World Service in terms of expenditure (£254 million for the BBC World Service in 2014-15) if not yet in terms of reach (246 million World Service users across all platforms).[13] RT runs three 24hr channels in English (with specific US and UK offerings, the latter being available on free-to-air terrestrial television), Spanish and Arabic, with web content in German, French and Russian. It positions itself to cover ‘stories overlooked by the mainstream media, provides alternative perspectives on current affairs, and acquaints international audiences with a Russian viewpoint on major global events’.[14] Its willingness to provide a platform for more voices perceived as outside the political and social mainstream, from political views on the radical right and left, to controversial academics to outright conspiracy theorists and theories has found a niche in an increasingly fragmented media market place where such views struggle to be heard on the traditional broadcasters.   Both Sputnik (branded as ‘Telling the untold’) and RT (‘Question More‘) do provide an understandably sympathetic approach to the actions of the Russian government amid the mélange of different viewpoints. However there is strong suspicion that at least in part the aim is ‘not to convince people, but to confuse them, not to provide an alternative viewpoint, but to divide public opinions and to ultimately undermine our ability to understand what is going on and therefore take decisions if decisions need to be made’.[15] The ideological approach is as much about muddying the political waters, by focusing allegations of Western hypocrisy to suggest that everyone is the same and sowing confusion, rather than simply building up pro-Russian arguments.   Until very recently Western competition in the post-Soviet space has been in retreat. The worsening media freedom environment has removed the ability to partner with local stations to rebroadcast content within a number of FSU countries.[16] However also with budgets and priorities still being set as if victory in the Cold War had delivered the initially promised freedom, thereby making such services obsolete. Furthermore, the multi-language offerings have tended to remain focused on radio, building on the long-range broadcast networks developed during the Cold War, for a media market place where TV remains the dominant source of news, though all have active online content provision.   The multi-language BBC World Service has seen its budget cut in recent years, particularly since 2010, and as of 2014 responsibility for annually funding this work passed from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to being directly funded from the license fee along with the rest of the BBC’s non-commercial output.[17] The service remains predominantly radio and online focused though it runs two TV channels (BBC Persian and BBC Arabic), with a significant proportion of its provision focused on Commonwealth Countries. The BBC Russian service currently operates only on the internet, having given up transmitting on medium and short wave radio in 2011, though some of its online content and news is rebroadcasted on independent Russian channel Dozhd (Rain) TV.[18] However a recent one-off government grant is facilitating development on an upcoming digital television project.[19] As with the Russia service the BBC’s Ukrainian and Azeri services went online only in 2011. The BBC’s Kyrgyz service however maintains output online, on radio and via television, with the World Service stating that up to 3 million people watch BBC Kyrgyz’s output via Kyrgyzstan’s Public TV and half a million through the Radio Broadcasting Corporation of the Kyrgyz Republic, highlighting opportunities available with willing domestic partners.[20] The BBC’s Uzbek service website and radio output is blocked by the authorities in Uzbekistan but it continues to make its content accessible on a range of platforms.   US international public broadcasting outputs fall under the auspices of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) whose funds are derived from a grant from the US Congress. Voice of America runs a number of English language TV stations globally, as well as a mixture of web TV and radio in a number of different languages including Russian, Ukrainian, Azeri, Armenian, Uzbek and Georgian. However in the post-Soviet space and Eastern Europe, the second BBG organisation is often the central focus. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/ RL) operates 26 language services to 23 countries (FSU countries, minus the Baltic states, but plus the Balkans, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and for a number of minority Russian languages).[21] RFE/RL services are rebroadcast on some domestic stations, where the media environment permits, but its radio content is available via region-wide shortwave transmission, on some satellite services as well as online. RFE/RL and VOA have recently launched a new 24hr news service called Current Time which claims 32 cable affiliates in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Germany and Israel, as well as online and satellite access, expanding on a service that has developed since 2014.[22] German broadcaster Deutsche Welle provides radio content in Russian, Ukrainian and a number of eastern European languages, while Radio France International maintains a Russian service.   Online action The halcyon days when the internet was seen as an almost magical tool to open up access to information in closed societies have long gone. While it continues to provide opportunities for opposition voices to be heard, and indeed for the international media organisations discussed above to provide access to their content, they are very much not alone in this space. Internet penetration in the region is growing. As of 2016 within the members of the CIS the proportion of internet users stood at 66 per cent, with individual country figures from 2015 ranging from Turkmenistan and Tajikistan at 15 and 19 per cent respectively through to Russia and Kazakhstan on 73 per cent with Azerbaijan at 77 per cent.[23] The regions’ authoritarian regimes are learning to utilise the medium to disseminate their own narratives, and are proving increasingly adept at influencing the online debate in their countries, in their diasporas and increasingly in the West.   The Russian Government’s use of paid and organised trolls to criticise opponents, challenge narratives and provide misleading or false alternative information has been well documented.[24] These paid trolls, operating both on Russian and Western comment sites and social media operate with varying degrees of sophistication, some profiles built up to show evidence of a more diverse online life as if they were real, others narrowly focused on the task at hand. In the space beyond the paid-for trolls lie the enthusiastic (and organised) amateurs. In the gap left by the collapse of former nationalist youth movement Nashi, formerly trailblazing trolls, has been the pro-Putin group Set (Network),[25] who have been active online in trying to promote pro-government messages and rebut attempts by others to challenge their narratives online.[26] In addition, beyond the direct endorsement of the Kremlin networks are a range of new domestic nationalist movements that gain notoriety through online activism and real world stunts to create viral content.[27]   Arzu Geybulla’s contribution references the role of the pro-government youth movement, the IRELI Public Union that used to be reasonably sophisticated in its trolling of those who disagreed with the government. However following the loss of key activists, the group’s online activism is now eclipsed by less subtle pro-regime activism from the youth branch of the ruling Yeni (New) Azerbaijan Party. A key tactic online continues to be challenging any focus on domestic human rights, arguing instead that the focus should be around Nagorno Karabakh and the conditions facing Azerbaijan’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).[28] In a contribution for Open Democracy on this theme Arzu documents the way in which her and other activists in exile, particularly those involved with Emin Milli’s Berlin-based Meydan TV[29], have been targeted by organised twitter mobs with links to the ruling party. Meydan is forced to block around 50 users per day from its Facebook page over trolling and has faced repeated Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks to attempt to shut down their web presence. For years human rights defenders in Azerbaijan have had their emails hacked and social media presence monitored and recent work by Amnesty International has documented some of these instances, including how those now based abroad such as Leyla and Arif Yunus have been targeted. Amnesty have documented the use of ‘Spear Phishing’, targeted email spoofing fraud attempts, as well as customised malware.[30]   Political activists criticising their opponents online, in sometimes abusive language, is far from just the prerogative of post-Soviet regimes. However the degree of official sanction and organisation makes it worth noting as part of the tools available to governments in the region to promote their agendas and attack dissenting voices.   Making their mark on the world Influencing the media is only one of the ways in which countries of the FSU seek to influence global narratives to their advantage. The first of other ways is through the use of advertising and event hosting to position their nations on the world stage, shape how they are perceived by the casual observer and enable their governments to use international prestige as a mechanism for boosting domestic support.   Azerbaijan has become one of the most prodigious hosts and promoters in the region. It turned its surprise victory in the 2011 Eurovision song contest into an opportunity to showcase itself to the world through the Baku 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. The event was surrounded by glossy promotion to show off the results of Azerbaijan’s oil-fuelled economic transformation. This was followed by the 2015 European Games in Baku, a new competition created by the European Olympic Associations to compete with the pre-existing European Championships in athletics and other disciplines. In 2016 Baku hosted the European Grand Prix and plans to host a regular Azerbaijan Grand Prix from 2017 onwards. Group games and a quarter-final at the 2020 European Football Championships will also take place in Baku. Major construction projects were initiated to help facilitate these, including the new Baku National Stadium (built to host the European Games and the upcoming 2020 football matches), Baku Crystal Hall (built in less than a year to host Eurovision) and the Grand Prix circuit on the streets of Baku. These projects have been the catalyst for large investments in infrastructure, often with opaque procurement practices and a somewhat cavalier approach to planning policy,[31] that have helped feed the narrative of Baku as a boom town.   As well as the higher profile events, Azerbaijan has also been active in hosting small to medium size events where organisers are in need of finding a willing partner to pay for the event. Examples include the 2012 Internet Governance Forum, the 2016 United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the 2016 World Sailing Championships and the 2016 Chess Olympiad; these will be followed by future events such as the 2018 European Trampoline Championships[32], the 2019 Summer European Youth Olympic Festival[33] and the 2020 European Mens’ Artistic Gymnastics Championships.   When the world is not coming to Baku, Baku has been increasingly coming to the world through sponsorship and advertising. Azerbaijan’s state owned oil company SOCAR became an official sponsor of the 2016 European Championships, to complement its existing sponsorship of the International Judo Federation, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the World Economic Forum (Davos) and regional initiatives such as the Georgian Chess Federation.[34] Understandably, SOCAR was one of the core sponsors of the inaugural 2015 Baku European Games. SOCAR’s strategy can be seen to have at least some commercial dimension given that it is involved in the retail sale of petroleum through filling stations in Georgia, Romania, Ukraine and Switzerland as well as Azerbaijan, though clearly its promotion strategy serves a broader strategic purpose. Azerbaijan’s sponsorship of Atlético Madrid helped to raise its national profile, coming as it did with that team’s rise to European prominence in 2014.[35] Advertising has been combined with soft-focus journalism in glossy magazines[36] and breathless reports about the physical transformation of Baku.[37]   Even Azerbaijan’s grandest efforts however were dwarfed by Russia’s preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, that as well as being an advert for Russian soft power acted as the focal point for a massive investment and stabilisation programme for Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region. A headline figure of around $50 billion was floated as the potential total investment with a tenuous link to the games, including substantial opportunities for corruption.[38] Russian state-owned Gas monopoly Gazprom has become a substantial player in European football as one of the core sponsors of the UEFA Champions League[39] and of Schalke in the German Bundesliga, in addition to its support for Red Star Belgrade and Zenit St Petersburg. Though the company has a range of subsidiaries active in Europe, its approach would seem to be designed to provide reassurance that Gazprom was a firm and reliable fixture in the European landscape rather than a state-owned firm of a potentially hostile power whose dominance of certain European gas markets creates a potential security risk. Its focus on Germany, where it also sponsors Europe’s second biggest theme park Europa-Park, is unsurprising given that country’s strategic importance and its cooperation with the Nordstream gas pipeline project that runs between the two nations.[40]   Kazakhstan has tried to position itself as an honest, reliable broker on the world stage. Its longstanding hosting in Astana of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a conference of its own creation, has helped to set that tone.[41] This project is in part about projecting the narrative that Kazakhstan is a stable, moderate Islamic country, one that is non-aligned in the sectarian conflicts besetting the Middle East, an approach that has helped it play a mediation role over Syria. Its positioning as a mature, stabilising presence was integral to its decision to host the 2010 OSCE Summit. In a broader and more investment-focused dimension, Astana is hosting the 2017 Expo. In terms of national branding it is also worth looking at the Astana Pro Team, bankrolled by Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna, that helped put the country’s newish capital on the international map.[42] The top level international cycling team now forms part of the wider ‘Astana Presidential Club’ that brings it together with FC Astana, boxing, motorsports and basketball organisations to deliver what its website describes as the ‘development and promotion of international image of Astana and Kazakhstan based on national multisport brand (sic). The aims of the project are entering the world sports space…’[43]   All of this international work serves a dual purpose; trying to improve national prestige and profile - in part with the aim of encouraging foreign direct investment or tourism, such efforts are also designed to be reflected back to a domestic audience as visible signs of national progress and prestige. It enables the governments in question to argue that if the country is viewed positively from abroad this equates to an implicit endorsement of its practices. Whether such prestige spending can be sustained in the medium to long-term, given the impact of reduced oil prices in recent years, will remain to be seen.[44] Furthermore, particularly since Azerbaijan’s 2012 Eurovision experience, such international ventures are increasingly seen as opportunities for the human rights record of the host country to come under increased scrutiny by NGOs and the media, limiting the opportunities for positive PR, at least in the Western media.   Shaping the political debate As documented in the FPC’s Sharing Worst Practice publication in this Exporting Repression series and elsewhere, in recent years there has been a substantial increase in pressure on independent NGOs and think tanks across the former Soviet Union.[45] This is particularly the case for those who receive funding from Western governments and foundations, which have been targeted under variations of the Russian Foreign Agents Law, that creates onerous specific reporting requirements and forces organisations to announce that they are a ‘foreign agent’ in all written and verbal statements. Despite this trend at home FSU governments are active in attempting to influence the political debate in Europe and the United States through the use of public affairs firms and lobbying organisations, the support of sympathetic politicians, academics, NGOs and think tanks. A number of the contributions here address different dimensions of the challenge with Dr David Lewis and Melissa Hooper focusing on European research and lobbying groups with links to governments in the region, while Ana Dvali and Revaz Koiava look at the way in which the Georgian Government under the leadership of then President Mikheil Saakashvili was used to help reframe how the country was viewed in Western capitals. The earlier Institutionally Blind publication in this series has addressed the issue of Western politicians being involved in pro-regime groups and sympathetic election monitoring missions, though Lewis and Hooper expand on those issues here. [46]   In addition to the Russian, Kazakhstani and Azerbaijani cases addressed by other authors it is worth noting that US and European lobbying firms have played an active role supporting different factions and oligarchs in Ukrainian politics since the Orange Revolution, with the same firm sometimes representing entirely different viewpoints from one year to the next,[47] with both Trump and Clinton Election Campaign Managers Paul Manafort and John Podesta having previous links to President Yanukovych’s party and groups such as the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.[48] Some of the more closed Central Asian regimes have focused on support for small scale friendship groups such as the British Uzbek Society.[49]   FSU governments are not the only voices from the region that try to shape the international narrative about their countries. In a similar fashion, opposition forces from the region have sought to support events and analysis from those with a more critical take on what is going on. For example, a number of groups linked to jailed billionaire Mikael Khodorkovsky and his former company Yukos Oil engaged with think tanks and other organisations that took a more critical line on Putin’s Russia.[50] Since his release Khodorkovsky and his family have developed a number of organisations including the Open Russian Foundation and the affiliated research arm the Institute of Modern Russia to influence the debate on Russia, who partner with other think tanks to host events.[51] Opposition groups and out-of-favour oligarchs work with public affairs firms to protect their personal and legal interests and attempt to influence Western public opinion in a more regime critical direction.   Countries from across the former Soviet Union are making use of Western-style soft power tools to influence public opinion and promote their interests, even when they are restricting the reach of Western organisations within their own borders. This essay collection seeks to give an overview of the developing landscape, assess the key issues and put forward new approaches on how best to respond to the challenge.   What our authors say   Rasťo Kužel looks at the popularity of Russian media in the former Soviet Union countries. He points out the differences in the role and reach of the main Russian channels in Armenia, Belarus and Moldova, compared to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine.  He concludes that while it is not easy to estimate the real impact of Russian propaganda in these countries, it is clear that the lack of objective reporting, as well as a lack of diverse views among Russian-speaking audiences, poses a real challenge across the region. Kužel believes that if national media enjoyed high levels of trust and popularity in the Eastern Partnership countries, it would serve as a good tool against Russian media propaganda and criticises the fact that governments in these countries have done very little or nothing to encourage the existence of an independent, vibrant and competitive media landscape, essential for providing a variety of news and views.   Natalya Antelava writes that in Ukraine, the international media was not ready for the disinformation onslaught and was involuntarily aiding the alternative narrative constructed by the Kremlin. The mistakes of Western media outlets in Ukraine offer valuable lessons to all journalists covering the ‘post-fact’, ‘post-truth’ world.   Dr Justin Schlosberg critically reflects on the respective editorial missions of both RT and the BBC, drawing on a comparative case study analysis of coverage during the second Euromaidan conflict in Ukraine. Amid a global news paradigm where truth and reality are becoming ever more contested, he argues for a new approach to global news ethics that avoids some of the problems inherent in both the concepts of ‘impartiality’ and ‘alternative news’.   Ben Nimmo argues that Russia’s disinformation efforts in Sweden and Finland have met with mixed success. The local language variants of the Sputnik internet channel failed to penetrate or win a substantial following, and were perceived as a Kremlin propaganda tool. They closed down after less than a year. In the aftermath, evidence has emerged of a shift in policy towards a more indirect approach, using local voices which endorse official Russian government positions and policies, largely from the political fringes. This approach is still evolving; however, growing public awareness of the concept of information war and the role of political extremes in it means that the Kremlin’s information projects continue to face scepticism.   Dr David Lewis writes that while modern authoritarian states still imprison journalists and close down newspapers, they increasingly rely on more sophisticated ways to suppress criticism and skew narratives in their favour. Post-Soviet states such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan use slick media and lobbying operations to boost their image at home and abroad. They often hire Western PR companies to promote their views in international media, to lobby European and American politicians, and to discredit political opponents. Authoritarian states create their own think tanks and non-governmental organisations, but use such groups to promote government views. They often rely on pliant or supportive Western academics and politicians to channel official views, or to act as uncritical election monitors. Non-democratic states have also learned to use social media to their advantage, both as an effective method of surveillance and as a new platform for their messaging. Lewis argues that the international activism of Eurasia’s authoritarian states deserves more critical attention.   