25. November 2005

Proposed law seen as threat to operation of NGOs in Russia

As finnish paper HELSINGIN SANOMAT reports, a new law in Russia could make the work of independent russian NGOs more difficult. Also AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL raises a voice of concern.

"Finnish and international civic organisations have expressed concern over their possibilities to continue operating in Russia in the future. The Russian Parliament is preparing to pass a law that would place tight restrictions on the activiteis of non-governmental organisations in the country. President Vladimir Putin expressed his support for the proposed bill in an interview on a newscast on the television channel Rossija on Thursday. He also promised to hold further discussions on the details of the bill with the senior members of the Duma.

The law, which would require all NGOs to register with the Ministry of Justice, could come into effect in 2007. The NGOs anticipate difficulties particularly for human rights and environmental activists, as well as for religious groups. However, the new law is not expected to cause many problems for social and health work, which the majority of Finnish organisations in Russia are involved in.

Nevertheless, Frank Johansson, executive director of the Finnish section of Amnesty International, sees the proposed law as very alarming. "This bill is likely to result in quite an extensive dampening of the operation of free civic organisations in various parts of the Russian Federation", notes Johansson. While Amnesty International in Finland does not expect the new law to have any effect on its own operation, it could substantially hamper the work of Amnesty’s press office in Russia. Furthermore, there is a risk that certain Russian cooperative organisations which are funded by various foundations could be closed down, argues Johansson. The Russian cooperative partners are the main concern of other civic organisations as well, even though nobody knows yet what the consequences of the proposed new law will eventually be.

"The Russian organisations have warned us that the new bill could lead to problems, hence hampering our cooperation", notes Merja Hannus, the Secretary General of the Finland-Russia Society. The society is carrying out tasks related to various issues including social equality, and training civic organisations in Russia. The Vaaka association is a Finnish voluntary group whose activities include collecting baby clothes to be delivered to Russian Karelia. "We have no Russian staff and no office in Russia, but we trust that we will be allowed to operate quite freely from Finland", says Tiina Seppälä of Vaaka. Project Manager Lea Ylitalo of Karjalan Apu ("Karelian Aid") believes that the forthcoming changes will not much apply to the Russian operations of social and health groups.Arja Käyhty of the Dikoni project agrees. "Our work has met a very positive response in Russia, for we have not expressed any criticism that would undermine the foundations of Russian society", Käyhty concludes."

"Russian Federation: Draft law -- the latest in clampdown on civil society", writes AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL on the same issue. "By allowing government officials to deny registration to NGO's according to such vague criteria, there is a grave risk that decisions on which organisations are allowed or banned will be politically motivated," said Nicola Duckworth.

Baltic Sea Foundation for Environmental and Regional Development + Support Circle "Livonian Common Weal and Economic Society" of 1792

The (in English) "Baltic Sea Foundation for Environmental and Regional Development", (in brief: "Baltic Sea Foundation") is an Estonian civic law (registered name: Läänemeere Keskkonna- ja Regionaalarenduse Sihtasutus) body corporate which will shortly be inserted in the Estonian official register of private non-profit organizations (NGOs).

The seven Founders hold, either Estonian, or Swedish or German nationalities. They have different professional and social back-grounds. But, since years, they practice exceptionally good neighbourhood relations in Western Estonia (peninsula of Noarootsi / Nuckö, close to the spa of Haapsalu / Hapsal).

They found together under the roof of the Foundation to demonstrate their firm willingness to undertake joint activities for the benefit of civic society and common interest, not only in Estonia, but Baltic Sea region wide.

Continued below....


The "Support Circle 'Livonian Common Weal and Economic Society' of 1792" (in brief: Livonian Common Weal) is the German counterpart of the "Baltic Sea Foundation".

The Support Centre, for the time being, is an informal body. But it is intended to transform it, as soon as possible, into a civic association or - even better - into a foundation, incorporated under German civic law.

The denomination "Livonian Common Weal", at one hand, draws the attention on an example of singular dedication which is fully in-line with the aims and objectives of the "Baltic Sea Foundation"; at the other hand, it intends to bring the successor countries of Livonia - Estonia and Latvia - closer to each other via general interest non-profit co-operation.

Cosmopolitanism was a characteristic of the old noble "Livonian Common Weal and Economic Society"; its heritage is honoured by practising this attitude.

Continued below....


