About CAN
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Awareness and assistance
Our Activities
Advocacy, air and outreach
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Chechnya
The Conflict
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History
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Who are the Chechens
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Humanitarian Crisis
Conditions, needs and aid efforts
Refugees
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Отдел на Русском Языке 
Совет Беженцам
Юридические справки и практический совет беженцам


Our Activities

The Chechnya Advocacy Network is active in a number of areas: providing legal and integration aid to refugees, raising awareness and media outreach, humanitarian/development aid, academic analysis, advising donors and liaising with other non-profit organizations, culture and capacity-building for professionals and institutions in the North Caucasus. All of our activities have in common that they were developed as custom-made responses to existing problems as they are identified and priotitized by residents of the region, as opposed to being abstract, one-size-fits-all "solutions" imposed from outside. Some of our projects started as informal support and advice for individuals and have since been expanded and formalized to provide more systematic assistance. Increasingly, we are developing and implementing projects jointly with organizations based in the region.

Because of the open nature of our network, anyone is welcome to get involved in our projects (depending on their experience and ability to commit time) or to propose new ones.

We are currently working on the following initiatives:

Outreach and public informational events:
The Chechnya Advocacy Network organizes or co-organizes a number of panels and informational events every year in various locations and venues across the US. Our events cover the entire North Caucasus region and a wide range of issues, from history to human rights, public health, journalism, humanitarian and development issues, culture, children and youth, security and policy. In line with our goal of adequately representing the interests and needs of people on the ground, our speakers are either distinguished local experts such as human rights defenders, journalists and aid workers, or expatriate aid workers based in the region and international experts/ journalists who have hands-on experience in the North Caucasus. Our events are free and open to the public. To see a full list of our events, please go to our events site. While not all the events listed on the site are organized by CAN, we include events organized by other organizations as a service to our audience.

Universities, think tanks, non-profits and other institutions interested in inviting guest speakers with expertise on the North Caucasus, are welcome to contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org for suggestions. We maintain a roster of experts from the region and around the world and can help you choose the right speaker for your event.

CAN's Opportunities Initiative:
The Chechnya Advocacy Network believes that people from the North Caucasus have not sufficiently benefited from access to international training opportunities and exchanges with fellow professionals. These programs have been very beneficial for young people and professionals from other parts of the former Soviet Union and have often had a transformative impact on their communities. North Caucasus residents are eligible to apply to a wide range of international educational programs in their capacities as citizens of Russia, as members of minority groups, as students, as recognized refugees, or in their professional capacities as human rights activists, academics and researchers, journalists etc. We believe that past low levels of participation by individuals from the North Caucasus were due to lack of information and lack of support and encouragement for potential candidates, so we collect and disseminate information about existing programs and our volunteer mentors coach eligible candidates through the application process. The programs we promote are listed here. CAN's Opportunities Initiative was researched and launched in 2005 by our colleague Susanna Emmet and is updated regularly. Since then, dozens of talented individuals from the North Caucasus have succeeded in winning scholarships and training opportunities with CAN's help. The success rate of applicants coached by CAN is significantly higher than average admission rates of most included programs.

If you are interested in getting involved in our Opportunities Initiative as a volunteer mentor or would like to recruit North Caucasus candidates for your exchange or training program, please contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org

New Horizons - CAN's own capacity-building program:
CAN has developed its own capacity-building program in order to fill gaps among existing international exchange programs and to respond to the specific educational needs of young professionals and future leaders from the North Caucasus region. The program is designed for candidates who are too young or otherwise not (yet) ready for most professional training and graduate scholarship programs, but who show talent, dedication to serving their community and a desire to learn. Our capacity-building program consists of structured fellowships at selected community-based organizations and public institutions in the US, where participants conduct internships, get a chance to observe all aspects of the host organization's work and draw up plans, based on their observations, for a project to be implemented at home. They live with host families, take English courses and attend a cap-stone conference to evaluate their experiences.

At this time, New Horizons has only had a "trial run" and has not yet received further funding. Contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org, if you are interested in learning more about this program and/or would like to get involved.

