graphic of a rayed minaret, cyrillic letteringCenter for Safe Energy – Programs
Supporting Citizens’ Organizations in the Former Soviet Union

photo of a river flowing through a dramatic landscape


Each year CSE hosts environmental leadership delegations. This year, we are planning a delegation of energy efficiency experts from Rivne, Ukraine, to the Bay Area. In 2014, we hosted in Austin, TX a delegation of young environmental leaders from Kazakhstan.  In 2013, we hosted our first social entrepreneurship delegation and introduced our Russian partners to Bay Area organizations who are building innovative solutions to social problems. Highlights of other past delegations are below. 

  • March 2-10, 2012
    Building Sustainable Cities Delegation From Kazakhstan
  • June 22, 12 - 1:30pm
    Climate Change and Human Impacts on Siberian Forests and River Flows
    Brownbag Lunch Presentation by Tamara Burenina, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Feb 26-March 6, 2011
    Kazakh Delegation
    Exchanging methods to prepare for potential oil spills in the San Francisco Bay and Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea
  • March 31-April 10, 2011
    Siberia’s Lake Baikal Delegation
    Working to develop ecotourism on the planet's oldest and largest freshwater lake which holds 20% of the world's freshwater!
  • April 8th at 8am and April 9th at 9am
    A Quarter Century of Chernobyl Events: KPFA Interviews 3 Russian Anti-Nuclear Activists on Chernobyl
  • April 10th, 4 pm
    A Quarter Century of Chernobyl Event: Nuclear Presentation and Chernobyl4Ever Film Premiere
    Event moderated by Joanna Macy


Over Twenty Years of Joint Projects

photo of a group of adults shaking hands togetherOur projects include:

  • networking between environmental activists in the former Soviet Union and the US,
  • technical exchanges on energy issues, support for renewable energy and energy conservation,
  • strategic planning and organizational development for non-governmental organizations,
  • training in environmental and civil rights advocacy.

Delegations of Environmental and Elected Officials Visit the SF Bay Area

Delegation with Mayor NewsomSince 2004, the Center for Safe Energy has been hosting delegations of Russian grassroots environmentalist leaders through the Open World Program of the Open World Leadership Center, an independent legislative branch entity headquartered at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In 2005, CSE began hosting Ukrainian environmentalists, as well, and in 2006 our hosting included a group of Russian mayors. The mayors met with Oakland City Council Woman Jane Brunner, the Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, the CAL Public Utility Commission, site visits to examples of renewable energy and rounded up their trip with a meeting with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in which they signed the Urban Environmental Accords, promising to take steps toward sustainability in their towns.

Each group of environmentalists is shown the Bay Area through an environmentalist's lens. Often young, up-and-coming environmental leaders working in NGOs across Russia and Ukraine, they are taken to meet with local and national American environmental NGO representatives, such as Sierra Club, the Ecology Center, and Tri-Valley CARES to learn how U.S. organizations work with media, the government, volunteers, members and each other to get their message out. Delegates also meet with local governmental representatives, such as Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Berkeley Energy Officer Neil DeSnoo, as well as officials at the San Francisco Department of the Environment, to learn how city agencies work with NGOs and citizenry on environmental issues, legislation, and community action. They also visit sights such as the Altamont Pass Wind Farm, one of the oldest and largest areas of wind turbines, and see solar panels on homes and municipal buildings to better understand alternative sources of energy.

Delegates are required to have never been in the U.S. before and stay with American families in order to get a better feel for American life. They enjoy tours of the San Francisco Bay Area and witness its natural beauty, such as when visiting the Pacific Ocean and nearby Redwood forests, as well as cultural activities, such as neighborhood potlucks, street festivals, and concerts.

If you would like to host a delegate or volunteer to help organize, drive or offer to help in some other way, please contact us.

