Medvedev calls for laws to stimulate charity sector
At a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, representatives of NGOs and charities drew attention to the main issues facing non-commercial organisations.
Speaking at a conference entitled ‘The State and Charities: Working together for a Common Goal’, held at the Higher School of Economics on 8 June, the Prime Minister said that, in the area of philanthropy, the main task the state should address is the improvement of existing legislation.
‘We need to create laws which give people a framework for life and for work, laws that are not repressive but that stimulate and help. As regards contradictions and inconsistencies, these have always existed in law and always will. The crucial thing is to expose and then examine them at an early stage. This is one of the main pathways for effective cooperation between the state and NGOs’, Dmitry Medvedev explained.
Speaking about state support for NGOs, the First Vice Rector of the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Lev Yakobson, reminded listeners that relief from insurance contributions currently enjoyed by NGOs would expire in 2018.
‘Exemption is a very sensitive issue. It is linked directly to the budgetary interests of the state.,’ Medvedev responded. ‘Obviously we will be looking at existing relief very carefully and we shall consider the extension of some exemptions. We must all discuss this together.’
Lev Yakobson also suggested concessions for organisations which do not receive funding from abroad and which have a budget of less that 3 million roubles. He argued that audits did not need to be done annually, as currently required. Once every 2-3 years would be enough.
NGOs and the battle against poverty
The Chairman of the Council of the Donors Forum, Dmitry Polikanov, moderated the section entitled ‘The battle against poverty and decreasing inequality’. He emphasised that poverty is not just a financial problem but also an issue of access to services and psychological support.
‘The support system itself must be transformed. It should move in the direction of support for the family rather than separate individuals. An integrated system could help dramatically,’ Dmitry Medvedev said.
Another issue associated with the battle against poverty, and help for those with low incomes, is tax legislation. As the law stands, a producer or retail outlet finds it simpler to destroy products than to pass them on to people in need. Sometimes this may not be because goods are beyond their best-by date, but because their labels have been damaged. The Prime Minister suggested that the current situation should be reviewed ‘so that organisations which hold this kind of stock could pass it on to charity without significant costs to themselves’.
Crowdfunding and the law
The Director of the Blagosfera Centre for Philanthropy and Social Activism, Natalya Kaminarskaya, raised the question of regulating crowdfunding on the Internet.
‘Is the strict regulation of crowdfunding really worthwhile? Where the absence of rules does not contradict the interests of the state and society, it can encourage processes to take place informally. When we try to regulate everything, things get distorted,’ the Prime Minister said. He declared his continued support for platforms that exist and develop as charities, thanks to state subsidies.
‘Fraudsters will emerge in every sphere of life. There is only one way to deal with them – expose them in good time. The digital world, the Internet and straightforward decency allow us to disseminate information about swindlers pretty quickly,’ Medvedev assured his audience.
NGOs often seek to attract attention through social networks. Yet in Russia many people still get their information from television, radio and newspapers. We should not forget about this audience, the Director of the Agency for Social Information (ASI) Elena Topoleva-Soldunova reminded listeners.
‘Leading television channels should have special commissions, set up by law, to openly and transparently examine proposals from NGOs to screen their advertising. This would help the non-commercial sector to understand why they have not been broadcast and, where possible, to improve. This would help to promote the work of charities, the director of ASI suggested.
‘In the section on “Developing a culture of voluntary work”, we spoke about drawing people into the work done by charities from as early as the nursery. In Kazan, for example, every schoolchild is given a “good deeds” diary in his or her first year at school. This helps children to focus on doing good things,’ Elena Topoleva-Soldunova said. She also gave Dmitry Medvedev a specimen diary as a gift.
Thanking her, Medvedev said: ‘We need to reach a point where the state helps charities in what they do. In turn, NGOs would be in a position to take on work which the state performs ineffectively or which does not produce results quickly enough.’