Life for Non-Profits After 21 November: Some Recommendations

17 October 2012

Source: (info)

On 17 October 2012, at a meeting in Volgograd entitled "Administrative regulations: instructions for use" civil activists and representatives of Volgograd's non-profits learned how to apply administrative regulations in order to protect the interests of their target groups, and also about possibilities for non-profits to participate in the administrative regulatory process. 

Participants discussed possible mechanisms for monitoring compliance with regulations, official accountability for violations and the quality and accessibility of State services. The experts paid special attention to monitoring, its principles, objectives and methods and the practical application of the results of monitoring.

Maria Kanevskaya PhD, director of the independent non-profit Human Rights Resource Centre, talked about the most recent changes to the law on non-profits, which confer the status of “foreign agent” on all Russian non-profits are engaged in political activities (in the broadest sense) and that have foreign sources of funding.

It is not possible to draw up recommendations for each individual organisation; but there are general guidelines to which experts strongly advise organisations adhere in order to ensure maximum protection for their activities.

Правила достаточно просты: зарегистрировать эмблему/символику, утвердить до 31.12.2012 все формы/шаблоны документов, используемые в НКО, отказаться от организации публичных мероприятий (митинги), использовать исключения закона, в случаях, когда это возможно – подчеркнула Мария Каневская.

According to Kanevskaya, the guidelines are relatively simple. Organisations should: register their logo; confirm by 31 December 2012 all forms or templates for documents used by the organisation; refrain from organising public events (rallies); and make use of exemptions provided for by the law where this is possible.

The expert suggested a number of strategies that could be adopted after 21 November 2012:
Ask the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation for clarification as to whether the non-profit is required to register with the Ministry or whether it falls under an exemption;
Wait for inspections/penalties from the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation regarding non-entry in the register and subsequently submit an appeal against them. The organisation should be prepared for the fact that a criminal investigation might ensue. In addition, it should attempt to challenge the law itself before the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation;
Take advantage of the exemptions laid down by the law;
Organisations are not advised to register as a foreign agent if they are not engaged in political activities or have no foreign sources of funding.

Participants also discussed analytical reviews of the Law on Foreign Agents, made by prominent third sector experts:
Conclusions of Bellona and Transparency International Russia on the results of an independent anti-corruption assessment of Bill No. 102766-6 “On introducing amendments into specific legislative acts of the Russian Federation with regard to the regulation of activities of non-profit organisations”;
"The Law on Foreign Agents": Arguments for Non-Profit Organisations. A Review of the Federal Law of 20 July 2012 by the International Centre for Non-Profit Law.