Press conference of the members of the "Civil G8 - 2006" project National working group (31 May 2006): written report
Dear colleagues, today you meet Ella Pamfilova and other participants and organizers of the Project “Civil G8 – 2006”: Director of Greenpeace-Russia Serguei Tsyplenkov, WWF-Russia Igor Chestin, president of the Foundation “Institute of energy and finance” Leonid Grigoriev, Director of Russian Project for Toronto University G8 Research Group Victoria Panova. The subject of the press-conference is “Preparation of the NGO summit on the eve of G8 summit in St Petersburg”. The participants of the press-conference will say a few words and then answer your questions.
Good morning. I’d like to thank all of you for coming and for your interest to our process. We started it, as you know, last December and in spite of many difficulties we managed to do something. I would like to remind you how it all began. Last year we contacted our foreign colleagues from the states where the mechanism of counteraction between NGOs and G8 has been elaborated. It was obviously good in 2003 in Canada, in 2005 in Great Britain. In 2004, when USA were presiding this process was practically frozen. So, our colleagues asked us what we intended to do. They contacted our NGOs and we decide not to stay apart, to use the Russian presidency in G8 to support our Russian NGOs and to establish more close contacts with our foreign colleagues, to contribute to the process generally.
I’m very grateful to our colleagues – the initiative group was about 40 leaders of Russian NGOs. We organized a National working group, addressed a whole range of international NGOs, national NGOs of G8 states. And we are grateful to many of them, because they accepted to enter the Advisory Council. There are about 50 persons in it, not only from the G8 states, but from other countries as well. And we invited also some NGOs of the 3rd World. So, we started the process. In February we organized round table discussions on three main G8 summit priorities – energy security, education and infectious diseases.
After these discussions we elaborated a basis for wider discussions on these issues. And we went on discussing it at our March Forum with the participation of 300 persons coming from all G8 states. There were about 100 NGOs representing 23 countries, 100 regional Russian NGOs. We managed to discuss not only G8 priority issues, but other issues as well – I hope my colleagues will speak about it.
Our task was not to monopolize the sphere of discussing these issues, not to speak on behalf of all NGO community, not to elaborate the unique opinion, supporting the official position or not. Main task was to provide the area for expert discussion on the proposed issues. And, of course, to understand all the positions – where they coincide or contradict each other etc.
I think we were rather successful in this direction. It was our first experience. And its particularity was, for example, that during the March Forum we had all Sherpas, from all G8 states. It was an unexampled in G8 history. And if before the Sherpas were sometimes ready to participate, it was a narrow circle of experts – but this time they were ready to participate in the wide discussion, we had a direct web-translation with them. And of course it was a good contribution of Russian NGOs to the process.
Now we move further. What do we want?
Our foreign colleagues considered it necessary to organize one more meeting with the Sherpas. Such meeting took place in May, 18. I hope you have the list of the participants of this meeting. So, it was a group of 25 persons representing G8 states NGOs, a representative from Africa, Roberto Bissio from Latin America etc.
There are some issues that we continued to discuss – Africa, poverty reduction etc.
The meeting lasted more than 2 hours – the Sherpas answered our questions and the discussion was more concrete. It was a step forward, of course. Because now we understand much better, where we can manage to do something, where it is impossible to change something etc.
We are planning to conduct the second Forum in July 3-4, on the eve of the summit. It would give us the possibility to clarify our positions, to understand the points which concern us more. There are problems concerning not only the Russian but also the international community. And we would like to speak about these problems, to show our recommendations – what to do about them.
We plan to pass our recommendations directly to the presiding country, to its leader. We hope that some of these issues will be discussed at the summit and some of them will be passed for further discussion on the next summits. That’s why I would like to mention the issues that we also propose to discuss. One of them is the ecology. Another is the poverty reduction – a full and important issue. One more issue to discuss – the socially responsible business. We feel now the huge interest of civil institutions and of business structures. They are actively cooperating with us, helping us, working as experts.