Ukraine Alternative Energy Conference, 2013

Program Director, Melissa Prager, and CSE Energy Consultant, Professor John Perkins led a delegation of five US experts to Ukraine to share with NGO and local government leaders the US experience with environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing and positive examples of its alternative.  Our three-day conference, co-organized by CSE and Ukraine’s EcoClub Rivne, included Kari Matsko, a software engineer from Ohio who has struggled with severe health issues as a result of living only 2,500 feet from a fracked gas well. Unlike other members of her community, she didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement. Kari speaks up for the thousands of those who cannot by sharing the truth about health impacts of extracting gas by injecting highly pressurized water mixed with harmful chemicals to fracture shale rocks.  Our Ukrainian counterparts were able to learn about these truths, which helped shape their own campaigns in their struggle to fight against fracking in Ukraine. Thanks to Kari’s leadership and founding of the People’s Oil and Gas Collective, in 2010 the state of Ohio improved its oil and gas laws, which had not been changed since 1965!

Dr. Larysa Dyrszka joined our delegation to Ukraine to provide the medical truths of fracking. A pediatrician and member of Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Health Energy , she shared the results of on-the-ground public health assessments and how here in the US, we have a long upward battle against big industry claims that fracking is “safe”.

Jason Edens and Maria Sanders offered alternatives for a more sustainable future. Edens’ experience with pioneering a program to offer low-cost solar thermal heating to the cold climates of rural Minnesota . Sanders gave examples of how citizens and local government can work together for sustainability and energy efficiency, drawing on her experience leading energy andclimate planning initiatives in California. Professor John Perkins, who recently joined the CSE staff as our Energy Consultant, provided a larger context for addressing energy issues in both countries, reminding us that we have to look at energy systems as a whole, with efficiency and renewable technology being most important. Ukraine, and the rest of Europe, looks to the US as the only example of a developed fracking industry and hears little of the opposition. 


From the Field: Energy Efficiency and Climate Change in Ukraine, May 2010

In May, 2010, CSE orgaznied a U.S. delegation to Ukraine. Timothy Burroughs, the Climate Change Coordinator for the City of Berkeley,  Enid Schreibman, Director of the Center for Safe Energy CSE Staff and Timothy Burroughs on Khortitsky Island, Ukraineand Melissa Prager, Program Director of the Center for Safe Energy, spoke in Zaporozhye and Odessa to NGO, government representatives and businesses about climate change and sustainability.

In Zaporozhe, our partner organization Khortitsky Forum, headed by Alexandr Bagin, an Open World alumni, organized a series of roundtables at the new government and NGO Arthus Center, attended by the regional minister of the environment, regional environmental authorities, and local environmental non-profit organizations. The Urban Sustainability Accords presented by Schreibman provided a written framework for the detailed presentation on the city of Berkeley’s plan to combat climate change presented by Burroughs. The participants were eager to learn about the stimuli for sustainability planning as well as funding and concrete results. Burroughs provided thoughtful answers for their inquiries.

CSE partner in Odessa, Yuri Gurashenko organized meetings with the Port authorities, academics, business people and local government representatives to showcase Odessa’s sustainable developments and to learn from the US experts. The Port authorities were proud to present their recycling program and other green measures.  Sergey Sergeevich, the Director of the Port, is eager to be part of an international group of green ports. He asked for assistance to partner with a US port.

The director of the new Dniznidniprovsky National Park, Igor Lubarski, took the CSE delegation on a tour of the marshlands exhibiting the many rare birds, some of which are on the endangered species list. He asked us for help with developing ecotourism in order to support the park. They too, would like to partner with US experts to strengthen this new reserve. As a result, CSE is planning to bring the first delegation of US experts to the park next May.

In both cities, Schreibman’s presentation of the Urban Mayor’s sustainability Accords were of particular interest.  The port in Odessa is anxious for the Mayor to sign the accords to provide a mandate for the Port’s aims towards sustainability.