Baltic Sea Foundation


The Foundation approaches its action fields of “Development of Environmental Protection” and “Regional Development” in a complex way, i.e., always having in mind the civic society and social contexts because only a broad view can produce long lasting effects.

This methodology requires close and permanent exchange with the people, taking into account their backgrounds and, additionally, confidential relations with the official authorities and with other common interest institutions, in the country and abroad, as well.

The Founders are convinced that progress is driven, above all, by the engagement of the inhabitants themselves, especially those of the new EU countries, in the shaping of their habitat and its future. They aim at reaching sustainable solutions through general interest activities, with the help of the Foundation or its allies.

The principal promoter of the Foundation and its actual Chairman of the Supervisory Board is Juergen Lewerenz (tel. + fax in Germany – October to May: +49.2642.1532 and in Estonia – June to September: +372.47.41193. Permanent postal address: Am Bach 12, D 53424 Remagen, Germany; additionally, in Estonia during his above mentioned stay there: Mikutalu, EE 91201 Pürksi, Noarootsi; e-mail: lewerenz.juergen@freenet.de).

Over decades, Jürgen Lewerenz has accumulated experience with developing and reform countries (MEE) and with the subject related national and international, private, as well as official, institutions. Only during half of his professional career he fulfilled desk-duties at administration head-quarters. During the other half, he worked in Latin America, in Bangladesh and within and for all three Baltic countries[1]. He also served the EU Commission PHARE and TACIS Programmes.

The remaining Founders live at Noarootsi in Western Estonia, or close to the place. They are: Birgit Eldh from Spithami / Spithamn, Nova commune, with an additional residence on the island of Gotland; the couple Elar and Leili Piir, both from Noarootsi, Valeri Đeripov and Alar Uus, also from Noarotsi, and Liivia Leškin from Haapsalu.

The Foundation has been able to win a General Secretary. He is the new pastor at Noarootsi parish who, besides from his half-time parsonage attends – heroically – the inmates of the not far away Estonian central jail.

It can be anticipated that the Foundation has to contract paid personnel, in a not too far away future. Because of the absence of sufficient revenues from invested financial resources of the Foundation, personnel costs and other expenses will have to be covered from project budgets.

The task ahead is immense and long lasting. Under the given circumstances, collaborators are needed who volunteer, assuming charges and sacrifice.

State programmes will be utilised but subsidies must and will only be complementary resources; they will be employed to reach targets quicker. They must never be a substitute for own efforts and responsibility.

The Estonian Ministries for Environment and for Regional Development (in Estonia, under the roof of the Home Ministry) and the – vast by its space but small by the number of inhabitants – municipality of Noarootsi have contributed valuable advice during the stage of designing the Foundation because the public authorities of the country require reliable, safe, autonomous, civic society based, democratically operating common interest minded executing bodies with whom they can work together for the success of reconstruction and development programmes.

Ahead of giving the Foundation its actual shape, it has been discussed to develop, out of the Noarootsi based local, half-official nature and environment institution (SILMA), a communal foundation with a wider objective, i.e. including “regional development”.

Finally, this transformation could not be reached because of the decision of the Estonian State to re-organise the public nature and environment protection and to separate it from the local authorities; this field will become directly State governed[2], at the end of the current year.

By defining the whole of the Baltic Sea basin as its sphere of activities, the Founders have freed themselves from local narrowness and from too strong influence by communal policy, without giving up the friendly relations with their home municipality and their place of origin.

The Foundation has been registered, only a few weeks after its notarial enactment and, thus, it is now a body incorporate.

Within short, it will be entered in the National Register for Common Interest NGOs (“NGO Register”). This is the entrance door for bidding for the execution of official projects from nature and environment or regional development programmes, or for requesting official support for projects under its own responsibility.

The Foundation will co-operate closely with like-minded national and expatriate personalities and with analogous bodies, especially with such from EU countries.

Consortial relations (with Germany and Sweden) have commenced, long before the Foundation has been enacted.

The communication, within the Foundation and with the external world, inside and outside Estonia, will be preferentially in English.


The first projects of the Foundation will be closely related to its region of origin. These are, for the moment:

(English language commented) fotos show– to be presented in the Baltic States and in other Eastern or Western countries, as well – on the theme “Nature and Environment (possible sub-theme: ‘Birds’) in Western Estonia and a (to be defined) German reference region”, with special attention to the rich but, nevertheless, also in Estonia endangered natural circles, comparing the Estonian situation with the damage done in the respective German region. Harmful human influence; lessons learnt from mistakes; decided upon consequences and such still in discussion; protective and nature repair measures – all will be shown and described.

