Civil G8 coordinator
Presenter: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming here in such weather, thank you for your interest, I have the honor to introduce you the person whom you already know very well - the chairman of the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Development Counsel under the President of RF – Ella Pamfilova.
Pamfilova: I also sympathize everyone with the weather and the early time, especially considering how late everyone left yesterday after the press conference with President Putin. I guess today I am of interest for you as the coordinator of the CivilG8, the process we have been organizing for the last year, the public accompaniment of the official Summit.
It was very important for us, because first it is the first experience for Russia and Russian NGOs. I am very grateful to our colleagues, NGOs from Canada and especially from GB who helped us a lot. We did not have any experience but a great desire to do something good, so that it would not be just a ritual but an effective process, so that we would be able to provide the continuity of what had been done by our colleagues from other countries and to provide succession and transparency to be handed over to our colleagues from Germany. We also wanted to introduce something new, some Russian contribution. I believe we succeeded in that, I see my colleagues here, they were present at the meetings and round tables that we had, hope they will prove my words.
What was done? We arranged the first round table in February, attended by specialists from different countries, mostly from the G8 countries. The result was the foundation that was widely discussed later, for instance during the International Forum in March. Attended by more than 300 representatives from different countries but mostly of Russian NGOs. In July we held a very representative International Forum that was participated by more than 600 people. Half of them were representatives of NGOs from foreign countries and representatives of the Global Organizations. These were not only G8 countries, on the whole we welcomed representatives from 58 countries, more than 300 representatives of the foreign NGOs. We invited many Russian colleagues from regions, 130 regional NGOs, 170 Moscow NGOs and others.
What is the Russian peculiarity? What has happened for the first time is that at the Forum in March we had Sherpas from all of the 8 countries plus the representative of the Euro Commission coming to our meeting. They communicated differently, not the narrow format they were used to. They had an open dialogue with all of the 300 representatives for more than three hours, openly declaring their positions. In May we had a more official meeting with Sherpas, in a more expert circle, where we had a clear view on our disagreements and the difference in the official point of view and that of NGO community.
As for the July Forum – we went even further. We did not concentrated just on the agenda issues but carries out a wide interactive palls among Russian NGOs, among our International partners, foreign participants and displayed the acute problems that NGOs are concerned with but they are not in the G8 agenda. These are the ecology question, as the ecological organizations are very active and within the framework of the agenda they are dealt only under energy security topic. We held a separate round table on ecological problems, were discussing the problem of genetically modified products, poverty reduction and other. Everyone interested may read about that on our web page in both Russian and English version. The biggest question block belonged to the Human Rights. We had four sub-sections, meaning four topics – public control over law machinery, migration, problems of xenophobia and racism, these are relationships and law support of Nonprofit Organizations, relationships with Government and the fourth topic is – counterterrorism actions and human rights. So we had the section of business community, business social responsibility had lots of attention and interest on the part of the public organizations, expressing the interest of the small and middle business.
The topic that was acute through the whole Forum – these are problems of the civil society, public organizations both in Russia and other countries. It turned out that every country has this problem to a certain extent. The problems of the civil society itself it cooperation with the Government Institutions, development of the mechanism of systematic interaction with the G8 – that is what was of prime importance for us.
That is what the what the work of the Forum was devoted to plus specifying our positions on the key issues of the summit. I guess everyone knows that after meeting with the Sherps, we had a meeting with President Putin who held and open dialogue for two hours. He listened to the positions of our round tables on different topics, expressed his opinion and promised to take our recommendations to his colleagues in G8. Yesterday at the press conference I heard him saying that he did it. It is important for us that our suggestions are taken into consideration on the official level. It is an important result. The president said it himself that if there is reasons and our arguments he will initiate the change of the NGO Law himself. Lots of NGOs are monitoring the application of this law and everything that we get from them we try to systematized and then send to President.
It was very important for us. Because we heard a lot that the Civil Society in Russia is almost dead, extinguishing. But it turned out to be wrong. It is developing, with difficulty, contradictions but very intensely and it is important to know, especially for those involved in the national working group and its project.
We have been constantly hearing that it is the Kremlin project, that some political strategists will gather Kremlin loyal organizations that will play their music and say how wonderful everything is. But in reality it is hardly possible to accuse Russian and foreign human rights NGOs of their love and loyalty to the Kremlin.
It is important that the initiative belongs to the Russian organizations and Russian Government did not interfere with the process. Just the contrary – they created the conditions for our work. We did not have any politicians, we did not invite any politicians or officials intentionally, the organizations work by themselves finding the ways to cooperate.
