“Foreign agent” NGOs have equal chance of presidential grants
NGOs appearing on the list of ‘foreign agents’ have an equal chance of receiving presidential grants
The second round of applications for the allocation of presidential grants for NGO subsidies has begun. Civil Dignity revealed that they do not consider it necessary to divide organisations into categories; any NGO protecting civil rights with worthy projects can apply for support, even those on the ‘foreign agents’ register.
Today began the second round of applications for presidential grants for NGOs encouraging the development of civil society institutions. Applications will be accepted from 18 August to 19 September. Almost 2.7 billion roubles will be divided amongst third sector organisations within the framework of the second round.
Pavel Vdovichenko, a representative of the national social movement Civil Dignity, one of seven bodies allocating grants, told a press conference with Russia Today* that the approach towards grant allocation was modified after the first round. Vdovichenko explained that Civil Dignity is an NGO with many years of experience of receiving grants, and has its roots in the Soviet era. There are organisations which were born in the post-perestroika era, and very young organisations which are only getting started. The expert underlined that, on the one hand, it is necessary to fight to save older, well-respected organisations, but on the other hand, civil society should establish their ‘own horizons’, not always with a clearly expressed centre in the capital. Vdovichenko explained that experts have submitted to the condition that under no circumstances are they to compare national organisations with specialist projects of smaller, regional NGOs. The latter should also have a chance of receiving support. Moreover, he highlighted that Civil Dignity approached the formation of a commissions for applications seriously. This commission includes, inter alia, the founder of REN TV** Irena Lesnevskaya, journalist and publicist Zoya Svetova, federal ombudsman Ella Pamfilova and the executive director of Fair Aid, Elizaveta Glinka.
With regards to the participation of organisations appearing on the ‘foreign agents’ register, Vdovichenko is certain that the distinction between ‘agents’ and ‘non-agents’ is precisely what Russian civil society could do without. ‘We believe that we are tasked with fair allocation of public funds among organisations protecting civil rights. These organisations, in our opinion, are not tainted,’ clarified Vdovichenko. He emphasised that any ‘excellent’ project which is aimed at protecting rights and freedoms of Russian citizens will be supported, and it will be of no relevance who else also supports that organisation, ‘be they American or Belgian funds’.
Over the first round, Civil Dignity’s applications commission evaluated 349 projects, represented by civil rights organisations from 62 of Russia’s regions. In total, 106 NGOs from 39 regions received grants.
By Georgii Ivanushkin
*International News Agency
** Television Company