Participant: Elena Belokurova (St. Petersburg State University, CGES)
The research is aimed at the reflection on the role of national and local NGOs and civil societies in international relations, especially on the example of the EU-Russia relations. The consideration of this topic started in 2013, when the Russian debates around the role of foreign funding and influence on Russian NGOs became very active following the new legislation on ‘foreign agents’. It was implemented very actively in 2013-2014, when the NGOs, which implement several projects funded by international or foreign donors, and are active in a political field have been prosecuted and, in some cases, brought to the courts. These actions led to a strong discussion in the society and political arena, on such questions as: what is a ‘political activity’, whether the NGOs can and should participate in politics, what social functions they have and etc. Therefore, a number of public oriented articles were written by the CGES associate Elena Belokurova, which contributed to this public discussion by explaining the theoretical and empirical aspects of the NGOs work and studies. Moreover, in 2014 two expertise conclusions for the Russian courts were presented by Elena Belokurova: one on Murmansk regional youth NGO ‘Humanitarian Youth Movement’ and another one on Saratov Association ‘Partnership for Development’. In 2014, with the strengthening of the crisis in the intergovernmental relations between the EU and Russia NGOs started to play a particular role in these relations by presenting positions alternative to the official ones. In this situation the need for deeper reflection appeared, which was reflected in a number of academic and public discussions, where Elena Belokurova presented results of her theoretical research. Moreover, different forums and organisations asked for her expertise as well. Thus, Elena Belokurova actively participated in the work of the strategic group at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, where she conducted an internal study of the Forum members and contributed to the discussions on the current Forum’s strategy. Therefore, due to the high level of public interest to the topic of the NGOs role in the EU-Russia relations, this research project resulted in a number of presentations at the public forums, publications in journals, and contributed to both academic and public discussions.