The meeting agenda included a summary of the results of the Year of the Volunteer in Russia, and further plans for the development of the volunteer movement and socially oriented non-profit organisations.
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Speech at State Council meeting
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends.
We are meeting ahead of the New Year in an expanded format, as you can see. In addition to the traditional participation of governors and heads of regions, this State Council meeting is attended by volunteers and representatives of socially oriented non-profit organisations – remarkable people who are passionate about their work.
I want to welcome everybody here and thank you and all like-minded people, and their number is increasing in our country, and thanks to your efforts, among other things, there are now hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of them – I would like to thank you for your generous participation in people’s destinies.
Why have we gathered here today? I would like to remind you that we declared 2018 the Year of the Volunteer. The reasons for this are clear: we need to raise public awareness of this wonderful movement and this kind of activity. Most importantly, we must focus attention on in-depth changes in society that are not measured by statistics and dry numbers alone.
I would like to note once again that more and more people are striving to emulate those who are involved in our meeting today. More and more people are working in difficult areas where practical assistance is needed, where it is necessary to uphold justice and so on. It goes without saying that support for the volunteer movement does not boil down to formal calendar deadlines. As I have said, this support will certainly continue. Actually, the Government has already drafted the concept for developing the volunteer movement until 2025.
Certainly, together with the volunteers we must formulate detailed plans for such work at the federal level and in the regions, including the introduction of volunteer-support standards that have been drafted by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives. In effect, this is an algorithm of action for regional teams, and I ask my colleagues from the regions and regional leaders to monitor compliance with the document’s practical steps together with volunteers.
We must be more proactive in establishing volunteer centres, so that everyone has the opportunity to join the common cause, to obtain essential knowledge, experience and skills. Volunteers and people in need of assistance will be able to find each other there more easily and quickly. These points of attraction should be established in cities, other communities, at schools, colleges and universities.
Many young people want to take part in the volunteer movement, which we can see, just as the older generation’s readiness to share their experience and knowledge for the benefit of society. We must definitely support the national business of corporate volunteer centres. They are being created, and we must support this initiative.
I have said many times before that our national projects and development programmes can be implemented only through the concerted efforts of the state, businesses and the whole of society, as well as an active contribution from volunteers. Today they are involved in the organisation of major international events; they contribute to environmental programmes by implementing many of their elements, promoting the development of popular sports and helping improve our life. For example, young people from the volunteer movement of medics have helped repair over a thousand rural healthcare centres this year.
I believe we must express our appreciation for the volunteers who are working selflessly at hospitals, hospices and social facilities. In this connection, I ask that the Government and regional authorities remove all the excessive barriers and obstacles that have long outlived their purpose in healthcare and the social sphere. We need clear and understandable rules of interaction based on the current reality. These rules must be drafted as soon as possible. The Emergencies Ministry, our law enforcement agencies and also volunteers are working on such a document. Coordinated efforts and synergy in this sphere are very important, possibly even crucially important.
Colleagues, many community-focused NGOs began as small volunteer projects. I would like to say a few words about this. Financial support is extremely important for them to expand their operations. In 2017, we allowed NGOs to receive budgetary financing for the social services they provide, but only after they receive a special status as social services providers.
Two years have passed, let us look at the results of that decision. As of December 1, the status has been granted to 187 NGOs around the country. This is certainly far from enough. What does this mean? It means that not all obstacles to the development of this work have been removed.
What can I suggest in this connection? The Presidential Grants Fund has already supported almost 7,000 NGO projects. This system is fair, and, more importantly, it is transparent. One can quickly see the legal foundations for awarding each grant and its practical results. I think it would be right for the grant-winning NGOs that have successfully implemented their projects to automatically receive the status of providers of socially useful services without any excessive formalities because they have obviously proved their worth by specific deeds. If they have received the grants, if they have been selected accordingly, then this fact speaks volumes.
I also suggest and would like to ask regional leaders to use the Fund’s experience of holding open and public tenders and competitions, so that as many genuine and honest projects as possible can obtain federal and regional assistance.
Here is another suggestion. We should help public officials train public sector employees on how to cooperate efficiently with NGOs and volunteers. In this connection, I consider it necessary to launch relevant education programmes and to implement them under the Russia – the Land of Opportunities project together with the Association of Volunteer Centres.
I would like to say a few more words before we start our discussion. It goes without saying that our incentives have a high priority status. However, it is also necessary, of course, to set a personal example; I would now like to address our colleagues from the Russian regions. You know this very well: a personal example sets the pace in virtually every area of our joint work. Therefore, I would like to ask you to join the projects implemented by volunteers in your respective regions. Most importantly, this participation should be sincere and efficient, and it should not amount to window-dressing.
Let us start our discussion.
Vladimir Putin: Let us sum up some results. It is clear why I considered it important to meet today, in advance of the New Year and in this format. We are completing a year devoted to the volunteer movement and socially-oriented NGOs, and I wanted very much to complete this year here in the centre of Moscow, at the Kremlin, and with both the volunteers themselves and the heads of the regions of Russia.
In this respect, I proceeded from the idea that completing this year formally, we are aiming at continuing our joint work. In this connection, we will discuss what we must do to keep this movement from fading out and, on the contrary, for it to develop and receive increasing support from the state, as well as the federal and regional authorities.
In this context, we have prepared a list of instructions. I would just like to ask the Executive Office and the Government of the Russian Federation to look at these instructions with a view to preventing red tape in the volunteer movement. It must remain an essentially voluntary movement. This is what makes it special.
And, of course, my colleagues from the regions – I must assure you that by virtue of their numerous responsibilities and the salaries some of them receive they are volunteers to a certain extent. It goes without saying that this is not enough. Today’s conversation is straight and live. For all of us, including my colleagues from the regions, it is like a breath of fresh air when we look at what volunteers and representatives of socially oriented NGOs are doing and how they do it.
I would like to thank all of you for this work now that the Year of the Volunteer is coming to a close. I am hoping you will continue this work. On our side, we will provide every support to you in your noble efforts.
All areas are important, both medicine and environmental protection. Of course, the World Cup was one of the year’s highlights. Thousands of people worked to help organise this happy and, as it transpired, meaningful festival. Special thanks to you.
Thank you once again and a happy New Year to all of you. I am grateful to you.