Rachel Julia Myers: Today I am speaking with Tatyana Margolin, regional director of the Open Society Eurasia Program. Tatyana, it’s so lovely to meet you, virtually, and thanks for making time to sit down with me. I am a current law student and am excited to talk with you about how you got to where you are today doing such important work for the protection of human rights. To start, I thought maybe you could just tell me a bit about your current work and what a typical day looks like in your position.
Tatyana Margolin: Thank you, Rachel, and I am happy to share any insights into my path, even though it was not a very traditional one. As you correctly said, I oversee the Eurasia program at the Open Society Foundations. It's one of seven regional programs at our organization. We also have thematic programs. Thematic programs focus on a particular issue area like public health or human rights or justice, and regional programs oversee all sorts of work in a particular region, and that's where I am. We define Eurasia as twelve countries of the former Soviet space – everything excluding the Baltics but including Turkey. We have seven national foundations on the ground. These are independent entities with their own strategies and budgets, like small civil society groups on the ground in seven Eurasian countries. We work very closely with them. Oftentimes we enhance their funding, we co-fund things together on the ground. My program as a regional program is responsible for funding cross-cutting things and cross-regional initiatives. Let’s say there is to be a learning seminar on the progression of human rights in Central Asia that would likely engage our three foundations there – in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – so we would step in and help fund that because the national foundations really focus on domestic projects and work in their own country. We try to have a bit of a bird's eye view of the region, but also we represent the Eurasia region to other entities at the Open Society Foundations and also to other donors around the world, because bringing more donors into this work is one of the essential points of my job there.
As cliche as it sounds, there is no typical day. The Eurasian region, as you know, keeps on giving with various crises. In particular we’ve seen a lot of unrest since June 2020, but really from the beginning of the pandemic. Belarus is one of the countries in my region and it's been a hotbed of activity. There was a war in Armenia/Azerbaijan, and we have a foundation in Armenia, so that took up a lot of attention. And now we're seeing this really fascinating moment in Russia. That's something I'm paying close attention to. The news in the region dictates my day and with the time difference it actually kind of plays in our favor, because by the time we wake up here, things have already unfolded in Eurasia, so we're thrown into the midst of events as soon as we wake up.
RJM: You mentioned that seven countries in the region have their own national foundation. Does that sometimes change? How do you identify where you're going to set up or where another national foundation might be established?
TM: It's a great question. The foundations started in the Eurasia region and we started with fourteen national foundations out of the 15 former Soviet states. Turkmenistan was never one where there was any opening, so there was never a foundation there, but everywhere else really appeared on the cusp of making it towards the European Union or towards the liberal world order back in the ’90s, when the foundations were being set up. So the answer to your question is that we have the seven foundations in places where we still are able to have national foundations. Should there be a true regime change in Belarus, it would be something where we would be ready to consider reengaging. But we were kicked out of Belarus a very, very long time ago.
You can almost judge what's open and what's not in our region by whether or not we have a national foundation there. Some places like Tajikistan, we're still able to hold on to, and in Kazakhstan, it may be surprising that we have national foundations there, but we do. They obviously play a different role because the relationship with the government looks very different in those states, but essentially where we are still able to operate is the climate where we stay.
RJM: It must be challenging to operate in that space and to negotiate with different government actors there. Who do you work with most on the ground? What local governments or other local actors are critical to making sure that you can do the work that you want to do there?
TM: That’s a great question. Our distinct advantage is that we have local expertise and knowledge on the ground. It’s not me sitting in New York or my colleagues in Berlin and London and just reading about what's going on in Georgia; it's really us following the lead of our foundations on the ground as to where we should be focusing our efforts. The beauty of the foundations is that they are deep experts in their own countries, and depending on the state of events in their country, they position themselves in a way where they can be most effective. In places like Ukraine, where there have been openings and closings and openings again, the foundation really positions itself to be a watchdog of the government.
We have had negative experiences of having been too closely affiliated with current governments. We really learned that lesson in Georgia, where there was a very progressive government some number of years ago. We really went all in supporting the reforms, but then, as we know, that government turned. That's a really common story in Eurasia, where even though it's the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union, the transition from the Soviet Union is really not quite over.
I think governments are important in places where we want our work to be sustainable. For example, we pioneered palliative care work in the Eurasia region. Now in many countries where we started funding that work, it's been taken over by governments, it's been embedded in local health plans and taken over by local health ministries. And that's really kind of the ideal scenario, in a perfect world.