We did not oppose anyone, many of those participating in the Forum were holding parallel events and we did not interfere with them, we did not compete to anyone but helped everyone who addressed us. This is most important.
I hope that our process that we’ve started will not end with the end of the Russian Presidency in the G8. Our NGOs, especially region ones, got more confidence in their power, in that they can participate as partners in the international process. It is enough for the beginning. Now I am ready to answer your questions.
Presenter. Dear colleagues, your questions, please, say your name and the name of the Mass Media you represent.
Zudov. Vladimir Zudov, STRC “St. Petersburg. How do you feel about the popular today term “Sovereign democracy”? What do you imply but this word? How would you comment on that in general?
Pamfilova. I am very skeptical about the term and I do not quite understand it. I believe that democracy either is or is not. There are common democratic principles. This is my personal position. In the 90s, when everything only started in Russia we were in euphoria greeting all the democratic innovations, unfortunately, later the term ‘democracy’ got to be associated with chaos and disorder, corruption, unbelievable poverty, social injustice, etc. I think it will take us long to rehabilitate the term itself.
The worst is that it came to be associated with the lack of Russia’s independence. Now Russia is becoming stronger, the living standard is increasing, as well as confidence, the ability to carry out independent policy.
Pinchuk. Reiter Agency, Denis Pinchuk. Yesterday, according to the opposition information, more than 100 people were detained in St. Petersburg. How would you comment on this situation? Will take part in the lives of those people? Thank you.
Pamflova. You mean our alterglobalists and antiglobalists… We also cooperated with them, helped them and we did not have any evident disagreements, as the Socail Forum organizers declared that they will hold all the events in accord with the Law, so I gave them support in this.
So I feel negative about people being detained when going to the Social Forum. We will apply to the General Prosecutor so that the initiators had their punishment.
On the whole I heard about 12 cases. All the cases got officially registered. I officially send to the General Prosecutor of Russia to investigate the case. I guess it is important that all the Law Machinery officials responsible for the illegal detainments, violating human rights, will get their punishment up to the criminal liability. I take that under my personal control and we will work together with the General Prosecutor on that.
Now, after what has happened, they will also make an official application. If it is the case of preventive measures – that is one thing, but when it manifests as illegal detainments, it is another story. We will definitely deal with it, I gave my word. I would like to say once again – it is impossible that the officials of the Law machinery will set a bad example. Then what can we demand from those antiglobalists?
Journalist. Radio company “Voice of Russia”. Ms. Pamfilova, you said that Civil G8 discussed the counter terrorism activities and formation of the Civil Society. These are the two topics that are more than acute in the North Caucus region, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan. You also said that your recommendations were presented to the G8 leaders through the Sherps and taken into consideration. Were there any recommendations on North Caucus region? How are you going to solve those problems, contribute to their solution?
Pamfilova. We did not have any recommendations on North Caucus region. We had general recommendations according to NGO position how to carry out counter terrorism activities without violating human rights, without crossing the line that is unfortunately being crossed. This is the problem that concerns not only North Caucus region, it is a common problem.
You can see the details at our web page www.civilg8.ru
I would like to stress it that it is the first time that the leaders of the global organizations came to the meeting in Russia. They gathered together in this way for the first time. They are International Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, Sivicus, Transperency International, International Consumers Association and others. On the whole 13 people including representatives from Asia, Africa, Latin America. We had Roberto Bissio – the leader of the “Public Surveillance”, the head quarters of the global organization is in Uruguay.
I am grateful to them for the active participation in the Forum. Together we had a meeting with President Putin, for three hours we were asking such acute questions as climate change, energy security, poverty, education, problems of human security, wide range of questions concerning human rights and the situation with Russian NGOs. So The concern that disproportionate force application will lead to worsening of the human rights situation.
Pushkarskaya. Anna Pushkarskaya, the Commersant. Back to the question on the persons detained. The situation is understandable with those who were detained on their way, but what about those who were detained in the city for trying to make a procession. So there are two questions. First, at the stadium the Social Forum participants said that you promised them to try to coordinate with the authorities their activities that they planned to carry out in the city. Have you tried to do it? Did it work or failed, if so why? Second, will you take part in the fate if those detained within those two days, including Ilya Ponomarev, who, as far as I understand, agreed it with you that…
Pamfilova. Yes, I take part in their fate and will take. There are some results. I think more clear results will be seen tonight. I do not want to talk about that now. It is ridiculous to talk about it when it is not completed. But I have certain moral obligations, because they addressed me, and I helped them in coordinating a number of questions.
