NGO Deadline Looms - Oct 18th
The programs of foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia may soon be suspended due to the fact that they must be registered with the Federal Registration Service (FRS) by October 18. Yesterday officials warned NGOs who have not yet submitted documents of the approaching deadline, but many charge that registration procedures have been intentionally bureaucratized and tightened.
The Deputy Head of the Department of Affairs of Political Parties, and Public, Religious, and Other Organizations for the FRS notified representatives of foreign NGOs that if they are not registered with the FRS this month, their programs must be suspended. According to new amendments in the Law on NGOs, adopted in April, all organizations must be entered into the state register by October 18.
According to statistics, from about 500 foreign NGOs working in the territory of Russia, 26 are now registered, and another 87 have begun the process. The remaining organizations, which include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and others, may lose the opportunity to work in Russia.
The FRS has accused foreign organizations of carelessness and prolonging the process. NGO representatives counter that they have to prepare huge packets of “unnecessary documents” and then wait in long lines, because documents are only accepted 3 hours a week on Wednesdays.
These packets must include: the laws under which the organizations were registered in their home country; the NGO charter; the decision of the main office to create a Russian branch or representative office; regulations of the branch or representative office; the decision naming the head of the office in Russia; a document with a statement of purpose and objectives; and a financial report. All documents must be submitted both in the language of the applicant and in Russian translation. It is particularly necessary to translate the whole charter of the organization in its entirety (which is, as a rule, no less than 50 pages). If the submitted papers do not meet official requirements, they will be returned for revision, and the quantity of such revisions is unlimited.
Along with the foreign NGO representatives, many Russian political scientists oppose these measures as well, noting that ultimately many lawful NGOs may not be registered according to the formal requirements. This could lead to disorder and confusion. Additionally, with the encroaching Russia-EU summit, such a position may once again lead to problems in Russia’s relations with the international community.