Of course, in reality, oftentimes governments change and their health ministers change and their priorities change, so sustainability is not as possible, so we just really always have to be flexible. The foundations pivot based on what the environment in the country is and also what other NGOs and other international [organizations] are doing, because we obviously want to pursue the mission and vision of an open society. But also, oftentimes we go to places where other donors won’t go, to fund things that other donors won’t fund.
My first job at OSF was funding legal aid for injection drug users. That's not something that just rolls off most donors’ tongues, that this is what you are doing, but that’s very classic George Soros investing, going to places where others are not brave enough to go.
RJM: Thinking about the logistics of operating in a challenging environment, is communication security something to worry about when you're talking with your partners in the region, and how do you manage communications? Both now and before the pandemic.
TM: It’s obviously much more difficult now. Communication is one of our priorities. Our policy is to do no harm to our partners. There are places where we are forbidden from operating in places, like Russia, actually, where we are on the list of undesirable organizations, and certainly we would never want to put any members of civil society at risk in a place like Russia. So typically, in general, we follow all the protocols of major human rights groups: we use secure messenger channels for communication, we always check with our partners if we are to tweet something out on our official account, or in general put something out with their names.
Previously, when the world was open [before the pandemic], we traveled a ton and that was a huge part of my job. There’s nothing like going to these places and understanding what's going on by being there, on the ground, by talking to people. It's been made much more difficult by the pandemic.
Truthfully, even if I were in one of the countries we work in, it would still be challenging to understand what's going on in the other countries, because all of the countries are so different. In a way, being based outside the region has given us a certain level of protection, or immunity, but the local foundations still have the legitimacy. Communication is key and a lot has been lost over the last 10 months of the pandemic, no doubt about it. And the region was hit very hard by covid-19. A lot of the partners have been sick and they have also lost funds. They have had to re-channel their funds to the most immediate needs, and they haven’t had time to check in with their donors. In normal days we would travel and meet with all the grantees, et cetera.
RJM: On February 5th you’ll be talking at Indiana University’s Russian Studies Workshop in a panel about the state of human rights in Russia today. I understand that you don’t operate there, but could you identify particular issues at the OSF that relate to Russia in particular? For example, in countries where you do operate, could you speak to the role that Russia plays and how it's interacting in the region and having an effect?
TM: Great question. You're right, we are not allowed to operate in Russia, but obviously, Russia undeniably is the hegemon of our region. Turkey also plays a very interesting role right now, but it has a different history and its ambitions I think are quite new. In most of these countries, Russian is either the first language or the second language spoken. Russian television still rules the day – people consume Russian news content and, even more so, entertainment content. Russia definitely runs the information sphere, so that’s where our media funding comes in. We have founded a lot of independent media outlets, a lot of content production. Not to fight disinformation – we have learned that you can't fight disinformation – but you can put out content that is factual and fact checked and that meets standards. But fighting disinformation, per se, has not in our estimation proved effective.
What we're noticing now is a new Eurasian protest wave, which I would probably date back to
August to the protests in Belarus. These protests were compared with Maidan in Ukraine at the outset, but now we are watching the Russian protests being compared to the Belarusian protests. And right before the Russian protests, we saw several NGOs in Kazakhstan being fined and whose work was put on pause. So, we are watching this sort of dialogue between autocrats in our region. As one of my grantees put it the other day – it's an autocrat ring that is running Eurasia. It starts in Russia or Kazakhstan or Turkey, but really, we are watching autocrats who will choose their commonalities between themselves – of autocracy and indefinite rule – over any conflicts they may have. We are watching that with Russia-Turkey relations for sure. They are the quintessential frenemies. I think Russia is in a bind right now because it is propping up Belarus, so a lot of resources are going to that. But if Russia is to have its own Belarus on its hands, really, what will it do? It is very unclear to us.
Another piece that we have been paying attention to, much more so than many other donors – largely because we are a global organization and have a presence on the African continent, in the Middle East and North Africa, et cetera – is Russia’s global ambition and Russia’s expansion into Africa, in particular to the Central African Republic, which has been in the news. As you may know, three Russian journalists were murdered there two years ago trying to investigate Russian interference in the Sudan. We see it as our role to educate our colleagues across the network, across the world, on what Russian malign interference looks like and how one can prepare itself for it. What does it look like when a Russian troll factory buys an online [media] outlet in your country and then suddenly you're seeing stories from this troll outlet funded by [Yevgeni] Prigozhin in Russia popping up everywhere across North Africa? These are the snippets of things that we do around Russia, but it's undeniably the most significant country in our region in terms of impact, not just on the region, but also globally.