Capacity-building and networking support for local NGOs:
CAN maintains a network of contacts among local NGOs working in the North Caucasus on human rights, youth, education, conflict-resolution, culture, journalism, humanitarian aid and women/gender issues. We assist our partners by helping them find donors (private foundations and governments), prepare grant applications (including translation into English when needed) and participate in international civil society networks at conferences and seminars. We also arrange for them to speak at public events in the US and Europe, because we believe that their experience are highly relevant and reflect local priorities. We also help local NGOs with their international outreach by translating their reports into English, editing them and circulating them. Our goal is to improve their technical capacities, allow them learn from their colleagues in other parts of the world, and help make their work more sustainable through better fundraising as well as to give their work international exposure.

Contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org, if you are interested in learning more about our work in this area.

Refugee and asylum-seeker advice:
Since the launch of our refugee advice manual (see below), CAN has been assisting Chechen refugees/asylum-seekers in several European countries as well as the US with preparing their applications for asylum, advising them on the asylum process, matching them with pro-bono lawyers, submitting expert affidavits, collecting supporting evidence and identifying expert witnesses. We have also contributed to reports and research on refugee conditions and make them available to all our partners and other interested parties. Read more in our refugee section.

In addition to helping them obtain asylum/refugee status, we assist newcomers to the US with their integration needs, such as job search, housing, language training, education, referrals to specialized programs and signing up for public benefits. We also track the successes and challenges of integrating the large Chechen refugee populations in Europe.

Assisting refugees during their asylum applications or when starting a new life is an interesting and rewarding experience, but also time-consuming. We are therefore always looking for volunteers to get involved. Contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org, if you are interested.

Refugee Advice Manual:
According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, Russian citizens (assumed to be up to 90% ethnic Chechens) constituted the largest group of new asylum-seekers in 2003 and 2004, and while numbers have dropped since 2006, they are still at more than 10,000 new arrivals per year, mostly in Europe. The great majority of them, tens of thousands, have sought asylum in the European Union, where they arrive after a dangerous journey by land through Russia and Eastern Europe. EU regulations on refugees and the fact that Chechens have little understanding of the concept of asylum or their rights as refugees, have caused much unneeded suffering, delay, uncertainty and hardship. We believe that these refugees would have a much better chance of making it to safety and getting asylum without delay if they were better informed before starting their journey or even after arrival in Europe. We have therefore produced an advice manual that explains asylum and EU asylum laws to refugees from the North Caucasus, helps them avoid the pitfalls (traffickers, deportation etc.) and gives them contact information for refugee aid organizations and pro-bono lawyers in their countries of exile.

The manual was written by a team of four experts, two of them former refugees themselves, in consultation with refugee assistance NGOs all over Europe. It is available for download in Russian in our Russian-language refugee advice section.

For more information please contact CAN.

Referrals and advice for a variety of projects:
In line with our goal of engaging the public and other relevant institutions to draw attention to the North Caucasus and provide assistance to its population, the Chechnya Advocacy Network offers advice, guidance, support, contacts and referrals to anyone seeking information about the region or wanting to extend a helping hand, as long as their proposed projects or information needs fulfill the objectives outlined in our mission statement. We have previously assisted print and broadcast journalists, authors, researchers, graduate students, film-makers, playwrights, US and international NGOs, government representatives, law enforcement, and lawyers representing refugees from our target region. We can also help recruit (primarily US-based) linguists/speakers of Chechen and other North Caucasus languages for interpretation, translation and instruction. Referrals and information are provided free of charge.

For more information, please contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org.

Partnership with Etudes Sans Frontieres:
Etudes Sans Frontieres/Studies Without Border (www.etudessansfrontieres.org) was founded in 2003 by French students who wanted to offer fast, pragmatic help to their Chechen peers at a time when assistance on the ground was impossible for grass-roots organizations. Through volunteer action, they invited motivated young Chechens to France, enrolled them in graduate and undergraduate programs at elite universities and assisted them with internships and professional development. In fall 2006, the first class of ESF students graduated, and they have since then been returning to Chechnya where they use their new skills in local NGOs, media and humanitarian organizations. Since its inception, ESF has expanded to universities across France as well as Belgium, Spain, Germany, Italy and Canada. The organization has also started recruiting students from other conflict-ridden parts of the world, like Rwanda and Congo. ESF is now expanding its successful model of student leadership and peer guidance to US universities.

