Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson
#5 - JRL 2009-114 - JRL Home
June 17, 2009
[Medvedev] Opening Address at a Meeting with Chairwoman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society Institutions and
Human Rights Ella Pamfilova and members of the Public Chamber
The Kremlin, Moscow

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Dear colleagues, promises are meant to be kept. As you'll recall, in April of this year at a meeting of the Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights we talked about a subject that greatly concerns our NGOs [non-governmental organisations], namely the legislative framework and the enforcement of this legislation. Not only the law itself but also its application.

I asked that a working group be established, comprising members of the Human Rights Council, members of the Public Chamber, members of the Presidential Executive Office, representatives from the State Duma and Federation Council, that is our legislators, and people from the Ministry of Justice. The result was a number of suggestions that formed the basis for a draft law submitted to me for review and submission.

I want to say a few words to bring you up to date on this, all the more so since you worked on this document. As you know, 90 percent of our non-governmental organisations are very small: their budgets do not exceed three million rubles [about 96,000 dollars]. The number of people involved is quite small, just a few in fact. At the same time, there are tonnes of regulations concerning their reporting procedures, which of course is not conducive to the effective operation of these organisations.

Because these regulations are so cumbersome, we have suggested that they be simplified. That is, it would be sufficient simply to notify the Government on a regular basis that the organisation's work is continuing, that it is still functional and intends to go on working. That is the first thing.

The second thing that we propose to do is limit the list of documents that authorities are entitled to request from non-profit organisations.

The third thing concerns inspections. We often talk about inspections of small business, and here too we've proposed to reduce the number of inspections. Like small businesses, they should be checked no more than once every three years, which seems appropriate given the number of people who work there and just in terms of their activities, in terms of the money involved.

And finally the time limits for examining their registration documents will be reduced. In this way, those groups that made errors in the preparation of the relevant documents will not lose the right to correct these errors and refile, which was and still is what the current law provides for.

In my view this represents quite an important change in the law on public associations, including non-governmental organisations. I think this draft law is a good idea and I am submitting it to the State Duma today for consideration. But it makes sense that the working group represented here today should go on working on the modernisation of legislation in this area and the general development of civil society, since modernising the legislation and monitoring -- public monitoring of its implementation -- would in my view also be useful. It is not only the prosecutor's office that should follow up on this, but as representatives of public associations you should be involved as well.

There is another subject that I would like to raise in this regard. It's not directly linked to the law on NGOs, but nonetheless it is related to the development of civil society. For several years now non-profit associations have received state grants to implement so-called socially significant projects. In 2009 we set aside one billion two hundred million rubles [over 38 million USD] for this purpose. That is quite a bit of money. The key areas are education, culture and health care, our ongoing priorities. But we understand that today life is a bit more complicated than it was, and the main problem for a significant number of people, and unfortunately for young people, is unemployment or the lack of a permanent source of income. This is a challenge, especially when you have just finished university, or when you find yourself in some other difficult circumstances. And there are also people whose physical abilities are limited.

As part of the measures that I have taken and will be proposing in this area, I have decided to give all authorised non-governmental organisations that receive these grants and disperse [grant] funds the right to provide direct support to specific individuals. This will not involve spending it on general programmes of course these are necessary and we will continue to provide for them but rather the provision of direct personal support that addresses the needs of individual citizens. I am thinking of our university graduates, talented young people, inventors, but not only them. This will in the final analysis be left to the discretion of the organisation itself, but with proper monitoring, of course, because this is public money, and so the appropriate controls must be in place. For this reason I am asking the authorities to ensure that such controls are maintained.

I hope that this will be a joint contribution by the government on the one hand and our non-governmental and social organisations on the other, to dealing with the current social decline and overcoming the social consequences of economic crisis.