NGOs in danger of “governmentalisation”

Governmentalisation of the non-commercial sector: a conceivable future prospect

2 October 2014

A member of the Committee of Civic Initiatives, economist Evgenii Hontmacher, projects that in the next few years, the Russian non-commercial sector will encounter a series of new challenges and issues. The expert shared this view at a round table, ‘Charity in Today’s Russia: Past Experience and Tasks Ahead’, which was dedicated to the memory of Raisa Gorbacheva and took place on 1October – the European Day of Foundations and Donors.

Hontmacher noted that the economic situation means that businesses are less inclined to finance foundations (according to his evidence, the profits of major companies in the past year have fallen by 40%).

“For this reason, small donations are clearly necessary for fundraising, with a focus on individuals. As it stands this year, we have not managed to find the right balance between donations from major businessmen and ordinary people,” said Evgenii Hontmacher.

Hontmacher is convinced that natural and technological catastrophes (earthquakes, floods, crashes) will also be added to the work of the non-commercial sector. Society, after all, is, on the whole, hardly ready. The expert also mentioned that the non-commercial sector should take into account the changing demands placed on society. As a result of changing economic conditions in recent times, those considered to be in need of help include many who were previously not in this category.  It is important not to forget that in the near future the number of older people will greatly increase.

One of the most pressing and potentially dangerous problems for the sector is sources of funding. In recent years, especially after the exit of foreign donors, the government is actively giving out grants to NGOs, notes Hontmacher. However, in his words, “The government soon won’t have any money left”. But even while government money is available, the non-commercial sector faces a difficult choice between independence and stable funding. Hontmacher considers governmentalisation a threat to the non-commercial, charitable sector.

“Charity should be apolitical, whilst the government is engaged with politics, even when helping the disabled. The government was very capable of limiting the choice of funding sources. If foreign sources were still an option, as before, and the government presented itself on the market as a second option, then social organisations, foundations and businesses could make a fair comparison. But now the situation is such that foreign donors have all but disappeared from our country. This could mean that the government gradually, even if unconsciously, gets a monopoly. And then charity, like many institutions, will become subsumed in the government sector, which could hinder effectivness. The government’s aims in social policy may well diverge from the goals of the community,” the expert predicts.

In conclusion, the expert emphasised that charity as a form of action and an institution will develop and exist in any situation. But the non-commercial sector should consider all of these challenges and produce a strategy for its activities in full awareness of these risks.

Author: Yuliia Viatkina

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