The Behavioral Science of the Season of Giving

‘Tis the season of giving as food drives, Salvation Army bell ringers, gift sponsorships, and charitable appeals become commonplace. Americans give and they give a lot. The total amount of charitable giving was $316.23 billion in 2012, an increase of 3.5% from the previous year. Total giving as a percentage of GDP was 2%, the highest proportion for any country, and individuals are responsible for 72% of the total amount while corporations account for just 6%. Individual motives for donating to charity can vary from the Christmas spirit to economic and tax benefits to passion for human needs. But can giving be about something less grand, more anomalous and internal, and perhaps, even, irrational?

For a long time, philanthropy was mostly ignored by social scientists who assumed that individuals are rational, self-interested, and possess well-defined and revealed preferences. But why do people part with their hard-earned money in the first place? And how can cash-strapped charities can easily induce individuals to give more? These are vital questions that basic behavioral economic insights can answer. Do individuals really fork over a couple bucks to receive a coffee mug and their name printed in the back of an annual report? Why do charities behave as if donors were calculative and rational automatons? Behavioral findings presented by a UK government report and profiled by David Leonhardt in The New York Times indicate there is more to charitable giving than we have previously thought.

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Economists John List and Dean Karlan used charitable giving as a laboratory for studying human behavior and used their findings to consult charities on how to induce greater contributions. For instance, a common practice amongst charities and corporations is to match the donations of individuals to encourage greater sums of giving. Karlan and List tested this piece of conventional wisdom and determined it was only partially correct. Even though the existence of a matching offer was very important—in an experimental study, 2.2% of people who received a match offer made a donation compared with only 1.8% of people who did not—the size of the match did not have any effect on giving. “Donors who received the offer of a one-to-one match gave just as often, and just as much, as those responding to the three-to-one offer.” This is inefficient on the donor’s part as a larger match ratio effectively increases the amount of a person’s gift by giving them a discount. So much for those aforementioned assumptions of rationality.

Another common fundraising practice that proved to be more beneficial than unnecessarily large matches is so-called “seed money”. Seed money are funds that charities raise toward their ultimate goal before officially announcing a donation drive, making their cause seem more legitimate and their goal more attainable. An experiment that List conducted with the University of Central Florida and their campaign to buy new computers indicated that the more upfront money the university claimed to have, the greater amount of contributions it raised.

When Rachel Croson, an economist at the University of Dallas, examined public radio station pledge drives, she observed how an anchoring effect could compel listeners to make larger contributions. Anchors can serve as starting points for people who lack well-formed preferences and are uncertain about appropriate values. When callers were told that a previous donor made a contribution of $300, despite the average contribution being $75 dollars, they gave an average of 12% more. The $300 figure inserted an idea into callers’ minds about the appropriate donation value and the psychological vagaries of shame, prestige, generosity, and inspiration did the rest. Croson’s further experiments lend a cautionary tale too. When the anchor value seemed too large to be relevant, say, $1000, callers actually gave less.

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If giving was strictly rational, huge charitable donations from the likes of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates would induce others to give less to the supported causes. Economist James Andreaoni argued the exact opposite is the case. Andreaoni formulated the “warm glow” theory which states that people derive an internal satisfaction from giving even though their contributions remain anonymous. Even though Buffet or Gates consistently bequeath massive charitable gifts, people would prefer that gifts come from them and not from others, even the two wealthiest people on the planet. The intrinsic motivation to give can be tapped into further by drawing on a peer effect. When making acts of giving more visible to others within one’s social group, we are more prone to give.

While some behavioral economic findings can lead to unconventional fundraising practices, other findings are unsurprising. In door-to-door fundraising, men give more money when the person asking for the gift was an attractive woman. Charitable appeals also proved to be most effective during the holiday season. People are more likely to make a donation in December than in January. And charities shouldn’t be quick to discard the beloved coffee mug and annual report donor list just yet. Economist William Harbaugh found that individuals hold a powerful preference for prestige, implying that “charities can increase contributions by reporting gift categories and publicizing donations” and contributions are most often the lower bound of a specially named category (i.e. $50,000 to $99,999 to qualify as a “Gold Class Donor”).