Our colleagues from abroad are ready to give us their recommendations and advices about the counteraction with business, about the educationá HIV/AIDS problems and other issues that we are planning to discuss at our Forum. And one of the problems that we don’t want to miss and to forget about is the human rights issue. It would be one of the most acute issues together with the energy security that we want to discuss at the round table. Our colleague Yuri Dzhibladze is responsible for this issue’ discussion, Unfortunately some important problems prevented him from attending our press-conference. Another important problems to discuss are the civil control over the law-enforcement bodies activities, fighting terrorism, human rights of migrants – you know how important this issue is today. And, of course, the issue of NGOs and human rights.
We have transformed several issues to make our work more effective. For example, during our March Forum we were discussing the education issues as well, but we were discussing the wider range of problems concerning this matter. You can find some materials at our web-site and they are very interesting.
I would like to thank all my colleagues for their professional work – all the recommendations they have prepared are very professional, interesting and strategic. The same situation was about the discussing health matters. As to the energy security issues, I hope our colleague Leonid Grigoriev will speak about it today.
As to the education, we decided to focus on the most acute problem – the professional education taking into consideration its humanitarian aspects. We have to admit that many representatives of the big business underestimate this problem.
What about the health issues, we decided not to discuss deeply the bird flu. We’ll pay more attention at the AIDS problems. The well-known and estimated organization will deal with this specific issue.
We have also modified the discussion on another issues and Victoria Panova will speak about it.
That’s all I would like to say at the beginning of our press-conference. And one more thing – we changed the day of our NGO Forum to have the opportunity to discuss important issues and to formulate our recommendations, then to pass them to G8 leaders for they could include it into the agenda.
One of the very important issues to discuss will be the issue of the counteraction of the civil society with the official structures. You understand how acute this issues is in Russia, and not only in Russia. We want to discuss also the issues of G8 obligations monitoring, the mechanism of this monitoring etc. And one more subject to discuss – the social integration. It is necessary to discuss it at complex – the dialogue of civilizations, migration issues etc.
We plan to invite about 500 persons to participate at our July Forum, two third of the participants from foreign and international NGOs. For the moment we witness that there are many people willing to participate. I hope we’ll manage to conduct the Forum effectively.
I would like to clarify several issues about the energy security because there is a flow of information about it and it is difficult to understand what it is all about. There are three main approaches: first, to discuss gas and oil prices, investments, pipelines etc. Second, a traditional for the experts – to pay more attention at economic development, nuclear energy etc. And the third approach that NGOs are mostly concerned about – ecological issues, nuclear safety etc.
I hope the results of the July Forum can influence the G8 summit agenda. But I also hope that the Forum will have independent importance. I hope it would continue its activities further. We also believe that in Germany our colleagues will continue this tradition – to organize the meetings between NGOs and G8 representatives. To tell you the truth, I think that the problem of energy security will remain actual by the next year. So we have to prepare our plans for a distant perspective.
That’s why I think that we’ll have to organize some more events about the issue – seminars, round table discussions etc. And we have to think about the scenarios for the future. We met the Sherpas and they were frank and sincere with us – to the extent how frank the Sherpas can be in general. And they looked very tired. They have to do a lot – for example, they have to achieve the consensus about the energy issues. It is a very complicated problem. We know there are USA, France, Russia constructing nuclear plants and there are Italy and Germany which don’t construct it. And it is very difficult to find a consensus not because of Russian problems, but because these problems exist everywhere. And the NGO should attract many experts to discuss these problems because they are too complicated to solve them only at the political level.
I anticipate several materials and reports in this sphere, they should be very useful, especially for journalists. The problem of energy is not the problem of 21st or 22nd century – it is the problem of our future. That’s why the NGOs are so much concerned about it – it concerns the humankind. And it is very important to formulate recommendations for the G8 governments, to make them see and hear the opinions of the NGOs and to take them into consideration in the economic and energy policy.
There is a point I would like to clarify. Ella Pamfilova informed you that we’ll have our international Forum in July. We want to repeat that we don’t want to monopolize the sphere of a dialogue with the G8 leaders. That’s why we want to organize the Forum at the very beginning of July to make it possible for others to use another ways to communicate with G8.
We had two meetings with the Sherpas – at the March Forum and in May. It is very important that all Sherpas participated, including the representative of the European Union. The March meeting was attended by many participants and journalists, another one – by the narrow circle of NGOs.