RJM: It sounds like you never know what's going to come up in any given day. That could be both stressful but also make work really interesting. What do you like most about your job?
TM: I certainly prefer the substance of my job to the bureaucracy of my job, which is like 40 percent of my job. When you go into a career, you never imagine the minutiae in the back office. I don't want you to think that all I do is glamorous globetrotting and supporting movements – there's also a lot of internal stuff. And really, in a region where foreign money is now so deeply stigmatized and even criminalized in many countries where we work, figuring out ways to securely support partners is a huge part of my job.
I am very much humbled by my position. It's a huge position of privilege and power to have access to resources, and I fully realize it. For example, when you’ve put together a group of people outside of their regular context and then allow them to explore a particular subject matter, which they would never have the time in their everyday life to do, nor the resources, and we give them time and funds to fully align themselves and come up with a joint strategy or campaign – and then it works – that’s an amazing feeling. You really feel like you've contributed something. Or, receiving a proposal from a tiny online [media] outlet that no one is willing to invest in, because who needs yet another online outlet? And then you see something different in them, and you give them a seed grant, and they produce something incredible with that very tiny amount of money – that’s an incredible feeling as well, where you were able to enable something to happen.
Ideally, there would be a free, vibrant media space and a free, vibrant third sector that we wouldn't have to be stepping in to fund. Unfortunately, we see this dichotomy of civil society versus these autocratic governments. We see this resistance still being very strong in the region, but also very beleaguered because they've been fighting for so many years in many of these countries. So it's a peculiar moment with a ton of opportunities, but also with a lot of disappointments and a lot of exhaustion.
RJM: How do you identify some of the media sources that you frequently use, or are there particular sources that you might recommend to other people? Especially for those who want to get to know countries in the region a bit better, maybe from a more local perspective.
TM: Great question. Though there is not really an answer because it's so quickly evolving. For the news in the countries that have national foundations on the ground, I know that when something significant happens, the foundation director and staff will alert me to it. But in places where we don't have foundations, that's really where that role falls on me, where we don't have anyone giving us signals or identifying priorities. When the Belarus events were unfolding last year, I was essentially playing the role of the national foundation, trying to identify actors, trying to follow very, very fast unfolding events on Telegram, a very popular platform in our region. And Telegram can really consume your whole life if you let it, because there are just so many Telegram channels to follow and read, so I really try to be disciplined with myself. Of course you can't be on there constantly, but then at the same time if you step aside for too long you miss things.
The lack of travel is really a problem because so much of the agenda is really set on my trips, when I meet with civil society. You can understand what's on the agenda by being someplace much more so than reading about it. There could be an issue that would take up a whole meeting with an NGO, but you wouldn’t find out about it anywhere in the media, even in the local independent media. There are big gaps between what makes it to the media agenda and what makes it to the civil society agenda.
I really do try to prioritize our partners and grantees in terms of my news consumption, because they need to be elevated – they need the clicks, they need the views. And I trust them. But I follow government media as well, which I also try to ration because it can be unhealthy. After the Saturday protest [against the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny], I thought it was important to watch government coverage of the Russian protests to see the angles of disinformation, because it's oftentimes very telling what the government chooses to focus on.
Right this week, the Russian government has been obsessed with platforms and regulating the Internet, coming up with long-term plans to regulate the Internet, which sends the message that they really were scared by the role the platforms played in these protests. In general, I find that these autocratic, stale regimes in our region are being very skillfully played by the young people, though I think not intentionally. It's not like there is an agenda by young people to play the governments, but youth are very quick and things change so rapidly. And by the time the government figures it out, the youth have moved on to the next thing. It’s like a cat-and-mouse game.
RJM: When there's an important event that happens that your local partners may be involved in, like an NGO meeting that nobody else is covering, is that something that you and the local partners try to cover on your social media accounts? Or is that something that you don't necessarily want to highlight?
TM: Definitely both. There are many meetings that are closed-door and we would have a policy of no coverage at all. Our media team at OSF is global and looks to me and my team for nuance on what should be promoted or not. And the name of George Soros has become almost a meme, where it’s hardly beneficial for anyone to be openly affiliated with us. But we're not in this for fame or for credit – we are very comfortable with the role of enabling people on the ground to speak for themselves. So the things that we would promote would only be ones that would somehow benefit the people holding them.