Ukraine Joint Work with City Leaders and Environmentalists

photo of a man wearing a suit looking into a recycle bin

The Center for Safe Energy sent a delegation of four environmental specialists to Ukraine in May 2008 to give workshops on deep ecology, make presentations at a national conference, and to consult on common environmental issues with city government officials and environmentalists. The specialists traveled to Kiev, Kharkiv, Poltava and Zaporozh'e and also met with former and future CSE delegates of the Open World Leadership Program of the U.S. Congress.

The American delegation was made up of CSE Co-Directors Francis Macy and Enid Schreibman, Alex Dmitriew, Deputy Coordinator of Solid Waste Programs at the San Francisco Department of Environment, and Jennifer Cogley, Sustainable Business Coordinator for the City of Berkeley administration. All four speak Russian, which greatly facilitated work and social contacts with Ukrainians.

The CSE group addressed an annual conference organized by the Khortitsky Forum, a coalition of 85 environmental organizations from all parts of Ukraine and a CSE partner from whom CSE's Open World delegates are nominated. The theme, Environmental Partnerships, attracted about 125 interested participants.

The delegation reported on:
- Berkeley's response to global climate change;
- Berkeley's commissions on citizen participation in city policy-making;
- San Francisco's exemplary recycling programs; and
- Encouraging and certifying green businesses in Berkeley.

These were relevant issues to Forum leaders, as they are encouraging member organization heads to become involved in the Public Councils that regional and city Ministry of Nature Protection offices must create as advisory bodies at every level. The conference moderator, Alexander Bagin, publicly thanked CSE for being a strong partner by hosting its members through the Open World Program. He said that the exchange program has strengthened significantly the ability of the new Forum to support its member organizations.

Ukrainian hosts also organized professional meetings with city officials responsible for municipal services including housing, waste management, and energy supply.

In Kharkiv the program was organized by 2006 OW delegate Alexei Shumilo, an environmental lawyer who runs the NGO EcoPravo. Meetings were held with the city director of municipal services who is particularly concerned about establishing a waste recycling facility to relieve an overloaded landfill.

In Poltava the program was organized by 2007 OW delegate Irina Kozak, a biology instructor in an in-service training institute for school teachers. Kozak organized a two-day workshop on environmental ethics for 30 school teachers of biology and ecology, which CSE's co-directors conducted. At the same time Dmitrew and Cogley inspected a landfill and consulted with city officials responsible for waste management.

In Zaporozh'e, Alexandr Bagin, Forum coordinator, and former OW delegate Irina Karelina, arranged a roundtable discussion for the whole delegation with the city mayor and his senior department heads of municipal services. Bagin felt this high-level event gave the Khortitsky Forum more accessibility, visibility and credibility with the top city administrators.

Clean Energy in Ukraine

Ukraine depends heavily on nuclear and fossil fuel electric power plants that endanger the health of people and ecosystems.

CSE has a long history of helping NGOs, municipalities and regions to discover ways to increase energy efficiency and develop promising renewable energy sources in Ukraine.

CSE brought two delegations of Ukrainian activists to California to see pioneering efforts to use renewable fuel sources and to reduce energy consumption. CSE has sent experts to Ukraine to hold seminars on the same subjects.

CSE organized an exchange of delegations between Washington State and Crimea to foster cooperation in furthering a clean energy revolution in each area. NGO, government and business representatives from Washington visited Crimea for the first international "Clean Energy for Crimea" conference.

photo of a group smilingCrimean representatives of the same sectors came to Washington and Oregon to meet their colleagues again and take further steps. This Crimea exchange program has been funded by Rockefeller Financial Services and the Trust for Mutual Understanding.

As our Crimea program continues we focus on overcoming obstacles to investment in wind energy in Crimea, linking Crimean business associations with Washington businesses for possible joint ventures in renewable energy equipment manufacturing, and joint education projects between Crimea and Washington universities.

CSE helped set up a model wind turbine at the Crimea Institute of Technology.

Spotlight: Center Partner Victor Tarasenko

photo of a man smiling







Demonstrations and protests by the activists of the Ecology and Peace Association halted the construction of a nuclear power plant on a favorite Crimean beach.

