Speech at a meeting of the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
It is a pleasure to greet you all here at this meeting, which, by tradition, takes place on the eve of Human Rights Day.
As you know, two new national awards were just presented. I want to express once more my gratitude to the winners, and I want to thank everyone who gives their strength and energy to charity, volunteer and human rights work.
We spoke at past meetings about the need for additional measures to support NGOs with a social focus. The Council’s representatives played a very active part in drafting proposals in this area. The authorities have now approved the needed decisions. I remind you that, starting on January 1, 2017, NGOs providing services of social use will gain access to budget-funded service provision in the social sector for a period of at least two years. This will give such NGOs guarantees for stable activity and, I believe, will have a positive impact on the quality of social sector services around the country in general. Of course, we will need to monitor closely the way these new rules are implemented in practice. I hope the Council will give this matter its particular attention.
Overall, the Council’s work concerns a very broad range of areas in public life, from issues concerning migrants to the environment, protecting people’s rights in labour disputes, and concrete urban development policy issues. There cannot and should not be restrictions of any sort here. People must be able to continue raising the issues of greatest concern to them. We must respond rapidly and sensitively to situations in which people encounter injustice, indifference, formalism, or infringements of their rights in all different areas.
The state authorities and civil society are natural allies in achieving these common goals, the most important of which is our people’s prosperity. A constructive, substantive and respectful dialogue between the authorities at the various levels and civil society representatives is always needed and is without question very useful.
The regional dimension of the Council’s work is particularly important. It is essential to know the real human rights situation in the regions, where problems crop up most frequently in this area. I know that in some cases, the Council acts as an arbitrator in conflict situations, when disputes and differences arise, and in this way helps to restore social justice.
I note too the extensive work of the Council and its monitoring groups during the recent election campaign. Your work together with the Central Election Commission was most certainly very important indeed. There is no doubt that any violations during elections or any attempts to distort the results of voting must be prevented.
Public oversight has a tremendous role to play here. It raises elections’ legitimacy and bolsters public trust in their results. It also helps to identify aspects that require additional legal regulation.
I hope that you will continue your work to protect people’s electoral rights and your cooperation with the Central Election Commission during the election campaigns ahead, including in the regions.
I must mention another aspect of the Council’s work – your efforts to immortalise the memory of victims of political repression. We must learn to accept our country’s past as it is, remember the glorious pages, and not forget the tragic pages in our history. You might have noticed that I spoke about this in my Address [to the Federal Assembly], and I repeat it now: history’s lessons should not divide us, but should unite us and help us to preserve civil peace and harmony.
I hope very much that today, as in the past, we will hold a substantive discussion of the matters that require additional attention from the state authorities and require measures. As always, I am sure that you have your own initiatives and proposals on these many issues.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Colleagues and friends, I am grateful to you for today’s discussion. It was very informative and interesting.
Mr Fedotov [Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights] said to me in a low voice, “I can see you find it interesting. Why don’t you stay a bit longer?” I would love to stay longer because it is not only interesting but also useful. None of the speakers has made me disagree. True, we need to think some things over, debate some others, but generally, the discussion is very focused and seeks to make our lives better and fairer, make them more fairly structured, most importantly. Let me thank you for this. We will try to work on all of it; though some things do not always work out, we will do our best. I hope we will work together with you because the proposals that were sent here in writing will most likely require your further consideration as well.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate you on the upcoming holidays. There are quite a few of them coming, and I wish you all the best. Thank you.