The nuances of behavioral science will surely be at work behind the scenes this holiday season but the donors’ motives—whether rational or not—should not matter as long as charity coffers are being filled. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t think twice about being compassionate and generous this year.

Should We Be Having More Babies?

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According to the CDC, the U.S. fertility rate fell to another record low in 2012 with 63 births per 1,000 women. In 2007, the rate was 69.3.

During a quick scan of the shelves of one of D.C.’s remaining bookstores, journalist Jonathan V. Last’s new book entitled “What To Expect When No One’s Expecting” caught my eye. The book forecasts an impending American demographic disaster by bluntly declaring that people are having too few babies. This prompted a hasty reaction from me: “But everyone says our population is growing out of control! Aren’t 3.95 million babies named Jacob and Sophia enough!?”  America’s total fertility rate, an estimation of the number of births a woman is expected to have during her lifetime based on current age-specific fertility rates, is 1.88 according to the latest figures from the CDC, a record low. This prophet of population doom argues that even this statistic is misleading because most of our fertility has been “outsourced” as we rely heavily on immigrants to prop up the fertility rate. Not including immigrants in the population profile reveals that America has a fertility rate of 1.5.

At first glance, any devout environmentalist would be thrilled with these shrinking population trends since human total environmental impact is exceeding the sustainable carrying capacity of Earth’s ecosystems. This is reflected by the I= PAT equation with I—the human impact placed upon any ecosystem—being the product of three variables: population (P),  per capita level of affluence (A), and technology (T) or more accurately described as the environmental destructiveness of production techniques. It does not take a environmental economist to realize that a lower global population, and hence a lower P value, will result in less of an impact on our ecosystems.

But an interesting deaggregation of what appears to be out-of-control growth reveals cross-country disparities and cultural differences in fertility rates: Japan has a total fertility rate of 1.3 compared to Mali’s total fertility rate of 6.25. Overall, 99% of the world’s current population growth is in developing countries while the fertility rate in each of the G-8 countries is below 2.1 children per women, the rate needed for a given generation to replace itself.  But environmentalists probably still significantly discount falling fertility rates. It is the absolute number that counts and even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline, the world population is still expected to reach a staggering 9.6 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion in 2100, according to the U.N’s medium-variant projection.

Last retorts that a shrinking population that is disproportionately old has dire economic, political, and cultural consequences. According to the U.N., “whereas the number of persons aged 60 or over is expected to more than triple by 2100, that of persons aged 80 or over is projected to increase almost seven-fold by 2100.” Last laments that a global population reduction results in a decrease of human ingenuity: “Low-fertility societies don’t innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care.” Negative socio-economic externalities abound like a smaller taxpayer base and labor force and the limited availability of military-age manpower to serve in our armed forces. In 1950, there were 16 covered workers for each Social Security beneficiary. Today, there are a little less than three.

But simultaneously, what can the rationale be of the coerced low fertility rates of the Chinese? Surely the Chinese cannot be dooming themselves to a demographically poor future. And is America really subjecting itself to prolonged economic stagnation via a population implosion? A competing argument can be made that a low fertility rate can actually improve living standards. Until  recently, there were few examples of developing countries with both declining fertility and rising incomes. This has changed as some countries have undergone a Goldilocks generation” of fertility—a generation with a not too high but not too low fertility rate—with the result being fewer dependent youngsters, fewer dependent grandparents, and a bulge of working adults that increase economic output. Also, women comparatively do not have to spend more time raising children and can invest more in the education of the children that they do have and add to the productivity and quality of the labor force.

Because there are fewer dependent children and old people, households are able to save more, and there is more capital and resources that can be accumulated per capita.  Economist Klaus Prettner reproduces these findings in a dynamic consumer optimization model that incorporates endogenous fertility and health investments to show that a fertility decline induces higher education and health investments that are able to compensate for declining fertility under certain circumstances. Even as absolute population levels fall, the “effective labor supply” will actually increase, proving that it’s too simplistic to reduce a country’s economic growth and productivity to a simple population numbers game.

Even as absolute population levels fall, the “effective labor supply” will actually increase, proving that it’s too simplistic to reduce a country’s economic growth and productivity to a simple population numbers game.