The Center helped the Association to publicize and demonstrate the advantages of wind energy for Crimea.

Sustainable Cities Exchange Trip to Kazakhstan, 2014

 The Center for Safe Energy (CSE) collaborated with EcoForum in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to arrange a conference on energy, climate change, and cities. Participants from both countries had experience in different aspects of the relationships among city governance and the challenges posed by climate change and energy choices.  Both countries’ participants aimed their remarks at the efficacy of programs, policies, and projects to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change by increasing energy efficiency and promoting the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy.

Topics discussed

Energy systems. The program began with (a) the proposition that energy use must be understood as a complete system and (b) a broad overview of the energy situations in the USA and Kazakhstan.  Both rely heavily on fossil fuels (as do most countries in the world), and both have substantial amounts of emissions of carbon dioxide.  In contrast to the United States, Kazakhstan has embraced the Kyoto Protocol and has committed itself to reducing emissions with a newly launched cap-and-trade program.  In contrast to Kazakhstan, the United States has achieved much higher levels of energy efficiency.  US emissions, however, are larger per capita and total.  Stark differences between regions and states in the United States complicate its movement on issues like climate change.  Regional differences probably exist in Kazakhstan, too, but this issue has been less explored.

Strategies of change.  Speakers from both countries emphasized repeatedly that efficiency and renewable energy formed the best pathway to mitigation of climate change and reduction of other problems from current energy practices.  The roles of efficiency and renewable energy emerged at the national and local levels.  Potential efficiency gains lie in modification of residential and commercial buildings, industrial processes, and transport.  An American speaker outlined his opposition to the use of nuclear power in the United States as a low-carbon energy source on the grounds of excessive costs and risks of catastrophic accidents.

In addition to modifications of buildings, industrial processes, and transport, a number of speakers addressed other actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  These included enhancement of recycling to reduce solid waste burials; land use planning to improve cities for walking, biking, and mass transit; and efforts to promote growth of forests in cities and wild areas to absorb emissions, improve air quality, modify the visual beauty of cities, and enhance biodiversity.  The American delegation found the combination of reforestation efforts with programs for disabled youth particularly interesting, something not seen in the United States.

Kazakhstan has significant production of oil and gas, mostly for export, and several Kazakhstan speakers emphasized the pollution from these industries and the consumption of water, an important issue for a country as dry as Kazakhstan.  Speakers from both countries noted that the income from sales of oil and gas could finance extensive investments in energy efficiency, development of renewable energy, and managing the readjustments of the country’s new cap-and-trade system for emissions of carbon dioxide.

Both Kazakhstan and American speakers emphasized the importance of public participation in formulating programs to reduce emissions, improve efficiency, and promote renewable energy.  Speakers from Kazakhstan discussed the successes and failures they had seen in their work of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.  Designed to enhance the public’s ability to know about environmental issues and participate in their solution, speakers said that the ideals of the Convention had not always had effect in practice.

Several speakers emphasized the importance of environmental and energy education.  Both Kazakhstan and the United States have programs to encourage such programs for students at all levels.  They have had good effects, but more is needed.  Connections between NGOs and universities are particularly important for obtaining robust expertise on matters of climate and energy.

From the Field: Waste Management and Recycling in Kazakshtan, June 2010

Waste Management is a new and timely concept in Kazakhstan. There are few landfills up to international standards and many rural areas have no waste collection or landfills. Alex Dmitriew in AlmatyThis summer, the Center for Safe Energy (CSE) organized a waste management roundtable in three cities in Kazakhstan, as follow-up to a waste management exchange to CSE in May 2009.

