The Human Rights House in Moscow (The Russian Research Centre for Human Rights) celebrated its 15th anniversary yesterday with a conference summing up the centre´s activities through a dramatic decade and a half in Russian history. The 60 people attending ´New challenges – new strategies´ concluded that the Centre has been vital for the human rights movement in the Russian Federation, but addressed also the fact that the Centre´s future survival is in the balance, with rents rising to levels no longer manageable. (14-DEC-07)
Written by Inna Komar/HRH Moscow. Edited by HRH F / Niels Jacob Harbitz.
The Conference was held in the Museum and public centre named after Andrei Sakharov, a unique place where human rights defenders can gather and discuss their problems and share experiences and achievements. Among the participants were Moscow and regional human rights activists (Smolensk, Yekaterinburg, Krasnodar, Kaluga, Voronezh, Vladivostok and others), diplomatic services representatives (Embassy of Norway, Republic of Estonia), journalists, TV, and the business sphere.
Jubilee Conference: Session I
During the Plenary Session a few short speeches from former Directors of the Centre (Aleksey Smirnov, Natalya Taubina, and Liubov Vinogradova) were made about the Centre´s establishment and development. The present Director Salam Kurbanov told about the renting problems that the Centre is currently facing. The Chairwoman of the Centre`s Board Valentina Melkikova (right) stressed the importance of networking and necessity of conducting joint projects. Heartfelt greetings came from Liudmila Alekseeva, who was hospitalized few days before the conference and wasn’t able to participate, Vladimir Lukin (Ombudsman in Russia) and Ella Pamfilova (Civil Society Institution and Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation). On behalf of the Human Rights House Network, Ane Bonde congratulated all members of the Centre and emphasized that the Centre isn`t alone in facing its current challenges, but that it is part of a Network that is always ready to help each of its member in any difficult situation.
What we discussed
The discussion about ´New challenges – new strategies´ drifted into a philosophical debate about human rights comprehension, an analysis of the human rights movement in its current form, its politicization, who the human rights activists are and what they should do. A lot was said about international human rights organizations and tendencies on the international scene. Much was also said about the rejuvenation of the Russian human rights movement. Special attention was paid to the problems Russian NGOs face in present-day the Russian Federation, such as fundraising, renting, registration, tense relations with authorities and the media and many others, and dialogue between NGOs and authorities. The discussions were active and sometimes heated. Representatives from the regions also took the floor to speak about their local challenges and achievements.
Jubilee Conference: Session II
The Second Session consisted of two parts: the first devoted to ´Human rights and Mass-Media: partnership and cooperation,´ the second to ´Public control over human rights observance in closed institutions in Russia´. Journalists from regional newspapers and magazines, participants and the winners of Andrey Sakharov`s contest ´Journalism as a deed´ told the audience about their relations with local authorities and with NGOs. Human rights defenders evaluated the work of the mass media from their perspective. During the second section the Social Partnership Foundation presented its report on the project ´Human rights and principles of public control of teaching in places of detention, located in the vicinity of ´hot spots´ in the South of Russia´. Representatives from the Federal Penalty Execution Service expressed appreciation of the Foundation´s activity and emphasized their wish and readiness for further cooperation.
While the participants of the conference were clear about their satisfaction with the conference, there was also a clearly expressed need to continue the discussions about the sustainability of the independent human rights movement in the Russian Federation.
Finally, the Human Rights House in Moscow would like to express its special and sincere gratitude to the Human Rights House Foundation (Norway) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for making the Jubilee Conference possible.