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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop ROLE OF NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS IN THE CHEMICAL DISARMAMENT PROCESS S.I.Baranovsky Russian Green Cross INTRODUCTION Russian Green Cross is a part of an international association, organized in accordance with a decision of the UN Conference on Environment and Development which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Participants of the Conference representing governments and parliaments of 156 countries from all over the world decided to organize a global world organization as an ecological analogue of the Red Cross. The organization, named “Green Cross,” was to be concerned about the problems of global ecological catastrophes. The former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, was invited to be a founder and the first president. Inauguration of the International Green Cross took place in Kyoto in 1993. National organizations participated. At first, three national organizations were founded in Japan and then in Russia and the United States. The U.S. organization is not named Green Cross as are the others, but Global Green. In America somebody else already used the name Green Cross. Together with Academician Nikita Nikolaevich Moiseev, the most noted ecologist of the country, we established the Russian Green Cross (RGC). RGC is registered with the Ministry of Justice. Its principal activity is protection of the environment. “Collaboration, not confrontation” is the main motto of both the International Green Cross and our organization. It is a basic principle. We try to solve all ecological problems using this principle. As a rule, all problems cause contradictions. Disputes between authorities and inhabitants come either from an ecological problem or from one with ecological roots affecting the environment and public health. The general program of RGC is “Ecological Education.” It deals with ecological training and organization of different ecological studies beginning in
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop the first years of childhood. The program includes international exchanges among pupils, students, professors; workshops and training for teachers; and an annual international conference “Ecological Education.” Public hearings on ecological problems of disarmament and elimination of arms also take place. “The Cold War Heritage” is another program. RGC deals with ecological problems of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and conventional armaments. It studies the impact of mass production of armaments, their storage and testing on the environment, and public health. All armaments produced during the arms race to some extent have influenced and still influence the environment. Unfortunately, they will influence it further. They cause many ecological problems that need resolution. Our authorities are not ready to resolve them now. Only nongovernmental organizations try to resolve the issues. More than one thousand nongovernmental ecological organizations are registered in Russia. RGC is not alone in the NGO world. However, in contrast to the Wildlife Fund, for example, which is busy with conservation of biodiversity and environment protection in the most beautiful parts of the country, we have to work in the territories with difficult ecological problems, such as nuclear contamination, storage or destruction of chemical weapons, polluted aerodromes, and missile depots. They are the territories where the military-industrial complex left behind a difficult heritage in the earth, water, and atmosphere. PUBLIC HEARINGS ON ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF DISARMAMENT Public hearings are an effective way to resolve conflicts between residents and officials—conflicts due to the reluctance of the authorities to listen to citizens who live in these godforsaken regions of the country. In the case of civil society, it is the responsibility of the State to sponsor dialogs and reach conclusions from conversation with the people. But while Russia is just searching for its path to civil society, a difficult role belongs to public (nongovernmental) organizations, and RGC in particular. The concept of hearings has a history. In post-Soviet society, RGC carried out open public hearings in 1995 in Saratov. They were devoted to the problem of future destruction of chemical weapons in the settlement of Gorny in the Krasnopartizan region of Saratov Oblast. At this time, society has come to understand that difficult political, social, ecological, and other types of problems need new ways of solution. Many people know the case of Chapaevsk. When the Soviet leaders made the decision on elimination of chemical weapons stored in the Soviet Union, it was done in secret. They began to build a plant for destruction of chemical weapons in Chapaevsk, Samara Oblast. Neither the population of Samara Oblast, nor people
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop living near the factory, knew about the decision. Moreover, they were told it would be a semiconductor plant. While the plant was under construction, the political system changed in the country, and Russia became “democratic.” The secret was disclosed when Minister of Foreign Affairs Shevardnadze declared somewhere abroad that Russia had built a plant for destruction of chemical weapons in Chapaevsk. The people of Chapaevsk and adjacent regions were shocked. A protest movement began. People went into the street. The plant did not open as a result of their struggle. Large funds were wasted. The process of chemical weapon destruction stopped for a long period. This result of social confrontation is an example of the wrong approach to such problems involving our authorities and our state. A similar situation took place in Saratov Oblast in 1994–1995, when Prime Minister Chernomyrdin issued a secret Resolution about building a plant for chemical weapon destruction in the settlement of Gorny. There were the same processes as in Chapaevsk. At that time RGC came into the political arena with the idea of public hearings. Three parties always exist. The first one is people living alongside the plant, who are interested in the purpose of the building. The second one is the local authorities, who understand the people’s expectations and are also interested in the situation. Then there are the federal authorities, who are interested only in resolving the problem such as elimination of weapons, as in this case. Hearings bring together all three components. Decision-making ought to be foregone until after a careful discussion. All the parties must obtain all information. Unfortunately, in our country decisions are made without adequate data or even in secret. We spent a