During the waste management exchange in the U.S., the environmental leaders from Kazakhstan met with Alex Dmitriew, the Coordinator of Commercial Recycling at the San Francisco Department of the Environment. The group invited him to Kazakhstan to speak to government officials, non-profits and business leaders on recycling. Enid Schreibman, Director of the Center for Safe Energy, was invited to present to Kazakhstan government officials the San Francisco Urban Environmental Accords, which have been signed by mayors around the globe committing to two actions on sustainability a year, from a list of 21 possible action areas. With funding from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Center for Safe Energy supported the two experts’ visit. Our partners from Kazakhstan invited experts from the administrative departments of the cities of Astana, Karaganda, and Pavlodar, as well as NGOs, businessmen, the EU recycling project team and the US embassy for a one-day roundtable held in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana.

Of particular importance to the roundtable organizers was cold-climate composting, as opposed to examples of warm-climate composting used in California. Alex Dmitriev prepared a second presentation on this subject using materials on composting from Canada, Scotland, and Alaska, which have climates comparable to Kazakhstan’s.

One observable success was that the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Astana, Mr. Turmaganbetov, was so impressed with the presentation that he declared he had now changed his mind about the feasibility of organic waste composting in Kazakhstan.

CSE and Dmitriew in AlmatyAnother positive result was that Mr. Turmaganbetov was so inspired by the idea of the Urban Environmental Accords that he pressured the Deputy Mayor to meet with our team after hours. The Deputy Mayor agreed to study the accords for signature. He was particularly fascinated with the variety of products made from recycled materials that Dmitriew had demonstrated. Turmangabetov said it would be his job to study the accords and would urge passage, which would be beneficial for his focus on sustainability.


Kazakhstan: Women’s Leadership and Civil Rights Education for Kazakh NGOs.

meeting photoKazakhstan is a vast country in Central Asia with a population of around 15 million that is roughly half Kazakh, 30% Russian and 4% Ukrainian. Women there are taking the initiative to meet many of the social and environmental needs that the government is ignoring by creating social organizations.

However, women in this traditionally Moslem country do not have experience in forming and running organizations. They do not know how to raise money and mobilize the other forms of support needed to be effective. Government agencies and officers often intimidate them.

From October 2004 to October 2006, CSE conducted a two-year Kazakhstan Women's Political Participation project, called "Democracy in Action," that was sponsored by the US Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). One of the major goals of the project was to persuade legislators in six project regions to establish permanent Public Committees that would involve the public and non-profit organizations in the development and evaluation of state programs and local budgets, and improve two-way communication between local government and the public. The project was carried out jointly with long-term CSE Kazakhstan partner Kaisha Atakhanova and her organization, EcoCenter-Karaganda.

Kazakh-American project staff chose six potentially favorable regions of the 14 administrative regions in Kazakhstan within which to carry out the project. In each region, the staff chose a Regional Coordinator who was a well-connected and respected woman leading a powerful NGO. Each Regional Coordinator was made responsible for creation, membership and activities of a Regional Initiative Group.

CSE is happy to report that since the completion of the State Department DRL project, the TACIS Program ("Technical Aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States" a grant program created by the European Commission in 1991 to help members of the Commonwealth of Independent States transition to democratic market-oriented economies) has agreed to continue funding for two of the Kazakhstan Public Committees - in Karaganda and in Shymkent.

With support from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, CSE had previously conducted leadership training for these women and culled from them those who would participate in the DRL project. Over 170 women were trained in 1999-2001 in four cities of four different regions, and half of the initial participants undertook advanced training in 2002-03. CSE provided consultations on organizational development, grant writing, use of volunteers and NGO management. $75,000 was given out in small seed grants to enable women to take organizational steps to strengthen their NGOs.


Flow Fund Kazakhstan Video:


Learn more about CSE Activites in Kazakhstan:

Groups Defending Civil Rights in Kazakhstan

Testimonials from Kazakh Women.

CSE Key Partner in Kazakhstan Wins Goldman Prize!

Long-time CSE partner Kaisha Atakhanova was awarded the 2005 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world's most prestigious award for grassroots environmentalism. Biologist Kaisha Atakhanova was chosen as the most influential and courageous activist in Asia that year.

