How We Work
Years of experience have taught us that local people are best equipped to protect their own environment. This is why partnership is a guiding principle of Pacific Environment's work in Russia. We do not tell our partners what to do or how to do it, but offer the support, tools, and international assistance needed to succeed. We prioritize local needs and build relationships over time.
Pacific Environment has grown the environmental movement in eastern Russia by providing direct support, joint advocacy, and coalition-building assistance. Direct support encompasses traditional ideas of capacity building, including direct financial and technical assistance. We work closely with partners to develop projects, provide technical trainings to grantees, and improve partners' grant-writing and reporting skills. Joint advocacy means coming alongside our partners and working with them to identify campaigns and develop joint campaign strategies. Through this process, our partners gain access to international leverage points and have opportunities to develop high-level professional advocacy and community outreach skills, both essential components of a healthy environmental movement and to broader civil society development. Finally, we build the capacity of our partners by engaging them in local, national, and international coalitions.
To better support the environmental groups of Siberia and the Russian Far East, Pacific Environment established the Russian Far East Conservation Fund. The fund provides a long-term sustainable funding mechanism for grassroots environmental groups and specific conservation initiatives. For more information about the fund, please visit www.lastgreatwild.org.
Despite a worsening political climate, the country's environmental movement, particularly those groups in Siberia and the Russian Far East, networked through the Sosnovka Coalition-is working to protect communities and pristine areas in remote regions. Originally convened as a way to facilitate collaboration among a few environmental organizations, the Sosnovka Coalition has grown to involve more than 30 leading indigenous and environmental organizations throughout eastern Russia, addressing issues ranging from forestry and mining to fisheries management and social justice. Sosnovka organizations have met with tremendous success over the past few years:
- In 2005, Royal Dutch Shell had to reroute an offshore oil pipeline to avoid the endangered Western Pacific Gray Whale's habitat off of Sakhalin Island.
- In 2006, a massive public campaign moved the Siberia-Pacific Pipeline away from Lake Baikal, saving the watershed from potential oil spills, and an alternate terminal location avoids critical Amur leopard habitat.
- In 2007, the Vostochny Wildlife Refuge was established, protecting pristine watersheds, salmon rivers, and old-growth taiga forests.
- In 2008, the Bystrinsky Nature Park was protected from geological surveying to open new mine sites that would have polluted salmon spawning rivers.
- In 2009, a coalition of indigenous community groups and environmental NGOs stymied plans to construct the controversial Evenkiyskaya Dam, which would have displaced 7,000 Evenk people in northern Siberia.
- In 2010, an Altai Krai watchdog group sued and won, stopping a logging company from clear-cutting several thousand acres in the Zalesovksy Forest Reserve.
These victories demonstrate the viability of the environmental justice movement as the backbone of civil society in the region-and are the direct result of improved capacity of environmental organizations and within the Sosnovka Coalition. Russia rarely fits into existing stereotypes. Civil society in eastern Russia is strong and growing through the leadership of the environmental movement, but the results are different from what we have seen in Europe and in the United States. Russian groups will have to continue to adapt to a harsh political infrastructure, learning to educate state-controlled media outlets, for example, and to influence a top-down governance structure from the grassroots.