If there is a big international conference, like the AIDS conference, that becomes a very promotable event because it's so open and it's so big. But if I were to host a closed-door meeting of Ukrainian human rights lawyers and Belarusian human rights lawyers, that's not something that would be promoted on our Twitter feed. And let’s say there’s a story from an outlet that we fund on the ground – but they wouldn't necessarily benefit from affiliation with us – that's also not something I would choose to promote on our Twitter feed.
The key amazing trend emerging in our region is local media. As you know in the US, local media is really experiencing a hugely difficult moment, but local media in places like Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, and the Caucasus is experiencing a renaissance. There are so many incredible outlets that cover a particular city and do this incredible mixture of local news about local, non-political, significant events, but also make these connections by bringing in discourse from global events covering, let's say, how a local oil spill would have an impact on global climate change. I think that's where the future of regional media really is, because people are finally ready to care about the places where they live. They are ready to care about their neighborhood, their street, their building, their block and making connections of the local with the global.
In one Russian town there are two women we met a year ago who are running a Telegram channel that has something like twenty thousand subscribers – and it's two women under the age of twenty-six who are full-time day journalists and running this Telegram channel as a side hustle. That's so exciting and incredible. And local government officials are reading them, because the incredible thing about independent media is that actually everyone wants access to factual news. Even people who are in the job of spinning news and making fake news, they still want to know what's going on. That's why I think this will win, because at the end of the day people want to know the truth, even the people whose job it is to spin it.
RJM: That is really exciting and promising to hear that people are able to support local media there and are picking it up. I know, here, we are facing the issue that local papers aren't able to sustain themselves and have to look for alternatives.
TM: I know, corporate buyouts, etc. have been so deeply problematic. But in my region, the problems are very different. We went from big state media channels to inventing what the local media landscape would look like – like a blank slate from which things have evolved and grown. Many of these outlets have never had a print edition, they started online. Internet penetration in the Eurasia region is massive. For example, eighty five percent of Russians access YouTube regularly. That's an astonishing number. I think it’s much, much lower here on this side of the Atlantic.
RJM: I'd like to ask you about your legal education. I understand you have a JD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and your LLM in human rights from the University of Nottingham School of Law in England. Did you know when you started law school in Pittsburgh that you wanted to do human rights work?
TM: I definitely knew I wanted to do public interest law, always, but I was much more focused on the area of reproductive rights in the beginning of my career, and that's sort of what I went to law school to do and what I did after law school for two years. This job really was an accident, truly. I definitely didn't think I would end up being a Eurasianist or working in this field or even in this region.
RJM: You worked with reproductive rights as staff attorney for the Pennsylvania-based Women's Law Project. How did you get involved with that organization? Was that your first position after law school?
TM: It was. I was an intern there after my first year. I don't remember how I came across the organization. I probably scoured the local field of women's rights and reproductive rights groups. It’s not like the field was huge. The Women's Law Project was definitely most prominent. They have a unique mixture of using specifically legal tools to advance reproductive rights, and that was going to be my angle since I went to law school. It was really a very humbling and incredible experience, but also a very difficult one, because the field of reproductive rights, sadly, in the last 10 years has gotten even more difficult.
RJM: When you started at the Open Society Foundations, your work focused mostly on public health. Is that because of your background in reproductive rights?
TM: I think so. I clerked in the Supreme Court of Israel in between the law project and this job. I didn't know what I wanted to do next, and I used to joke about it when I was younger – how come everyone has come across George Soros, who is from my region, except for me? I had never received a grant. George Soros was such a household name in Eurasia, particularly in the ’90s when I was still living in Belarus. And then this job came about, and to me, the connection between the rights of drug users and reproductive rights really was very organic. I didn't need to be convinced that this was something that needed promotion, even though I didn't have any background in harm reduction or in working with this particular population group.
The program at the time focused on places where the HIV epidemic was needle driven, not where it was predominantly passed by sexual transmission and spread to the general public, which limited the areas of the world to Eurasia explicitly and a couple of other places in the world. When I started traveling back to the region after not having been there for many years, I started seeing the enormity of the problem. To this day, Ukraine and Russia lead the world in the HIV pandemic, although with the current pandemic the HIV epidemic has fallen to the side. It is still very much a raging issue in the region. So I didn't need convincing. It was very obvious that this was a target population group that really needs access to attorneys, access to legal aid, and access to services.