Consequently, questions loom about such a key determinant of our environmental and economic future. It is clear that countries concern themselves with two questions: Do we have enough people to support an ageing society? Can we take advantage of the right population numbers to spur economic growth? Viewing these questions through an environmental lens, can we find reassurance in declining fertility amidst competing claims about its effects? Are claims about the global population explosion hyperbolized? Only one thing is for certain. Motivation to stabilize population can be undermined by excessive worry that smaller numbers of young people will be supporting larger numbers of the elderly. The prevailing patterns of behavior and resource allocation can be changed in ways that reduce pensioner/worker ratios and make population stabilization more politically viable. Even if falling fertility can raise living standards—especially the living standards of poor, resource-disadvantaged people—it cannot be an excuse for inaction in the realms of smarter governance and tempered lifestyle patterns in respect to environmental crises and economic stagnation.

UPDATE: The Chinese government announced late last week that they would begin to relax its “one-child policy”. The policy was introduced in the late 1970s to combat rapid population growth but has now resulted in an increasingly aging population and extreme gender imbalance. The change will allow couples the option of having two children if just one of the parents is an only child. Previously, both parents had to be only children.

AidData 3.0 Makes Development Data Easily Accessible

For those of us still enthralled by a very notoriously dysfunctional website, the recent release of AidData 3.0 should restore your faith in the power of the Internet and web developers. AidData is an online database that seeks to improve international development outcomes by making aid data accessible and actionable through crowdsourcing and an interactive user interface. The data portal allows any global development stakeholder to analyze over $40 trillion dollars in integrated remittances, FDI, foreign aid, private foundation grants, and domestic public expenditures across countries from 90+ donor agencies. AidData facilitates comparability between incoming financial flows and their subsequent real world outcomes and has the potential to be a valuable tool in the areas of development finance most readily amenable to policy changes.

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A GIS map from AidData showing all the development projects in Malawi. (Source: AidData)

The remarkable thing about AidData is that you do not have to work at the World Bank or even the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity to effectively engage the interactive database. The portal provides enhanced visualization tools that make online data analysis easy and intuitive, even on a granular level. Users can run search queries for a specific project, donor, or country and generate state-of-the-art visual dashboards and geographic information system (GIS) maps instead of cumbersome data tables; all the food security projects in the northern Antsiranana region of Madagascar are just clicks away for a finance minister managing a large aid portfolio, an NGO volunteer working in a local field office, or a researcher conducting an in-depth study.

Civil societies are being increasingly seen as “arenas” of evolving mass participation and information exchanges with entering and exiting NGOs, social movements, and private investors that advance the common interest over pursuing private goals rather than as a static term with rigid contours.The spirit of AidData in rooted in the recognition that a nation with the most wealthiest of donors or a developing country with the most pressing of needs cannot successfully partner unless they both operate in vibrant civil societies and have adequate access to information.  The poor in any given country may think that a routinely absent teacher or doctor must be just an accepted feature of the poor and may not realize that this may be due to unaccountable and opaque political institutions. This is where not only AidData but mediums like radio broadcasts, mobile telecommunications,  and SMS messages can supply vital information, triggering a demand for accountability from institutions and even reciprocally nudge individual behavior. For example, a community-level information project in Uganda utilized community monitoring of health workers and service providers to dramatically improve health outcomes. Health facilities began to use suggestion boxes and numbered waiting cards and the reductions in wait time and absenteeism were dramatic. Similarly, when individuals in Peru, Bolivia, and the Philippines received monthly SMS message reminders to make a monthly deposit into their savings account, the gross amount saved by the reminded individuals increased by 6%.

Those on the opposite side of the equation that are administering aid and spearheading various development projects benefit from AidData to an even greater degree. Looking toward the future, natural disasters—which have doubled since 1980—will present a real danger to international peace and security and augment displacement, business shocks, and enormous material damage in the most vulnerable of communities as they. When a disaster strikes, first response usually comes from NGOs and their volunteers and then big governments and organizations follow, resulting in inefficient and uncoordinated relief responses; one community may receive triples rations of food but no water with another community not receiving any aid at all. The GIS maps of AidData can be a less costly tool to coordinate humanitarian and disaster relief projects as those working on the ground can see in real time which areas have yet to receive help.

