The German Russian Exchange (DRA – Deutsch-Russischer Austausch e.V., www.austausch.org) was registered in 1992 as an international non-governmental organization. It is a leading NGO in Germany that works with civil society groups in Russia and Eastern Europe. Together with its Russian independent partner organization in Saint Petersburg Nemetsko-Russkiy Obmen (NRO), the DRA supports civil society cooperation within Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other post-soviet countries, as well as in Germany and other EU-member states.
The DRA is a membership organization with about 100 individual members, currently employing around 20 people. In 2014 GRE operated a budget of approximately 1°million euro, in 2015 it grew up to 1,4 million.
Working on a regional, federal and international level together with various partners, DRA leads a big range of programs in such fields as active citizenship and civic participation, human rights, NGO development, media, integrational work, conflict resolution, historical remembrance, and education. Other important areas of engagement of the DRA are sustainable development, climate protection, as well as youth exchanges.
DRA has facilitated the start of several new civic initiatives and NGOs in Russian and Europe, as Russian-German Office for Environmental Information (RNEI) in St. Petersburg. Other examples of NGOs resulting out of DRA-initiated programs are CRNO, Center for Development of NGOs in St. Petersburg, founded in 1994 as a NGO resource center, and charity Swoe Delo, that fights poverty in rural areas in Russia. DRA contributed to creating 10 NGO resource centers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
The DRA is also one of the initiators and founding members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF). Since 2014, the Forum’s Secretariat has been operating from Berlin, based within the DRA organizational structure and at DRA’s premises.
The DRA advises on such areas as cooperation in the Eastern Europe, education, democracy development to a number of foundations, public authorities, decision-makers, civil society organizations and think tanks. Since 2007, DRA has been involved in organizing quarterly EU Study Weeks on behalf of the EU Delegation of Russia.
Due to its cross-sectoral work, regular multilateral conferences such as the annual “German-Russian Autumn Talks” (Herbstgespräche) and other public, informational and educational events DRA promotes transnational networks and draws attention to current developments in Eastern Europe and to the EU-relations.
Through various initiatives DRA assists the integration of immigrants into social and civil initiatives and their access to the labor market, as well as supports intercultural openness and tolerance in the hosting society. Besides, DRA gives young people access to intercultural experience through volunteering in NGOs, student exchange and internship programs. Since 1990s, over 700 volunteers were placed by DRA to intern in NGOs of different countries across Eastern and Western Europe. Organization’s integrational efforts in Germany helped over 500 Russian-, Turkish- and Arabic-speaking people get placement in NGOs.
Since the annexation of Crimea, the DRA puts an additional emphasis on cooperating with the Ukrainian civil society. DRA coordinates an international human rights monitoring project in Eastern Ukraine and supports Ukrainian human rights defenders through advocacy in Berlin and other EU capitals (www.civicmonitoring.org).
The DRA promotes closer European and German-Ukrainian cooperation with an aim to overcome the devastating social effects of the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine and support IDPs. DRA runs several projects with international partners in order to strengthen youth participation and urban activism in Ukraine and Russia and partners with experts from Poland, Russia, Georgia, Moldova, and Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other countries.
The DRA is inspired by the goal of building a common European space - the “common European House” – as a sustainable, innovative, engaged and open society, based on the principles of equality and well functioning democratic procedures.