Co-operating (preferably: boarding) schools in Estonia (candidate: “Noarootsi Gümnasium” at Pürksi, Noarootsi municipality – due to its close relations with the here traditionally settling ethnic Swedes, usually called the “Swedish Secondary School”) and in Germany (suitable candidates are envisaged but because of un-concluded discussions, it would be premature to name them here) shall participate actively in the preparation of the event, from the start on.

The co-operating schools shall host the presentation. Boarding houses – where they exist - shall be used and, additionally, other suitable places in the neighbourhood of the schools (in Noarootsi: Lyckholm / Saare Manor, which focuses birds protection, and the close-by Lyckholm Museum).

The schools co-operation shall go hand-in-hand with a partnership between their home municipalities. This could partnership could be supported under the EU Commission “Town Twinning Programme”.

To this end, measurable own efforts have to be contributed which, in this case, could be produced (certainly mostly in kind), without major difficulties, or by the students, or their teachers, or the parents, or the municipalities, or other helpers.

On the German side, an experienced nature protection institution of a “Land” has committed itself to donate exposition material, out of its own stock or to procure it from its partners, and to help with specific know-how.

The event shall take place during the summer 2006 vacation period when the facilities of the schools and the boarding houses are available.

The preparatory period is short but sufficient – if all involved get started soon. (If not, the project will have to be postponed.)

Subsequently, the exposition shall “migrate”, not only in the Baltic Sea region but also in the West and beyond the Baltic Sea countries.

It would be desirable to develop, out of this first co-operation, a durable cohesion between the schools, their students, the parents and the teachers.


Professional movie on bird’s life in Western Estonia – one of the most important European migrating birds’ spots – for TV. This project idea originates from the local Noarootsi nature and environment body, SILMA (about SILMA, see above). Actually, with the assistance of like-minded institutions abroad, producers and connections with media institutions are sought. Interested individuals and institutions are welcome.


Local (= Western Estonia) conditions adjustment of techniques for the use of alternative energy resources – envisaged focus: geo-thermal heating -, with the help of qualified professionals, producers and independent institutes. Success promising contacts are under way.


Because of the close relation to the operational field “Regional Development”, the Foundation will also act for the rescue and restoration of monuments (and, within this context, for the re-activation of examplary, still to-day valuable, traditions). The project sketched below is actually discussed:

Restoration, in-line with valid rules and regulations for national monuments, of the roof of Riguldi (Swedish: Rickul; German: Rickholtz) Manor in Noarootsi municipality which is covered with - now widely damaged - Rhenanian slate (the manor buiding is actually owned by the City of Tallinn where it runs a summer school for mentally handicaped children), plus the transportation of the slate material - from the (usual) river Rhine shipping port of Andernach (Germany), via the North Sea and the North Sea – Baltic Sea Canal (or through the “Skager Rak” and the “Kattegatt”) and the Baltic Sea - to a port close to the Manor site, with a traditional sailing cargo-boat, formerly owned by Swedish Estonians and now completely re-habilitated by their grand-children and helpers.


Financing of services (such as: purchase commissions; health care; official administration and public services matters) for aged, remote living “singles” with poor income (test region: Noarootsi), out of the sale of attractively packed high quality products, on the basis of raw materials coming from home gardens, from forest and fields and processed by the aged themselves, including a mailing service, on “peasant’s markets”, at touristic crossings, during summer time.


Development of western (medical and catering) standard health centres (focus: re-habilitation medicine and nursing of handicaped persons), in the neighbourhood of the famous and attractive spa of Haapsalu / Hapsal (tradition: curative mud baths; see –for the history of the spa: http://www.framare.ee/) for Western European patients (model: Haapsalu’s success with social welfare and private Finnish client?le), in partnership with innovative, cost effectiveness and internationally minded Western institutions (rehabilitation and nursing centres, especially their training and logistics branches; insurers; concerned official bodies) – as alternative for hiring personnel from this region for Western service institutions.

In spite of the relatively low salaries in Estonia, returners would be enabled to increase their savings capacity because of the considerably lower local cost of living, compared with the Western high-cost host countries. They would be in a position of benefiting from Western type professional up-grading without being deprived of their personal, institutional and material connexions.