One of the participants asked the Sherpas in March about the possibility to include issues into the G8 agenda, the Italian Sherpa answered: Yes, we are ready to include one of the issues recommended by the civil society into the G8 summit agenda in Italy, but it will be in 2009. But the German Sherpa confirmed that it is possible during the summit in Germany. That’s why it is so important to formulate during the July Forum some recommendations, one of which can be included into the G8 agenda next year. Personally, I hope it would be an ecology matter.
One more interesting issue that we witnessed in May during the meeting with the Sherpas was the understanding that there is no system of external monitoring of evaluation of G8 obligations implementation. It is doubtful that the G8 itself can elaborate and use such mechanism of control. And the NGOs should be such an instrument to do that. Of course, during the 3 hours meeting we could not elaborate such mechanism but the fact that the Sherpas admitted the problem is very interesting.
Leonid Grigoriev said there would be many problems in discussing energy matters. I think there will be for the G8 to achieve a consensus on at least two issues – energy effectiveness, energy savings and alternative energy sources use. But I have some doubts that the issue of alternative energy would be one of the priorities by the summit results.
Now just a couple of words about the coming Forum. There is a complicated technical problem of the Forum organization. We have said already that we don’t want to monopolize the sphere of contacting G8. And the Forum organizers should limit the number of participants taking into consideration technical problems, not political or another aspects. For the moment we are conducting the process openly and transparently and I hope our German colleagues in the future could use and continue such tradition to organize the dialogue between NGOs and G8 next year.
I would like to add a few words about such an important issue as energy effectiveness. Serguei told about the problem but I would like to give an example of the possibilities of the civil society to influence the G8 agenda. Last year I participated in discussing the G8 agenda organized by the British civil society. I was quite surprised how we could influebce the agenda. One of the important issues beind discussed was the issue about the illegal chopping. First it was not a priority question to discuss in the summit but we finally could formulate recommendations, pass them to the G8 ministers and the G8 as a result prepared a document where our recommendations were included.
This year it was a similar situation. When this spring we saw a draft of a document concerning energy security issues all NGOs were upset. But we discussed the matter, prepared the recommendations and during the last meeting with the Sherpas the Russian Sherpa Igor Shuvalov said we can forget the previous document because now a new one is being prepared in which one of the priorities is the issue of energy effectiveness.
I think we can believe it, because in the Russian President’s message to the federal Assembly one of the priorities in this sphere is energy effectiveness. It shows that the priorities change, particularly, within the G8 process. I consider it as a victory of the civil society.
One more success is not purely Russian, but we witnessed it within the period of Russian presidency in G8. Through such small victories we could attract the attention of such organizations as WWF, Greenpeace, Red Cross, Amnesty International and other to the fact that they should also think how to enter the G8 process.
And also if the tradition remains, I mean the tradition of the consultations between the civil society and the G8, let’s not forget that it appeared during the Russian presidency in G8.
As to our Forums, we try to explained to our colleagues that our Project is being developed within the framework of G8. That doesn’t mean that we have to stay within the three priority issues, but it means that the level of discussion and recommendations should correspond to the level of the Group of Eight. Of course, we can discuss numerous problems at the seminars and round tables, but we still have to propose the G8 leaders really global issues, not national or regional problems.
I would like to pay attention to the tendency we witness today within the G8 process. First it was the mutual non-recognition of G8 (G7) and the civil society. But then the civil society understood that G8 influences considerably all international affairs and began to follow the process, to criticize. The G8 first didn’t recognize the critics coming from the civil society but then also understood the role that the civil society plays in forming the agenda and solving problems. And our civil society this year developed considerably and now contacts its foreign colleagues at the high professional level.
The fact that international and Russian NGOs could meet the Sherpas twice is very important. And it was not also a meeting, it was a dialogue, a frank conversation. You know that the Sherpas have the official protocol, but the dialogue was so interesting, that we exceeded the time limit to continue our conversation. The Sherpas expressed their readiness to speak, to explain, why this or that position of the civil society can or can not be adopted. The Russian Sherpa Shuvalov visited all G8 states and there he met not only officials but also NGO representatives. I think it is also the victory of our civil society during the period of Russian presidency in G8.
