In the wake of USAID’s expulsion from Russia, the country’s pro-democracy and civil society groups may be able to call on other funding sources, reports suggest, including the State Department’s Department of Human Rights and Labor and on non-governmental groups like the National Endowment for Democracy or Freedom House.
“There are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered. Will people be able to finish the projects that they have now? Will USAID support continue through other mechanisms?” she said.
NED, which doesn’t have an office in Russia, spends about $2.5 million on grants to Russian organizations including Golos, the Memorial Human Rights Centre, and the Centre for Social and Labour Rights, which also receive USAID funds.
“Theoretically the US government has other ways of doing this, and they have to figure out which way they want to go,” she said.
The Kremlin has tried to justify its “provocative” decision to expel USAID by claiming that the U.S. government agency was deploying funds to influence the outcome of elections.
The ruling United Russia party has been deeply embarrassed by reports that its members received US funds and participated in USAID-financed programs.
Russian NGOs described USAID’s exit as a major blow that would hit small, regional and non-political organizations particularly hard, the Moscow Times continues:
Russian authorities have not specified which groups it believes attempted to meddle in domestic politics, but some NGOs that receive US grants have consistently been the subject of official ire, in particular elections watchdog Golos.
“It was probably a mistake of USAID to concentrate primarily on Golos, Memorial, the Moscow Helsinki Group -organizations that I, of course, respect,” said Yelena Malitskaya, president of the Siberian Civic Initiatives Support Centre.
Denise Roza of Perspektiva, which works to support the rights of the disabled, said her organization was set to lose almost a third of its income and would be forced to delay or eliminate a programme to promote inclusive employment for people with disabilities in five regions.
“There’s no funding for employment for people with disabilities. The government gives grants every year to the same big three organizations,” she said, referring to three national societies for the blind, deaf and disabled.
USAID was unique because it covered institutional costs -salaries, rent, supplies and travel -and not simply direct project costs, said Yelena Panfilova, head of the Russia office of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
“This is very bad, because mostly small organizations run these programmes, regional organizations. They’re not very publicized or well-known,” she said by telephone.