As for the procession, yes, I stood for this position as I believe it would be good if this procession had taken place, but St. Petersburg Authorities said that there were too many applications and they had to give permission either to everyone or to none. If all of them had a demonstration the city center could have been paralyzed. So they offered to have all their meetings at the Stadium.
Sanginov. Sanginov, National NGO Association of Uzbekistan. I took part in the Civil G8 Forum in March, our colleagues took part in July, so I am acquainted with the materials. Do you think that G8 leaders really considered NGO recommendations on nuclear energy?
Pamfilova. Yes, something was considered. You know that there are principle oppositions in this question. Our NGO think that nuclear energy is not a perspective way and dangerous way. And G8 takes this view into account, that it is necessary to invest, for instance, oil profits into the alternative energy resources and in the security of the nuclear waste storage.
Another problem that sounded more serious was the climate change. This point became so concrete partly due to our recommendations.
As for education, I will say that we made SOS signals here as the problem is usually regarded in a very narrow way, without taking into account all the humanitarian aspects. And we discussed in detail the problem of social integration, immigration, yesterday President Putin mentioned that it is important to pay attention at the education of immigrants and on the questions of social integration. Lots of recommendations were accepted on infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS.
We suggestion that for the next summit we would include the topics that were not discussed this year. At the end of the year, to provide succession and continuity, we will hold the round table on Africa, it was discussed in Gleneagles but stays very acute. We are planning to pay attention to the control of the way the G8 fulfils its duties. The problems of social integration, xonofobia, racism along with energy security will remain acute next year. The leaders won’t be able to avoid these topics.
By the way, recommendations include a clear point on Uzbekistan, on deportation to Uzbekistan.
“Russian Forward”, New-York. Ella, we have one question to you about xenophobia and neo-fascism in Russia. Before going to St. Petersburg I had a talk with Brod and Ber Lazard. There is a common doubt that there will be any success in this question due to the deep roots of xenophobia and resurrecting neo-fascism in Russia. Thank you.
Pamfilova. What do you mean by resurrecting neo-fascism in Russia? Have you understood yourself what you have just said?
NY. Yes, I understood what I’ve said.
Pamfilova. Resurrecting neo-fascism in Russia?
NY. Is it me or you who asks the question?
Pamfilova. I am sorry but I am confused by your words.
NY. We are all confused by this question, Russia that won victory over fascism.
Pamfilova. What do you mean by resurrecting? Have we ever had fascism? What are you talking about?
NY. No, you have not
Pamfilova. And you say resurrecting, then neofascism, so you speak of the double effect. It is very impropriate.
We are concerned with the present situation. And I believe tha the roots of the problem is in the corruption that established itself in the late 80s, beginning of the 90s, corruption as a way of life, unfortunately. It is the injustice, social injustice, economical injustice, low culture of the Law application, the culture of the Law in general – these are all the issues that serve as the roots of this phenomenon. The public is concerned with it, as well as the President.
I believe that one of the solutions lie in the making tougher the Law so that the crimes as those of xenophobia, racism and extremism were not dealt and registered as hooliganism. But this is not the solution of the problem itself though. This is the fight with the consequences. I guess that the present program on tolerance development does not work efficiently. It is necessary to change the social atmosphere which is a huge systematic work that can uproot the foundation of the manifestations.
Unfortunately this is not the exclusive problem of our country. Russia has a unique experience of multinational,
multiconffesional society which exists for centuries. If we did not have this culture we would have exploded long ago.
Besides, we have a very low culture of the Law machinery, bad human resources in this sphere. I do not think it is possible to solve it in an instance. Most important that there is a political will and public awareness. So I have certain hopes that we’ll solve the problem.
As for anti-Semitism, I think that it is not so bad in Russia as it used to, and even better than in many of the developed European countries.
Kolosova. Maria Kolosova, independent movement “People’s Voice”. I would love to support the general global democracy with my private democracy which I started at the beginning of the 90s and wrote down…
Presenter. Your question, please.
Kolosova. Individual and family ecology. What is the situation with the public movements and work in this direction?
Pamfilova. It depends on who is doing that and how. I cannot answer for the Government as I am not the official. But at a certain time period I used to be in the Reform Government as the minister of social security and raised the urgent questions on demography and the gene pool and on the lack of investments into personality development. Thanks God, now Governmental structures start to realize that it should be dealt with as Human Resources in Russia are in a bad state. Investments in this sphere are very important. Only in this way we will be able to provide a better quality of life and solution of the other problems. It is useless to stimulate the birth rate without providing child security, preventive measures, qualitative educational systems, public health. We have lots of claims towards the national projects but we are glad that they are at least being started.