year until the hearing was realized. We had to appeal to President Yeltsin to gather the three parties of the society. Representatives of the federal authorities that deal with the problem (including the Ministry of Defense, which was responsible for elimination of chemical weapons, the Ministries of Ecology, Health, the Armaments Industry, and others) agreed to take part in the hearing only after President Yeltsin wrote “I support the hearings” on the letter of RGC and after his instructions to Grachev, the Minister of Defense, to Danilov-Danilyan, the Minister of Ecology, and to Baturin, the Secretary of the Security Council. Only then, the Governor of Saratov Oblast also decided that his party would take part in the public hearings carried out by a nongovernmental organization. The hearings were held in October 1995. They helped the people of Krasnopartizan region surrounding the settlement of Gorny obtain information directly from decision-makers. Local residents had a lot of questions. A Resulting Document was published after the hearings. It was delivered to the President, to the Federal Assembly, to the Assembly of Saratov Oblast, and to all departments and nongovernmental organizations. A lot of people, the mass media, and even foreign observers attended the hearings. Since that time RGC holds annual hearings in the regions of chemical weapon storage. Federal
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop representatives of interested departments go there with pleasure to meet with residents and answer their questions. Hearings help them find a decision which is suitable for federal authorities, residents, and local authorities. The hearings conclude with a Resulting Document. It is important that the document is adopted by consensus instead of by voting. It is also important that the decisions in the document are executed even though they are only recommendations to different branches of government, residents, and public organizations. For example, the Resulting Document of the first hearing contained an idea of a public commission of experts. All the participants in the hearing approved it. So, the advice to organize a public expert examination of the plant identified for destruction of chemical weapons was adopted. This part of the decisions of the hearing was fulfilled. A public expert examination of the plant in the settlement of Gorny was carried out. Such nongovernmental organizations as Saratov’s Health to Children, RGC, and Union for Chemical Security were involved. It was the first step towards a civil society. One of the items of the Resulting Document of the second hearing (Izhevsk-Kambarka, 1996) requested the State Duma to speed up development of the Law “On Elimination of Chemical Weapons” as a starting point for a legislative base for the chemical weapon elimination process. It should be noted that it was an appeal not of RGC but of all the participants of the hearing, which resulted from open disputes and discussions. A consensus was reached concerning approaches to the problem of elimination of chemical weapons. The communities of the Republic of Udmurtia—especially representatives and officials of the settlements of Kizner and Kambarki where chemical weapons are stored— supported adopting the Law on Chemical Disarmament. After difficult disputes in the State Duma and the Federal Assembly, the Law was adopted and signed finally by the President. Surely, everybody knows that like any law this Law is not ideal. It is the first one among a series of laws that will form the legislative base for chemical weapon elimination. It is the beginning. But it is a step forward, and it is a result of the activity of public organizations. International experience is also important. We did not invent the idea of hearings. This practice exists in other countries. It is not a secret that the United States, our former main adversary in the arms race, produced many different weapons too. So they have the same problems. They have mountains of armaments: chemical, nuclear, and conventional. They have to eliminate weapons according to international agreements. This causes just the same problems. Nobody is happy to know that somebody is going to destroy chemical weapons or solid rockets in his backyard. But a culture of interaction between people and power is better developed in the United States and Europe, so such hearings are always carried out when there are health and environment problems. We have adopted this positive experience.
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop ESTABLISHING PUBLIC COMMISSIONS Establishing public commissions is another useful idea of our American colleagues. We try to realize this in our country. The population ought to take a direct part in decisions concerning chemical weapon elimination. How can people participate? In the United States public commissions called “Citizen Advisory Committees” have been working for several years in every state where chemical weapon storage facilities or plants were built and elimination has started. They unite representatives of different public organizations, reflecting interests of local residents. A Citizen Advisory Committee is organized pursuant to a Governor’s order and consists of community representatives. They have a legislative mandate and take an active part both in decision-making and in monitoring implementation. These Committees connect people and officials of a state or country (republic or oblast in our case) and help develop decisions, taking into account the interests of the people. RGC suggested this initiative at the second public hearing in Udmurtia (in Kambarka and Izhevsk) where the problem of building a plant for destruction of chemical weapons was discussed. A decision was proposed at the hearing, and it was written in the Resulting Document. But we could realize it only this year. Such a project was accomplished due to the efforts of Russian experts including ones from Udmurtia (Vadim Petrov, the president of the Union for Chemical Security of Udmurtia, participated in work) and our American colleagues who prepared a synthesized book of the rules for U.S. committee activities. Now it is published only in one region, Kurgan Oblast. Discussion of the project is underway in Udmurtia in Penza Oblast. Many Federal departments (Ministry of Defense) and some governors (Kurgan Oblast) still do not understand the necessity of Citizen Advisory Committees. PROJECTS TO SUPPORT RESIDENTS OF REGIONS OF CHEMICAL WEAPON STORAGE Public Information Network for the Population It is necessary to inform people about the processes touching their essential interests. Local residents have the moral right to express their views on chemical weapons storage. First of all, it is necessary to obtain data from the authorities and the numerous departments and bring it to the attention of the people. Then we should inform the authorities about the people’s opinion and will. For such an informational exchange, RGC organized a number of public information centers in the regions of storage of chemical weapons. The main goal of the centers is to inform people as much as possible about chemical weapons, their storage and future destruction, about the people’s rights
