Situation of foreign funded NGOs to worsen?
On 29 June
a bill was introduced in the Duma which could lead to a tightening of controls
over the activities of non-commercial organisations which receive funding from
abroad. A copy of the “Law on Amendments to certain Federal Laws so as to Regulate
the Activities of Non-commercial Organisations Fulfilling the Functions of
Foreign Agent” has reached ASI. The bill
defines non-commercial organisations which “take part in political activities”
as those involved (including financially) in “the organisation of political
activities in order to exert an effect on the adoption by state organs of
decisions which are aimed at changes in state policy exercised by them” and in
influencing public opinion “in such aims”.
law was initiated by Aleksander Sidyakin, the initiator of changes in the law
on public meetings. NGOs, which “participate in political activities, supported
by foreign funding” are described in the law as “fulfilling the functions of a
foreign agent”. Foreign funding is understood in the law as “financial means or
other property from foreign states, state authorities, international or foreign
organisations, foreign citizens, stateless entities, or entities acting on
behalf of them, and/or from Russian juridical persons receiving funding or
other property from the sources listed above, with the exception of public
shareholding companies with participation by the state or daughter societies”.
falling into the category of so-called “organisations fulfilling the functions
of a foreign agent” a special register will be established. The NGOs will be required
to submit details of their expenditure and all income received from Russian and
foreign sources, and will have to submit twice annually to the Ministry of
Justice (currently they do this once a year) reports on their activities, and
accounts of their expenditure and property. The law also stipulates that the
oversight body will report annually to the Duma on the activities and expenditure
of such NGOs.
penalties are envisaged for NGOs who fail to comply with these requirements – a
ban on further activity, fines, as well as administrative and criminal
procedures. According to Darya Miloslavskaya, Director of the Russian branch of
the International Centre for Not for Profit Law, the law expresses “illogical
ideas” taken in some instances from US experience. If it is adopted in its present form it will
do great harm to the Russia’s international image and to its not-for-profit
sector, she told ASI. She said that these organisations will not close down
after the law is adopted. Instead they will work out new ways of operating so
as to both comply with the law and continue their activities.
that some provisions of the new law duplicate existing laws, which already
require NGOs to publish their accounts on the internet and to submit them to
the Justice Ministry. These accounts already comprise all details of the
sources of their funding.
opinions were expressed by many participants in a public hearing on “problems
of regulation of foreign funding of Russian NGOs” in the Public Chamber on 15
May this year. Participants suggested specifying in the law a definition of
political activity, so as to exclude the possibility for foreign funding to be
used to interfere in the political life of Russia through “any kind of organisation”
– and not only NGOs. But at the same time so as not to inhibit foreign funding
of projects with public, social, humanitarian and charitable aims, and so as to
allow for one organisation to utilise foreign funding for this type of project,
and domestic funding for any activities of a political nature. But these provisions
were not included in the draft received by ASI.