An NGO worker assesses the impact of an agricultural project in Nepal (Source: Alena Stern)

Individuals have a right to be informed in order to hold governments accountable. Information is needed to actively participate in decision-making and is increasingly needed to access government services. Nevertheless, information is useless if individuals in civil society are not enabled to act on it. Appraisals of civil society should reflect this fluid component and open data portals like AidData should continue to seize opportunities to enhance transparency and improve efficiency by providing accessible and utile data to all development stakeholders.

Corporate Philanthropy: Sham, Responsibility, or Opportunity?

Many motives exist for corporations to engage in philanthropic activity, just as individual motivations for giving can vary from human needs, to tax benefits, to improving one’s standing in the community. Corporate philanthropy can “help companies reduce business risk, open up new markets, engage employees, build the brand, reduce costs, advance technology, and deliver competitive returns.” And it is effective: according to the CSR Branding Survey 2010, 75% of those who have read about a company’s social responsibility agenda on its website say it made them more likely to purchase products or services from the company in the future.

A cartoon from Puck Magazine in 1903 depicting Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy. Carnegie bequeathed $7 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation) to various causes and attested to the responsibility of philanthropy of the American nouveau riche.

Former CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company Doug Conant is a committed corporate philanthropist: “I observed that the more we leveraged our business resources to deliver social value to the communities around us, the more engaged our employees became and the better we performed in the marketplace.” Philanthropy allows companies to make thoughtful investments in sectors where the return profile is typically more speculative, mirroring the purposes of conventional R&D. Moreover, corporate philanthropy’s counterpart, shared value ventures, goes beyond simply writing checks to actually decreasing market entry costs for firms. Cisco’s Networking Academy teaches thousands of students worldwide the skills needed to build, design, and maintain networks, which improves their career prospects while ultimately satisfying the firm’s demand for networking professionals.

But critics of corporate philanthropy abound with a variety of counterclaims. After all, philanthropy is about giving because you care about a cause, not tapping into another revenue stream. Targeting communities to find a match for a product is marketing, not philanthropy. This blurs the line between traditional grants or volunteering and strategic programs that are critical to a corporation’s bottom line in hopes of diverting attention away from otherwise rapacious behavior that is detrimental to society. Milton Friedman once called social responsibility programs “hypocritical window-dressing” and declared that the single social responsibility of business is “to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.

Corporate social responsibility viewed through the most denunciatory of lenses (Friedman most certainly wore these glasses) can be seen as stealing the money of shareholders without a clear business purpose or even as a way to bypass government regulation and increase corporate domination of our lives. Critics of corporate philanthropy assert that “solving problems” is itself a skewed and biased framework for philanthropy that privileges expert analytical solutions over the accumulated and idiosyncratic knowledge in local communities.

Besides, even if they may be well-intended, corporate charitable donations can often be small gestures at the margin of what firms are really trying to do: make money. Even though the absolute levels of corporate donations to charities have increased substantially over the past 30 years, giving as a percentage of profits—the best measure of relative generosity—has fallen precipitously from a high of 2.1% at its peak in 1986 to just around 0.8% in 2012 and is subject to volatility as contribution percentages tend to rise in periods of poor corporate earnings. Are these findings valid indicia of unimpressive corporate giving or does it signal corporations becoming more savvy and efficient with philanthropic endeavors?

“I observed that the more we leveraged our business resources to deliver social value to the communities around us, the more engaged our employees became and the better we performed in the marketplace.”

-former Campbell’s Soup Company CEO and current chairman of the CECP Doug Conant

Furthermore, the poster children of American corporatism are not good standard bearers for corporate philanthropy.  Do any philanthropic endeavors of Apple and Steve Jobs come to mind? Probably not as there is no eponymous hospital wing or academic building donated by the longtime Apple co-founder and CEO. Despite an estimated net worth of $8.3 billion and Apple earning profits close to $42 million in 2012, Jobs was not a member of Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge. The lauded technological advances Apple has rolled out with numerous savvy presentations still do not permit charitable donations to be made through iPhone applications. Apple’s defenders will argue that the company’s greatest contribution to society is providing tools that spark creative innovation and creating $350 billion dollars in shareholder value out of tinkering with a computer in a garage.

