Public Chamber proposes simplification of NGO registration

The Public Chamber proposes simplifying NGO registrations



Hearings have taken place in the Federation’s Public Chamber on “improving the registration system for Russian socially-orientated NGOs”. Experts have suggested simplifying the process and reducing the size of the Government’s levy.

The average time taken to register NGOs (i.e. 3 months) is longer than that for commercial organisations, according to Sultan Hamzaev, First Deputy of the Chamber’s Commission on Support for Youth Initiatives, with the size of the State’s levy for NGO registration also significantly higher than for a commercial organisation or even a political party. A proposal was put forward in the Public Chamber to simplify the registration procedure and reduce the size of the levy to at least the level currently paid by commercial bodies. Experts are also conscious of the need to strike a balance between making the NGO registration process easier and having strict formal procedures in place so as to avoid the potential for malpractice.

In some countries, NGOs can only register by sending an SMS message. In Russia, however, the registration process can occasionally become an impossible task, says Elena Topoleva, a member of the Public Chamber’s Commission on Social Policy, Labour Relations and Quality of Life, adding that it was even more difficult to disband than to register an NGO. She also said that those who oppose a simplified registration process believe that by collecting donations and utilising budgetary resources, NGOs carry an added responsibility towards regulatory authorities and the public. Consequently, simplifying the system for registering and disbanding NGOs is practically impossible.

Oleg Zorya, Chair of the All-Russian public body “Students of Russia”, believes that guidance on registering NGOs needs to be developed, together with the preparation of standard forms and a list of required documentation, as this would enable NGOs to correct any errors in their application prior to its submission. Zorya believes that this would also help ease the workload on staff at the Ministry of Justice, and significantly reduce the registration time for NGOs, as well as simplifying the process without involving external specialists.

The principles governing NGO registration have remained the same for many years, according to Anna Kotova, Director of the NGO Department within the Justice Ministry. In her view, any changes to the registration process need to be made through “gradual, smooth reform” rather than in a “revolutionary way”. However, she is against the idea of aligning the NGO registration process to that which applies to business organisations, stressing that the current registration timescale is necessary. In support of her view, Kotova referred to the requirement to carry out checks on people working for NGOs to see if they have been involved in acts of extremism, a process which, in her opinion, takes time to complete (under existing legislation, any individual who has committed an extremist act or crime is banned from working for NGOs)

Kotova has called on NGOs to utilise the Federation’s Common Government Services Portal, as well as encouraging much greater use of the electronic registration form. This tool simplifies the process for preparing the necessary documentation used in an NGO’s submission which is important in meeting the registration deadline, Kotova added. She also confirmed that the Ministry of Justice will consider the recommendations that emerge from the Public Chamber’s hearings and then let their views be known.

Author: Gregory Ivanushkin


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