RJM: I am curious about your position as a foreign law clerk at the Supreme Court of Israel. You said it was kind of a transition period for you. What brought you to that job, who did you work for on the court, and on what issues?
TM: The transition from the Women’s Law Project was a bit personal. We represented abortion clinics across Pennsylvania, and that was the core of what we did, and in that particular time when I was there, reproductive rights were under massive assault. Over one Thanksgiving weekend, there was a blockade of a clinic in Philadelphia that we represented, and it ended up with several women bleeding in the parking lot because they couldn't get into the clinic to finish the procedure. It was a very traumatic time. And I felt I needed a total break from that work for a while, because by that time I had been working on it for a number of years. I started to look for something that would be completely different and looked at international courts. Not many courts in the world take foreign clerks – the South African court does, the Israeli Supreme Court does, possibly another one or two. So I clerked for Justice [Yoram] Danziger, and he was an incredibly significant and important mentor in my life. He really wanted his clerks to get the most out of the experience. I had come from something very explicit and specific, and I was likely going to go back to something like that, but he advised me to start with something broader and then narrow down, that it would be a disservice if I just pigeonholed myself.
And the Israeli Supreme Court is very new, very young, and in general the legal system there is very young, so they brought in foreign law clerks specifically to research and to share their international experience. For example, in my time there Danziger was working on a “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine, introducing it to the evidential procedure in Israel. It was a really incredible opportunity at the time. Interacting with other clerks was one of the most valuable things because people brought their own perspectives from where they were coming from into this really curious legal system.
RJM: That’s probably not an opportunity many students know about, though I imagine it's difficult to find a position there. Were there many other foreign law clerks there?
TM: Every justice had, I believe, two permanent, Israeli-trained law clerks and one foreign law clerk, so there were maybe eight of us, or something like that.
RJM: So, I am about to graduate from Law School myself, and I’m thinking about where I'm going to take the bar. Where did you take the bar and how did you decide to that?
TM: When I was graduating from law school, I knew that I had a job secured with the Women's Law Project in Pennsylvania, so I needed to take the Pennsylvania bar. Many people in Pennsylvania take the New Jersey bar too, but I didn't because I didn't anticipate having any New Jersey practice in my life. So the decision to take the PA bar was an easy one.
The more challenging decision has been what I do with my bar membership – do I keep it up or do I give it up? I’ve gone inactive, but I’ve also kept it active for a couple of years by doing the CLEs. For the first five years at OSF, I was toying with the idea of going back into litigation or practice, but the more time passes between when you practice law and when you don't practice law, the chances of you going back to practicing, I think, diminish. At this point, I don't anticipate it playing a prominent role in my future, although I definitely do not regret having a law degree and the skills that came with it.
RJM: Perhaps people outside of law primarily think of lawyers as litigators, but it seems like there are so many different things you can do with a law degree. Are there particular skills from your training as a lawyer that helped you today and that you still use?
TM: I would say definitely the skills that I use now – or even the skills I used when I was doing direct funding of legal aid for drug users – was much more relevant to my LLM. My LLM was in human rights law, and the most accessible tool to most partners on the ground court suing for drug-users’ rights has been the European Court of Human Rights, because domestic legislation on most of these issues has been pretty abysmal. So definitely that training helped.
Weirdly, what's helped from my JD has been the legitimacy I would have with partners who are attorneys on the ground that I wouldn't have had, had I not had a law degree. The Russian legal system is very different than the US in that it's not precedential, and it's not like I will read the criminal code there to become an expert – that has never been part of my role. But certainly, being able to understand the reasoning and arguments and tools and tactics of my partners and grantees – that's where my law degree has been helpful.
I think the way law school was helpful for me was in a particular way of thinking. It's not necessarily the knowledge of property law or civil procedure, but it's the ability to assess an issue or a question and also know where to go to find the answer, so I think those have been the most useful skills from that particular time to my current role. It’s not that you are any better than the average person, it's just that you feel less afraid or put off by legalese language because you know that it can be distilled to make normal sense. It's just particularly written in this manner that is not accessible.
RJM: Could you talk a little bit about your work with the US administration, both in advocating and in finding donors, etc.? In light of the new administration in the U.S., is there a strategy that the Open Society Foundations is pursuing or what are you hoping for from the Biden administration?
