Putin distinguishes between political and social NGOs

The law on NGOs could be partially amended; however,
the requirement to register as foreign agents will not be changed for a number
of organisations, said Vladimir Putin at a conference with human rights
activists.  According to ITAR-TASS, the
president admitted that, in the course of the practical application of the law,
errors occur with regard to organisations which do not engage in internal
politics, but at the same time receive grants from abroad.

Putin said: “As regards the essence of the law
itself, which provoked the greatest controversy – whether it is necessary for
organisations which are involved in internal political activity to be
registered as foreign agents – we will not be changing this position.  If people are engaged in internal political
work and receive money from abroad, then society has the right to know on whose
money they exist”.  The president also
remarked that it is necessary “to separate NGOs, which work on political
issues, and those which are purely social, and not to create problems for those
organisations which are solely occupied with social questions, questions of
healthcare, protection of the environment and suchlike”.  Rossbalt reports that the presidential
administration has already been ordered to prepare suitable proposals on the
law on “foreign agents”. 

The theme of state financing of NGOs was also
touched on at the meeting.  In
particular, there was talk of the necessity of ensuring transparency in the
distribution of funds.  The head of state
remarked that “These funds should not go without fail to those organisations
which are loyal to the government, or, conversely, to those which are not
loyal.  Objectively, they should be given
to those organisations which have passed the competition”.

At the meeting, Mikhail Fedotov, chair of the
Presidential Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights, presented
the agreed proposals of human rights activists on the creation of a mechanism
for distributing state funds for the support of NGOs.  He suggested that the organisation “Civil
Dignity”, headed by Ella Pamfilova, should be made the distributor of state
support for NGOs.  Ella Pamfilova
remarked that this task did not appear to be easy, but would be
interesting.  RIA Novosti quotes
Pamfilova as saying “Thank you for your trust, both on the human rights
activists’ part and on the state’s.  I
will try to do this job with the greatest of openness”.  According to Vedomosti, “Civil Dignity” could
receive 0.5 to 1 billion roubles this year to finance NGOs engaged in human
rights work.

There should be no benefits to commercial
corporations which give grants to NGOs, Putin also remarked during the
meeting.  Vedomosti quotes Putin as
saying, “If somebody wants to look good before society, let them pay for this
from their profits, and not by means of a benefit given by the state, as this,
in the final reckoning, comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket.”


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