Reforming legislation on NGOs will be continued into 2010
The last meeting in 2009 of the Working Group on Improving NGO Law was held on 18 December. One of the main issues was the draft bill on changes to individual acts of the Russian Federation on support to socially-oriented non-commercial organisations (NGOs). This was introduced into the Duma by the Russian President on 23 November.
The draft was prepared by the Ministry of Economic Development, approved by the Expert Group of the Council of the President on the Development of Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights and discussed by the Working Group in October-November, according to Yuri Dzhibladze, a member of the Working Group and Expert Group and president of the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights. Representatives of the Expert Group introduced a whole number of amendments which could be introduced into the Duma at the second reading. While most amendments had been approved, there remained the issue about the creation of registers of socially oriented non-commercial organisations and those receiving support. Was it planned to register all socially oriented NGOs or only those that received state support? This was not clear from the text of the draft introduced into the Duma. Was an NGO socially oriented? This should be determined from its actual activity and not from its presence or absence from any register. A register was necessary to record the fact of state support. It was not possible a priori to divide organisations into “first-rate” NGOs and others solely on the basis of their prescribed aims through the issue of a “document of state recognition”. This position was supported by Anna Popova, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and finally by the whole Working Group.
According to Yu. Dzhibladze, the Expert Group considered that the term “grant” should be brought back to the Budgetary Code as an addition to the term “subsidy”. The latter term implied the “reimbursement of expenses”, which is onerous for NGOs, which rely partly on their own means for financing their activities. The question of grants should be referred to the head of state, Dmitry Medvedev.
Another important issue on the agenda was the situation regarding social advertising in Russia. The federal law on advertising dealt inadequately with this question. The Working Group supported the idea of legalising the mention of socially oriented non-commercial organisations and limiting the mention of sponsors in social advertising. They also agreed that it was dangerous to establish the priority of state social advertising.
A further meeting would be held with various representatives to discuss the position of sponsors and related questions in 2010. Despite the absence at the concluding meeting of Aleksey Velichko, Deputy Minister of Justice, there was a discussion about the draft regulation produced by his ministry on placing the accounts of NGO activity on the internet and publishing them in the media. The draft of a new form of obligatory record of accounts of NGOs to the Ministry of Justice was presented at the meeting. In the opinion of the Expert Group it should be used instead of the existing form and also placed on the website of the Ministry of Justice. This proposal was approved by members of the Working Group.
The next meeting of the Working Group is planned for the second half of January.