Melissa Hooper argues that the Russian government’s use of various media and messaging tools to disrupt the application of universal human rights norms in the EU and US, and declare democracy a failed experiment, includes a new front. This is the use of seemingly-independent think tanks and foundations to put forth xenophobic ideas that target migrant, Muslim, LGBTQ, and other minority communities as threats to those who ‘belong’. These think tanks and foundations are not independent, however, they are funded by the Russian government either directly, or by Russian-government-partnered oligarchs who act as agents to spread the Kremlin’s ideologies. Organisations such as the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation or the World Public Forum produce messaging that sacrifices the rights of minorities as they aim to demonstrate that the current EU and US democracies are failing and unsafe, and in need of replacement – which Russia can offer. For all these reasons, the EU and US governments, or at least intelligence agencies and civil society, should work together to document the funding and influence that are the source of these anti-human rights and non-evidence-based proposals.   Ana Dvali and Revaz Koiava examine how the international promotion of Georgia intensified after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new United National Movement Government of Georgia set ambitious goals and remained committed to trying to promote the country’s image as a democratic and reformist state around the world, something its supporters believe had a great impact on the country's development. However, critics argue that the image the government tried to create was far from reality, and the substantial amount of funds spent on promotion were a waste. The situation changed after 2012; the new Georgian Dream government has focused less on international promotion and spends fewer resources to shape international opinion. They compare the international promotion strategies of the two governments; in particular, how they have interacted with various international actors and which instruments they used to raise international awareness of the Georgian national brand.   Arzu Geybulla explores the ways in which authoritarian regimes from the former Soviet Union use lobbying and nation branding to promote their achievements and blunt criticisms. She focuses on the cases of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, using the idea of the ‘brand state’. The essay also looks at the efforts these governments make online to harass their opponents.   Richard Giragosian writes the Republic of Armenia’s relationship with its global Armenian diaspora has always been complex, and at times, even confrontational. Yet, despite a degree of misunderstanding and a deep cultural divide, this relationship is both symbiotic and significant.  While the diaspora was deeply engaged in providing economic support to the Armenian state through the 1990s, the combination of entrenched corruption and a closed economy has ended that period of financial support and investment, though remittances particularly from those temporarily working in Russia still provide a major source of funds. The politically sophisticated Armenian diaspora, well-integrated and politically active in several Western countries, play an important role in support of Armenian foreign policy. Despite occasional differences, especially over attempts to normalise relations with Turkey, the diaspora’s diplomatic leverage gives the Armenian state a distinct advantage, particularly in contrast to their Azerbaijani and Turkish rivals. But Armenia has failed to fully harness the natural advantage of its global diaspora, and the diaspora has never fulfilled expectations of more direct engagement in such critical issues as democratisation and sustainable economic development in Armenia. [1] This collection is part of the wider Exporting Repression Series of publications and events first proposed in 2014 and work on the series first began in the early summer of 2015. [2] And indeed also update and refine its own Cold War approach to propaganda and soft power. [3] Who may be less likely to speak the national language of their home countries, particularly if they went to school in the Soviet-era. [4] A Arefjef, Russian Language at the turn of the 20th-21st Century, Centre for social forecasting and marketing-Moscow, 2012, (information found via the EED). It is worth noting however that active use of Russian is below 25 percent in Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Lithuania. [5] These international versions primarily rebroadcast domestic content with major outlets including Channel One Russia Worldwide (Pervyi Kanal) including its specific Baltic service (Pervyi Baltiyskiy Kanal), RTR Planet (RTR Planeta), NTV World (NTV Mir). [6] Examples include in Moldova Prime (Pervyi Kanal), RTR Moldova (Rossiya 1) and TV7 (NTV) among others. In Belarus they include ONT (Pervyi Kanal), STV (Ren TV), Belarus RTR (RTR), NTV Belarus (NTV). In Kyrgyzstan NTV Kyrgyzstan, in Lithuania REN Lietuva (REN). [7] Sputnik, Products and Services, [8] Other Russian language wire service content is available from Russian domestic services such as TASS, the domestic RIA Novosti ( from which Sputnik was hived off, and business focused service Interfax. [9] Co-founded by Irma Inashvili the Secretary General of the anti-Western and pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG) party, with other party activists on its board Media Meter, see Obieqtivi, and also [10] Nata Dzvelishvili and Tazo Kupreishvili, Russian Influence of Georgian NGOs and Media, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, June 2015, and Tamar Kinturashvili, Anti-Western Propaganda: Media Monitoring Report 2014-15, Media Diversity Institute, [11] RT Management, Nevertheless there is no real pretense that it is not a state backed broadcaster with funding from sources around the Russian Government. [12] RT’s own about us management page states RT’s 2016 funding to be 19 billion rubles, while on its own myth busting section it challenges Newsweek for using a dollar version of this figure, instead claiming that the 2016 budget is 17 billion rubles Its broadcast reach figures are sourced from research it commissioned from French Survey firm IPSOS. [13] UK National Audit Office, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General presented to the BBC Trust Value for Money Committee, June 2016, Note this does not include the budget or viewing figures for BBC World News or many of the BBC’s other international entertainment focused TV offerings that operate on a commercial basis. [14] About RT, [15] Mike Wendling and Will Yates, NATO says viral news outlet is part of "Kremlin misinformation machine, February 2017, [16] Including Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia as well as much of Central Asia. [17] The license fee is a mandatory payment for using a television or watching live broadcasts online in the UK that is collected directly by the BBC. The English language BBC World News channel, with a 75million global reach is commercially funded and organised separately from the World Service. [18] The beleaguered Dozhd TV has had its broadcast access in Russia reduced in recent years. During the 2000s the BBC’s Russia service’s ability to be rebroadcast via domestic radio partners dwindled due to the increasingly restricted media environment. [19] Tara Conlan,BBC World Service to receive £289m from government, November 2015, This funding, £289 million over 5 years, will cover services across the world including ‘new radio services in North Korea, Ethiopia and Eritrea; a better TV service in Africa; additional language broadcasts via digital and television in India and Nigeria; better regional content for the BBC Arabic Service, improved digital and TV services in Russia and for Russian speakers; and improved video across its output.’ [20] BBC, BBC Kyrgyz marks 20 years on air with special content - and 3 million weekly reach on TV, June 2016, [21] RFE/RL Language Services, [22] Broadcasting Board of Governors, Current Time, February 2017, [23] ITU, ICT STATISTICS Home Page, Some of these higher figures need to be treated with caution given concerns about the standards of statistical collection in these restrictive countries. [24] Max Seddon, Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America, June 2014, Shaun Walker, Salutin' Putin: inside a Russian troll house,  Guardian, April 2015, See also NATO Stratcom, Internet Trolling as a hybrid warfare tool: the case of Latvia, [25] Anna Nemtsova, Vladimir Putin's biggest fan club: Media-savvy youth group Set is churning out propaganda and clothing to promote Russia's leader, December 2014, [26] Tom Balmforth, 'We fight for democracy' – Russia's pro-Kremlin youth respond to propaganda warning, February 2015, Guardian, [27] An example would include Maria Katasonova and the People’s Liberation Front whose sympathies are linked to the international ‘alt-right’ and who have been active in challenging independent NGOs and participating in pro-Trump trolling around the 2016 US Election. See and [28] It should be noted of course that Armenia has an active nationalist presence on social media, both from within the country and in the diaspora with a similar focus on Nagorno Karabakh (albeit from the opposite perspective) and Genocide Recognition. [29] Arzu Geybulla, In the crosshairs of Azerbaijan’s patriotic trolls, November 2016, [30] Claudio Guarnieri, Joshua Franco and Collin Anderson, False Friends: How Fake Accounts and Crude Malware Targeted Dissidents in Azerbaijan, Amnesty International, March 2017, [31] See for example Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Illegal Evictions Ahead of Eurovision, February 2012, [32] Trend News Agency, Baku to host European Men's Artistic Gymnastics Championship, February 2017, [33] Dan Palmer, Baku to host 2019 Summer European Youth Olympic Festival, January 2017, [34] SOCAR, Make Your Debut, [35] Owen Gibson, Azerbaijan's sponsorship of Atlético Madrid proves spectacular success May 2014, [36] As well as puff pieces in Western lifestyle magazines, Azerbaijan’s first daughter Leyla Aliyeva was even able to persuade Conde Nast to set up its own Azerbaijan focused glossy, Baku Magazine, [37] Azerbaijan’s Amazing Transformation (Discovery Channel), June 2014, [38] Paul Farhi, Did the Winter Olympics in Sochi really cost $50 billion? A closer look at that figure, Washington Post, February 2014, [39] It’s we light up football adverts are an integral part of the match television coverage See also Jack Pitt Brook, Chelsea vs Schalke: Controversial Gazprom deals cast cloud ahead of Champions League game, Independent, September 2014, [40] Though again it is worth being clear that Gazprom has a number of subsidiaries active in the German market. [41] Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, [42] Akmola became Kazakhstan’s Capital in December 1997 with its name changed to Astana in May 1998. The Astana cycling team was founded in 2007 [43] Astana President’s Professional Sports Club [44] Heaping on the Caviar Democracy, 1843 Magazine (The Economist), [45] Adam Hug (ed.), Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, May 2016, [46] Adam Hug (ed.), Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, February 2016, [47] Andrew Rettman, Ukraine chief seeks friends in EU capital, EU Observer, October 2010, APCO Worldwide for example has provided support to the Presidential Administrations of both President Yushchenko and President Yanukovych as well as to the Premiership during the term of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and [48] See Luke Harding, How Trump's campaign chief got a strongman elected president of Ukraine, August 2016, and Eli Lake,Ukraine’s D.C. Lobbyists in Disarray as Dictator Flees, [49] Corporate Europe Observatory, Spin doctors to the autocrats: How European PR firms whitewash repressive regimes, January 2015, [50] This engagement during this period included with the Foreign Policy Centre. [51] See for example: Henry Jackson Society, Event: ’25 Years On: Russia Since the Fall of the Soviet Union’, December 2016, [post_title] => The Information Battle Introduction: A battle for hearts and minds [post_excerpt] => Editor Adam Hug introduces the key themes of the Information Battle publication. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => introduction-battle-hearts-minds [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 00:57:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 00:57:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1545 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:20:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:20:10 [post_content] => ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly.’[1]   Through increasingly sophisticated and high budget media outputs, glossy adverts, high-profile events and well connected lobbyists, authoritarian regimes from the former Soviet Union (FSU) have learned how to play the Western game, albeit with varying degrees of success. The traditional message that the governments of the FSU were sending to the world was ‘we are just like you’, arguing that they were countries on a rapid transition path to becoming liberal democracies and open market economies, despite whatever evidence to the contrary might exist. However in recent years the framing has become increasingly ‘you are just like us’, particularly from Russian sources but also too from others in the region such as Azerbaijan who chafe against EU and US criticism on human rights standards whilst Western firms continue to seek to make money from them.   Addressing the challenge of Russian backed media and online content within the Western world requires a recognition of the significant challenges facing the European and US media industries. The scale and scope of the challenges facing the media from an increasingly fragmented market of news consumers, where old models of revenue generation are dying, lies beyond the remit of this publication. However, part of the issue relevant to this publication is that Russian media is filling a number of gaps in the market. Identifying Western shortcomings and hypocrisy may flow from a rich heritage of Russian ‘Whataboutism’[2], but there is clearly a notable section of the viewing public who yearn for more systemic critiques of Western societies, seeing traditional critical journalism as still coming from inside existing elites. RT and Sputnik provide opportunities for some of the more radical voices on the left and right who struggle to get airtime on traditional outlets dominated by voices from more ‘mainstream’ parties and perspectives. As large sections of the internet clearly show, there remains a robust market for conspiracy theory. At a time of increasing diversity of political views, Western broadcasters need to think more carefully about how to provide opportunities for new voices to be heard in debates, if they wish to be able to adequately rebut the critiques provided by RT and others.[3]   However the Russian approach goes far beyond providing platforms to outsiders and flagging up hypocrisy, both real and imagined. Its goal can be to confuse, frustrate and demoralise. Peter Pomerantsev[4] likens it to ‘a hall of mirrors’ where reality feels ‘malleable, spongy’, where the same actors are used in a variety of different roles (‘soldier’s mother’, ‘Kharkiv resident’, ‘Odessa resident’, etc.) with broadcasts with little regard given to whether such deceptions would be identified, where the approach was not even attempting to present a different version of the truth or ‘alternative facts’ but to bury the audience in a blizzard of conflicting information. Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews described the approach as the ‘firehose of falsehood’, that they say is designed to entertain, confuse and overwhelm the audience through an approach that is ‘high-volume and multichannel; rapid, continuous, and repetitive; lacks commitment to objective reality; (and) lacks commitment to consistency’.[5] Such outlets build on the traditional media’s approach to try and provide balance, pitting opposing views against each other irrespective of how widely held or evidence-based they are, taking it to a post-modern, ‘post-fact’ extreme.[6] ‘Question more’, becomes ‘question everything’ including the concept of truth itself.   In a number of cases, the battle of ideas becomes an information war. Regularly the victims of Russian hacking[7], the three Baltic States have particular sensitivities about Russia’s courting of Russian minorities that make up 25.6 percent of Latvia’s, 25.1 percent of Estonia’s and 4.8 percent of Lithuania’s population.[8] As small states they have so far lacked the resources, and in some cases the political will, to provide programming in Russian, leaving the field open for Russian channels broadcasting across the border, though the recently created Estonian ETV+ Russian language channel has potential to partially address this. While 81 percent of ethnic Russians in Estonia say they trust information provided by Russian News Channels, only 26 percent of ethnic Estonians say they trust the same content, heightening the risk of political differences being further exacerbated along an ethnic divide. Given the state of war between Russia and Ukraine since 2014, Ukraine has banned the broadcast of Russian channels, however satellite firm compliance remains intermittent and a substantial proportion of Eastern Ukraine remains able to receive the signal. More broadly, the febrile atmosphere in European and US political culture at present, while clearly not ‘created’ by Russian initiatives, is clearly being exploited through the mechanisms discussed in this publication, sometimes to the extent of becoming a genuine security challenge.   The trust deficit is not going to be bridged by responding to propaganda from the former Soviet Union with propaganda from the West or its allies. A multi-level approach is needed. There is clearly an important space for myth busting, fact checking and propaganda exposing tools, to try to challenge and push back against the flood of erroneous or confusing information. A lie may still be able to get half way across the world before the truth has got its boots on but through effective use of social media, efforts to debunk obvious untruths can be disseminated swiftly. Ukrainian site Stop Fake, founded by Kyiv Mohyla Journalism School staff and students, provides one of the most effective and innovative services, casting a critical eye over some of the claims made in the Russian and Russian-backed media. Such work is now being augmented by official channels such as the work of the EU’s East Stratcom Taskforce who are coordinating a network of experts in government institutions and civil society to compile the EU Disinformation Review in both Russian and English.[9] The involvement of such institutions does show that policy makers are beginning to take the challenge seriously but their work must not crowd out non-governmental organisations whose independence is an important weapon in the information battle. All those involved in such work need to act collaboratively to ensure that information and analysis is widely shared.   Secondly, the need for independent, evidence-based investigative journalism is extremely high given the challenges set out in this publication, yet its availability has been decreasing due to the erosion of resources in newsrooms. Filling the emerging gap is of critical importance and part of the solution has been the use of donor-supported coalitions of independent journalists who conduct the research themselves before partnering with news organisations to publish their findings. Some of the most important examples of these are the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. The donor model has its own flaws, in terms of funding stability and ensuring that they can follow their own journalistic priorities rather than focusing on the priorities of the person who pays the bills, challenges they share with colleagues in traditional media outlets.   Facts may be essential but they are not sufficient. As Natalya Antelava points out there is a need to explain the stories behind the facts. Narratives matter and for a mainstream audience often production quality matters too. Again here consortia of investigative journalists may be better placed to get to the depth and scope of story required but nevertheless pressure needs to be put on editors and proprietors to support in-depth reporting rather than simplistic pieces to camera.   Specifically looking at the media challenges in the post-Soviet Space, the European Endowment for Democracy has made a number of important recommendations in a major report entitled Bringing Plurality and Balance to the Russian Language Media Space, edited by contributor to this collection Justin Schlosberg.[10] The EED recommends the creation of five new structures:
  • A regional Russian language news hub (or proto news agency) to share high-quality news on a membership or affiliate basis, which also includes collecting citizen journalist and stringer material, facilitating collaborative investigations, fact checking and providing translations
  • A ‘content factory’ - a cooperative of regional broadcasters, jointly commissioning quality programmes in Russian that would be available to all members free of charge. Content should include quality documentaries and entertainment, including film, drama and social reality shows, focusing on local issues. Commissioning and buying content, it could be a ‘marketplace’ of programming for the Russian-language media
  • The creation of a centre of media excellence to improve research and information
  • A basket fund of governmental and private donor money to support media initiatives
  • A future multimedia distribution platform, with a global brand, to ensure that the produced content reaches the widest possible audience
