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Volunteers to be taken under control

July 16, 2012, 15:08 UTC+3

The Russian Public Chamber is preparing a bill “On Volunteering,”

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MOSCOW, July 16 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Public Chamber is preparing a bill “On Volunteering,” in which some see the desire to put volunteers under state control. If the document is adopted, the volunteers and organisers of the volunteer work will have to conclude special agreements with donors.

According to the State Duma member from A Just Russia faction Ilya Ponomarev, the bill aims to establish control of the authorities over the informal movement, Kommersant writes. The heads of volunteer organisations, interviewed by the publication, agree with him. The authors of the bill say they want to help the volunteers, and United Russia members claim that working on the bill they are ready to take into account the opinions of volunteers.

The authors of the concept aim to “create the legal basis for the functioning of volunteer activities, determining the status and basic principles of volunteering, the rights and duties, the powers of bodies of authority in this sphere,” the newspaper notes.

The head of the Council “Russian Lawyers for Civil Society” (this organisation drafted the bill), member of the RF Public Chamber, Darya Miloslavskaya, explained that the final version of the concept was developed in April 2012, and the reason for its appearance was the need to “improve the volunteers’ spending.” United Russia supports the initiative. Vice speaker of the State Duma from United Russia Sergei Zheleznyak says that all volunteer organisations are invited to “calmly put forward the proposals.”

Interviewed representatives of volunteer organisations have a negative attitude to the lawmaking initiative. “The concept stipulates that the volunteers are individuals acting on behalf of legal entities. Thus, they regard them as a kind of supplement to the registered legal centre of volunteers that sends someone somewhere. Although this is a fundamentally incorrect understanding of volunteering,” said founder of an unregistered organisation – Volunteers on Wheels, Yevgeny Grekov. The social activist explains the emergence of the concept by “the desire of the authorities to put under control everything” and “reduce the possibility of interaction between citizens at the horizontal level.”

“This bill is incredible nonsense, nothing can be worse for the volunteer movement. Let them first establish order in the work of their bodies – the Emergencies Ministry or the warning system, and only then lay their hands on the self-organisation of citizens. Only bureaucrats need bureaucracy, not those who want to help,” photographer Mitya Aleshkovsky, who coordinated most of volunteer initiatives in Krymsk, said.

“The bill says it is necessary to conclude an agreement between the organisation and the volunteer. It is simply impossible: someone comes to help for one day, some come without passports. People trust us and not the state. Companies and sponsors call us, and not the state, to help. As soon as the state gets involved, any good business will be sunk in bureaucracy and theft,” said Aleshkovsky.

Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said that the government has “taken on the volunteers” because any independent civic activity causes suspicion. “During the Soviet period they were afraid of any associations, even chess clubs and philatelists. In the case of Krymsk – there is the clearly obvious burst of civic activity, which is not moderated from the top. And if tomorrow these people decide to go to elections as observers? Will it make the local authorities happy? So, they must be “taken under control,” concluded the expert.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes that the document, on the one hand, is designed to protect volunteers, and on the other – can significantly complicate their work and paralyse the activities of volunteer rescuers in emergencies. Ilya Ponomarev is convinced that it is not accidentally that “the bill has been pulled out from the till.” He supposed in an interview with the newspaper that the authorities are trying to make life easier for the pro-government volunteer organisations and to complicate it for all the others. According to the parliamentarian, the events in Krymsk where volunteers from Moscow have disclosed unflattering for the authorities information and shown the real scale of the disaster clearly testify to this: “It turns out that nothing can be concealed. Certainly, this irritates officials.” As a result, says Ponomarev, it will be difficult to organise volunteers for “spontaneous structures.”

Self-organisation of thousands of citizens who volunteer to help the affected residents of Krymsk has greatly alarmed the authorities, according to Vedomosti. How else can be explained the emergence of the concept of the law on volunteering that suddenly ripened in the Public Chamber? – the publication asks.

Volunteers in our country are often a substitute for the state: thousands of people strangers to each other have managed to efficiently unite and organise the provision of aid to the affected residents of Krymsk, stresses the newspaper. The state should learn from them. But it seems that in the officials’ distorted minds volunteers appear as competitors. And to all appearances, dangerous rivals. The inefficiency and weakness of state structures become too obvious against the background of active citizens.


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