TM: That's a great question. We have an office in Washington that does advocacy and it is staffed by experienced advocacy professionals. For example, we would have a parallel shadow representation in that office who would focus on our issues and would take cues from us, but also would suggest to us various opportunities that exist for advocacy in Washington. The last four years have been very difficult in Washington for anyone working on issues of open society, democracy, or transparency. But we still found opportunities and there are still a lot of career professionals that survived the last four years.
Advocacy really differs from country to country. In places where we have national foundations, we have local civil society actors visit Washington on advocacy visits and we set up advocacy targets. For example, for Armenia, which has a massive US diaspora, it brings a whole new dimension to the kind of advocacy we would be doing here. Places like Azerbaijan, where we’re not working, and whose government spends a lot of money lobbying the US government – essentially cleansing its image in front of the US government and the general public – that would be a different approach. With places like Belarus that were not on the radar at all until August, then we try to provide background information and briefings for interested officials on the emerging situation because we have local expertise and knowledge on the ground.
For the Biden administration, it's a really good question, and I’m giving it a lot of thought. We hope that in the region, in countries like Georgia, or Armenia, that the US embassies will resume their role of active civil society funders and democracy watchdogs that they've been. Under the previous administration, there were many vacancies in ambassadorial appointments so it was a difficult time for a lot of our colleagues on the ground because the US embassy really did not play any role for four years. There was a big void. I think now the priority is to really understand how the Biden administration positions itself towards Russia and how it's going to react to what's going on there. From where I sit, I think there are two concurrent streams of thinking there – where there are some serious hard liners who think that Russia just needs to be isolated, sanctioned, and punished, and then there is a a different school of thought where engagement is preferred, but it has to be very careful.
I don't think there are any Trumpists left framing the Russia policy. But I think it's going to be very important what this administration does about Russia, because we are always very eager to point out that Russian civil society and the Russian regime are different, so when you're punishing the government, oftentimes the one who ends up being unintentionally punished is civil society. We are sure that civil society would be used as a bargaining chip in the next four years for sure, both by the US government and the Russian government. It's going to be a difficult four years for this relationship, but it's going to be pivotal.
RJM: It's hard to know when anyone will get to travel again, but looking ahead to the coming year, what is one thing that you're hoping to accomplish in your work this year with Open Society Foundations? What are you hoping to see?
TM: That’s a hard one, Rachel. I have a clear goal for myself and for my work within OSF to arrive at a a greater understanding by a greater number of actors around the world of the importance of the Eurasia region and the trends that the autocrats in our region set for the world. I've been beating this drum for a long time, but I really think that the world needs to understand that the Eurasia region is a laboratory of autocrats. The trends that emerge from this region – they don't stay there. They travel domestically, first, within the region, and then they travel globally. We saw this with, for example, foreign agent laws. They started in Russia, where NGO groups began being punished for receiving foreign funding. Then they spread to other countries in the region as a tool of repression, to countries like Hungary, like Israel. Other regions have the benefit of time and of experience in watching how these things unfold and learning from civil society in Eurasia on how to push back against these trends. So my big platform and mission is this: Please pay attention to what's going on in this region. Please learn from these actors on the ground because they have significant lessons to teach civil society globally, including in the United States.
I hate to have been right all the four years of the Trump administration, when I was screaming to my counterpart in the US, saying, you have got to be paying attention to what happens in Eurasia because so many of these tools and tactics are borrowed from there. But I don't think anyone could have ever imagined what happened here on January 6th. Even those of us who were beating the drum of how we need to be careful. It exceeded any nightmare expectation.
Secondly, my goal always is to get more money into the region and to get other donors interested in this work. It's been a huge problem because the region is the least-invested-in-region globally in terms of human rights. It receives abysmal percentages of global funding for these kinds of issues, which makes my job even more important and, frankly, puts a lot more pressure on us to continue doing this work. It also makes the autocratic governments feel quite refreshed that they have fewer actors that they have to push out. So, I hope that in the next four years that will change. I hope that really this will be seen as a region of momentum, a region of opportunity, a region where civil society can teach incredibly important lessons in resilience to the rest of the world
RJM: You have given me so much to think about. I'm excited to go dig into some of the sources that you mentioned and keep following your work. Good luck this year with everything. I know it'll be a challenging year, but like you said, a really important time.
TM: Thank you, Rachel, it was a pleasure.