Anna Sevortian, Executive Director, EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

Has there been a time to slow down this winter? The end of 2021 left us all watching the Memorial trial. The Memorial, our member NGO aiming at preserving the historical memory of the 1930s repressions in the Soviet Union, and the Human Rights Center Memorial were ordered by the Russian Supreme Court to close down. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) intervened with Rule 39, an “emergency brake”, demanding this drama be put on hold. Will Moscow honor the Strasbourg court’s call?

By then it was mid-January 2022 and CSF, together with 13 partner NGOs from 11 countries from across wider Europe, was busy with launching the CURE/ Campaign to Uphold Rights in Europe. Part of the Secretariat team packed for Strasbourg, the home of ECtHR and the seat of the Council of Europe (CoE), as the campaign aims to strengthen and support the Council, its bodies and mechanisms.

The campaign launched on 26 January 2022 – and already saw a lot of support in Strasbourg. Amidst the COVID Omicron wave surge and calls for de-escalation between Russia and Ukraine, CURE members were speaking of solutions civil society groups see necessary to uphold rights in the CoE region.

So what is CSF up to in 2022? Not slowing down.

Our brand-new Confronting Memories website with videos and teaching materials about the Second World War will launch next in spring. The materials will be available in five languages – Belarusian, English, German, Polish and Russian. A year of events and workshops on historical memory will be built around this interactive website.

Before that, our two final events for the CSF 10th anniversary year. In March, our member NGO RAW in WAR (Reach all Women in War) holds an award ceremony for the 2021 Anna Politkovskaya Prize in London. The same month the Center of Social and Labour Rights in Moscow organises a session on the ILO convention against sexual harassment at the workplace.

In 2022, we will keep creating opportunities for our members and communities in the EU and Russia to engage and connect.

For those into exchange opportunities, there is still time to apply for the 2022 Travel Fund (will open twice this year). Closer to the date of our online General Assembly, 24 May 2022, CSF will announce the second Partnership Projects call. CSF also will carry on supporting Russian public health organisations, EuropeLab initiatives and our Solidarity Fellowships.

After the success of Belgrade Networking Conference, we are keen to finally welcome guests in Vilnius this autumn for the first CSF Annual Conference. Its theme — Inequalities – is chosen to reflect on the many dividing lines for people in our region and see beyond the divide.

We shall certainly not slow down on climate activism. CSF has a new European Cultural Foundation-funded project “Climate Caravans” in the making, plans workshops on climate justice. Our 2022 State of the Civil Society Report in the EU and Russia will also focus on climate change.

Not slowing down is not the same as rushing. It is about persistence, resilience. Our campaigns, the topics and cases we engage on, they all need us consistently there, present, vocal. If there is something I wish for in 2022, it is for all of us to set up a comfortable steady pace and to keep going!