  If properly implemented, these recommendations could help provide the architecture to help local media outlets, both public and private, develop content that viewers might prefer to the existing Russian offerings. International public broadcasters such as the BBC and PBS should consider what documentary and entertainment content could be provided at accessible rates to independent broadcasters in the region, potentially through such a content marketplace mechanism as well as providing such content to the nascent BBC World Service and BBG television services in the region. The fusion of popular entertainment and news, although in retreat on Western domestic channels, has been shown to be an effective way under other authoritarian regimes[11] of ensuring interest in a channel and ultimately securing viewers for news and current affairs output. Further thought should also be given to the ability of such content to be provided in local languages, where feasible and necessary, to further boost the diversity of independent quality content.   Where possible, the emerging Russian language television offerings from the BBC World Service and the BBG need to obtain greater access to satellite transmission to give them a chance of reaching older viewers, in addition to growing their web presence. These organisations need to ensure that their governance structures provide them with clear independence from their home governments. The recent decision in the 2016 US National Defense Authorization Act has transformed the role of the Board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors from managing the organisation into an advisory role, with a Chief Executive directly appointed by the US President in greater control. Irrespective of any organisational advantages of having someone in operational charge, the case since 2015 when the board appointed its own Chief Executive,[12] direct Presidential appointment could be seen to undermine the organisation’s operational independence.   There is a lack of comprehensive and publically accessible region-wide data about Russian media penetration or indeed the popularity of domestic media channels. An accurate ratings system only functions in some states in the region, in others such figures do not include satellite broadcasts and in others accurate data is not accessible at all. There is a strong case for region-wide survey work that can give an accurate analysis of media reach, particularly in the South Caucasus and where possible Central Asia where information gaps exist.   When responding to the issues of lobbying, advertising and regime promotion, similar principles apply, with the need to improve transparency and public scrutiny. Human rights organisations have become adept at using major sporting or cultural events hosted by repressive regimes as a way of raising awareness about the problems that country faces. There are also opportunities for strengthening UK and EU lobbying registration, which in most cases remains voluntary.[13] Moving this to a broader mandatory basis could help ensure that those working on behalf of foreign governments (and others) are open about their dealings with politicians and officials. Independent NGOs and donors should consider providing greater support to Parliamentarians to coordinate the activities of country interest groups and where appropriate arrange country visits for them, as otherwise this support is provided by pro-regime lobbing groups or Embassies. Increased public awareness of Russian and other government activity in the European NGO environment is important but it must not bleed into the kind of ‘foreign agent’ hysteria that FSU governments utilise to shut down Western and internationally supported NGOs at home. Laws must be applied effectively but equally to all groups rather than specifically targeting those supported by foreign governments or oligarchs, with efforts to improve transparency wherever possible. As with a more effective approach to media, progress in these areas will be assisted by a healthy dose of self-criticism focused on Western organisations and institutions complicit in helping post-Soviet regimes burnish their international reputations.   In what is increasingly becoming a battle over the use of soft power and information, Western institutions have been losing ground. Western governments, NGOs, donors and the general public need to become more aware of the challenges they now face and must take action in order to protect and strengthen their domestic institutions and societies, while enhancing support for human rights in the former Soviet Union. Recommendations[1]   To the donor and NGO community
  • Fund the creation of new, independent Russian and local language news content creation, news coordination and dissemination
  • Provide increased funding for independent consortiums of investigative journalists
  • Support in depth independent survey work in the countries of the former Soviet Union to assess the audience reach of both domestic and Russian media outlets
  • Facilitate non-partisan support of Parliamentary engagement on issues relating to the former Soviet Union, including country visits
  To international broadcasters
  • Expand the range of voices asked to provide comment on Western and international networks
  • Collaborate with independent partners in the post-Soviet Space to develop content
  To Western governments and regulators
  • Track the spread of misleading and untrue content emanating from Russian sources, working with civil society to rebut it where appropriate
  • Actively monitor online threats to Western-based critics of regimes in the former Soviet Union
  • Strengthen lobbying registry requirements, including looking to expand the scope of the UK’s statutory register and delivering the proposed formal EU lobbying register
  • Re-examine the changes to the governance structures of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors
These recommendations represent the ideas put forward by the editor based on the research provided in this publication. Individual contributing authors express their own views within the publication and make further individual recommendations. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not represent the views of The Foreign Policy Centre or the Open Society Foundations. [1] The Bible - King James Version, 1 Corinthians 13:12. Translated in less poetic versions as ‘What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror’ (Good News Bible). [2] Where any criticism of human rights standards in the Soviet Union not answered but deflected back by pointing out flaws in the West. A brief primer on Whataboutism is provided by The Economist, Whataboutism, January 2008, [3] In this author’s view this need for greater diversity relates specifically to non-violent or discriminatory political viewpoints rather than a need for greater airtime for fringe science, academic or conspiracy theories. [4] Peter Pomerantsev Inside the Kremlin’s hall of mirrors, April 2015, [5] Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews The Russian "Firehose of Falsehood" Propaganda Model: Why It Might Work and Options to Counter It, 2016, [6] Peter Pomerantsev, Why we are post fact, Granta, July 2016, [7] Linda Kinstler, How to Survive a Russian Hack: Lessons from Eastern Europe and the Baltics, February 2017, [8] Central Statistics Bureau of Latvia,; Statistics Estonia, Population by nationality, 1st January by year, and Alvydas Butkus Lithuanian population by nationality Broadcasting Board of Governors, Role of Russian Media in the Baltics and Moldova, February 2016, [9] See both and Questions and Answers about the East StratCom Task Force, [10] European Endowment for Democracy, Bringing Plurality and Balance to the Russian Language Media Space, June 2016. A summary of its findings is available at [11] The example of the highly successful privately run independent Iranian Satellite TV station Manoto TV is a useful case study, [12] Ron Nixon, U.S. Seeking a Stronger World Media Voice, January 2015, [13] The UK runs a statutory scheme, the Register of Consultant Lobbyists, which only covers those who lobby Government Ministers and Civil Service Permanent Secretaries. The wider industry runs a voluntary scheme, the UK Lobbying Register (UKLR). At an EU level only registered lobbyists are given passes to the Parliament and Commission, though this can be easily worked around. [post_title] => The Information Battle Conclusion: Winning the battle of ideas [post_excerpt] => Through increasingly sophisticated and high budget media outputs, glossy adverts, high-profile events and well connected lobbyists, authoritarian regimes from the former Soviet Union (FSU) have learned how to play the Western game, albeit with varying degrees of success. The traditional message that the governments of the FSU were sending to the world was ‘we are just like you’, arguing that they were countries on a rapid transition path to becoming liberal democracies and open market economies, despite whatever evidence to the contrary might exist. However in recent years the framing has become increasingly ‘you are just like us’, particularly from Russian sources but also too from others in the region such as Azerbaijan who chafe against EU and US criticism on human rights standards whilst Western firms continue to seek to make money from them. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => conclusion-winning-battle-ideas [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-28 16:19:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-28 16:19:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2295 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 12:00:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 12:00:48 [post_content] => This publication shows how repressive regimes from the former Soviet Union, most notably Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan operate outside their borders to challenge dissenting voices. The exiles and activists targeted primarily include: members of opposition political parties and movements; independent journalists, academics and civil society activists; former regime insiders and their family members; banned clerics and alleged religious extremists, including alleged members of proscribed terrorist groups. This publication shows that these groups are at risk not only of physical and online surveillance and harassment, but vexatious extradition attempts, INTERPOL Red Notices, attacks, kidnapping and other forms of illegal rendition, and even assassination.   Security services from the former Soviet Union are adept at using the language of terrorism and state security to restrict the activities of their political opponents, triggering both formal cooperation agreements within the region through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the longstanding personal networks between security service leaders, ‘the RepressIntern’ as Dr Mark Galeotti puts it, to put pressure on the opponents of fellow repressive regimes. The report shows that Russia has been particularly supportive of neighbouring regimes seeking the return of their nationals who are deemed to be troublesome, both through legally sanctioned extraditions and extra-legal forms of rendition or kidnapping, the latter particularly taking place when the individuals had sought protection from the European Court of Human Rights.   The security services from the former Soviet Union are particularly adept at operating within their diaspora communities in Russia, Turkey and across Europe. In the latter case, European security services need to play a more active role in monitoring the activities of these foreign security services on their soil, particularly within diaspora communities. Where possible, attempts should be made to assist exiles in protecting their emails, telecommunications and social media from hacking.   Western courts and immigration systems need to remain vigilant to resist extradition attempts that would expose individuals from the former Soviet Union to the risk of torture, unfair trial and imprisonment or worse upon their return. The case for reform of INTERPOL to stop Red Notices being used as a tool to target regime opponents abroad remains an important issue despite recent progress, noting in particular the recent case of Tajik opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri.   Recommendations for Western policy makers
  • Continue to reform the Interpol Red Notice system
  • Remain vigilant to politicised extradition attempts and preserve the principle of non-refoulement
  • Further investigate, through Western security services, networks of informants and agents that operate on behalf of the security services of the former Soviet Union on European soil
  • Support exiles who are facing hacking and other attempts to steal their personal information
  • Ensure that surveillance equipment, software and technical support are subject to export controls and are not provided by Western firms to repressive regimes in the region
  • Suspend plans to upgrade trade and diplomatic arrangements with those states known to target activists in exile
[post_title] => No Shelter: Executive summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => no-shelter-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 10:49:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 10:49:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2297 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 11:50:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 11:50:36 [post_content] => The repressive nature of many governments in the former Soviet Union and how that they repress those who attempt to challenge these systems has been repeatedly and well documented, including through the Foreign Policy Centre’s Exporting Repression series of which this essay collection is part. Intimidation, surveillance, bureaucratic restrictions on activities, arrest and imprisonment on dubious charges, kidnapping, torture and killings are all techniques believed to have been used against those who are seen as a threat to a number of regimes in the region. What is less well understood is that for some people who are able to go into exile, leaving the country is not the end of living in fear that they are being monitored or potentially at risk of harm from representatives of the security services of their home country. Within the former Soviet Union, more often than not, this harassment is being performed with the collusion, or at least the acquiescence, of the government of the host country.   Understanding the problem The authors in this publication identify the four core groups who are targeted by the security services:
  • Former regime insiders and their family members;
  • Members of opposition political parties and movements;
  • Independent journalists, academics and civil society activists;
  • Banned clerics and alleged religious extremists, including alleged members of proscribed terrorist groups.[1]
  As touched upon in the Foreign Policy Centre’s 2014 publication Shelter from the Storm[2], the status of these individuals varies by country and by situation. Many of the people discussed in this publication are those taking advantage of visa-free movement within the Commonwealth of Independent States[3] to remove themselves from immediate pressures in their home state, with Russia the most common initial destination, given its sizable diaspora communities from the rest of the region. For those heading to the West the challenge remains whether or not to formally claim asylum, a move that makes the break with the home nation more permanent and impacts upon their activism, given that across Western Europe opportunities for short-term study and work opportunities, previously an important alternative, are becoming more difficult to access in a tightening immigration environment.   As a number of authors in this collection show, the ways in which the system works to put pressure on exiles, at least within the region, relies on both formal and informal processes. As discussed in Shelter from the Storm, the 1993 ‘Minsk’ Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters[4] provides a legal framework to facilitate the return of people to other CIS member states. Shared priorities over combatting both religious extremism and any potential challenges to regime control are embedded in organisations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)[5]. Both the CSTO and SCO provide opportunities for training and information sharing on a formal basis[6], with the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) playing a role in coordinating counter extremism efforts (as defined by the participating regimes), while the CSTO is playing an active role in dealing with dissent online as discussed below.   However, as Mark Galeotti sets out in his contribution, the shared KGB heritage, the ‘Repressintern’ networks of many of the senior personnel within the national security services, creates informal networks that really help to drive this collaboration, even when they are operating in an extra-legal capacity. As clearly set out in the FPC’s Sharing Worst Practice publication, a common, overly broad set of values and definitions of threats to state (and regime) security further helps to underpin regional security service collaboration. Russia and Ukraine The role of Russia in this particular publication is both as a primary actor and an accomplice to the actions of others, but it is this latter role that is the primary focus of this publication. Much has already been written on the extent to which Russia projects its power overseas and indeed the use of the security services in the region is steeped in Cold War imagery. Galeotti sets out the overview of Russia’s security infrastructure in his contribution.   As touched on by a number of authors, the Russian intelligence services have been implicated in a number of suspected assassinations and suspicious deaths overseas. The most famous case perhaps being the assassination in London of former FSB agent turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko, although Arzu Geybulla also notes the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny which is currently under investigation in the UK.   During the Yanukovch era, Russian security services had some cooperation from the domestic security services to put pressure on exiles seeking shelter in Ukraine, a country that served as an emergency escape route for Russians seeking a quick exit. Perhaps the most prominent case was that of Leonid Razvozzhayev, the Left Front political activist, in October 2012. After being implicated in an alleged plot to overthrow Vladimir Putin in a Russian TV documentary, Razvozzhayev fled to Ukraine to seek refuge. He arrived at the Kiev office of the UNHCR requesting to make an application for asylum. After a discussion with UN officials he left his belongings, saying that he would go to the cafeteria. He did not return and was next seen two days later leaving a Moscow court claiming that he had been kidnapped and tortured, a claim he repeated subsequently. With the two nations’ security services currently facing off across the battle-lines of a hybrid war, the relationships are fundamentally different. In fact, the issue of kidnapping has become an issue for both sides along the line of contact (between Ukraine and the separatists) and the Russia-Ukraine border, with competing claims that those captured were taken across the border or that they had moved into hostile territory either accidentally or deliberately.[7] Most of these conflict issues, while a fascinating insight into security service tactics, fall beyond the primary remit of this publication.   It is not only national-level Russian security services that operate abroad. Chechnya has developed a wide range of both official and informal channels to intimidate its nationals and neutralise opposition abroad. That President Kaydyrov’s use of social media is not limited to Instagramming pictures of his missing cat or his children cage fighting,[8] with heavy monitoring of online criticism and the willingness to follow through with violence against his critics, is explained in graphic detail in the contribution by Civil Rights Defenders.   Those seeking sanctuary in Russia are supposed to benefit from the protections of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), where the court has been clear in its resistance to allowing the extradition of persons to the countries of Central Asia where they would be at significant risk of refoulment. In the last year however, the power of the court in Russia has been watered down by the December 2015 law asserting the primacy of the Russian constitution and constitutional court rulings[9]. In practice however, the Russian security services have shown little regard for such principles prior to this change. They have been willing to collude with the Central Asian security services to illegally return people to their country of origin, even when those persons are subject to specific rulings from the ECtHR, such as in the cases of the Uzbek nationals Yusup Kasymahunov who was kidnapped in 2012 and the attempted kidnapping of Murod Yuldashev in 2013.[10]   Central Asia It is the experience of Central Asian exiles that forms the heart of this publication, experiences less widely explored in the media and wider literature than those of Russia. As shown in this publication, the two greatest offenders are Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, whose security services have shown that they are able to be active not only within disaspora communities within Russia but also further afield, from Turkey to Western Europe.   As both the contributions by Edward Lemon and by John Heathershaw, Rosa Brown and Eve Bishop show, Tajikistan’s security services have become increasingly active in trying to extend repression beyond their borders since they began an increasing crack down and consolidation of regime power at home over recent years. Given Uzbekistan’s track record as perhaps the most repressive regime in the region, it is no surprise that it seeks to extend its reach to critics abroad. Both states utilise the threat, both real and perceived, of radicalisation to target those who become recruited by both radical and more moderate (both secular and Islamic) opposition groups within the diaspora communities, particularly in Russia, and those who had been previously active in such groups whilst in their home states. In the case of Uzbekistan, the threat of recruitment to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is used, a group whose role has become increasingly detached from Uzbek politics since 2001 but still forms part of the alleged basis for cracking down on religious groups. As Lemon points out, the secular opposition Group 24, the recently banned Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) and Islamic proselytising movement Tablighi Jamoat are most active in Tajik migrant communities, though they are listed alongside ISIS and AL Qaeda as extremist threats to the state of Tajikistan[11], thereby helping to frame pressure on political dissidents within the framework of treaties such as the Shanghai Convention on Combatting Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism[12]. As Tajikistan’s security services become more active and the Russians remain supportive of such actions, those at most risk are looking for alternative places to seek refuge. Poland, one of the easiest EU member states for people to access directly from Russia, has seen a surge in Tajik asylum seekers, rising from almost zero prior to 2014, to 104 asylum seekers that year, to 527 in 2015 and 660 in the first half of 2016 alone[13].   While the focus is on cases relating to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, it is also worth noting the way in which Kazakhstan’s security services have operated. The overall number of known incidents against exiles are lower than its two neighbours and for the most part Kazakhstan has attempted to use formal legal channels to exert pressure on exiles who the regime finds troublesome, as Heathershaw et al note, there have been a few severe incidents against high profile opposition figures and former regime officials. Most notably these have included members of the opposition Alga Party, the Respublica opposition newspaper linked to Alga and the associates of controversial banker and opposition leader Muktar Ablyasov, who was convicted of contempt of court in the UK Courts in 2012[14]. INTERPOL Red Notices were issued and extradition proceedings attempted for figures such as Muratbek Ketebayev who was initially detained by Spanish Authorities despite having refugee status from Poland, though the case was ultimately thrown out. Ablyasov’s family were controversially extradited from Italy, before being returned after international outcry[15], whilst Ablyasov himself is fighting attempts at extradition to Russia ordered by the French Government, on the grounds that further extradition to Kazakhstan would be likely to follow, in addition to concerns about receiving a fair trial in Russia[16]. Jos Boonstra, Erica Marat and Vera Axyonova suggest in a 2013 FRIDE paper that the reasoning behind Kazakhstan’s decision to close down its old external security service, the Barlau, and create a new service directly answerable to the President was in order to improve its performance in tracking opponents of the regime overseas[17].   South Caucasus In their contributions both Arzu Geybulla and Giorgi Gogia discuss the situation of Azerbaijan, currently the state in the South Caucasus with the most hostile human rights environment, the former focusing on the experience in exile, the latter on those left behind. Although there are claims of potential involvement in suspicious deaths, the majority of the complaints raised by activists surround basic surveillance, harassment and pressure on relatives, the latter being detailed in Gogia’s contribution. Activists have spoken of a sense of being followed on the streets of Berlin and other major Western cities, having their email and social media accounts periodically hacked and described how their families in Azerbaijan have faced enormous pressures, from losing jobs to being jailed.   