Atakhanova was recognized for her leadership in a two-year-long campaign against the import of nuclear waste into Kazakhstan. In June 2001, she learned that KazAtomProm, the state-owned nuclear company, had proposed legislation allowing the import of nuclear waste into Kazakhstan for disposal there. Atakhanova spurred NGO leaders into action. She explained, "We had a really strong team, and we just decided that we can absolutely NOT allow them to import waste into Kazakhstan.

Atakhanova and 15 other NGO leaders reached out to NGOs throughout Kazakhstan, eventually forming a coalition of 60 organizations. Through public hearings, letters, and meetings with legislators, they disputed the claim that importing nuclear waste would be good for Kazakhstan.

Thanks to the public pressure sparked by Atakhanova and her network of NGOs, the Kazakh parliament members refused to even consider the legislation and no vote was held.

To see more information about Kaisha Atakhanova on the Goldman Prize website, click here

To see a full article published in the Earth Island Journal, click here.

In Spring 2009, CSE hosted the first Open World delegation from Kazakhstan. The delegation's facilitator was Kaisha Atakhanova and the delegation consisted of NGO, government and business representatives. The delegation's theme was "Waste Management". The delegates met with their counterparts in the Bay Area, learned about waste management and recycling practices and in exchanged shared their experiences in Kazakhstan.

Russian-American Campaign for Safe Management of Plutonium

Both the US and Russia have over 100 tons of plutonium processed for use in nuclear weapons, and have declared that 50 tons is surplus to military needs. Presidents Putin and Clinton agreed that 34 tons of plutonium would be mixed with uranium to fabricate mixed oxide fuel (MOX fuel) for use in nuclear power plants in Russia and in North and South Carolina. Independent citizens' organizations in the regions of the power plants in both countries are strongly opposed to the use in them of military plutonium. The program could be the first step to a plutonium economy with many safety hazards and risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons materials.

CSE has been collaborating with Russian environmental NGOs since 1989 when Fran Macy and John Knox, Earth Island co-director, co-led a delegation of American environmental NGOs to the Soviet Union. On the basis of these contacts, CSE has catalyzed a joint Russian-American campaign to educate the public and regional leaders about the security and environmental risks of fabricating plutonium fuel and transporting, burning and finally storing it as waste. The NGOs are promoting other solutions to the plutonium problem that are technically safer and economically cheaper.

In 1999, CSE brought to the U.S. a Russian delegation of six NGO leaders from cities with nuclear facilities designated for use of plutonium fuel. They explained to US government leaders in the administration and Congress why the Russian public opposes plutonium fuel. They visited American NGOs in North Carolina and conducted joint press conferences and seminars with them on safe management of plutonium.

In 2000, CSE supported the organization of public hearings and a technical conference on plutonium in six Russian cities with nuclear power plants and factories. To present at these international events in Russia, CSE organized a delegation of ten American experts and activists. Russian media gave extensive coverage. The public education campaign, funded by the W Alton Jones and Compton Foundations, will continue in 2001-2002 with an emphasis on building support in Russia for alternatives to nuclear energy. Follow-up activities and publications are in progress.

Taking its Russia programs in a slightly new direction, CSE hopes (pending funding) to organize with its partner in Saratov a campaign to promote energy conservation in that city. The program will include an exchange of delegations between Saratov and Berkeley to learn about successful energy conservation programs, provide technical training, and set up similar programs in Saratov with a focus on the educational system. Building on both organizations' history in fighting unsafe energy systems, this program will promote viable alternatives through conservation.

Spotlight: Center Partner Oleg Bodrov

photo of a man pointing at a chalkboardOleg Bodrov, nuclear whistle-blower and founder/chairman of Green World Association in the major nuclear center of Sosnovy Bor and St. Petersburg.

With a grant from the Center, Oleg produced a unique portable exhibit on nuclear energy and renewable energy that is proving valuable for schools, universities, conferences and scientific seminars.

The Center also collaborated with Oleg in his work on the Nuclear Free Baltic Campaign which includes 30 citizen organizations from 10 countries bordering the Baltic Sea.