November 01, 2012

Bracing for Isolation

Times have gotten tough for Russian NGOs lately. First, Russia passed a law requiring them to carry the mark of “foreign agents,” in the event they receive foreign funding. Since Russian corporate giving is practically non-existent, and most of the population is still struggling to make ends meet, very little NGO funding comes from Russia; most comes from foreign grants.

Some of these grants, in fact, came straight from USAID, which had a small operation in the U.S. Embassy. Yet Russia in September decided to cut that trickle of cash, demanding that the organization wrap up its work and leave within a few weeks. By October 1, USAID was gone, leaving U.S.-funded programs in limbo.

Among organizations receiving American money, all of whom had already braced for having the Scarlet Letter of “foreign agent” engraved on their activities, are the election observers GOLOS, the human rights group Memorial, and dozens of groups promoting local governance, HIV/AIDS prevention, disability rights, and other issues.

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