If you turn on an NFL game in October, you will see players sporting bright pink cleats, armbands, and towels via the league’s “A Crucial Catch” breast cancer awareness and cancer research fundraising campaign. But in actuality, a miniscule 8.01% of actual funds spent by the league and its fans on pink merchandise goes towards cancer research with many other worthy causes getting drowned out by the NFL’s pink fury that clearly has little noise. Similarly, on the Sunday before Veteran’s Day last year, the NFL announced it would donate funds to military groups for each point scored. Amidst all the praise the league received, the donation amounted to just $444,000, a parsimonious charade for a $9 billion dollar operation that enjoys non-profit status.

For many CEOs, making money and producing social value do not have to be mutually exclusive. The essential question is whether these sorts of business growth strategies can and should be reconciled with promoting general well-being with the answer appearing to be in the affirmative. Aren’t corporations that bring good business insight and discipline to the development process better than asymmetric government-to-government aid that is increasingly composing fewer of the financial flows to developing countries? What’s wrong with investing in projects that turn a profit and benefit society? If you take on the shared value perspective, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Leaving Libya Behind: Two Years after Qaddafi, One Year after Benghazi

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According the the U.N.’s Support Mission in Libya, the country has accumulated the largest known stockpile of man-portable defense systems in the world. There are increasing concerns about the looting and likely proliferation of these portable defense systems and the risk to local and regional stability. (Source: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

This past week marked the second anniversary of the death of dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, captured after an eight-month revolt against his four-decade rule in Libya. Since the country’s liberation, its transitional government has struggled with security issues and has exhibited a woeful need for the assistance of external actors that can strike a balance between smothering the nascent state and idly standing back.

The military intervention in Libya was unique in many respects. The United States, with the crucial and historically unforeseen support of the Arab League, orchestrated Operation Unified Protector, a NATO operation carried out by mostly British and French forces that deployed air strikes and imposed a no-fly zone to prevent Qaddafi forces from attacking civilian areas held by rebels. Most notably, international actors did not deploy post-conflict peacekeeping forces after the operation and have continued to maintain this low-profile approach.

Foreign actors had good reason to limit their role in the early post-conflict stages. Under the aegis of NATO and the United States, international actors have refrained from excessive involvement so as to not undermine the fragile legitimacy of the Libyan authorities—cognizant of the mixed record of United States security assistance—as bloated foreign assistance absent of investments in institutions and people that support local entrepreneurship often leads to poor governance and disincentives for exports.

In contrast with the post-conflict situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the immediate post-war situation in Libya was much calmer. The country’s uprising was a byproduct of the neighboring positive political trends in Tunisia and Egypt. Regional, tribal and other cleavages that were instigated by the 40 year authoritarian regime were temporarily put aside as diverse groups fought against Qaddafi. Key infrastructures were mostly left intact through attentive NATO military planning. And most importantly, the country was also relatively wealthy on account of its energy resources ($14,100 GDP per capita in 2010) and, therefore, less desperate for financial assistance. Richard Weitz, senior fellow and director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute surveys the situation likewise:  “There is a bit of a concern in Washington as well as in Libya itself that the government is seen being … too closely attached to the western powers that intervened militarily to overthrow Qaddafi and so it is better if in public, the government … attacks the US for violence and sovereignty, even if in private they are collaborating with the United States.” It is clear that for Libya to be stable and prosperous in the future, concerted and nuanced international engagement is needed.

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Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has requested help from Western governments in dealing with a growing number of jihadi groups taking advantage of Libya’s security vacuum, many of whom came in across its porous southern border. David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy visited Libya in 2011. (Source: Reuters)

Libya is devolving into anarchy and observers forecast an oncoming civil war.  Rival factions continue to act autonomously, showing they are the ultimate arbiters in a struggle between rival tribes and radical Islamist leaders. In the past year alone, more than 80 people, many of them high-ranking military and police figures, have been killed in eastern Libya.  Just last week, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped  from the Corinthia Hotel. Upon his release, the premier thanked a rival armed group for his rescue in what can be a harbinger of future threats. The tragic attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September, 11th, 2012, which resulted in the death of 4 Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, punctuated the abysmal failure to disarm and reign in the revolutionary brigades into a single national force. It now appears that southern Libya has become a new base for al-Qaeda. Can any type of government be built in such a climate? The sine qua non of post-conflict nation building endures: without a security guarantee on the ground, political and economic goals are unachievable.

