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Nordic Russian and Eastern European Studies Conference
Intentions, Interactions and Paradoxes in Post-Socialist Space
24-25 May 2013 in Helsinki, Finland

Abstracts

Civil Society, Welfare and Rights in Post-socialism
Chair: Emma Hakala (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)
Discussant: Dieter Segert (University of Vienna, Austria)
Eleanor Bindman (University of Glasgow, UK): The State, Social Rights and Civil Society in Contemporary Russia
Amy Watson (University of Glasgow, UK): Multi-national Corporations as Welfare and Civil society Actors in the Czech Republic
Freek van der Vet (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland): Selective Justice: Comparing Russian Strategic Litigation on Torture and Discrimination before the European Court of Human Rights
Terry Cox (University of Glasgow, UK): Civil Society and Social Policy in Hungary 2000-2010: Linkages and Contexts

Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, citizens of many countries in the region lost a significant degree of the social security measures previously provided by the state, such as pensions, medical care, and housing. During the same period civil society activity in both the social sphere and that of human rights protection has flourished in both the Former Soviet and Central and Eastern European context.
This panel seeks to address some of the issues raised by these developments by exploring the development of welfare systems, civil society, and human rights regimes in post-socialist Russia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In particular we examine how civil society actors including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and social organizations interact with intergovernmental institutions and the state to expand the protection of human rights, including social rights, on the domestic level. In addition to their practical role in providing social services, these organizations have been active in promoting the establishment and development of certain specific human rights institutions. In the Czech Republic, EU membership has opened up discourse about appropriate welfare regimes to multiple actors – including Czech and pan-European NGOs, and multi-national businesses – who have a range of ideas about state provision of services and the labour market, some of which do not necessarily defer to social rights. In Hungary, complex relations have developed between civil society organisations and policymakers involved in the areas of pension reform and hospital privatisation.
We examine, first, the role of multi-national corporations as civil society actors with the potential to influence the parameters of Czech policy debates about women’s employment and childcare responsibilities; second, the manner in which Russian human rights and more socially oriented NGOs conceptualise the role of the state in guaranteeing economic and social rights and their differing approaches towards cooperation with state structures; third, how Russian human rights NGOs litigate before the European Court of Human Rights to promote domestic legal reform and seek redress for victims of torture and discrimination, and fourth, social policymaking in Hungary between 2000 and 2010 and the ways in which research in this area can contribute to the debate on the political strength or weakness of civil society in Eastern Europe.