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Foreign nongovernmental organizations under registration pressure in Russia

18.10.2006    source:
As feared from the outset, the new law, which has left most foreign NGOs unregistered, seems designed to prevent such organizations from having representative offices in Russia

In accordance with a recently passed law, 18 October was the last day for foreign nongovernmental organizations to register or else be forced to leave Russia. In fact even for those organizations which were able to get through the huge weight of bureaucratic red tape in time, the final word as to their future work in Russia will depend on the special Federal Registration Service of Russia. The new Russian law had already previously been criticized as an attempt by the government to gain control over civic organizations.

The Moscow office of the French NGO “Doctors of the World” told Radio Svoboda that they had been trying for several weeks to provide all the necessary documentation, including the passport numbers of the founders of their doctors’ organization.

“According to one instruction, for example, we had to submit only 7 documents. However, after talking with the lawyer helping us with registration, the list became much longer. And at the end of the day, as a registered organization, we hadn’t even known that we needed to register again. Nobody had informed us of that, there was not one official notification that we needed to come and re-register”, a member of the organization’s staff explained.

The President of the American Chamber of Trade in Moscow, Andrew Summers, said that they had attempted to provide information and give help especially to small nongovernmental organizations in going through this procedure. He added that they had even organized a number of meetings between representatives on NGOs and the deputy head of the Federal Registration Service Anatoly Panchenko. It needed to be mentioned that the Russian authorities had only made the instructions for registration public in June.

Is it re-registration or a way of getting rid of foreign organizations from Russia?

The Director of the Moscow branch of the influential American NGO the Heritage Foundation, Yevgeny Volk, told Radio Svoboda about the greatest difficulties being encountered by foreign nongovernmental organizations.

“The package of documents which we submitted had around 200 pages. You needed to give the founding charter of the organization which created the representative office. All founders had to provide their consent to the opening of the representative office.  Just imagine it: the Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973 and we had to find its founders. After thirty years a number of them had passed on, while there was simply no contact with others, and so on”. 

According to official reports, as on 12 October the Federal Registration Service had renewed the registration of only 80 out of the 500 foreign nongovernmental organizations which are presently active in Russia.  “In the political sense this is an entirely clear policy towards removing foreign representative offices from Russia, that is, nobody is at all interested in their being here.”, Yevgeny Volk from the Heritage Foundation commented.

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