When President Obama addressed the nation on Libya in 2011, he said, much to the consternation of some observers: “There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are…In such cases, we should not be afraid to act–but the burden of action should not be America’s alone.  As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action.” Garnering the attention of the international community has been diluted and complicated by the fact that Libya is not pivotal to the geostrategic interests of the United States vis-à-vis Egypt or Afghanistan. On the other hand, Europe’s oil flows are suddenly at risk.

The sine qua non of post-conflict nation building endures: without a security guarantee on the ground, political and economic goals are unachievable.

But this goal is not impossible and now requires imperative action. The Libyan state needs to monopolize the legitimate use of force in order to solidify its sovereignty. Ergo, NATO has recently agreed to a Libyan request to advise it on the strengthening of its security forces, an ancillary engagement that should vitally assist in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants via a holistic approach that includes financial, social, and security incentives.  Only then can deliberations on the role of shari’a law and the appropriate balance between centralized power in Tripoli and local authorities occur within a constitutional drafting framework. If Libya’s current challenges are handled adroitly, the state could become a valuable partner against al-Qaeda in an increasingly unstable region and a vindication of a less costly approach to nation building where the United States acts at a low cost to defend human rights by putting allies in the lead.  So far these outcomes are only a chimera as states, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs alike have left Libya behind.

Migrants of a Different Kind

Samysuddin, a current resident of Indonesia, can recall the days when he would take his trusted speargun and dive into the coastal waters of Ujung Village and be able to catch his family’s dinner. But things have since changed in the waters off the Kapoposang island of Indonesia: “I can spend the whole day motoring around, paddling and swimming, I’ll try everything. Sometimes I don’t catch any fish and we’ll go a whole day without eating any. These days, the coral reefs around Kapoposang are degrading. If the reefs continue to degrade then there won’t be any fish here. There won’t be anything left for us to do.”

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A home on the water in Indonesia, a country where migration is already an inevitable method of adaptation and will be exasperated in the future. (Source: Curt Carnemark / World Bank)

Samysuddin is a part of a growing population of Indonesia migrants that have been displaced as a result of economic, social, and now adverse environmental changes.  changes.  Narratives like his are becoming a familiar tocsin. UN forecasts predict  “200 million to 1 billion” people will have to migrate as a result of climate change with 200 million being the most widely cited estimation but not devoid of misapplication and manipulation. While there is a considerable amount of research on migration as a response to various, social, political, and economic conditions, humans are now beginning to migrate as an adaptive strategy to adverse environmental conditions. Migration due to rising sea levels is in its most nascent forms as push and pull factors vary greatly among regions and social groups and are often intertwined with livelihood opportunities and public policy responses. For example, research conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch found that rural Nicaraguan families in extreme poverty were the least likely to migrate as they were unable to finance the cost of moving. Yet Costa Rica still absorbed an enormous influx of Nicaraguan migrants that have been victims of violence and have faced constraints in accessing social services.

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Russian Actions against Greenpeace International Part of a Familiar Trend

Last week, the CGP blog commented on the state of the CSO sector in Russia amidst the oncoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the country. The highly controversial interactions between the environmental group Greenpeace International and the Russian government in the past weeks align with the past grievances we reported on:

A Russian coastguard official points a knife at a Greenpeace International activist who tried to scale an oil platform owned by state-owned energy giant Gazprom (Source: Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace).

30 people from 18 countries detained on the Greenpeace International ship “Arctic Sunrise” are awaiting trial on piracy charges and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted related to a September 18th  incident in which some of the activists tried to scale an oil rig in the Pechora Sea owned by the national oil-giant Gazprom. The activists may spend up to two months in pre-trial detention in a Murmansk jail awaiting the decision of Russian prosecutors. Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo called the seizure of the vessel and the arrest of its crew the worst “assault” on the environmental activist organization since one of its ships was bombed in 1985. The detained activists are reportedly being kept in “solitary confinement for 23 hours a day,” while others are held in “extremely cold cells.” Russian officials have called the protest “pure provocation” and an “encroachment on the sovereignty” of Russia.

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