The SEU serves as an umbrella group for nearly 300 independent non-governmental organizations and groups from the NIS and the U.S. The goal of the organization is to utilize "the intellectual potential, material and financial means, and organizational possibilities of the union's members for the preservation of nature and the protection of living beings; for the protection and revival of mankind's natural and cultural heritage; for the protection of human physical and mental health; and for guaranteeing a safe environment and sustainable development."
SEU was established in 1988 as a voluntary association of environmental groups. The groups are extremely diverse, ranging from radical activist organizations to educational nature clubs for schoolchildren. Members are united by mutual devotion to environmental action, a spirit of cooperation, freedom of information, and the belief that the environment cannot be divided by national borders. The union operates "without a vertical administrative structure" and its members are organizationally and financially independent. SEU has a Center for Coordination and Information in Moscow. Other SEU activities include:
- Environmental monitoring: SEU members monitor dioxin levels in the regions surrounding paper plants, measure industrial pollution levels in Russia and Uzbekistan, and evaluate the management of boreal forests by Russian and multinational timber companies.
- Biodiversity protection: the union's Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) was designed to ensure the survival of nature reserves in the CIS countries and establish new protected areas.
- Research and Monitoring of Nuclear Sites: SEU's Center for Nuclear Ecology and Energy evaluates the effects of nuclear sites on the environment and populations living in nuclear zones.
Last updated: February 1999
A print version of much of the information contained in this NIS Third Sector Organizations section can be found in the The Post-Soviet Handbook (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999).