Generation of a system of thorough and in-depth audit of common interest or needy target groups oriented institutions which use “other persons’ money”, i.e. public subsidies and/or private donations, coming from internal sources or from abroad or who handle people’s savings.

The proposed system would enhance the much needed trust of supporters and costumers of such institutions and, at the same time, it would help to cleansen the NGO and the self-help world from abuse and incompetence.

This type of audit would be much more intense and far reaching than ordinary commercial audit or State Supervision ever could be. Also the conduct and the performance of leaders and managers would be judged.

The official control organs would be backed by the new system. They could rely on it what would not only ease their work burden; it would fortify the autonomy, the acceptance, the spread and the effectiveness of the audited institutions, for the benefit of the national community, as a whole.

Possible extra costs – compared with conventional controls – would be, by far, exceeded by a safety and acceptance surplus. The audited institutions would not be oppressed; on the contrary, their chances to survive and to grow would increase.

Under such a control regime, community supporting institutions, most probably, would pop up in big numbers, non-profit NGOs and commercial enterprises of this type, as the so-called self-help businesses, i.e. co-operatives, mutual societies or communal businesses, as well.

The failure of the numerous, often very expensive, attempts to re-activate people’s banks, mutual insurance societies and other financial institutions, serving low and middle income groups in the “transition economy” countries, was mainly caused by the absence of safety, caused by unsatisfactory control mechanisms. Therefore, the emerging self-help enterprises did not convince the authorities and the public did not trust them either.

The best way to develop the suggested system quickly would be the voluntary submission of the addressees to it. The proposed mechanism could be managed by associations of which the audited are members; the main role of the State Supervision bodies would be to keep a vigilant eye on the performance of the self-control system, instead of controlling individual “grass-root” institutions.

The best suited and most reliable model would be the so-called association audit, practiced, since long ago and successfully, by co-operatives and savings banks in Germany and in other countries of Continental Europe.

The positive social impacts and the competitivity, for which the financial institutions of these groupings are known, are, above all, based on their effective self-audit mechanisms, a fact which merits to be highlighted.

It would be in vain to request direct involvement of the mentioned groupings but access to their special know-how could be opened via technology facilitation agreements.

For the Eastern Baltic Sea Region inhabitants, the proposed modality is not absolutely new because, until World War II, there were successfully operating cooperative banks, mutual savings, loans and insurance societies, as well as muncipality banks in almost every place which – of course – practised self-audit, in a similar way as described above.

A valuable heritage of business culture of the Baltic Sea Region would be re-born with the application of this control mechanism.

Possible partners for the promotion, the preparation and the introduction of the new modality could be forward looking business auditors in the Eastern Baltic Sea Region and, additionally, the responsible State Supervision authorities and – of course –accountability minded leaders and managers of non-profit and commercial NGOs (the “Baltic Sea Foundation” included).

Co-operating partners could be Western auditors who intend to create a rewarding new field of attractive and competitive activities, beyond their usually practiced range of activities.


Complementary contributions and co-operation

The fortune of the Foundation – the main pillar of each institution of this type – is still rather modest because free resources are scarce among the Co-Founders.

Each of them contributed – apart from paying the erection expenses – according to the individual possibilities. The most urgent need was to reach the minimal amount required for the official registration.

It can be foreseen that no major additional endowments will come from the Co-Founders group. Each of the Founders possesses some property but this is entirely required for the subsistence of the family and as protection against risks of life.

Therefore, the Foundation is looking for complementary contributors. Money donations are especially welcome but also real estate may be donated, for instance restituted property in the Baltic countries which is not exploited by the title holders themselves.

Donations may be addressed directly to the “Baltic Sea Foundation” or – which will perhaps be preferred by those living (and paying taxes) in Germany and by citizens of other Western countries, to its German counterpart, the “Livonian Common Weal” (see below).

The Foundation’s intention is to co-operate with like-minded persons and institutions, especially for bidding consortia for the execution of official and private projects and for self-governed undertakings, with or without external support.

Since the Foundation is actually still unable to contract paid personnel und because the Founders have little free time, the call for volunteering collaborators is repeated, at this stage.


Livonian Common Weal (Society)

The “Support Center ‘Livonian Common Weal and Economic Society’ of 1792 is the Germany based counterpart of the “Baltic Sea Foundation”.

In addition to its support function, the “Livonian Common Weal” may operate in other fields which are compatible with the objectives of the “Baltic Sea Foundation” and the good traditions of its historic patron.

The “Livonian Common Weal”, for the time being, is handled by Juergen Lewerenz alone.

