In June 1999, the Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences agreed that a joint project on the role of environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) would be of considerable interest to both Russian and American specialists in the environmental field. Staffs of the two academies subsequently agreed that an interacademy workshop on this topic would be a good first step in carrying out such a project. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been very interested in the activities of NGOs in Russia and therefore provided most of the funds required for the workshop. The National Research Council, using private funds, provided the remainder of the required financial support.
A workshop was held in Moscow in November 2000. Ten Americans and 80 Russians attended the workshop. This report includes the papers that were presented. The papers highlight many important issues concerning the role of a sampling of different types of environment NGOs in the two countries. Since there are hundreds of NGOs of many types operating in all regions of the two countries, a comprehensive overview of their activities was not feasible. However, the workshop was a good first step in identifying many of the successes of NGOs and the difficulties that they often face.
Of course the role of NGOs in Russia in contributing to environmental improvement is greatly impeded by the current economic crisis in the country. Also, environmental NGOs are much more mature in the United States with several decades of experience in influencing environmental policies at the federal, state, and local levels. Nevertheless, there are common concerns and common approaches that provided a basis for useful interactions among the specialists from the two countries.
The workshop was held shortly after the Russian Government decided to reorganize the federal structure of the country and incorporated the previously independent State Committee for Environmental Protection into the Ministry of Natural Resources. This decision was met with mixed reactions in Russia and abroad. The workshop did not address this organizational issue, which became a lively topic for informal discussions during the breaks at the workshop.
Also, prior to the workshop the Russian Academy of Sciences established a special standing panel of its Scientific Council on Ecological Problems and