President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ella Alexandrovna, I have signed a decree to confirm the composition of the Presidential Council for Facilitating the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights Institutions. This Council includes many highly-respected individuals who are known for their work in human rights and who are prepared to address a variety of issues. I would simply like to speak with you about the direction you intend for the future work of this Council: what you perceive to be priorities, which goals you consider to be most relevant at this time, for which the Council could provide support to the government, and on the other hand, perhaps, express its position on difficult issues? Simply put, how do you see the future organization of this work?
CHAIRPERSON OF THE COUNCIL FOR FACILITATING THE DEVELOPMENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS, ELLA PAMFILOVA: Thank you, Dmitry Anatolyevich.
I feel that the Council itself is unique, and that there are no analogous institutions anywhere in the world. In fact, the people invited to work in the Council sometimes even stand in opposition to the government on a range of issues, but are willing to cooperate in a constructive way. It is an additional, unique platform for people who represent the opinions of minorities on an array of issues to have direct access to the President and to have the opportunity to provide an alternative point of view, which sometimes differs from the government’s positions.
Dmitry Medvedev: And thank goodness for that.
Ella Pamfilova: And to act in the interest of the people, to resolve various problems. In my opinion, now, during this crisis, it is especially important for everyone to carry and allocate responsibility (government and business in particular). I believe that participation on the part of citizens is exceedingly important in what I would call anti-crisis self-regulation, the creation of many platforms where it would be possible to resolve problems collectively, and to share responsibility for what is happening. Neither the crisis nor the very important fight against extremism should serve as a cause for limitations, curtailing our people’s fundamental rights and freedoms, which are provided in the Constitution. I believe that we serve as an additional instrument that will assist you in defending these rights and freedoms.
Dmitry Medvedev: Ella Alexandrovna, you and I have been working for a fairly long time in this very field. You have approached it from one side, and I have approached it from a somewhat different side, since the days when I was working for the Presidential Executive Office. I feel that the work you do is very helpful, and indeed, this kind of platform, as you rightly pointed out, is truly unique. Why? Because there are no other platforms like this Council that unite people who truly have very different views on the development of nation and the process of forming civil society. And for us, these processes are not free from complications, because our civil society was, in essence, suppressed for eight decades – one could say that it did not really exist, or that it existed in a distorted way. We have been forming a new Russian civil society for 18 years now, and likely, there are some people who are not satisfied with the way that this is happening, which is entirely normal. But we will continue to work on it in the future. I hope that the Council will help me, as President, to resolve these challenges.
The same can be said about the problem of respecting human rights. The concept of human rights is a unique concept that serves as a measure of freedom in a given country. And, of course, the goal of government institutions, along with public institutions, is to give these formal rights real content. This task is probably the most difficult and complicated. In this regard, I also count on help, support, and appropriate constructive criticism from the Council, which it has always provided. In this, I wish you the best of luck.
Ella Pamfilova: Thank you.