Opening Address at a Meeting with members of the Council for Facilitating the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights 2007-01-11 21:46:33 The Kremlin, Moscow Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon dear colleagues. I am going to suggest that we discuss several issues during today’s meeting. But if you consider that the range of problems on the agenda is too limited then please do not hesitate to raise any other issue for discussion. But before we begin our discussion I would like to thank you, or at least many of those present here, for your organizational work regarding the Civil G8 2006. This was a good, useful and important part of the process of preparing for the G8 in St Petersburg. And had you paid attention, you would have noticed that many recommendations that you and your foreign colleagues made before the G8 were crucial for the discussion between heads of state gathered in St Petersburg in July 2006. And now I would like to touch on some problems that I think are especially interesting for our discussion. First and foremost, I would like to draw your attention to the development of civil society institutions and emphasise that this is an important task that the government will continue to pay attention to. At the last meeting we discussed various ways to support public organisations, for example, by instruments such as competitions and grants. In connection with this I would like to point out the law that was passed in December last year, entitled “On the Formation and Use of the Capital Stock of Non-Profit Organisations”. It lays out quite an efficient mechanism for supporting nongovernmental organisations dealing with problems that affect today’s society. Of course, these problems include the issues of protecting and implementing human rights. I also believe that you are already able to analyse how the federal laws “On Public Organisations” and “On Non-Profit Organisations” are being applied in practice. According to the information that I have, fears connected with the authorities’ potential encroachment on the activities of nongovernmental organisations were unfounded. And, in my opinion, all things have fallen into place. I have no evidence that any organisation had problems with unjustified bureaucracy. Yes, there were problems connected with registration, just single instances, yet all these problems were exclusively legal ones. I would like to emphasise this. I shall repeat that this is the information I have. If you have any other evidence, then let us discuss it today. And I would like to once again emphasise that we shall continue to monitor the situation in an effort to prevent excessive bureaucracy. The second theme is the development of social control in the fundamental areas of state administration. In particular, control over the activities of law-enforcement agencies and penal structures. We have often discussed this problem and first and foremost the problem of physical abuse of those waiting for their trial in pre-trial detention centres, in the police forces and on prisoners in detention centres. I shall emphasize that in this respect the situation is changing, though slowly. And in many respects this is due to the persevering, unswerving attitude and constant attention that human rights organisations have paid to this problem. It is obvious that the participation of civil society institutions is playing a positive role. I would like to assure you that we will continue to support your efforts in this direction. In addition, I think that Russia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture will support the search for a comprehensive solution to this problem. There is one more important issue that I would like to discuss here, and that is the rise of extremism. You are aware that just recently, at the end of 2006, I discussed this problem in quite a lot of detail with the heads of the leading Russian political parties. And I would also like to talk about this issue here today – about these negative tendencies, about the increase of crime linked to extremism as a whole. In the last little while the public constantly talks about and constantly returns to these problems. And we have repeatedly ascertained that displays of nationalism, xenophobia, religious and racial intolerance do not only seriously infringe on the rights of Russian and foreign citizens living in Russia, they create a serious threat to stability and security in the country as a whole. Along with this, it is unfortunate that the activities of extremist organisations are far from always receiving a principled and public evaluation. I believe that in this respect the attitudes of political parties as well as those of the institutions of civil society and nongovernmental organisations should be made very public. In connection with this I fully support the Council’s initiative to develop the national programme entitled Civil Education for the People of the Russian Federation. Implementing such a project will support the consolidation of our society, instilling tolerance, and the respect of rights and personal freedoms. The following issues include drug abuse, crime – and first of all youth crime – as well as child homelessness. I know that your Council defends its position on the development of juvenile law and in light of this we could also discuss and talk about this problem. Dear colleagues, this year elections will take place in Russia in the regional legislative assemblies and for the State Duma deputies. In practice, we are already at the threshold of an election campaign. A significant number of regions of the Russian Federation will hold elections in March. And I hope that this will provide our citizens with important opportunities to evaluate the real extent to which parties adhere to the goals they set themselves, to understand how and to what degree the tasks they announced were implemented, including with respect to constructing a civil society in Russia. It is obvious that public organisations play a very important role during elections. And today, at this meeting, we can consider the different ways that civil society could participate in the electoral process. I would like to say at once that I will be ready to provide you with all necessary assistance in this work. This was what I wanted to say at the beginning of our meeting. Thank you for your attention. Please go ahead.