Georgia, as the least restrictive country in the Caucasus and Central Asia with reasonably straightforward transport links to Azerbaijan and Armenia, has often been the first port of call for Azerbaijanis wishing to remove themselves from government pressure. However, increasingly its government has become under pressure from Azerbaijan not to play host to Azeri dissidents and opposition figures. While the Georgian authorities are seen as being unlikely to collude in attempts to render activists back to Azerbaijan illegally, the authorities have let it be known that they cannot give guarantees to be able to ensure their safety. Furthermore, the Government of Georgia will potentially respond to Red Notices and other formal extradition requests for suspects, though these will be subject to significantly freer legal hearings than would be possible back home, as Geybulla explains in the case of Azerbaijani activist Dashgin Alagarli.   Surveillance and Western issues The dissident experience, whether within their home country or in exile, inculcates a sense of extreme caution, verging on paranoia, about the extent to which their activities are under surveillance. The threat though is very real, whether it is through security services physically keeping tabs on their movements or monitoring emails, phone calls and social media. As authors have made clear in this collection, this monitoring takes place not only on public sites such as Youtube and semi-private social media such as Facebook, through which dissidents share information, but also through private, nominally secure communications systems such as Skype, an example being the cases of Uzbek nationals Kudrat Rasulov and Fazliddin Zayniddinov whose Skype conversation transcripts were produced in court as evidence against them[18]. Furthermore, the Kazakhstani security services are believed to have used professionally produced spyware to target opposition figures based in the West, such as the publishers of the Respublica newspaper[19].   The use of Russian-style System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM) systems for monitoring internet and telecommunications installed directly into telecommunication companies’ networks[20] appear to be being augmented in a number of countries by Western technology to access online systems based outside the region. According to Privacy International, a number of Western and Israeli companies are providing the technology that underpins these monitoring operations with Trovicor Intelligence Solutions from Germany (and formerly Siemens) believed to be potentially providing services to Tajikistan and both the Israeli-based NICE systems and the Israel branch of US firm Verint International are known to provide monitoring services to both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan[21].   The behaviour of the West more broadly in terms of internet surveillance, such as the US PRISM system uncovered by Edward Snowden that requires internet companies to provide access to user data[22], undermines the ability to challenge regimes in the region about the use of mass surveillance to put pressure on dissidents. However, this is not the only area where Western practice has perhaps undermined its ability to push for reform. The Bush administrations’ extraordinary rendition programme in the mid-2000s can be seen as providing a permission framework for kidnapping and other forms of illegal rendition that take place within the region. There is some evidence that the US transferred dozens of prisoners to Uzbekistan in the 2000s, for detention and interrogation, despite the widespread use of torture[23]. What is also clearly the case is that, prior to the 2005 Andijan massacre, and to a lesser extent afterwards, the US and its allies cooperated with the security services and military of Uzbekistan, in support of activities around Afghanistan, and helped support Tashkent’s internal narratives around the threat posed by the IMU and other terrorist groups that have been used as a pretext for far wider crackdowns against opposition and religious voices[24]. Cooperation has included the transfer of military vehicles following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, along with equipment and training for customs and border officials[25]. The EU as well has invested significant resources into funding and training the sections of Central Asian security services involved in border management and counter-narcotics through the Border Management in Central Asia (BOMCA) programme, while the OSCE has been involved in attempts at police reform in Tajikistan[26]. The omens from the impending arrival of President Trump are not promising in terms of exerting a positive influence in such matters, with claimed plans to reintroduce extra-legal measures including torture in the fight against terrorism and a further deprioritising of human rights in US foreign policy. This is to be set alongside an increasingly inward-focused EU and a UK absorbed by the post-Brexit trade and political environment.   As discussed in this essay collection and previous FPC publications[27], the INTERPOL Red Notice system is used as a method to make life difficult to exiles by restricting travel to third countries and putting them at potential risk of extradition proceedings, particularly if they do not have refugee status. While recent work by Fair Trials International[28] suggests that under new leadership INTERPOL is looking to reduce the number of politically motivated Red Notices[29] that are being issued, there is still more work to do. For example, as John Heathershaw et al explain, the August 2016 case of Tajik opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri[30] shows there are still serious cases where authoritarian regimes are able to use the INTERPOL system to harass their opponents abroad, even when the chances of extradition from Western countries remains limited to non-existent. It is of further concern that the reforming efforts of Secretary General Jürgen Stock may now be undermined by the appointment of former Chinese Vice-Minister for Public Security Meng Hongwei as the organisation’s President[31].   What our authors say   Dr Mark Galeotti argues that as Vladimir Putin seeks to assert Moscow’s hegemonic authority over post-Soviet Eurasia, one instrument at his disposal has been to offer repressive regimes the opportunity to target dissidents in Russia and also the assistance of his formidable intelligence agencies abroad, building on historic Soviet era links. Thus, Moscow has helped not only monitor and harass opposition activists in Europe in particular, it also appears to have assisted in at least some assassinations. However, this kind of collaborative repression appears to win lasting support only from the most toxic of regimes, and thus the long term value of what he dubs the ‘RepressIntern’ appears limited.   Civil Rights Defenders write that Chechens who run afoul of the Russian republic's autocratic leader Ramzan Kadyrov find there are few places where his security forces cannot reach them. Kadyrov uses both traditional strong-arm tactics and electronic surveillance to keep tabs on Chechen refugees, economic migrants, journalists, and political exiles from the Middle East to Vienna and Strasbourg. Those accused of committing real or imagined crimes against the state - as well as their friends and families - find that international borders are not significant impediments to Kadyrov's ability to terrorise, torture and murder Chechens with seeming impunity. The author of this piece is a Chechen human rights activist living abroad. They are writing anonymously, with support from Civil Rights Defenders for their and their family’s safety.   Dr John Heathershaw, Rosa Brown and Eve Bishop introduce the University of Exeter’s Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database project, which details 125 cases of extra-territorial security measures being used against political exiles from the five Central Asian republics. Their data demonstrates that the concentration of cases come from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (95 of the 125 in total). They draw attention to how informal measures, such as intimidation, take place alongside formal measures of charges, notices, arrests and renditions across three distinct ‘stages’ of extra-territorial security. The data show an increasing number of these cases, driven partly by Tajikistan’s extensive campaign against its secular and religious opposition. While many cases take place within the post-Soviet space, a significant minority occur in EU states, including cases of attempted assassination and suspicious death. Certain patterns are discernible for exiles as they move along the three stages of extra-territorial security pressure from being put on notice/surveilled (stage one), to arrests or other forms of detention (stage two) to ultimately attempted rendition or physical attack (stage 3). For example, a repeated practice in Russia from stage 2 to stage 3 is to detain and release a Central Asian exile who then disappears for some time before lawyers and relatives finally discover that the exile is in custody in his/her home country. This pattern suggests a high degree of coordination between Central Asian and Russian security services which collaborate in illegal security measures.   Dr Edward Lemon examines the ways in which the security services of Tajikistan have operated beyond state borders, primarily in Russia and Turkey, attacking, intimidating, monitoring, kidnapping and assassinating opposition members in exile. Such incidences have increased dramatically in recent years as the government has outlawed opposition movements, most notably Group 24 and the Islamic Renaissance Party, forcing members to leave the country. This opposition in exile poses a limited threat to the regime of Emomali Rahmon. But returning activists to face trial in Tajikistan has become a priority for the government. Lemon profiles those who have been targeted, looks at the tactics adopted by the authoritarian Tajik regime and examines the ways those targeted have been able to use the legal system to resist being forcibly returned.   Nadejda Atayeva’s  analysis illustrates how the government of an oppressive country, in this case Uzbekistan, uses an ever more aggressive variety of methods to muzzle civil society activists abroad and how it abuses the Western open sources, social media, and INTERPOL mechanism to track down activists, migrant workers, and other groups of citizens who have spent over three months abroad. Based on these observations, she insists that there is an urgent need to carry out reforms in the systems of the UNHCR and the INTERPOL to tackle their misuse as well as ensuring greater protection of personal data of activists abroad.   Arzu Geybulla argues that if threats, intimidation and persecution of political activists and journalists at home were not already enough, these men and women often continue to face threats even after leaving their home countries. In most of these cases leaving persecution behind by fleeing the home country becomes a relative concept, as the secret service apparatus, in most if not all of the former Soviet Union states, continues to use measures and methods to keep dissidents on high alert and in fear of imminent danger to their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are just a few of the countries whose political émigrés continue to face persecution and even murder when abroad.   Giorgi Gogia writes that Azerbaijan wages a vicious crackdown on critics and dissenting voices by arresting and prosecuting human rights defenders, youth activists, critical journalists and opposition political activists, as well as by adopting laws and regulations restricting the work of independent groups and their ability to secure funding. The Azerbaijani authorities have also arrested, prosecuted, and harassed activists’ family members with the apparent aim of compelling the activists to stop their work. The authorities have often targeted the relatives of outspoken journalists and activists who have fled abroad out of fear of persecution and continued their vocal activism in exile. In some cases, relatives in Azerbaijan have publicly disowned or renounced their relationships with their close relatives abroad, possibly as a means to avoid retaliation by the authorities for their relatives’ vocal criticism.   [1] Some of whom may indeed be seeking to violently replace their home government. Terrorism poses a real threat to Central Asian states but it is one that is exaggerated for regime purposes. [2] Adam Hug (e.d.) Shelter from the Storm, Foreign Policy Centre, April 2014, The asylum, refuge and extradition situation facing activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe, [3] Along with bilateral agreements between members on work permits [4] CIS, Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters, 1993, [5] Adam Hug (e.d.) Sharing Worst Practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, May 2016, [6], Agreement on CSTO member states' special services training enters into force, December 2009, [7] See for example and [8] Kadyrov currently has over 2 million followers on Instagram [9] BBC News, Russia passes law to overrule European human rights court, December 2015, [10] Fergana News, Uzbek citizen Yusup Kasymahunov kidnapped in Russia, December 2012, v. Russia, Application no. 1248/09, Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights,8 July 2010,,50ffbce40,50ffbce45a,4c3716732,0,ECHR,,.html ; Elena Ryabinina, Refugees in Russia: Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?, March 2013, [11] Edward Lemon, The long arm of the despot, February 2016, The IRPT are a gradualist group that does not officially support the overthrow of the regime, although Group 24 do. [12] Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism, June 2001, via the Council on Foreign Relations, [13] Yan Matusevich, The Quiet Tajik Refugee Crisis, The Diplomat, August 2016, [14] For reasons of transparency it should be noted that in 2010 the FPC hosted a public seminar with Ablyasov, whilst members of the Respublica newspaper including Muratbek Ketebayev supported the Kazakhstan at a Crossroads project that ran from 2009-2011. [15] BBC News, Kazakh dissident Ablyazov's family allowed back in Italy, December 2013, [16] Jim Armitage, Mukhtar Ablyazov: Kazakh billionaire to be extradited to Russia from France, The Independent, October 2015, [17] Jos Boonstra, Erica Marat and Vera Axyonova, Security Sector Reform in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: What Role for Europe?, May 2013, [18] Edin Omanovic and Mari Bastashevski, Private Interests: Monitoring Central Asia, Privacy International, November 2014, [19] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Said To Be Hacking, Spying On Dissidents, August 2016, [20] Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan show that Ukraine under Yanukovych had access to a SORM system in their book The Red Web, 2015 Public Affairs Books. Privacy International show that Uzbekistan also operates a SORM system, The Right to Privacy in Uzbekistan, July 2015, [21] Edin Omanovic and Mari Bastashevski, Private Interests: Monitoring Central Asia, Privacy International, November 2014, [22] Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others, June 2013, The UK’s GCHQ is also believed to have undertaken similar work. [23] Don Van Natta Jr, U.S. Recruits a Rough Ally to Be a Jailer?, New York Times, May 2005, See also the Open Society Justice Initiative, Globalising Torture, February 2013, [24] Reid Standish, Where the War on Terror Lives Forever, [25] AsiaBizNews, Uzbekistan Gets Equipment for Customs Police Training, [26] Jos Boonstra, Erica Marat and Vera Axyonova, Security Sector Reform in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: What Role for Europe?, May 2013, [27] Adam Hug (e.d.) Shelter from the Storm, Foreign Policy Centre, April 2014, The asylum, refuge and extradition situation facing activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe, [28] See Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, Foreign Policy Centre,  February 2016, [29] Red Notices act to seek the location and arrest of a person wanted by a judicial jurisdiction or an international tribunal with a view to his/her extradition. [30] Asia Plus, Tajikistan conducts negotiations with Interpol member nations over extradition of IRPT leader, July 2016, [31] Benjamin Hass, New Interpol head is Chinese former deputy head of paramilitary police force, The Guardian, November 2016, [post_title] => No Shelter Introduction: The harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => no-shelter-introduction-harassment-activists-abroad-intelligence-services-former-soviet-union [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 10:58:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 10:58:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2313 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 11:00:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 11:00:53 [post_content] => This publication has shown in significant detail how repressive regimes from the former Soviet Union, most notably Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan operate outside their borders to challenge dissenting voices. The security services from the former Soviet Union are adept at using the language of terrorism and state security to restrict the activities of their political opponents, triggering both formal cooperation agreements within the region and the longstanding personal networks between security service leaders, ‘the RepressIntern’ as Galeotti puts it, to put pressure on the opponents of fellow repressive regimes. They are particularly adept at operating within diaspora communities in Russia, Turkey and across Europe.   International policy makers should be clear that the targeting of exiles by their home regimes is a regular occurrence and an issue that needs specific attention. While both the migrant crisis and increased backlash against immigration create challenges for Western policy makers, more needs to be done to provide the protection that many exiles require. This involves Western security services playing a more active role in monitoring the activities of former Soviet security services on their soil, particularly within diaspora communities. Where possible this should include being aware of and responding to attempts by foreign security services to hack into the emails, telecommunications and social media of exiles from the former Soviet Union in order to help protect activists’ personal data and thereby help protect them, their families and associates from harm.   Western courts and immigration systems need to continue to be vigilant to resist extradition attempts that would expose individuals from the former Soviet Union to the risk of torture, unfair trial and imprisonment or worse upon their return. This clearly applies to overtly political cases but also to cases where allegations of radicalisation are involved, given the propensity of Central Asian and other regimes to use this issue as cover for targeting political opponents. Based on the information provided by Nadejda Atayeva in this collection, there would seem to be a case to look at halting deportations to Uzbekistan, even in cases where there is no direct link to political activity, given the risk that those returning may be harassed or forced into giving false evidence. The case for reform of INTERPOL to stop Red Notices being used as a tool to target regime opponents abroad remains an important concern, despite recent progress, noting in particular the recent case of Tajik opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri.   There is little sign that post-Soviet regimes who are exporting repression through the use of their security services abroad are paying a political or economic price for their actions. The approval in November 2016 of the long-delayed Uzbekistan Textiles deal by the European Parliament Trade Committee does not seem to show that any penalties are being levied on Uzbekistan for the behaviour described in this publication or elsewhere. The full European Parliament still has the opportunity to hold Uzbekistan to account by rejecting the current deal when it meets in December 2016[1]. Similarly, EU member states seem so far to be ratifying the planned EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement while talks continue for a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Azerbaijan. From this author’s perspective it makes little sense to approve trade enhancements with regimes who are actively harassing their political opponents on European soil, in addition to their repression at home[2].   Recommendations for Western policy makers
  • Continue to reform the Interpol Red Notice system to avoid the system being used to harass exiled dissidents
  • Remain vigilant to politicised extradition attempts and the need to preserve the principle of non-refoulement
  • Consider halting deportations of Uzbek nationals given reports of the persecution of non-political exiles upon their return
  • Further investigate, through Western security services, the networks of informants and agents that operate on behalf of the security services of the former Soviet Union in European countries with sizeable Central Asian diasporas, such as Poland and Germany.
  • Support exiles who are facing hacking and attempts to steal personal information
  • Ensure that surveillance equipment, software and technical support are subject to export controls and are not provided by Western firms to repressive regimes in the former Soviet Union
  • Suspend plans to upgrade trade and diplomatic arrangements with those states known to target activists in exile