The Support Circle has been startet informally but it shall be transformed – hopefully soon – when additional persons or institutions join and more material and personal resources find together under its roof, into a registered civic society or, even better, into a German civic law foundation.

German income tax deduction possibilities (EStG – Einkommensteuergesetz - and AO - Abgabenordnung) played an important role when conceiving and locating the Circle.

The title “Livonian Common Weal and Economic Society” (its German name: Livländische Gemeinnützige und Ökonomische Societät), founded in 1792 in Riga, was incorporated because it is an intentions close example for the new “Baltic Sea Foundation”.

The Society is an out-standing intellectual monument and a tradition of good practice which merits to be honoured; it is worth-while to re-habilitate it.

The “old” Livonian Common Weal Society, for a century and a half, has been a positive expression of Baltic Sea culture which, since centuries, had many ties with the West, not only with the German speaking world.

The (old) “Livonian Common Weal Society” operated, for the benefit of its home region, until the beginning of World War II.

It held very closely ties with fellow institutions in the neighbouring regions of Livonia, the “Courland Economic Society” of 1836 (in German: Kurlaendische Oekonomische Gesellschaft) and the “Estonian Agricultural Association” of 1839 (in German: Estlaendischer Landwirtschaftlicher Verein).

In 1813, the “Livonian Common Weal” was transferred to Tartu (Dorpat). This domicile was kept until the end of its activities (in 1939).

In the middle of the 19th century the Society was re-named into “Imperial Livonian Common Weal….” to stress its close relations with the Zaristic crown. This name was kept until the separation of the “Baltic Provinces” from Russia, at the end of World War I.

The split of the Livonian territory and the annexion of parts of it to the, at that time, newly created, countries of Estonia or Latvia, respectively, made the undertakings of the “Livonian Common Weal” somewhat more difficult. Its co-operation with Latvia weakened a bit but, nevetheless, it kept its original orientation towards the whole region and its progress.

The activities ended with the destruction of civic culture in the Baltic Region and the isolation imposed by the occupants.

The reconstruction efforts can become effective if the initiator is not left alone. At the end of the presentation he re-iterates his wish to win personal and material support.
[1] Juergen Lewerenz was – in the period 1992-1993 - the first long-term EU adviser for Estonia (Bank of Estonia – Eesti Pank). Apart from his official job, he volunteered, upon request of the President of the Central Bank - anonymously and without honorary or consent of the EU Commission, for the design and the introduction of the new Estonian currency. All this took place, ahead of the return of the country to the international central and commercial banking community. His experience during these harsh and conflictive times was laid down in his (German language) book, titled “Banken im Baltikum. Gestern. Heute. Morgen?” (Banks in the Baltic. Yesterday. To-day. Tomorrow?) Fritz Knapp-Verlag. Frankfurt/M.. 1997. Germany. ISBN 3-7819-0590-X
[2] Noarootsi will be incorporated into one of eight Nature and Environment Districts, each of them with a Regional Office. The Regional Office for Noarootsi will be 50 km away. To maintain, nevertheless, the local ties, it is envisaged to keep a local Liaison Centre at Noarootsi. Projects will no longer be executed directly by the authority but delegated to suitable NGOs, such as the Foundation. It may well be that also such undertakings which started, ahead of the reform, and which are already financed out of State ressources, will be included in this transfer. The foundation would like to apply for such projects, or as commissioned body, or for their execution under its own responsibilty.

3. November 2005

Meeting of German NGO-Initiative for Baltic Sea Cooperation in Hamburg, 29.10.2005

Fruitful meeting
On Saturday, 29th of october, the German NGO-Initiative for Baltic Sea Cooperation came together for an annual meeting. 14 participants met in the house of the Lawaetz-Foundation, Hamburg.