ESF is based on a revolutionary approach in which students take the lead, unlike traditional exchange programs which are run by foundations, governments and university administrations. ESF empowers students to take a leadership role in their universities' global commitment, bring diversity to their campus and change the life of talented young people from some of the most troubled parts of the world. The success rate of ESF compares well to conventional fellowship programs, due to student volunteers' contribution: upon arrival, students are embraced by a group of peers that assist them with orientation and language classes, advise them on their course of study, help them build professional networks and offer friendship and support.

The Chechnya Advocacy Network has been a partner of ESF since 2005 and is currently assisting the organization’s expansion to US universities. If you are interested in bringing ESF to your school, contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org. Etudes Sans Frontieres is also on Facebook and open for all to join.

US tour of the Chechen traditional dance group Daimohk:
Daimohk (more at http://peacebuildinguk.org/?page_id=4), a children's dance group based in Grozny and trained by the former first dancer of the Chechen national theatre, has toured Europe to great acclaim for years and has been the subject of a number of TV shows and documentaries, including the award-winning "Dance, Grozny, dance" (also known as "The Damned and the Sacred") by Dutch film-maker Jos de Putter. Founded in 1998, less than a year before the start of the second war in Chechnya, to provide children with an alternative to poverty, violence and despair, Daimohk soon achieved a remarkable level of artistic accomplishment, reflected in a series of rave reviews of their European performances.

The Chechnya Advocacy Network is looking for volunteer tour coordinators and hosts in cities on the East and West Coasts, who will be in charge of tasks ranging from booking threates and housing to selling tickets, partners and sponsors (advertising opportunities are available), as well as volunteers to welcome the children, help out at performances and promote the tour! So if you would like to help out, contact us at can@chechnyaadvocacy.org, subject line "Daimohk". . As a non-profit undertaking, all proceeds of the tour will be used to cover expenses incurred for travel, housing and theatre rentals and the remainder will go to maintaining Daimohk's Grozny theatre and dance school, which was bombed and looted during the armed conflict, and training future generations of dancers. Tthe earliest possible timeline for a US tour is summer 2010.

Advocacy:
The Chechnya Advocacy Network, in close cooperation with other US and international non--governmental organizations, has been conducting an ongoing outreach campaign involving Congress and relevant parts of the US government as well as European institutions by way of our European partners, with the aim of improving assistance for the North Caucasus region in four broad areas:

  • easier access for refugees to the United States, including for North Caucasus refugees experiencing insecurity in third countries.
  • making funds available for development, capacity-building and post-conflict peacebuilding programs.
  • in previous years, continued and increased US contributions to humanitarian relief operations, as outlined by aid agencies on the ground.
  • maintaining awareness of the situation in the region and providing up to date information.

The Chechnya Advocacy Network also launches public appeals on behalf of individuals in need of protection (if legal remedies have not been successful) and for selected causes of interest to CAN.

For more information please contact CAN.

Humanitarian crisis in Chechnya:

Hunger, desperate poverty, people living in bombed-out ruins and squalid camps, landmines causing daily casualties, widespread health problems and a whole generation growing up without adequate schooling...
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The Chechnya Advocacy Network was formed out of deep concern about the situation in Chechnya and the surrounding areas and the challenges faced by Chechen refugees elsewhere. We strive to raise awareness of the situation in the region, particularly its human dimension, advocate for a strong international response to humanitarian and rebuilding challenges and work to empower local people to improve their communities. We do not endorse any specific political outcomes. Instead, our goal is to help the residents of the North Caucasus region build a peaceful and happy future. We welcome everyone who shares these goals with us.

© Copyright 2004, Zachary Hutchinson
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