  [1] Reuters, EU lawmakers back Uzbekistan trade deal opposed by anti-slavery activists, November 2016, [2] For more please see Institutionally Blind: International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, February 2016, [post_title] => No Shelter: Conclusion and Recommendations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => no-shelter-conclusion-recommendations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 11:59:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 11:59:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2317 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 10:55:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 10:55:49 [post_content] => The findings of Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression highlight the clear similarities in the types of repressive practices being undertaken by countries across the former Soviet Union. First and foremost this is a function of the nature of their domestic political systems, whether they be authoritarian, semi-authoritarian or troubled democracies, they all feature ruling elites keen to maintain their position of political dominance. Shared concerns, from popular protest and current economic weakness to the age of the regime leaders are at the heart of encouraging similar legislation and forms of repression across the region. The expert contributors to the publication agree that the current situation in the region combines a mix of different influences: Russian and other neighbouring countries’ encouragement to draft repressive legislation (either through bilateral diplomacy or supported by regional instructions), the autonomous emulation of worst practice (building on both regional and global trends) or self-generated bad practice (building on their Soviet legacy and current authoritarian systems). The balance of this mix differs in each country in the region depending on local circumstances and their strategic outlook.   Russia is not the author of all the repressive legislation in the region but it has significant direct influence and helps shape and promote an emerging conservative regional values agenda, alongside what David Lewis describes as the ‘Moscow Consensus’ of a strong commitment to state sovereignty that is attractive to repressive regimes. Russia’s approach mimics Western structures and techniques but combines them with anti-Western discourse, deep media manipulation, management of civil society and a fusion of the political and economic elite, often through the families of the President or senior ministers. Russia promotes these ideas effectively through its significant regional Russian media penetration and through proxy groups, from NGOs to the Orthodox Church, promoting a conservative, traditional values-agenda that it argues is more in keeping with the history and culture of the region, than Western alternatives.   Though there may be some encouragement for repressive action through regional institutions and bilateral diplomacy, regimes in the region will seek ideas for legislation and practice that help sustain their political and structural control, templates of which are willingly provided by Russia and other countries in the region. For example, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan need no direction from Russia or indeed China to clamp down on dissent but remain open to new methods of how to do so. For the most part regional institutions act to reinforce the status quo, promoting authoritarian cultural norms rather than developing rules-based systems, echoing their domestic political environments where informal power structures have influence far in excess of codified law and formal procedures. Such structures reinforce and expand the primacy of national sovereignty narratives and frame challenges to a regime as a threat to sovereignty and independence of the country.   So while there is some ‘sharing of worst practice’ amongst the countries of the former Soviet Union, for the most part it is authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes informally collaborating and perhaps more importantly learning from each other about methods that can help them consolidate their own power, that are primarily driving the spate of similar looking repressive legislation and practice that spreading across the region. [post_title] => Sharing Worst Practice Executive Summary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sharing-worst-practice-executive-summary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 11:04:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 11:04:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [14] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2319 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 10:50:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 10:50:21 [post_content] => Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression examines the extent to which governments across the former Soviet Union (FSU) collaborate in the development of repressive practices that underpin their rule. It looks at the development of ‘copycat’ legislation and behaviour within the region, examining to what extent this is the result of direct collaboration, independent emulation of such restrictive practices and where such actions are extensions of past poor practice within a particular country.   Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, some states made tentative steps to open up their societies in the early 90s, others such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan never even began down that path.[1] Of those who did initially seek to move away from the Soviet authoritarian model, a number were plunged into civil conflict out of which arose more restrictive forms of Governments (such as in Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia). The 2000s brought what were described as colour revolutions to Georgia (Rose Revolution, 2003), Ukraine (Orange Revolution, 2004/5) and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip Revolution, 2005), bringing to power pro-Western governments in Tbilisi and Kiev. The growing repressive streak in the Georgian government under Saakashvili saw it removed in elections in 2012, while in Ukraine the failings of the Orange Revolution leadership (and of the West) paved the way for the victory in 2010 of their 2004 opponent Viktor Yanukovych and his subsequent ousting in 2014 following the Maidan protests. Put simply, across the region beyond the Baltic states, there has been no consistent progress towards reform in those that have undergone political change, and the recent region-wide trends have been far from positive.   After the chaos of the 1990s, the region has seen the rise of a resurgent Russia seeking to restore its regional influence and dominance, the waxing and waning of US influence in Central Asia in response to the war in Afghanistan, and China making rapid economic and tentative political gains particularly in Central Asia, while the EU has been expanding its offer of partial integration, through the development of its neighbourhood policy - the Eastern Partnership. The influence of these external actors is an important part of this publication, examining the extent to which the promotion of the values agenda of these major powers shapes political and legislative agendas in the region.   Russia: Role model or ringleader? Russia, once imperial master and dominant Soviet partner for the states of the region, continues to loom large across the human rights landscape. Through its leadership role in regional institutions and its often strong bilateral links, including security service and judicial collaboration, it plays a significant part in the promotion of practices that undermine human rights. Russia’s role as the primary export market and source of remittances from migrant workers for many in the region, combined with its role as security guarantor through the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) provides it with considerable in-built leverage. Russian media and websites have significant penetration across the region, promoting Moscow’s news agenda and socially conservative cultural attitudes. Russian soft power is further projected through think-tanks and NGOs in receipt of Russian funding, assisted by local law makers with strong ties to Russia[2] and in a number of countries through the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Russia proactively promotes the twin themes of Russkiy Mir (Russian World), a project of linguistic and cultural values projection, and the concept of ‘sovereign democracy’, providing attempts at ideological depth to its support of existing regimes and opposition to Western engagement, in what it sees as its ‘near abroad’ or sphere of influence. This use of soft-power helps set a political tone rather than directs a specific course of action.   Russia continues to play the lead role in a range of post-Soviet successor agreements including the CIS, whose Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters[3] provides a legal framework for cooperation between security services facilitating potential abuses in extradition and other areas[4] and the CSTO. These regional bodies, as with the SCO discussed below, for the most part do not seek to bind or determine the activities of member states. However, at a political level they provide a forum for sharing and entrenching shared approaches to issues of security, governance and human rights, while at a technical and practitioner level, meetings held under the auspices of these groups provide opportunities for bureaucrats and security officials to meet and exchange ideas. These bodies seek to influence rather than direct, and for the most part they entrench and strengthen existing behaviours by the regimes of the region.   The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is rapidly emerging as Russia’s preferred mechanism for promoting regional integration under its terms. It is a project with considerable Russian political momentum and a more ambitious scope perhaps than previous agreements. While nominally economic in character, the greater the potential integration in one area, the greater the scope for informal influence and pressure in other areas. For example, Russia is believed to be putting pressure on Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to implement restrictions on internet freedom in line with Russian practice.   While Soviet nostalgia may persist, as Eka Iakobishvili notes a desire for the certainties of such rule remains notable amongst older generations particularly in Central Asia, this does not translate into a meaningful desire to subsume their newly regained (or created) national identities entirely into a Russian-led regional project. The regimes of the region for the most part value their independence, if not for anything else than for their ability to independently generate rents from local control without direct Russian competition. It has been notable however, that non-Russian EEU members have recently been trying to revive diplomatic ties with the EU and US to try to counter-balance Russian influence and maintain their independence and strategic room for manoeuvre. Kazakhstan, perhaps the second most powerful state within the EEU, is particularly wary of attempts to impinge on its international freedom of action and, with a sizable Russian minority and internal concerns over Russian media penetration for example, it has reasons to be watchful.[5] It is perhaps unsurprising that December 2015 saw Kazakhstan agree an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU.[6] It is not alone, Armenia has revived its talks with the EU over visas and other cooperation, Kyrgyzstan has amended or withdrawn Russian inspired legislation and even Belarus has sought to defy Moscow on sanctions against Ukraine (as the others have), attempted to play peacemaker (hosting the Minsk Agreements) and negotiating the end of most EU sanctions following dialogue and political prisoner releases.[7]   While this publication examines a broad range of themes, two notable trends have been seen across the region in recent years: increasing pressure on NGOs and particular restrictions on LGBTI rights activists. While in both cases these issues are building on pre-existing political and cultural norms, they are both in part taking inspiration from recent Russian legislative developments.   NGO legislation The rash of new anti-NGO legislation may have gained its momentum from the regional regimes’ responses to the events of the Arab Spring, the 2012 Russian Presidential Elections and the Maidan protests in Ukraine. However, new legislative efforts re-building on a firm bedrock of restrictive practices against NGOs across the region going back to the Soviet period, in a number of cases strengthened in the mid-2000s following the series of ‘colour’ revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Informal bureaucratic barriers to NGO registration and management have existed for a considerably longer, with regime critical groups often waiting months or years for basic bureaucratic tasks to be completed by government officials. However, whereas previously in several countries NGOs that were being informally blocked from official registration could operate on an unregistered basis, not receiving taxation or other benefits of registered status but operating legally, recent legislation as explored by Kate Levine, has sought to close down this work-around, requiring the registration of all significant payments irrespective of official status.   The use, or attempted use, of the Soviet-era term ‘foreign agent’ as part of civil society restriction attempts has its genesis in Russia, whose 2012 legislation, as examined in a number of the contributions contained herein, set down a firm marker against civil society groups receiving foreign funding. [8] The framing of human rights NGOs as political tools of Western powers seeking to undermine the independence of sovereign states is neither new nor restricted to this region, though both the Soviet legacy and Russian-promoted narratives bolster the influence of such thinking. As David Lewis points out, the extended essay by Azerbaijani Presidential Administration chief Ramiz Mehdiyev attacking Western, most notably US, NGOs as a threat to national sovereignty in 2014 is illustrative.[9] Mehdiyev is a Russia sympathetic voice within the Azerbaijani elite, but part of an administration seeking balanced relations with both Moscow and the West which jealously guards its own independence and control, a veteran of the Soviet-era practice but with new reasons to fear the influence of independent civil society groups undermining the regime.   Across the region a mixture of relative societal poverty, the link between the wealth of individuals and proximity to the regime and the often extreme pressure preventing potential donors or sponsors from working with regime-critical NGOs provides a formidably tough environment for NGOs to find alternative sources of local funding. Developing methods of blocking or restricting foreign funding and unregistered NGOs makes it very difficult for them to survive financially and may place activists in ambiguous legal positions as they search for alternative routes to funding, putting them at risk of prosecution.   LGBTI rights Across the region there have been attempts to promote legislation restricting the ability of LGBTI activists, or indeed ordinary citizens, to discuss issues related to homosexuality, framing it in terms of the protection of children.[10] As Melissa Hooper explains, the Russian Federal law ‘for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values’ adopted in 2013, followed years of local efforts at similar regulations and forms the template for similar, so far failed or pending, legislative attempts in Armenia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.[11] Not only would such legislation significantly restrict public education, it is designed to prevent discussion of LGBTI issues in wider society because all freely available media and public platforms could potentially be accessed by minors.   While homosexuality was in legalised in a number of states during the 1990s and early 2000s, this was often in part as a result of preparations for (or conditions of) membership of the Council of Europe, or other international pressure, rather than a deep-rooted domestic desire for reform. Male homosexuality remains illegal in long-standing pariah countries Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Culturally conservative and homophobic attitudes are an ingrained part of the social fabric across much of the region, providing fertile ground for socially conservative values promotion. For example, in a 2011 Caucasus Barometer survey, 96% of Armenians, 87% of Georgians and 84% of Azerbaijanis stated that ‘homosexuality can never be justified’, with little to no variation by age group.[12] LGBTI matters provide a perfect cultural ‘wedge’ issue for Russian television and other institutions, contrasting ‘traditional’ Russia with a decadent West. While basic anti-discrimination legislation has been part of EU requirements for visa liberalisation, Russian-led propaganda has promoted the idea that Eastern Partnership Countries would be required to adopt same-sex marriage, despite equal marriage being legal in only 11 EU member states. Recent attempts to crack down on LGBTI rights and groups represents both sharing and already shared worst practice.   Western worst practice It is not only the countries of the region that are complicit in the development and spread of bad ideas and behaviour. The first publication in the FPC Exporting Repression series, Institutionally Blind: International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, addressed some of the ways in which Western politicians and institutions collude in downplaying human rights abuses in FSU.[13] It also looked at the ways in which Western indifference or opposition to international human rights institutions, such as the long-running British debate over its continued membership of the European Convention on Human Rights, helps influence narratives rejecting restrictions on ‘sovereignty’.[14] Similarly, some of the increasingly sophisticated public relations and communications strategies deployed by regimes in the region are often learnt from or organised in the West, the subject of an upcoming publication in the series entitled The Information Battle. In this publication, Melissa Hooper explores the role played by the US-based religious right in the promotion of Russian initiatives restricting LGBTI rights in the region. However, it is worth noting in addition that, in the security sphere Western actors, most notably the US, played a direct and significant part in sharing worst practice in the period after 9/11.   In his 2014 book Great Games, Local Rules, Alexander Cooley documents how Uzbekistan was used in the mid-2000s as a hub for the interrogation and, in all likelihood, torture of terrorist suspects in the custody of the CIA and other US intelligence agencies.[15] Detainees suspected of involvement in terrorism may also have been rendered to Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and other states. That US intelligence agencies were willing to flout the principle of non-refoulement in the mid-2000s does make it significantly harder for Western voices, even those in no way involved in the practice, to be taken as sincere by governments in the region when challenging cases of detainee transfer and the kidnapping of activists back to countries suspected of torture, or indeed the practice of torture itself.[16]   The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and state security As Western influence on the security landscape fades in the wake of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, China’s role continues to develop. In his contribution to this collection, Thomas Ambrosio points out that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) provides a mechanism for encouraging cooperation between the two authoritarian big-beasts, Russia and China, concerning influence in Central Asia, where China’s rapidly growing economic involvement has the potential to create competition with Russia. However, both the major powers share a similar approach to tackling threats to their political control, whether that be from peaceful opposition or extremist violence, often seeking to elide the two concepts. As a number of authors explain in this publication, security legislation is often used to pressure NGOs and activists, particularly those representing minority groups or pious (but non-violent) religious communities. The national security and stability rationale is also used to underpin the restrictions on NGO funding from the West, particularly in the wake of events in Ukraine as the Russian government’s argument is that these events were driven by NGOs funded by Western security services, as noted by Levine and others.   The structural approach to law of the SCO embeds the primacy of national sovereignty over internal rules and norms. As Cooley noted, while the US in the Bush era sought ways to circumvent international law when dealing with prisoners of war from non-state actors (‘enemy combatants’) and other prisoners in the ‘War on Terror’, China and Russia through the SCO have sought to override such obligations by formally placing state (and regime) security concerns above any formal rights requirements through regional treaties that aim to override UN and other obligations.   Ambrosio examines the impact of the organisation’s agreements, such as the Convention on the ‘three evils’ of terrorism, separatism and extremism on the regional order and the role of its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) that works under considerable secrecy to coordinate and strengthen national security services.[17] The SCO structures are light on bureaucratic depth and, as a regional organisation designed to help resist efforts to undermine national sovereignty/hold regimes accountable for breaches of human rights best practice, the level of sovereignty pooling is limited to non-existent. This ‘national first’ approach is evident, for example in their approach to online freedom. At the 2014 SCO Summit in Danshube its members strengthened their approach to restricting online access with the declaration stating that internet governance should be based on the principle of respect ‘for national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. ’[18] The stated aim would be ‘preventing the use of information and communications technologies which intend to undermine the political, economic and public safety and stability of the Member States, as well as the universal moral foundations of social life, in order to stop the promotion of the ideas of terrorism, extremism, separatism, radicalism, fascism and chauvinism by the use of the Internet’. To do this they would ‘support the development of universal rules’, only of course if such rules enshrined the right of states to police internet access as they wish, for their own benefit.   This publication brings together a range of different international experts to assess the different areas of authoritarian collaboration and learning that help to shape repressive behaviours in the region. What our authors say David Lewis argues that across the former Soviet Union, a new type of authoritarianism has become the default political system. From Azerbaijan to Tajikistan, political development in most post-Soviet states reflects a ‘Moscow Consensus’, a set of ideas and principles that underpin a particular regional form of authoritarianism. Although these regimes mimic liberal ideas such as civil society and democratic elections, in practice they are highly concentrated authoritarian systems, centred on a single leader. ‘Political technologists’ construct narratives to legitimise the system, while intelligence and security agencies constrain any independent journalism or political activism. Politics and business are fused into a single system of power that ensures control over any independent entrepreneurs and enrichment for a small elite. These states insist on their own sovereignty, but rely on offshore companies to manage personal wealth, and use Interpol and foreign courts to track down opponents in exile. So far, such regimes have been remarkably resilient, partly because democratic initiatives in the region have failed to offer a convincing alternative. But as the economic model of the Moscow Consensus comes under strain, unresolved social and political problems are likely to become an increasing challenge for governments in Eurasia.   Eka Iakobishvili discusses how countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression. She uses the example of the ‘NGO law’ to demonstrate how totalitarian regimes in former Soviet countries share worst practices whilst trying to maintain their power. Eka argues that the closer the ties former Soviet countries have maintained with the Russian Federation, the stronger the political influence has been. Moreover, Eka goes beyond the current legal and political discourse to suggest that historical understandings of the shared history of law-making in post-Soviet countries is important when studying the post-Soviet legal culture and the ways in which ‘friendly experience-sharing’ takes place. Though keen for a change from the early stages, the crisis of seeking an identity has haunted these nations with civil unrests, dictatorial regimes and widespread social nihilism fuelled by corruption and disrespect for the rule of law. Russia’s attempts to retain control over the former Soviet states goes hand in hand with the creation of a number of regional bodies aimed at promoting economic growth and maintaining security in the region. This is also combined with a shared interest in curbing civil society and muting the opinions of dissenters as a way of maintaining power. Eka argues that all these together, as well as Russia’s continued support for some of the most fragile countries in Central Asia, aligned with longing for the certainties of Soviet rule, and most importantly, the shared practice of law, make it easy for laws to travel and for worst practices to be shared.   