“Voice of Russia”, Radio. Can you comment the situation in Lebanon? Yesterday G8 approved the decision on regulations in the Middle East, V. Putin said at the press conference that there is a possibility to introduce peacekeeping force.
Pamfilova. You know I am not a specialist in this question. I would not like commenting on the situation in Lebanon. Lets specialists and leaders find the solutions. I understand that if nothing serious and effective is done now, it can turn into global catastrophe. That is it. I cannot say anything else. I do not know. I do not have the solution.
Reshetov. Nikolay Reshetov, “Around the World” magazine. Lots of youth and student activities were taking place within the frameworks of the G8. There was even the meeting with the representatives of the Youth G8, Were there any new thought, ideas suggested? Will there be the continuation of the involvement of the youth, pupils as well as students in the discussion of the topics?
Pamfilova. The only thing I aspire for is that this process will be natural. I do not like it when someone from the top starts formation of some youth movement, initiative and grown up guys start to load young heads with they thoughts they have to express. I am very much against it. So if the youth have any desire to participate, it should be welcomed and developed. We should create the conditions so that they will have an access so that they will have a possibility for self realization and their position should be heard. I am for that and all that I can do with my modest power, I will.
Presenter. Few last questions, please.
Pamfilova. Maybe colleagues from abroad will say something. I am ready to answer any questions, do not get shy.
Perl. Roman Perl, The Press Region paper. Continuing question on xenophobia. How would you estimate the Law on extremism that has been ratified by the Federation Counsel?
Pamfilova. Like my colleagues human rights activists, I do not greet this article on official. I will be short. I have prepared our expert conclusion for the President Administration, negative conclusion on this article. I believe that it should be seriously re-worked. This is my position. It is not acceptable in the present form.
Presenter. The last question, please.
Gudkin. Michail Gudkin “Voice of America”. In Russia one can often hear the opinion that lots of public organizations, human right organizations are financed from abroad and they carry out the policy that is against Russia. What can you say about that and what kind of help would you like to have from foreign countries?
Pamfilova. First, a lot is said about the fact that Russia again has totalitarian regime, antidemocratic, all the organizations are repressed by the new NGO law. But for they moment all go on working. And they do not speak about one nuance. With the help of our Counsel the President approve the amendment to the tax codex, article 251 introduced the permission to receive grants from abroad for social, ecological activities as well as human rights activities. So the point is not in working on grants, I am very grateful to the Ford Fund and Fund of Makartour and to many others which have done a lot in Russia and is doing and I hope will be doing, as they help our organizations to deal with serious questions. SO the point is not in this, though when the funds go not into the public service but political activities – that is another question.
I think today there is not country that will wish it for its domestic affairs. It has been talked over a lot. To stand for the citizens’ rights is the prime duty of the public organizations, including the political rights. But if they come to participate in the political or election competition – that is not right and no one is in favor of this. So it should be clear so that the protection of the political rights will not be interpreted as political activity.
And I will comeback to the question about the detained people. If they detain, they must have reasons, grounds for that, procedure, there should be investigation, the accusation should be formed and the detained should be either released or punished. That’s why my participation is restricted by the law. I am doing all that I can. I cannot interfere. But my function is to display the violations, bring an action against it so that not to allow the abuse.
Presenter. Thank you. The closing question, Ms. Pillar Bonet, “El Pais”, Spain.
Pillar-Bonet. Ella, I am sure that if everything depended on you, it would be different, for sure. I’d like you to make one specification. What has to be done to make the clear difference between political rights protection and political activity? Should it be reflected in the law or it is necessary to change the mentality of people, to eliminate the arbitrariness of the officials?
Pamfilova. I think, considering the low speed our democratic institutions are developing, it is hardly possible to order or set something straight away: “That’s it, Tomorrow we live according to democratic laws. But you are right that political activity is not even defined in our laws yet. There is a possibility for arbitrariness. It is necessary, if possible, to defined it in the law how it is understood in Russia.
I think that if the political competition will develop, parties and public organizations will gain their powers. That will lead to the definition of these terms. Now, when the election campaign has almost started, there will be lots of misunderstanding concerning it.
Presenter. Dear colleagues, thank you for your attention.
Pamfilova. Thank you very much all.