Our meeting was attended by 14 people, including Mr Jan-Axel Voss, advisor on Baltic Sea Cooperation at Federal Foreign Office, Berlin.
(contact: Jan-Axel Voss, Auswärtiges Amt, Ref. E 07-9, Berlin,

The participants:
Albert Caspari, Verein INFOBALT, Bremen,
Stefan Hansen, Hohe Tied e.V., Kiel, greenbalt[ät]aol.com
Lutz Hüttel, FIDEA e.V., Hamburg, webmaster[ät]fidea.de
Burkhard Luber, Stiftung DIE SCHWELLE, Bremen,
Gerhard Maschack, Kulturzentrum Lagerhaus, Bremen, gmaschack[ät]web.de
Frauke Rubart, Kulturzentrum Lagerhaus, Bremen, fraukerubart[ät]aol.com
Bernd Scheda, Kulturzentrum Lagerhaus, Bremen, info[ät]kulturzentrum-lagerhaus.de
Maik Schulz, Verein BaltiCult, Neustadt-Glewe/Ortsteil Tuckhude, maik.schulz-2.vorsitzender[ät]balticult.de
Karin Schmalriede, Lawaetz-Stiftung, Hamburg, schmalriede[ät]lawaetz.de
Alicja Skodowska, Deutsch-polnische Gesellschaft, Hamburg, alchemikde[ät]yahoo.de
Hans-Joachim Tiefensee, Verein INFOBALT, Bremen, joachim[ät]infobalt.de
Christian Wellmann, Schleswig-Holstein Institute for Peace Research (SHIP/ Kiel), wellmann[ät]schiff.uni-kiel.de
Hartwig Zillmer, Deutsch-Polnische Gesellschaft, Hamburg, ha.zillmer[ät]web.de

In the first part of the meeting we gave some time to everybody to introduce each NGOs work and projects. Participants came together from four different Federal States: Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Bremen.

Later we continued our meeting with a short review on the BALTIC SEA NGO FORUM in Gdynia/Poland. All participants of NGO FORUM 2005 regarded the Forum as very useful for better cooperation with especially polish NGOs, as it was a good chance for meeting and discussions. Some new projects were born at the NGO FORUM, and part of them even realised already in 2005. Especially positive reports came from Kulturzentrum Lagerhaus, Lawaetz-Stiftung, INFOBALT and from FIDEA. Many German participants felt the FORUM as being one day too short - not much time to really get to know people and finish discussions. Other remarks were, that it was, as always, important to get a picture also of the meeting place outside the conference-halls (to get an impression of the atmosphere at the spot). Some people expressed their wish to have a place for introducing their projects at future NGO FORA, others wished to have more young people involved into Baltic Sea NGO Networks activities.

Mr Voss told about his experiences in his new job as advisor for Baltic Sea Cooperation at the German Foreign Office. It was an open and friendly discussion of different views and experiences. Mr Voss told about some topics raised by the Islandic presidency during recent meetings of CBSS-officials: measures against traficking, for energy-networking, Baltic Sea as PSSA - particular sensitiv area, Baltic Sea wide radiation-measuring, and the willingness of CBSS for more cooperation with Ukraine.
During the discussion a question came up on experiences of "NGO-support-offices" in East-European countries. As German NGOs don't have such offices, they are not able to hold a constant contact and propose more cooperation. Many of German NGOs believe that they do not know much about the situation of NGOs in other countries and lack a constant contact to "NGO think tanks" in Baltic Sea countries. The communication inside the Baltic Sea NGO Network seems to be too sporadic and changeful for getting a constant input on the situation in CBSS-countries, but of course we hope for improvement in future.

Some decisions of our meeting:

1) As the update of our webpage www.cbss-ngo.de would cost too much money (which we don't know where to get from), we open another common (english language) webpage, which es easier to handle, and cheaper.
The adress is
www.baltic-ngo.blogspot.com , and contributors of Baltic Sea NGO Network are also invited to participate.

2) We continue to inform all members of German NGO Initiative for Baltic Sea Cooperation by an Email-Newsletter. It is open to every NGO interested. Contact: post

3) We continue to hold annual meetings of our NGO Initiative. We will try to change meeting places, for holding travel costs acceptable for all participants. After having had meetings in Kiel, Berlin and Hamburg the next annual meeting in 2006 will be held in Rostock. We will decide about the date after getting to know the date for BALTIC SEA NGO FORUM 2006 in Sweden.

4) We discussed possible speakers for thematic networks of the Baltic Sea NGO Network.

Environment - Annelie Ehlers (CCB-network) or Stefan Hansen (Hohe Tied) greenbalt[ät]aol.com - further information can be asked from Stefan Hansen

Culture - Lutz Hüttel, FIDEA.
webmaster[ät]fidea.de Lutz will write a paper on his interpreation of the activities on this field.

Human Rights - Burkhard Luber
luber[ät]dieschwelle.de. Burkhard already wrote a paper on the issue and put it on our new Website www.baltic-ngo.blogspot.com

Social affairs - Karin Schmalriede (
schmalriede[ät]@lawaetz.de). Karin regards the field of all possible social activities as too broad and general, and will write an own paper on what she can do.