Joanna Hoare and Maisy Weicherding write that NGOs in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have faced an increasingly hostile environment over the last two years. This is due in part to authorities in these countries adopting tactics borrowed from Russia, namely a combination of concerted efforts to smear and delegitimise NGOs as ‘foreign agents’, legislation designed to control and restrict their activities and sources of funding, and the punitive use of tax and other bureaucratic inspections. That said, to get the full picture as to why civic space in these countries is shrinking, it is important to look beyond Russia’s influence.   Melissa Hooper writes that Russia has begun to incorporate a ‘traditional values’ agenda as part of its foreign policy platform. Coinciding with policy developments within Russia, it has pushed other nations to enact laws restricting the rights of LGBT persons, limiting information available to minors about ‘non-traditional relationships’, and protecting the rights of parents over their children.  We see evidence of this pressure on the borders of the EU (Armenia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia), where governments must decide whether to ally themselves with the values of democracy and individual rights and accept support from the EU, or implement policies that limit LGBT rights and Western influence in the name of protecting the ‘traditional family’. Russian messaging has exacerbated this divide by describing it as a ‘culture war’ between traditional values protected by Russia and the EU’s ‘Gayropa, where foreign policy centers on hedonistic policies that prioritise gay marriage. So far, all of these countries have rejected propaganda laws put forward in late 2012 and 2013, immediately after Russia passed its own law. Some specifically did so in order to obtain funding from the EU. However, opportunities still exist in this region for Russian influence and ‘traditional family values’ to take hold – especially in Georgia and Ukraine where local orthodox churches wield great political power – like the Russian Orthodox Church – and themselves advocate for these policies, and especially where Russian language media holds sway. In Central Asia, especially Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the combination of a conservative society and a reliance on Russian language media, has led governments to seriously consider propaganda laws and other Russian-style policies. Playing into Russian foreign policy priorities is the historical notion of Russkiy Mir, or the unification of the Russian-speaking world under Russia.  Factors contributing to and supporting Russian leadership in the traditional values sphere are Russia’s control of content in Russian language media and the development of relationships between Russian political conservatives and the Russian Orthodox Church and conservative politicians and religious figures in the West, especially the United States.   Kate Levine argues that the ability of civil society organisations to seek, secure and use resources, including foreign funding, is a fundamental component of their right to exist and effectively operate. International human rights bodies have affirmed this right. However, in recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the number of states seeking to use the law to severely limit access to foreign funding for NGOs. Evidence of this trend has been documented globally, as well as in the former Soviet Union. This article focuses on repressive laws designed to restrict access to foreign funding and ultimately stifle the work of independent civil society in Russia and Azerbaijan, and attempts to introduce similar provisions in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The implementation of these laws has made it significantly more difficult for local human rights NGOs to survive, and has required them to divert valuable time and resources away from their core work of protecting human rights. Further, some foreign donors have either been banned from operating locally, or have chosen to withdraw for fear of being found to violate the repressive national legal framework. This article highlights some of the consequences of these laws, the reactions of some of the affected NGOs and international organisations, and considers the possible motives of the states concerned.   Katie Morris argues that freedom of expression is in decline in most states of the former Soviet Union, although the extent and focus of repression differs according to country. The Ukraine crisis precipitated a renewed assault on freedom of expression: having already brought traditional media to heel, authoritarian leaders are now focusing on extinguishing the few remaining spaces for free expression – particularly the internet, frequently justifying their actions on the grounds of national security. This essay explores how increasingly restrictive legislative environments and the expansion of digital technologies, particularly surveillance, are being used to censor expression. New restrictions do not just target well known journalists or dissidents, but increasingly ordinary people, often expressing themselves online, creating a chilling effect that encourages self-censorship.   Michael Hamilton examines the sharing of bad practices in the legal regulation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in ‘hybrid regimes’ in the former Soviet Union. Whilst noting persistent concerns about the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, and repeated failures to adequately protect assembly participants from violent counter-demonstrators, the essay focuses instead on three recurring characteristics of the legal framework: excessive discretion conferred on regulatory authorities (powers); notification requirements that are tantamount to authorisation requirements (procedures); and the imposition of disproportionate sanctions for relatively minor infractions of the law (penalties). Although there are clearly regional exceptions, the essay argues that there has broadly been a failure to embed the principle of proportionality in the legal framework governing the right to freedom of peaceful assembly (especially in relation to these powers, procedures and penalties). It is suggested that this failure is underpinned by a regulatory mind-set focused primarily on the management and control of assemblies, rather than their facilitation.   Thomas Ambrosio writes that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) purports to be a broad-based international organisation formally tasked with promoting multilateral cooperation within Central Asia. While it has done this by creating institutional links between its members and ensuring that that the region does not become an arena for geopolitical competition between Russia and China, a deeper look at this organisation illustrates that, at a fundamental level, it is dedicated to preserving the political status quo in Central Asia. This essay examines forty-eight SCO documents and utilises social network analysis to depict the legal framework which has emerged since the SCO's formation in 2001. It shows that authoritarian practices are deeply embedded in the core of this framework under the guise of combating the so-called 'Three Evils' of terrorism, separatism and extremism. Consequently, those factors resisting democratisation at the domestic level are reinforced by a non-democratic regional order. [1] The Baltic states, annexed by the Soviets during the Second World War, provide a clear exception to the rule as their transition into broadly stable democracies and EU member states has been so dramatic as to place them outside the scope of this publication. [2] Not that Russia should be restricted from providing support to organizations in the region, simply that appropriate rules on NGOs should apply to both Western and Russian backed organisations equally. It is worth noting that the recent decision to dramatically water down the restrictive provisions from the Kyrgyz anti-NGO legislation took place after its initial proponents, legislators strong Russian links, were not returned in Parliamentary elections . Anna Lelik, Kyrgyzstan: Sting Removed From Foreign Agents Bill, Eurasianet, April 2016, [3] See for example, The Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters, [4] As documented in Adam Hug (ed.), Shelter from the storm?, Foreign Policy Centre, April 2014, [5] Joanna Lillis, Journalists Fret as Russian Media Swamps Kazakhstan, November 2014, [6] Yet to be ratified. [7] For more see Dr Rilka Dragneva and Dr Kataryna Wolczuk, The Eurasian Economic Union - What kind of alternative to the Eastern Partnership, in Adam Hug (ed.), Trouble in the Neighbourhood, Foreign Policy Centre, February 2015, [8] Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Russia’s Foreign Agent law: Violating human rights and attacking civil society, June 2014, [9] Contact.Az, Mehdiyev Accuses US of ‘Color Revolution’, December 2014, For the full text in Russian visit [10] There are echoes of the 1998-2003 UK legislation ‘Section 28’ which prohibited local authorities, public bodies  and schools from taking measures that would ‘intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’, which though without creating a criminal offense restricted the ability of schools and other organisations debating issues relating to LGBTI issues. The Russian legislation however takes this prohibition to society as a whole rather than just about the use of public money. [11] Human Rights First, Spread of Russian-Style Propaganda Laws, March 2016, EU member state Lithuania is the only state in the wider region to recently pass and maintain such legislation. [12] Caucasus Research Resource Centre, Attitudes towards homosexuality to in the South Caucasus, July 2013, [13] Adam Hug (ed.), Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, Foreign Policy Centre, February 2016, [14] Most recently British Home Secretary Theresa May, a front-runner in the long-race to replace David Cameron as UK Prime Minister, recently called for Britain to leave the convention and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. [15] Alexander Cooley, Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia, January 2014, Oxford University Press. EU member states including the UK were used for over flight and refueling purposes as part of this programme. [16] As documented in the FPC’s 2014 Shelter from the Storm publication. [17] Richard Weitz, Uzbekistan: A Peek Inside an SCO Anti-Terrorism Center [18] INCYDER Information Security Discussed at the Dushanbe Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, October 2014, [post_title] => Introduction: Sharing worst practice in the former Soviet Union [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => introduction-sharing-worst-practice-former-soviet-union [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 11:03:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 11:03:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [15] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2340 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 09:30:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 09:30:57 [post_content] => The findings of this publication show that there are clear similarities in the types of repressive practices being undertaken by countries across the former Soviet Union. First and foremost this is a function of the nature of their domestic political systems, whether they be authoritarian, semi-authoritarian or troubled democracies, they all feature ruling elites with at least some interest in extracting rents for themselves and their allies from their political dominance. Shared concerns from popular protest and current economic weakness to the age of the regime leaders are at the heart of encouraging similar legislation and forms of repression. All contributors to the publication agree that the current situation in the region is a mix of different influences: Russian and other neighbours’ encouragement to draft repressive legislation (either through bilateral diplomacy or supported by regional instructions), the autonomous emulation of worst practice (building on both regional and global trends) or self-generated bad practice (building on their Soviet legacy and current authoritarian systems). The balance differs in each country in the region depending on local circumstances and their strategic outlook.   Russia is not the author of all the repressive legislation in the region but it has significant direct influence and helps shape and promote an emerging conservative regional values agenda, alongside what David Lewis describes as the ‘Moscow Consensus’ of a strong commitment to state sovereignty, that is attractive to repressive regimes. Russia’s approach mimics Western structures and techniques but combines them with anti-Western discourse, deep media manipulation, management of civil society and a fusion of the political and economic elite, often through the families of the President or senior ministers. Russia promotes these ideas effectively through its significant regional Russian media penetration and through proxy groups, from NGOs to the Orthodox Church, promoting a conservative, traditional values agenda that it argues is more in keeping with the history and culture of the region, than Western alternatives.   Though there may be some encouragement for repressive action through regional institutions and bilateral diplomacy, regimes in the region will seek ideas for legislation and practice that help sustain their political and structural control, templates of which are willingly provided by Russia and other countries in the region. For example, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan need no direction from Russia or indeed China to clamp down on dissent but remain open to new methods of how to do so. For the most part regional institutions act to reinforce the status quo, promoting authoritarian cultural norms rather than developing rule based systems, echoing their domestic political environments where informal power structures have influence far in excess of codified law and formal procedures. Such structures reinforce and expand the primacy of national sovereignty narratives and frame challenges to a regime as a threat to the independence of the country.   So while there is some ‘sharing of worst practice’ amongst the countries of the former Soviet Union, both formally through regional institutions and through Russian diplomacy. However it is authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes informally collaborating and perhaps more importantly learning from each other, about methods that can help them consolidate their own power, that are primarily driving the spate of similar looking repressive legislation and practice that spreading across the region. Recommendations for international policy makers and civil society  
  • Strengthen support for creative and flexible funding streams, through organisations such as the European Endowment for Democracy, given the pressures on NGO funding and traditional grant-making under new legislation in the region;
  • Protect the future of Russian and local language broadcasting and web resources by the BBC World Service, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other credible outlets, whilst supporting diaspora media initiatives to facilitate access to independent information and an alternative world view to challenge the ‘Moscow Consensus’;
  • Reach out to a wider pool of organisations, including trade unions in the region, tackling social welfare and migration issues to help build a wider support base for reform in former Soviet societies and to show that donors share local concerns;
  • Incentivise further the compliance (and penalise non-compliance) with UN treaties and with the European Convention on Human Rights, supporting these alternative, pre-existing and more positive legal and values models. States in the region should be further encouraged to invite and facilitate access for UN and Council of Europe Special Rapporteurs and specialist bodies such as the OSCE-ODIHR Assembly Monitoring project. Where their recommendations are implemented this should be rewarded;
  • Reassess and strengthen schemes providing legislative, legal and technical support to governments and institutions in the former Soviet Union. There may be potential for further dialogue at a technocratic level with the, somewhat limited, bureaucratic structures of regional organisations such as the CIS, SCO and the emerging EEU, albeit with little hope of short term success. This must be set in the context of recognising the limits of technical programmes in countries that lack a genuine will to reform. Therefore particular effort should be put into Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova where some political incentive exists to achieve change;
  • Reverse the downgrade of human rights promotion in EU policy towards the former Soviet Union and look at ways to reinvigorate both ‘more for more’ and ‘less for less’ conditionality and the promotion of European soft-power. Ensure new agreements, such as the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Kazakhstan or a possible agreement with Azerbaijan are not ratified without improvements in their human rights situations. Without further compromising on principle, the EU should work to reduce the geo-politicisation of Eurasia’s politics, showing that engagement with the EU and ties with Russia need not be mutually exclusive;
  • Reform European and US behaviour by avoiding complicity in torture and unlawful actions in the fight against terrorism and preventing abuse of shared international institutions. There is a particular need to tackle corruption, money laundering and tax evasion, including the use of Western capitals such as London by post-Soviet elites. Such efforts can help rebuild Western credibility as a positive role model for change and encouraging the sharing of best practice.
[post_title] => Sharing Worst Practice Conclusion: Shared interests, similar practices [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sharing-worst-practice-conclusion-shared-interests-similar-practices [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 12:28:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 12:28:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [16] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 661 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2013-10-25 10:13:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-10-25 10:13:21 [post_content] => The BRICS and the Gulf states have been at the centre of FCO efforts, with concerns on human rights sometimes dialled back to promote business engagement and strategic collaboration, while in a number of embassies staff roles were switched to help deliver the UK’s prosperity agenda. Very clearly domestic political considerations are now shaping relations with the EU, despite the first 18 months of coalition when the FCO managed to keep a lid on some of the main divisions on Europe, with the ‘referendum lock’ the sole bone thrown to the backbenches. Beneath the current political rhetoric and referendum debate, over the last year FCO officials have been working across government to coordinate the politically and diplomatically perilous Balance of Competences Review. The FCO is trying to balance a series of competing tensions. It needs to deliver something that can be used by the Conservatives as part of the intellectual basis for a shopping list of post-2015 renegotiation demands, while not actually delivering such a list in order to maintain Coalition unity. It must placate the governments of other member states who are concerned about the purpose of the review while dodging flack from the centre-right commentariat about perceived institutional pro-European bias. Despite being placed in an unenviable position, early signs are that civil servants are delivering as thoughtful and measured a process as possible that will leave it to the politicians to divine and define the political significance of its findings. Effectively using the still impressive diplomatic arsenal at the FCO’s disposal can make the difference between success and failure. One of the defining differences between Cameron’s relative success in the 2013 EU budget negotiations and his attempted veto in December 2011 (a short-term political success but not a diplomatic one) was that rather than turning up with a negotiating strategy formed at the last minute without a chance to find potential allies, the FCO was able to do its job properly, working with EU partners (most notably the Germans) to forge a common position.   A further manifestation of the Europe debate can be seen in attempts to boost the FCO’s international reach through a tie-up with Canada over co-locating new embassies. This was poorly received by European partners as it was seen to be rejecting the opportunity to work more closely on the diplomatic front with the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS), which has a presence in 59 more non-EU countries than the Canadians, and other member states on consular activity.   Similarly the UK has been very wary about expanding the remit of EEAS into new areas, committed as it is to preventing perceived competence creep. So far the FCO is managing to make its way through a challenging period of cutbacks, including the damaging changes to the World Service, with its capability mostly intact and perhaps its status vis-à-vis DfID increased under the Coalition. But while Europe and the economy dominate the domestic political debate, these demands will shape the actions of the FCO and the practice of UK foreign policy. The original article is available in the House Magazine's Guide to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. [post_title] => FCO in focus [post_excerpt] => The FCO originally seemed destined to be a relative backwater for the Coalition – despite the presence of a Conservative Big Beast in William Hague – with Government priorities clearly focused on the economy and the domestic agenda. To that end, greater impetus has been given to the FCO’s role in supporting British trade promotion efforts. While never far from the minds of any British government, initial scruples around repeating the old ‘batting for Britain’ approach were soon put on the back burner with the Africa Minister turning up early on in Sudan with a trade delegation despite ICC indictments and the similar slightly awkward appearance of David Cameron in post-Arab Spring Cairo with business people in tow. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fco-in-focus [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 14:16:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 14:16:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [17] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 645 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2013-02-14 14:15:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-02-14 14:15:17 [post_content] => This challenging environment not only makes the task of Catherine Ashton's new European External Action Service more difficult - it means it is more necessary than ever to help the EU make an impact on the increasingly crowded world stage. The Foreign Policy Centre paper Europe in the world: can EU foreign policy make an impact? sets out a range of different expert views about how the union's outward looking institutions are faring - and some of the key challenges the EU faces in making a difference in the neighbourhood with its key strategic partners. The two years since the founding of the EEAS have seen the new service get off to a rocky start as it struggled to cope with the logistical challenges of building a cohesive new service out of disparate components in an atmosphere where existing players, such as the European Commission, were keen to ensure they still had a key role to play in external affairs. However, there are signs that the organisational side of the EEAS is now beginning to make some headway as staff and new ways of working begin to bed in. Given the challenging international environment, the EEAS is rightly focusing on how it improves EU performance with strategic partners such as the BRICS and the United States. Here, it needs to balance the differing needs of member states; assisting the national diplomacy of larger countries and helping the smaller ones get on the radar. To do this, it needs to set a limited number of strategic goals for its own work while providing an effective platform to assist national diplomacy. The second key impact area for European foreign policy is in its neighbourhood, both eastern and southern, where it has an opportunity to take a greater lead; particularly where bilateral interest is weak. There is scope for greater emphasis on ensuring agreements are upheld by partner countries, particularly in respect to human rights and democratic values - where the EU needs a more consistent approach. The Lisbon reforms and the development of the EEAS had the key goal of enabling the EU to take swifter and more coordinated international action so that it can punch its weight in the world. While some progress has been made there are two key components to further progress. First, getting all the key elements of the union's machinery facing in the same direction is key. This could mean deepening existing efforts to coordinate activities between the commission and the EEAS, giving Ashton a greater say over the commission's external decision making - particularly in Europe's neighbourhood. A formal deputy for Ashton may also help spread the workload and mute complaints when she cannot be in two places at the same time. The second task is to get all of the member states on the same page. While the idea of certain member states, particularly Britain, giving up their veto over further aspects of foreign policy is unlikely to get very far - developing existing efforts to bring about consensus by cooperation and effective diplomatic work may bear more fruit. Where one or two member states are not onboard with a proposed common foreign and security policy initiative supported by a clear majority of member states, developing the existing powers of abstention may help cut the Gordian knot without resorting to new majority voting powers. Currently a 'constructive abstention' binds the hands of member states not to do anything that might be seen to contradict the EU's actions, creating both a practical problem if member states disagree with the policy and a principal one if they disagree that it is a matter for the union. Developing a form of non-binding abstention, initially on an informal basis prior to any future treaty change, may help avoid always moving at the speed of the slowest member while protecting national sovereignty. Ultimately, as with a number of EU issues, what can make a real difference is continuing to improve the competence - organisational performance – of the union's external-facing activities rather than simply providing Europe with more competences or new powers. If Europe wants to make an impact on the world stage, both member states and EU institutions need to work constructively with the EEAS to help it deliver. This was first published on Public Service Europe [post_title] => The EEAS needs cooperation from member states [post_excerpt] => When leaders first floated the idea of creating a single diplomatic service for the European Union - merging the roles of the member states' foreign affairs chief (the high representative for common foreign and security policy)with the European commissioner for external relations - they were not expecting the turbulent times we live in today. The eurozone crisis, disagreement among member states over the future of the European project and the rapid rise of competing centres of power in the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - and beyond have all somewhat taken the shine off the EU's international prestige. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-eeas-needs-cooperation-from-member-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 14:20:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 14:20:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [18] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 625 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2012-01-04 13:37:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2012-01-04 13:37:51 [post_content] => The UK has a number of on-going goals at the UN, none of which have much chance of an early resolution. For example, expanding the permanent representation on the Security Council to more accurately reflect the global balance of power in the world today rather than that of 1945 has been the policy of successive UK governments. Yet the practical challenges remain as intractable as ever. Adding further nations with veto powers would make an already dysfunctional body almost entirely unworkable. The main alternative, supported by the UK, is creating new (second-class) permanent members, always in the room but without a veto, with the most likely candidates being: India, Brazil, Japan, Germany (the G4 group) and an African seat for which South Africa and Nigeria would compete. Membership for each of those countries would spark a reaction from neighbourhood rivals, some of whom form part of the ‘uniting for consensus group’ opposed to any fundamental reform that cannot command overwhelming support, while the lack of a veto would still rankle. Britain’s sensitivity over its continued membership of the P5 will continue to guide its actions - pushing for reform while resisting attempts to merge the UK and French seats under an EU umbrella, an unthinkable move given Conservative antipathy to the concept of an EU foreign policy, rather than just wildly implausible as before. The Human Rights Council is a much maligned body, noted as often for the dubious human rights credentials of some of its members (voted for by regional neighbours) and its focus on the Israel/ Palestine conflict as its wider contribution to global human rights practice. In a small victory for common sense, Libya was kicked off the council after the conflict broke out this year but this still begs the question what it (and others such as Saudi Arabia) was doing there in the first place. The council’s new(ish) Universal Periodic Review at least gives all member states the chance to cross-examine countries on their human rights records and here the UK can play an important role in pushing for greater direct involvement of the voluntary sector, both within countries under review and internationally. The UK also needs to push for stronger action against those countries that refuse to grant access to the Human Rights Council’s special rapporteurs. The UK can continue to push for wider support of the Responsibility to Protect principles, building on the arguments accepted at the UN in the Libya case, although Russian and Chinese scepticism will continue to limit its broader applicability. The findings of DfID’s recent Multilateral Aid Review effectively articulated an agenda for reform of UN specialised agencies by identifying areas of organisational weakness and explicitly linking funding to performance. This approach has led to the withdrawal of funding from four UN agencies, including the politicised and contentious decision to cease UK funding of the ILO, while two others were put in ‘special measures’. The UN can be an infuriating institution but is an essential one in which Britain has traditionally played an important role. Yet, there is little evidence to suggest there is scope for rapid progress. For example, while political change in the Arab World may lead to new democracies, they are unlikely to be much more supportive of Western-style interventionism than their predecessors. The UK should continue to work diligently behind the scenes to achieve gradual progress. Sadly there is little scope for Britain to successfully spend significant political capital to ‘spearhead’ a major campaign for UN reform. First published in Politics First Magazine Issue 4 ( [post_title] => Should Britain be spearheading a campaign to reform the UN? [post_excerpt] => As the coalition government (at least in its Conservative majority) on balance appears to show a greater preference than its predecessor for bilateral rather than multilateral approaches to international engagement, it is perhaps time for a brief re-appraisal of Britain’s approach and objectives at the largest multilateral grouping of them all, the UN. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => should-britain-be-spearheading-a-campaign-to-reform-the-un [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 15:16:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 15:16:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [19] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 617 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2011-09-08 14:06:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2011-09-08 14:06:21 [post_content] => The recent essay collection, The new British politics and Europe: Conflict or cooperation?, co-published by the Foreign Policy Centre puts forward some ideas in answer to this question. Put simply, the real challenge for pro-Europeans is to address the EU as it is, warts and all, and develop a campaign that seeks to build public understanding and acceptance of the principle of European engagement through persistent, practical examples of how action at an EU level can address problems that are relevant both to people's everyday lives and to the important domestic political issues of the day. To fill the void left by the 2005 collapse of Britain in Europe, what is needed is a pro-European organisation in the same mould as eurosceptic group Open Europe. That would be a dynamic pressure group which is both pragmatic and reformist but which can promote the basic central premise that the EU can be (and often is) a platform for solving transnational issues that matter to Britain, while understanding that Europe isn't the answer in and of itself. Pro-Europeans need to adopt both the same guerrilla warfare tactics used by their opponents and channel the energy of sympathetic bloggers and other independent researchers, giving a sense of energy and drive that has been sorely lacking on the pro-side of the argument in recent years. Amongst some in the wider community of pro-Europeans, there remains a desire for a 'big vehicle' to get behind to mobilise public opinion in a more positive direction. This must stop. In the UK, such a vehicle is not going to come naturally and this desire c lead to a dangerous flirtation with the idea of an 'in or out' referendum, something that would create more heat than light and would be unlikely to settle the issue for any great length of time - an engineered crisis that would risk becoming a real one in today's volatile political environment. Mainstream pro-Europeans must clearly show that they are committed to a Europe of nation states that pragmatically work together to face common problems. The flirtations with federalism by some more ardent europhiles should be knocked on the head. Pro-Europeans must at all times show that they understand that sovereignty and legitimacy flow from the people alone, up to the various tiers of government and that the goal of politicians is to assess the best level at which to manage political issues on behalf of their populaces. Subsidiarity, Subsidiarity, Subsidiarity. Continually complaining about the eurosceptic bias in the print media isn't going to get anyone very far. No matter how effective a pro-European campaign may become, there will always be more negative stories about EU activities than positive ones, and this is not in and of itself linked to the anti-European sentiments of a handful of newspaper proprietors. It is fairly simple; the EU is, in effect, a tier of government. We do not express surprise that press coverage of domestic politics or government action tends to focus on the comparatively few areas of controversy rather than the majority of cases where it goes about its day to day business. To be honest there are few people who are more intrigued by puff pieces than they are by incisive critiques. To place stories about the EU's ability to solve important cross-border challenges, it remains essential to spell out the nature of the problems it is looking to tackle in fairly explicit detail in order to set the scene for how action at a European level might help. The British public is never going to love the EU. Just as with any other level of UK government, there will always be a degree of inherent scepticism about the institution, as befits our national character. So the goal for British pro-Europeans must be to finally gain British public acceptance of the EU as part of the furniture of UK governance, shifting the focus to the content of EU action and where it should do more and where it should do less. September 2011 Originally published at the < Huffington Post UK> [post_title] => Getting Britain's Pro-Europeans off the Floor and Fighting Back [post_excerpt] => It's difficult to think of a more tricky time to support Britain's continued active participation in the European Union. The EU's standing has rarely been lower in the minds of the UK public, with only 27 % of people believing our membership has been broadly beneficial for the country, with 60% disagreeing. Turmoil in the Eurozone has put a severe strain on the EU and the UK coalition government, divided over the issue, is content to sit on the side-lines and keep the EU off the domestic agenda, pleasing neither Conservative backbenchers nor pro-Europeans. Even some longstanding keepers of the flame for greater British involvement in the EU, such as Martin Kettle and Sir Stephen Wall seem to have thrown in the towel. So what is a pro-European to do? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => getting-britains-pro-europeans-off-the-floor-and-fighting-back [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 15:17:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 15:17:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [20] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 816 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2011-04-06 16:48:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2011-04-06 16:48:47 [post_content] => 2010 stands as a landmark year in the history of Kazakhstan and for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It will be the first time a Central Asian nation takes the leadership role of a major international political organisation, but also Kazakhstan will be the first non-democracy to become the OSCE's Chairman-in-Office. Kazakhstan will be under the international spotlight to an extent it has not seen since independence. Against that backdrop the Foreign Policy Centre is publishing a series of three detailed background papers assessing a number of key issues in Kazakhstan that will be followed by a pamphlet. The first paper, focusing on human rights and democracy, is now available to download. [post_title] => Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Human Rights and Democracy [post_excerpt] => 2010 stands as a landmark year in the history of Kazakhstan and for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It will be the first time a Central Asian nation takes the leadership role of a major international political organisation, but also Kazakhstan will be the first non-democracy to become the OSCE's Chairman-in-Office. Kazakhstan will be under the international spotlight to an extent it has not seen since independence. Against that backdrop the Foreign Policy Centre is publishing a series of three detailed background papers assessing a number of key issues in Kazakhstan that will be followed by a pamphlet. The first paper, focusing on human rights and democracy, is now available to download. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => kazakhstan-at-a-crossroads-human-rights-and-democracy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 15:32:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 15:32:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [21] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 812 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2011-04-06 11:48:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2011-04-06 11:48:59 [post_content] => In the second report in our three paper Kazakhstan at a Crossroads series supported by the Civil Activity Fund, Adam Hug explores some of Kazakhstan's recent economic problems and the challenges the country faces reforming its economic governance for the benefit of citizens and international investors alike. The report looks at issues including the politicisation of corruption, resource nationalism and internet restrictions. It argues that continued engagement with Kazakhstan must address fundamental governance concerns as well as short-term economic gains. [post_title] => Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Governance, Corruption & International Investment [post_excerpt] => In the second report in our three paper Kazakhstan at a Crossroads series supported by the Civil Activity Fund, Adam Hug explores some of Kazakhstan's recent economic problems and the challenges the country faces reforming its economic governance for the benefit of citizens and international investors alike. The report looks at issues including the politicisation of corruption, resource nationalism and internet restrictions. It argues that continued engagement with Kazakhstan must address fundamental governance concerns as well as short-term economic gains. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => kazakhstan-at-a-crossroads-governance-corruption-international-investment [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 15:19:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 15:19:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [22] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 606 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2011-03-22 14:31:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2011-03-22 14:31:10 [post_content] => This time, and at subsequent protests, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian’s activists were joined by unexpected reinforcements from the Heritage party, which had provided the sole independent voice in parliament before declaring a boycott due to the ruling coalition’s new electoral pact. Despite, or rather because of, the recent turbulence, it is imperative that the EU plays a greater role in supporting Armenia towards a more democratic and stable future. In December 2010, President Serzh Sargsyan committed his party and government to the pursuit of European values and standards. The EU needs to offer him support in this endeavour. But it must be prepared to hold Armenia to account if it fails to deliver promised reforms. So far, despite the many worthwhile projects the EU supports in Armenia, its work is often lower profile than comparable engagement by Russia and the US. Europe needs to show more clearly to the Armenian public that it is actively engaged and applying pressure for reform. The Foreign Policy Centre's Spotlight on Armenia sets out ideas about what has gone wrong in Armenia and how the international community can help Armenians to fix it. The report identifies three key areas of domestic reform where EU pressure could really help deliver progress. Firstly, there is a need to open up a media environment where television channels are all in pro-government hands and the independent station A1+ has been repeatedly refused a licence, despite the best efforts of the European Court of Human Rights, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and international pressure groups. Perhaps uniquely, Armenia’s planned switch to digital TV will result in fewer channels being available than at present, further reducing opportunities for pluralism. Ending the government’s restrictive approach to frequency allocation and presidential appointments to the board of the TV regulators are important first steps to increasing media freedom in Armenia. In the courts, some judges remain too open to pressure from the executive and powerful individuals to achieve the desired result in politically or economically sensitive cases. Bribery is widespread, particularly in civil cases, while judicial salaries remain among the lowest in the former Soviet Union. With an acquittal rate well below one percent, the application of the rule of law is weak and at times arbitrary. Again, a mixture of EU pressure and support needs to be applied to curtail the president’s role in judicial selection, to raise salaries and increase the transparency of disciplinary procedures that would help end Armenia’s perceived lack of judicial independence and increase public trust in the rule of law being upheld. Improving Armenia’s democratic processes are essential if future elections are not to be marked by the problems of 2008, the source of much of the perceived credibility problems of the current government. Ending the direct appointment by the president of regional governors, who are believed to interfere in the electoral process, would be beneficial in its own right. But work also needs to be done on enabling a wider group of election observers to be involved and on reforming the electoral commission. The international community has a key role to play here, particularly in the run-up to any early parliamentary elections that may be coming up later this year where the early and widespread deployment of OSCE observers will be essential in establishing credibility. The EU’s influence in the region is not helped by the recent removal of the role of the special representative for the south Caucasus that, irrespective of an organisational rationale within the European External Action Service, sends an unfortunate signal that the region is less of a priority for Brussels. This perception will need to be countered in the near future to ensure that any reputational damage is not permanent. In order for Armenia to move further down the road towards the stated goal of European standards, Brussels should more clearly link progress on the association agreement and the incentives of a "deep and comprehensive free trade area" pact, visa liberalisation and increased aid to identifiable progress against the democracy and good governance benchmarks the EU has set for Armenia. This was first published by E!Sharp at [post_title] => Ensuring Armenia meets its commitment to European values [post_excerpt] => Bright future? Europe has diverse incentives to deploy to help consolidate democracy in Yerevan. Over the past few weeks, Armenia has experienced a level of political turbulence not seen since 2008, as large crowds gathered to commemorate the third anniversary of the March 1 post-election protests that were strongly suppressed by the Armenian government, a move fiercely condemned by the international community. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ensuring-armenia-meets-its-commitment-to-european-values [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 15:17:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 15:17:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )

