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State Duma proposes to place a control mechanism on NGOs funding

February 02, 2012, 13:49 UTC+3

Head of the Duma Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations wants to control foreign funding provided to Russian NGOs

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MOSCOW, February 2 (Itar-Tass) — The State Duma calls to place a control mechanism on NGO's funding , head of the Duma Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organisations Alexander Ostrovsky said.

“We know that the countries with developed civil institutions have a legal base for the operation of non-governmental organisations,” Ostrovsky said at a round-table meeting on Thursday.

According to the lawmaker, “Unfortunately, Russia has no balanced approach towards the activity of non-governmental  organisations. We can only allow or ban their activities. And for that reason, they have no idea of the state’s requirements to them. That is why very often the actions of authorities are interpreted as extreme and excessive.”

In his view, “the state has the right to and must regulate the activity of non-governmental organisations. There is nothing bad and anti-democratic in it.” At the same time, Ostrovsky regretted that unclear requirements “provoked the situation when legislation on non-commercial organisations was seen as ‘tightening the screws’ or ‘encroachment on citizens’ rights and freedoms’”.

“Unfortunately, certain Russian non-governmental  organisations are pursuing the interests of other states on our territory. The result is clear: he who pays, calls the tune.” However, the lawmaker said, “We should not condemn everyone, who receives grants from abroad.” He recalled that the United States “is strictly regulating the activities of structures, which act for the benefit of foreigners. The law on lobbyism works well. For example, they are obliged to provide a report on any political activities and financial support. The U.S. Attorney General does not look at the world community’s view when the country’s security prioritises,” Ostrovsky said.

“In my view, it is time to create clearer and fair conditions for the activity of non-governmental organisations in our country and put foreign financing backing under control,” the lawmaker said, adding that the committee “is ready to be involved in this work”.

For his part, Federation Council deputy chairman Ilyas Umakhanov considers financial support of non-governmental  organisations to be a “very pressing” matter. “Even being in contact with American colleagues from the State Department it is impossible to get information on how much, to whom and how funding is provided,” he explained.

Umakhanov said, “According to the reports that I have over the courst of  three years – 2009-2011 a total of 160 million U.S. dollars was provided from the U.S. budget to support the so-called civil society, mass media etc. in Russia.”

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