Voluntary work - Stephan Malerius, "German-Russian Exchange", Berlin,
stephan.malerius[ät]gmx.net . Stefan is ready to tell about many experiences with voluntary projects of "German-Russian Exchange", also in Ukraine.

Civil security - no one of us acitive on this field.

Regional development (possibly together with culture, Lutz Huettel will write a paper on the topic)

5) We decided on a new version of common paper on the aims of our German NGO-initiative. The German version of this new paper (which will renew the "Berlin declaration" of 2001) will be possible to access at our common webpages soon.

6) We will collect proposals from different NGOs regarding the 1.preparatory meeting for BALTIC SEA NGO FORUM 2006, which is planned to be arranged in Copenhagen 27.-29.1.2006.
Some first proposals are: Fishery, discussion between social NGOs/Trade Unions/fishery associations/environmental NGOs, traffic in the Baltic Sea region, alternative journalism, NGO capacity building, conversion.

7) We discussed possibilities to have an "Baltic Sea Office" for the German NGOs. Since we did not see realistic sources for financing, this option seems to be still an illusion. But on the other hand activities of the German NGO-initiative for Baltic Sea Cooperation can not be arranged only on voluntary base (as from 2001 until now). The government of Hamburg offered support and consulting for EU-programmes, but condition is that it should fit into the interests of Hamburg town (as we do not concentrate on one Federal State only, this condition is difficult). In Bremen the "Culture Center Lagerhaus" offers rooms for such Baltic Office, but still some money is needed to cover the costs. We will continue in evaluating the possibilities.

Albert Caspari
www.infobalt.de / post[ät]infobalt.de
NGO Initiative Ostseekooperation www.cbss-ngo.de

1. November 2005

Human Rights, NGOs and the Baltic Sea Region

On a meeting of the German Baltic Sea NGO Initiative at Oct 29, 2005 in Hamburg I have been asked to act as the German contact person for the NGO Baltic Sea Network on the issue of Human Rights. The subsequent paper lists some aspects of the Human Rights topic and deals with the question how NGOs generally and NGOs in the Baltic Sea countries specifically can promote that topic. Comments are welcome!

Contact: hubluber@web.de * Work: http://www.dieschwelle.de/ *
Blog: http://www.nienburg44.blogspot.com/

Dr Burkhard Luber
The Human Rights, Non-Governmental Organizations
and the Baltic Sea Region

- An initial navigation of uncharted waters -

Making the Human Rights universally was an act of the Western Allies against German Fascism in the mid of the 20th century. That it has been a Western concept is symbolized in choosing New York as the United Nations headquarter. Launching the Declaration of Human Rights demonstrated what the WW II winners thought to become world-wide standard. For more than five decades this concept did not face major problems (Cynics might say: It had not much genuine impact on the international community either). References to Human Rights worked well for inauguration speeches, sometimes it was a tool of reciprocal reproaches in the East-West Conflict. But it never underwent the major test, whether the UN countries would take the concept earnest and work with emphasis against countries violating Human Rights on a major scale.

Three events at the end of the last and the beginning of the current millennium changed this situation:

The disintegration of Yugoslavia with its broad-scale violating of human rights showed the sensitivity of the Human Rights concept and its application in conflicts of multi-ethnic countries.

The development of religions in the world has two contrasting spiritual tendencies. On the one hand you see an impressive secularization. Religion becomes less and less a decisive reference point for the population. It is merely an individual attitude not having a societal impact. On the other hand we see the renaissance of religious intolerance and fanatism.

The 911 terrorist attacks in the USA changed the dealing with the HR concept in three ways:

First it marked the long lasting universalism of the Human Rights concept. More and more people and countries are challenging this Human Rights uni­ver­salism by ranking religious values higher than observing Human Rights standards. That has even lead to an increasing disqualification of the Human Rights concept as a “Western imported product” to dominate the world. For an increasing number of countries the universalism of Human Rights is no longer valid, though so far none of those countries has acquitted its UN membership.

