Renewed Council may ease NGOs’ problems

“There is hope that
NGOs’ painful issues may be solved through the Presidential Council”.


13 November, President Vladimir Putin signed the executive order “On amendments
to the composition of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human
Rights, approved by Presidential decree no. 120 of 1 February 2011”.  According to the document, the renewed
membership of the council consists of 62 people, 39 of whom are new members.  The rotation of the council was carried out
on the basis of public consultation and internet voting, in which more than
100,000 people took part.


the council’s membership includes: Andrei Babushkin, chair of the Committee
“For Civil Rights”; Nikolai Svanidze, a member of the Public Chamber; Elizaveta
Glinka, executive director of the public organisation “Fair Aid”; Elena
Topoleva, director of ASI; Liliya Shibanova, director of the “Golos”
Association “For the Defence of Electoral Rights”; Aleksandr Verkhovsky,
director of the Sova Centre for Infomation and Analysis; politician Irina
Khakamada; and others.  Apart from
these, the renewed composition of the council also includes some journalists:
Leonid Parfyonov, Stanislav Kucher, Elena Masyuk, and others.


decree has therefore excluded from the composition of the council members of
its previous incarnations, among them L. Alekseyeva, A. Auzan, S. Gannushkina,
V. Gefter, D. Oreshkin, and others.  The
first session of the new council took place on 13 November.


Topoleva, chair of the Public Chamber commission for social policy, labour
relations and the living standards of citizens, said in an interview with ASI
that “There is hope that some painful issues for NGOs may be solved through the
council.  At the first session,
colleagues raised very sensitive matters, including laws which have provoked
public criticism, especially this law about NGOs as foreign agents”.  Topoleva considers that “there is a chance
of continuing the conversation about revising this law”.  As regards the compatibility of duties with
the Public Chamber with work on commissions and councils, she believes that
this is common practice if one engages in different areas with the solution of
the same problems.  Many members of the
Public Chamber are members of the Coordination Council for Implementing the
National Children’s Strategy, the Presidential Council for Interethnic
Relations, and others.  The Chamber can
help to find one route to a solution, and the council others.  Topoleva believes that “With so many posts,
the only option is to continue doing what you are doing and use these platforms
as channels of communication”.


Svanidze, member of the Public Chamber, plans to get involved on the
Presidential Council with interreligious and interethnic relations, questions of
freedom of speech, and also trends relating to historical memory. In an
interview with ASI, he said: “Quantity does not always, however, promote
quality…On the new council there are different people with different views
and outlooks.  This will make the work
interesting enough”.  In his opinion,
the work of the council depends in the first place on how it is perceived by
the President.  Svanidze has therefore
not given any prognosis for the renewed council’s activities.  “If the President takes into consideration
and “shelves” the council’s decisions – that’s one thing”, the expert
believes.  “But if the council
influences decision-making – that’s another”. 
Svanidze has noted, however, that the high-level authorities have not,
to date, listened a great deal to the opinions of the council on important and
relevant trends.


Chikov, chair of “Agora”, the Interregional Association of Human Rights
Organisations, told ASI that their priority is the resolution of issues
surrounding reform of the law enforcement and justice systems and the
activities of non-governmental organisations. Chikov also plans to engage with
areas in which the work of the council and that of “Agora” correspond – for
example, in the work of the group for NGO affairs.  Chikov considers that the change in legislation relating to NGOs
demands attention, including from this platform:  “It is necessary to use the instrument of the council in some way
in human rights work, but it is not yet fully understood how”.  There may also be some new partners among
members of the council, with whom cooperation will be possible.





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