During our round tables and the March Forum we discussed not only the three G8 priorities but also human security, non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons, settling regional conflicts, fighting terrorism. And we paid much attention to the issues of human rights within the context of fighting terrorism. We hope it would be reflect in final documents.
One more important issue is social development and poverty reduction, that our colleague coordinates the discussion. Of course, discussing the G8 priorities is not in internal Russian matter, but we tried to use the opportunity of Russian presidency to discuss these issues, to show, that the poverty problems are acute not only for Africa and the poor states of other regions, but also for Russia and CIS states. That’s why I’m sure that we are doing a very important job and I thank you for the interest to the process. Hope that we can achieve a good result.
Ella Aleksandrovna, How can explain such evolution: in March Forum the human rights issue was not among the priorities and during the July Forum it will be one of the most important?
There is a technology, a mechanism, elaborated not by us, but by our more experienced foreign colleagues. According to that, all civil process is being developed within the framework of G8 preparatory process and NGOs discuss mainly the G8 priorities. But because the human rights issues are very important for Russia, especially within the fighting terrorism problem, we discussed this issue among other problems and decided to discuss it independently during our July Forum. We can not avoid discussing it now.
I would like to clarify that the march Forum and the July Forum had different tasks. The March Forum was aimed at contributing to the discussion of the G8 summit priorities. The July Forum will be aimed at forming future priorities, That’s why we consider it necessary to discuss these important problems in July.
I would like to add a few words about the issues to discuss. One of them is the problem of the civil society itself. It is the problem very acute not only for Russia, but for many states as well. We would discuss also the problem of coordination of the contacts between the civil society and the officials. Our colleague Alexander Auzan is dealing with these matters’ discussing.
Radiostation “Russian news service”:
Ms Pamfilova, can you define once again what particularly remedial questions were included in the St. Petersburg summit agenda though the initiative of the civil society?
You have not understood, do you understand, you have not understood. The questions officially set by Russia due to its presidency, were discussed. As for the remedial questions – this is the initiative of our colleagues, Russian as well as foreign. They decided to concentrate on four major topics, which they want to discuss within this forum and which concern each of G8 countries. The problem of migration, social integration – this is a very acute topic now. This is where the connection between western world and the rest of the world lies.
Ms Pamfilova, they will be 3-4…
3-4 is to be discussed. Yes, yes, within this forum, this is our priority. The second topic as I already mentioned is the control of the law machinery. It is acute for everyone as well, jus like the counter terrorism actions, human rights. I think it is what we have already discussed here. We will form our position and will introduce it as mandate. Let’s say we are giving it to the president country, then it is their own business, their level of readiness, acceptance, receptivity, what will be included and discussed within this forum what will be promoted further. We can be responsible only for our part in that, due to the level of our enthusiasm and the ability to prove that it is acute. Something has to be discussed today, that’s it.
Can I add? First, the St. Petersburg agenda is already approved and there is hardly any chance that any other questions can be added. I will be very glad if the questions concerning human rights will be suddenly added to the agenda. But there are no chances. There is a chance that the civil society has been polished so well that the remedial topic will be automatically one of the articles of the agenda for the next Summit in Germany. Maybe not, it does not depend on us.
Our task is to speak, though it may not be heard. We will try to do our best. As for the main points of our recommendation, it is not quite proper to ask now. We can also speak for the personal opinion of those who are present here. Because that will be developed at the forum. Personally, I hope that the topic of he NGOs in Russia, States and other countries of the G8 will be one of the main topic of this round table. Maybe it will be something else. I do not know. For instance, terrorism, human rights, which is related to the civil society as fighting terrorism many countries are ready to sacrifice human rights. W hope that it will be one of the questions but we cannot foresee.
Just few words. I would love to warn everyone against the attempt to facilitate one’s life in a short time period. Just to say this is he main, this is prior, the rest is…Life is not like that. And the attempts of the Media to say that this is the priority, they focused on that, this is not true, it is not correct. For example, in energy security, all the problems are interconnected. Developing nuclear energy effects the development of oil and gas industry. The same holds true for the money investments. These are complex activities. Let’s be serious. We are trying to help the summit in St. Petersburg but we look further ahead. There is nothing more powerful than those 8-9 people, plus India, China, Brazil, South America, and as far as I understand Kazakhstan and Mexico. This is almost the whole of the world. On the other hand we realize that we count on 10-15 years. Political leaders come and go. Civil society and human rights problems never disappear. We try to promote such things that will matter later on. I mean energy but that maybe true of remedial questions as well.