But 911 has also another 2nd consequence for the weakening of the universal Human Rights concept: Since the Bush administration narrowed its policy guidelines to concentrate more or less totally towards the war against terrorism, the universal observance of Human Rights became obsolete. Bush became more and more insensitive towards the Human Rights account of the allies he chose in his anti-terrorism strategy. That is at least evident for such authoritarian regimes like Turkme­nistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Third consequence: Countries beside the USA took Bush´s anti-terrorism strategy as a welcome chance to claim membership in this anti-terrorist alliance. That gave them the chance to declare as "terrorists" also in-house freedom-fighters, seeking secession minorities and other counter-government actors on their own territory. Prominent example is Russia´s stance against Chenya and other independence movements in the Caucasus, but other governments in Africa and Asia are taking that chance of political rhetoric too and more might take it in future. So Bush´s crusade against terrorism generates a severe decrease of relevance for the Human Right concept.

The Relevance of the Human Rights concept for NGOs
NGOs are natural partners of the Human Rights concept, since their specific contributions to a civil society - like: gender issues, lobbying for minorities and free media - can mostly take their justifications from the “Declaration of Human Rights”. NGOs can be watch dogs, which monitor the Human Rights account of their own government and society and - based on the universalism of the Human Rights concept - also internationally. NGOs are also suitable Human Rights monitors, since they are closer to the societal reality and the needs and wishes of the population than higher ranking administration and governments. And due to their small organization profile and well elaborated information exchange and brainstorming capacities, NGOs can better formulate designs for addressing and solving single Human Rights deficiencies than large government ministries and agencies.

When addressing the question whether there are there specifics for the Human Rights work for NGOs in the Baltic sea region one has to make a short political assessment of that region. Its political changes since the end of the Cold War are significant: Beside Sweden, Finland and Russia all the Baltic Sea region countries are now NATO members and beside Norway and Russia all are EU members too. However simultaneously to the membership expansion of NATO and EU in the Baltic Sea Region the relevance of both these GOs has dramatically decreased. NATO (at least as an independent military factor of itself, i.e. more than a mere logistic contributor to the US worldwide military strategy) does not play an important role in all curren$t major military events (Wars on the Balkan, Iraq War, War against terrorism). NATO´s irrelevance is matched by an EU being in a major crisis due to growingly irritations from the consequences of its recent expansion, its failed constitution ratification process and the looming danger of not having a properly approved budget in 2007. This is the broader international political context in which NGOs in the Baltic Sea Region are acting and the question is whether specific fields of NGOs work in that region can be defined. Here are some proposals:

Minority issues
which are relevant for the Russian minority in Estonia and Latvia. Here NGOs can contribute to stabilize a fair and just minority regime which can also have relevance to other European regions of multi-ethnicity (like SO-Europe and the Roma in Central Europe).

Work Employment Issues
which are relevant for all Baltic Sea countries be they tigers (Estonia) or trailers (Germany). Based on Article 23 of the Declaration of Human Rights, NGOs can contribute with proposals how to implement the Human Right for employment in economies, in which profit increase and work force decrease are complementary to each other. NGOs should publicly brainstorm the issue of unemployment much more ambitious than their governments do it, since governments for decades are unsuccessfully waiting for more economic growth with the vague hope that this would generate new jobs. Employment concepts drafted by NGOs could contrast that blind road thinking of governments by emphasizing that unemployment is no longer a temporary event but is the structural consequence of growing digitalisation and miniaturization of more and more economic processes which demands less and less human work force. NGOs can contribute to the current debate about the future of global economy and work force by shifting the focus of this debate from helpless seeking for government assistance programs. NGOs can emphasize that large areas of the economy do not need full employment of the available working force, which means that the employment issue is no longer a technical task, but has become an issue of justice and just distribution of the continuously decreasing number of necessary work forces in the production field.

Human Rights Issues which have a latent relevance
for all societies in the Baltic sea region like: Gender equality, protection of children, decreasing of violence in the mass media and the entertainment industry, right for conscientious objection against military service, protection against unjustified surveillance of the state against its citizen, freedom of mass media.

If NGOs in the Baltic Sea Region will deal with such Human Rights issues above, they will have sustainable relevance for this region as constructive and critical partners of governments and other major players in that area. Thus they can play an important role for the civic societies in their countries and the Baltic Sea Region.

To fulfil their monitoring roles adequately, NGOs should especially use all relevant electronic information and online publication tools (like emailing lists, blogging, podcasting etc), since their ease of use, low price level and quick public impact makes them highly appropriate tools for the NGO community, thus favoring their aims and work more than the traditional tools of NGO-commitments. Thereby NGO have the chance to act towards governments and big players in the society and internationally on an equal level of competence and efficiency.