The rise of illiberal civil society in the former Soviet Union?

Charting the rise of illiberal groups in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan.


Closing the Door: the challenge facing activists from the former Soviet Union seeking asylum or refuge

The challenge facing activists from the former Soviet Union seeking asylum or refuge.


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

How governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) shape international narratives & challenge opponents.


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

Examining experiences of exiled activists unable to escape their country’s security services.


Europe and the people: Examining the EU’s democratic legitimacy

Examining concerns across Europe around the democratic legitimacy of the EU and its institutions.


Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression

Looking at ways in which authoritarian regimes learn from each other & collaborate in repression.


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

Examining if major international institutions are meeting their human rights commitments in the FSU.


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

Examining the political and social role of the church in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Moldova.


Trouble in the Neighbourhood? The future of the EU’s Eastern Partnership

Examining the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus & Ukraine.


Iran Human Rights Review: United Nations

This IHRR edition focuses on the relationship between Iran and the United Nations.


Shelter from the storm?

Examines key issues around asylum, extradition & the provision of refuge for activists from the…


Renegotiation, Reform and Referendum: Does Britain have an EU future?

Renegotiation, Reform and Referendum: examines the UK debate over its EU membership.


Europe in the World: Can EU foreign policy make an impact?

Examining how Europe is seen internationally and the effectiveness of the External Action Service.


Spotlight on Azerbaijan

Spotlight on Azerbaijan examined the key human rights and governance issues in Azerbaijan.


The new British politics and Europe: Conflict or cooperation?

Explores how Britain’s coalition government has coped with the potentially divisive issue of Europe


Kazakhstan at a Crossroads

To coincide with the early Presidential election of April 3rd 2011, the Foreign Policy Centre…


Spotlight on Armenia

Spotlight on Armenia provides a clear analysis of the major challenges Armenia faces regarding democratic…


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