I would love to add another little thing, Let’s face the real situation, let’s set real tasks. Even defining some principle, position means a lot. We succeed in something, as well as fail. But we defined several positions. We are looking for partners and that will make it for the future. I am going to Germany where I will meet with German NGOs, with our colleagues who already coordinated the process of the civil accompaniment in Germany, coordinators from different countries will think of the effective ways to organize the work in Germany next year. We have already started our work for the future, at the same time solving what is possible now. This is important for now.
The last two questions, please.
Informotive Agency Reuteur:
The role of the civil society and NGOs has been growing fast lately. The consolidating processes are taking place on the world arena. There are international social forums, like the one in Johannesburg. Considering that, what is the specific feature of the processes that you are talking about now, the consolidation of the NGOs, which is taking place together with the G8?
Obviously the present process is mainly oriented at the G8 Summit. Especially in March we tried to concentrate on the agenda adopted by the G8, unlike the forum in Johannesburg, that is to say we started with that agenda. We tried to formulate the civil society’s attitude towards this agenda. The main difference is that here the civil is secondary. We did not formulate the agenda. We may not agree on the priorities of the agenda, it global character. But we just formulate the position of the civil society. The social forum is made in an absolutely different way. It is the civil society that defines the prior problems, ways to solve them, the list of the main, global problems. Johannesburg, Rio – they are different from that as well. The role of the governmental structures is very strong there, but not just those of G8. It is closer to the UN, but the influence of the civil society is stronger. So these are 3 absolutely different processes, even in its genesis.
Just few words. This is the specific feature of energy security which shows the role of the expert society which occupies a special role by itself. It works for the government, business and now it is treated as one of the civil NGO, to help to think al of those process. So here the process also lies in…
I would also segregate the following things. As for our forum. Each NGO has different attitude towards authorities: loyal, careful, critical, very critical, opposing. But this forum welcomes all of them. The difference between us and antiglobalists is in that they are ready to cooperate, prove their position through civilized ways. Then there are altroglobalists whose main task is to express opposition, they are not ready for any dialogue. We work with those who are ready for cooperation in spite their views and opinions. By the way, some of the organizations somehow related to the altroglobalists consented to participate in the forum as well. So we have huge world organizations, like CIVICUS, who are ready to cooperate – this maybe the difference.
The consolidation process is primarily based on the acquaintance of the NGOs from different countries. Civil society does not have any vertical structure and never will, that’s why it is civil. I think that the mobility of the civil society can be explained by its ability to react fast by creating different unions with different mandates, temporary and permanent, to solve a concrete problem or to work with one of the government structures. Social was made mainly for coordination of the work with the UN. There is not such a structure for the G8. The most effective union would be the one made of organizations who have the biggest number of individual adherents in their countries, because these are the electorate for the governments of those democratic countries, where elections play a very important role. I believe that each time there is a specific form of consolidation. But it would be wrong to expect that there would be a certain vertical or rigid structure of the international or global civil society.
I think that besides the connection to the G8, the key word here is constructive dialogue, where the NGOs are really ready to offer. The level, the scope of the authoritative and serious NGOs, Russian and foreign, which are involved in this process, will make the authorities to listen. Thank you.
The last question, please.
“Moscow News”, Babaeva:
I have a question for Ms Pamfiova on the words of Mr. Shuvalov. How will you estimate the perspectives of the civil society work, the zone of responsibility that you hold outside the G8 framework, meaning that our aims have some contradictions with the aims for the next year and half, in particular, contradicting the political stability, as active civil society is not the pledge of the political stability. Another question is for Mr. Tsyplenkov and Mr. Chestin – how do you see the situation in the regions and what is your forecast, considering the lo activity of our citizens and high activity of the law machinery and authorities. In the regions the effect always multiplies, so have you felt any changes within the last half a year? Are there any optimistic expectations? Thank you.