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop and state guarantees, about the role of western states in chemical disarmament, and so on. For this purpose, RGC issues popular booklets and information leaflets, distributes on-line data about activities in regional and federal centers, and distributes information about international organizations (particularly, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) by means of the local mass media. Representatives of the centers visit schools, offices, and colleges where they both inform people and carry on direct dialogues with them. If representatives of the centers cannot answer questions immediately, they send the questions with the help of the Moscow Center to federal departments and specialists in destruction technologies for chemical weapons. This complex process of communication between the people and the authorities leads both to a decrease in the level of conflict and to an overcoming of mutual suspicion, chemophobia, and other concerns caused by the atmosphere of secrecy that has surrounded chemical disarmament for many years. It is necessary to stress that the U.S. Congress finances American informational centers within the framework of chemical disarmament expenses. In Russia, the Duma never assigns such funds, so nongovernmental organizations such as RGC have to carry out this difficult and expensive activity. Independent Expert Examinations and Projects In order to overcome the people’s distrust of government activity in chemical disarmament, RGC has played a role of independent arbitrator in the continuing dispute between officials and residents. For this purpose, a number of independent public expert examinations were carried out along with the state ecological expert examination. First of all, these were examinations of projects for future destruction facilities of chemical weapons in Kurgan Oblast (the settlement of Shchuchye) and Saratov Oblast (Gorny). The public examination is at a higher level than the state one. This is due to the higher professional skill of the experts and the wider range of opinions of different public organizations taking part in the examinations. Nowadays the implementation of a disarmament project is impossible without a public expert examination. It is one more achievement of the “green” community. Other interesting initiatives of RGC were an independent examination of the people’s health in different regions of the country connected with chemical weapons (Saratov Oblast, Penza Oblast, Kurgan Oblast, Bryansk Oblast, and Udmurtia) and an independent hazard assessment for residents of regions of storage of chemical weapons (Udmurtia—Kizner and Kambarka, Kurgan Oblast—Shchuchye, Kirov Oblast—Maradykovo). The results of this independent research were reported at all public hearings organized by RGC. Reports, monographs, and popular booklets were written. Visitors to the RGC information center have access to them.
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Ecological Health Centers Taking into account the difficult social and ecological life conditions in the regions of chemical weapon storage, RGC decided to organize summer recovery camps and health centers for children from poor families living near chemical weapon storage sites. The main goal is social support of residents and invigoration and ecological education of children. The first ecological health center of RGC in Vladimir Oblast in the summer of 1997 was visited by 300 children from all regions of chemical weapon storage. Since 1998, recovery camps and health centers have been located closer to the storage regions in Udmurtia (children from Maradykovo, Kizner, and Kambarka), in Penza Oblast (children from Leonidovka, Pochepa, Gorny), and in Kurgan Oblast (children from Shchuchansk and Shumikha regions) and Chelyabinsk Oblast. In 2000, the first winter center was organized near Izhevsk for children from Udmurtia. Plans for 2001 include two winter and five summer health centers and camps for children from ecologically unfavorable regions of Russia. This extensive program raised new problems for RGC, such as leader training and development of guidelines for organizers of ecological education. These problems are solved now. Swiss Green Cross carried out in Kiev a workshop for organizers of ecological recovery camps from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. In spring 2001, RGC is going to carry out the second leader training (the first one was in Moscow in March 2000). The Chief of the RGC National Committee of the “Ecological Education” program, Professor V.Nazarenko, prepared guidelines for teachers and organizers of ecological education of children during their rest in RGC ecological recovery camps. RGC also realizes other projects in the regions of chemical weapon storage. For example, sociological interviewing on the chemical weapon destruction problem was held in Kurgan Oblast and Udmurtia. Another example is a number of educational workshops for doctors of civilian and military hospitals in the storage regions, carried out together with Swiss Green Cross in 1999–2000. And RGC made inspections of sites of former chemical weapon destruction near Penza and studied the possible impact of the destruction “products” on the main regional water body, the Sura reservoir. The results of this investigation were published both in the local and central mass media. The Governor of the Oblast and the Ministry of Defense have received advice for taking measures. Unfortunately, the only measure that was accepted was to ask RGC to find the funds for implementing the solution of the problem somewhere abroad. This fact proves that our authorities, on one hand, either cannot or do not want to solve conflict problems, and on the other hand, they prefer to get rid of their work by giving it to a public organization.
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop CONCLUSION These results of activity in chemical disarmament of one of Russia’s public organizations show the influence of the community on one of the most difficult and contentious problems of our society, elimination of weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, one can see that both the authorities and nongovernmental organizations have a long way to go towards a civil society.
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