Full Details

Tuesday, October 22

Dangerous Work: Environmental NGOs and Activists in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union
2:00 pm
See description
Global Hub, Posvar Hall, First Floor
Sponsored by:
Center for Russian East European and Eurasian Studies and Global Studies Center along with Office of Sustainability; Student Office of Sustainability, FracTracker Alliance and Crude Accountability
Zsuzsanna Magdo
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:

Environmental defenders are under increasing attack throughout the world, including in the Unites States and in the former Soviet Union. Administrative and criminal legal charges, bureaucratic obstacles, and physical threats are just some of the risks environmental defenders face on a regular basis, and with increasing frequency and intensity. This event brings Pitt students together with environmental defenders from the United States, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia to discuss the global impact of hydrocarbon development, challenges to human rights, and strategies to build a stronger international environmental movement.


DAVID “BROOK” LENKER is the Executive Director of the FracTracker Alliance and based in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. He oversees the strategic programmatic, operational, and fundraising activities of FracTracker and works with the board of directors to assure a well-managed, fiscally-sound organization. Previously, Brook served as Manager of Education and Outreach for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and as Director of Watershed Stewardship for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Geography and Environmental Planning from Towson University. Outside of work, Brook enjoys writing, gardening, and exploring outdoors – afoot, underwater, or by canoe or sailboat.

Dr. VADIM NI is the Chair of ECOFORUM of NGOs of Kazakhstan, a national network of environmental nongovernmental organizations. He has held this position since 2014, when he was elected by the members of the Ecoforum. He is one of Kazakhstan’s leading experts on environmental law, and, in particular, the Aarhus Convention, for which he served as a member of the Compliance Committee from October 2002 till June 2011. Vadim is currently a member of the Compliance Committee of the UNECE Water and Health Protocol, having been nominated by the Swiss Government. Vadim’s professional experience includes more than 20 years of work in the area of environmental protection. He began working as an environmental legal expert in 1997, while still carrying out legal studies. He worked as a freelance legal consultant for UNECE, UNDP, UNESCO, USAID, OSCE, World Bank, EBRD, OECD, Ministry of Environmental Protection of Kazakhstan. He also worked as an international consultant in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. His main areas of professional experience are environmental, climate change and water law. In close cooperation with Kazakhstan’s public administration, Vadim has drafted legislation, including chapters on river basin management of the Water Code and the chapters of Environmental Code on emission trading scheme, climate adaptation and public participation in Kazakhstan and many secondary regulations. Vadim participated as co-author in preparation of numerous guidance documents on the Aarhus Convention, national environmental law, basin water management, ecotourism, including Russian proofreading of the second edition of the Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide (UNECE, 2015) and preparation of the Aarhus Centres Guidelines (Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, OSCE Secretariat, 2009). Vadim has written many articles on environmental, water and climate law, including for the European Journal of Environmental Planning Law, Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, and the Library of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan. Vadim holds a law degree and another in chemistry. He is fluent in English and is a native Russian speaker.

ANDREY RUDOMAKHA is the founder and coordinator of Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, an environmental nongovernmental organization based in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. Andrey has been a member of the Russian environmental movement for over thirty years and is respected leader of the movement, particularly for his work monitoring environmental violations in the North Caucasus region since the early 1990s. Andrey led the project to hold accountable the Russian government and the International Olympic Committee for violations associated with construction and preparation for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which destroyed pristine forest and wetlands. He has also led EWNC’s efforts to stop land grabbing and construction of luxury properties on the Black Sea coast in Russia, including properties belonging to President Putin, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the former Governor of Krasnodar Krai. Andrey has been harassed, physically attacked, accused of libel, and arrested numerous times for his steadfast protection of the environment. Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus was founded in 1997. Its mission is to protect the wild nature of the Northern Caucasus, including the living environments of the Black and Caspian seas and the mountain ecosystems of the Caucasus republics.

SERGEY SOLYANIK is a consultant to Crude Accountability since 2009, and is responsible for the organization’s activities in Kazakhstan. He has been an active participant in Kazakhstan’s environmental movement since 1990. For nearly twenty years he worked at the Ecological Society Green Salvation, one of the oldest and most respected public environmental organizations in the country. Sergey has a degree in electrical engineering and a Masters in Environmental Politics from Keele University in the UK, which he studied under a Chevening Scholarship granted by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In 2001, Sergey participated in the US government sponsored “Contemporary Issues Program,” through which he conducted research on the interactions between American non-governmental organizations and transnational corporations. Sergey’s interests include protecting the human right to a healthy environment, and monitoring and influencing the activities of transnational corporations and international financial institutions operating in Kazakhstan and throughout Central Asia. Sergey speaks Russian and English.

KATE WATTERS is the co-founder and executive director of Crude Accountability, an environmental and human rights nonprofit organization working with natural resource impacted communities in the Caspian and Black Sea regions since 2003. Kate oversees the management and development of the organization and works closely with the board of directors and staff to build sustainable and effective programs and campaigns. She also works closely with activists in affected communities to develop strategies and campaigns to protect environmental and human rights on the local, national, and international levels. She has worked with human rights and environmental defenders in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Russia since the early 1990s, has lived in and traveled extensively throughout the region, and speaks fluent Russian. She is the author of numerous reports and articles on civil society in Central Asia and the Caspian region and has been interviewed for print media, radio, and television about environment, oil and gas, and human rights in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Russia. Kate holds an MA in Russian Area Studies from Georgetown University and a BA in Russian literature from UMASS-Amherst.