Speaking frankly, when I learnt about Russian presidency at the G8, knowing all the difficulties we have with the civil society, I was sure that we have to take that possibility and try to strengthen the social institutions and NGOs within Russia in the G8 process. It is very important. It is a chance to introduce the NGOs from regions to the world community, establish more better cooperation between them, so that they would not feel as outcastes but full member participants. I have certain optimism, maybe it is not grounded. But despite any political tendencies, despite the wishes of many authorities, I hope that the Summit in St. Petersburg and this accompanying civil work will contribute to the development and strengthening of the civil society and make Russian NGOs strongly believe in their own power. It is important to break the tendency, not only in minds of our officials, who do not want to reveal the abuse of power, especially now, when the housing and communal reform is almost launched as well as the national reform in the sphere of education, public health. You know that it is the Klondike for stealing. So they have to understand that NGOs here are the government allies. And we have to see to it that these reforms do not get discredit. We have to change the notion that NGO is something odd. Today the number of self-organized organizations is increasing – there is a movement of drivers, victims of housing intrigues. People now understand that it is impossible to stop the arbitrariness of the officials without social self-organization. I believe that acquaintance with foreign NGOs is very important as their experience in that can help a lot. You said that people are not active… when touched on the raw, they are very active but they need help in the right self-organization and help them to stand for their rights.
I am realistic, and a little bit of pessimist as well. Looking back at the events of the past half a year, it makes one a pessimist – the notorious bill on the NGOs, commentaries made by some officials. I’ll cite one close to the original – speaking on he ecology, the official said that NGOs should deal with butterflies and plants and do not poke their nose into something else then everyone will be happy. So the bill and additional implementations adopted this April makes one pessimistic. You touched upon the question of the regions, this bill gives the Rosregitration officials the right of selective interpretation of these or those paragraphs of the bill, as well as selective influence on NGOs. Our experience proves that in regions this selectiveness can take fantastic forms. So in this respect I am more pessimistic than optimistic. Administrative expenses will grow due to the great amount of the reports they will make, and no ministry will be able to read. There are optimistic points. For instance the movement against the building of the pipeline along the Baikal Lake. Actually, the protest took place not only in Irkutsk (where the number of people reached several thousands), but many other cities in Russia as well. The interesting thing is that there was no differentiation between nongovernmental organizations and civil society, people from different political circles participated in this movement. Summery: I am looking into the future with pessimism, hearing them saying “play around till July, then we’ll stop it”. We have such an interesting and curious country. Though, it is evident that the civil society itself is not going to give up.
Our depends on us. As for the bill, I will say only one thing: “The severity of Russian laws is compensated by poor implementation”, Karamzin, 19th century.
Along with the education that we already started – how to be ready for all of the dirty tricks, we will continue teaching regional NGOs and will carry out the monitoring. So we will stay alert. I hope we will be able to compensate the devilish details that are left there.
Radio station “Echo of Moscow” :
You mentioned that forum will discuss the problem that concern all of the G8 members. But with the summit taking place in St. Petersburg, it will be odd not to take the possibility to concentrate on Russian problems. Do you plan any actions, besides forum – to carry out some actions during the summit, maybe street meetings or demonstrations of NGOs…
I would say that it is not our task. Some of the NGOs that take part in our process, they suggest it. Our organizations are strong, well educated, they communicate with their foreign colleagues and they know what to do and how. Sp those who wish, they will hold forums, demonstrations. That’s their right. We are having a dialogue on that. Even organizations, involved in this process, can do whatever they want, it is their right.
We do not plan walk around Hammer center with the slogan “Give us energy security”, nothing of that kind.
No, we won't.
I’ll add briefly. Definitely, there are some specific features, during the forum in March, pipeline was the specialty. The question on the NGO bill was raised at several round table, especially at the one dealing with the law machinery mechanisms. I am sure that the same will happen in July. So this question should not be addressed to us, technical organizers, but to the participants. I am sure that the participants of the initiative group and of the forum will apply all mechanisms of cooperation and influence. But I am not ready to tell how exactly, when and where.
Thanks God, we know the main activities, that is to say everyone can choose according to their taste. I expect it to be a broad field for the polemics. Thank you. I would like to express our gratitude to Interfax for their informational support. Thanks to everyone who came today.