Analytics and Interview

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Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

Preventing from xenophobia in Russian regions: collecting parallel realities

Дата публикации: 

On 4th of April representatives of NGOs and St. Petersburg authorities met at the round table. The event titled “Regional politics in the area of preventing xenophobia and hatred among youth: experience and perspectives” was organized in order to analyze, already well-established outside the city program “Tolerance”.

Event organizers - Youth Human Rights Movement, European network UNITED for Intercultural Action and “Germany-Russian Exchange”- chose as their main goal to compare various types of approaches of preventing xenophobia and hatred among youth and to understand sense of practical experience in preparing and realization of the program in this area by the authorities.

This kind of meeting could happen in the city by Neva River because of the municipality was rewarded in 2009. Then UNESCO rewarded St. Petersburg for efforts of local community in realization program “Tolerance” and in February 2012 the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation recommended all Russian cities to follow St. Petersburg example.

The introduction to the topic was made by Konstantin Baranov, program coordinator in Youth Human Rights Movement, who in short presented collected conclusion concerning monitoring of xenophobia in youth environment which has been prepared by Youth Human Rights Movement and Moscow Helsinski Group. In his opinion, popular outlook that young people from deprived sectors of society are at risk of xenophobia is a myth which is an obstacle in understanding and solving the problem. The efforts of government in this area are, mainly, concentrated in both directions: repressive measures in preventing extremism conducted by law enforcement bodies (operation Neformal”, implementation of “curfew” for underage, developing of “voluntary order protecting teams” etc.) and war-patriotic education. Under any circumstances one cannot call this measures effective in the context of overcoming xenophobia and aggression and developing peace culture among young people.

In opinion of a director of the program “Human Rights” faculty of independent art and science of Saint Petersburg State University Dmitry Dubrovsky the main problem lies in “ethno-calendar” consisting in its cultural focus: there is no reference to contemporary problems of xenophobia and racism. Of course, in the scope of program “Tolerance” one tries to show foreigners Russian culture, “Tadjiks are invited to Ermitazh” but at the same time no one raises difficult questions connected to discrimination. In effect, “On the one hand we receive UNESCO award and on the other hand we pass homophobic bill”. The main aim which has been established is to “harmonize interethnic relations”, what for our expert was completely incomprehensible. From Dubrovsky point of view, problem of tolerance is not a problem of science but social practice however, unfortunately, NGOs activists are not involved in program works.

As a confirmation of former thesis Elena Titova, employee of General Consulate of Netherlands in St. Petersburg, indicated her surprise that during the human rights cinema festivals against racism and xenophobia “Open your eyes!” there was no officials, as if work of civil organizations and state structures concerning the same problems were mutually parallel.

After those introductive presentations moderator of round table Roman Boyarkov from branch of Higher School of Economics interactively asked all participants to put program to SWOT analysis. In result, one of the basic effect of the event was combination of 4 groups changing mutually one after another, standing at board. The first list: dignity- existing programs, interactive works in museums, schools, play schools, propagating the problem). The second: inadequate- including conception in political agenda, simplifying message and educating, using outdated methods, manipulating definition of “extremism” and “youth informal association”). The third: possibilities- using experience in other regions, mobilization cooperation with NGOs, using international experience, broadening the definition of toleration towards other social groups). The fourth: threats- lack of approval of federal and regional authorities, possibility of rejecting the program by target groups because of pressure to participate, criminalization of LGBT groups). The result of analysis will be worked out and introduced nearby in the form of recommendations for authorities of St. Petersburg, authorities and other regions and those authorities who wish to implement recommendations.

During the closed part of round table representatives of NGOs quickly shared information about initiatives taken in order to solve the problems of xenophobia in youth environment, for example “Cartoons from various countries for respect”, “Human library”, “Anna Frank. History lesson”, “Anti-stamp”, “School of human integrity and enlightenment”.
Organizers of the event hope that participation of representatives of NGOs from number of Russian cities but also Dutch and Ukrainian will help, on the one hand- to improve program “Tolerance” from St. Petersburg thus to use new methods and approaches in its realization, on the other hand- to take into account all mistakes and good points during implementation of similar programs in other regions of Russia.

The round table was organized in the scope of project “Civil organizations serving society: youth actions against racism, nationalism and xenophobia and for Human Right and inter-cultural dialogue” financed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the scope of program MATRA.