Press Conference, December 20, 2005, Moscow
See also Press Release, with list of participants
Moderator: Good day, dear colleagues. Our guest today is Ella Alexandrovna Pamfilova, chair of the The Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation.
She is accompanied by Sergei Tsyplenkov, executive director of Greenpeace Russia, Alexander Auzan, President, Social Contract National Project Institute, Igor Chestin, Director, Wild Nature World Foundation Russia, Yuri Dzhibladze, President, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, and Tatyana Monegen, General Secretary, National Committee of the World Business Organization.
The topic is Interaction between Civil Society and G8 during Russia's G8 Presidency in 2006. First, our guests, Ella Alexandrovna and other, will make brief remarks, after which they will answer your questions. Ella Alexandrovna, you are welcome.
Pamfilova: Good day. I would like to add that we have yet another participant. Svyatoslav Zabelin, co-chair of the Council of the International Public Organization International Socio-Ecological Union. He is our colleague and a member of the Presidential Council. He is with us.
Let me thank all of you for coming here. I certainly realize that this does not look like a hot topic. Perhaps, there is no much interest in it for the time being. But we believe that this is very important, particularly today, on the eve of Russia's G8 presidency. It is important to mobilize our civil society so it would sort of accompany the summit, so the public would not find itself on the sidelines, so we would be able, on the basis of the experience of our colleagues, international and national public organizations from other countries, G8 member-countries, who have always been quite effective in their attempts to influence the official agenda. We should act in a similar way to try to establish interaction in the preparation of some or other official decisions, to try to influence the official agenda. We have to make our contribution.
I would put it the following way: we certainly do not intend to align social society for the purposes of the summit meeting. We would like to take advantage of this unique opportunity, Russia's G8 presidency, for the first time ever, to give a strong impetus to the development of civil society in Russia.
True, we have lots of problems, and the more problems we have, the more we are interested in interaction with our foreign colleagues. So, we appeal to them and we ask them to pool efforts with us in establishing this close interaction. We find this very important, as we are all interested in the development of democracy in our country. We all want to sort of rehabilitate the notion of democracy which has unfortunately been somewhat discredited in our country in recent years. We can do this while proceeding from the know-how of the developed countries, those with high living standards, where democratic institutions guarantee those high living standards, and we should try to influence processes in this country while relying on that experience.
How has this developed? Spontaneous initiatives emerged. Many of our colleagues have interacted with non-governmental organizations in other countries, with international organizations. They took part in the Montreal forum. Non-governmental organizations worked very efficiently under Britain's presidency of G8. Their position on Africa, their efforts aimed at combating poverty -- this is the result of efforts by a huge number of non-governmental organizations, public organizations.
So, we would like to arrange this work in such a manner than succession would be guaranteed, along with transparency, persistency and openness in our activities. Many organizations have started appealing to us at the Council, and we have noticed this initiative maturing in society, but we also noticed that it was somewhat chaotic. And this prompted us to try to streamline all that and to pool efforts.
On the other hand, when meeting with the President, I touched upon this problem. I told him that public organizations have been quite energetic and they firmly intended to take part in this process. Given that the Public Council is a social, not a state organization and includes the leaders of many organizations, including human rights organizations, as well as other organizations, he offered us maximum possible support in this process. We are really a public council, so it is hard to suspect us of anything. We do not have any civil servants on our makeup. We do not have any administrative ties with the authorities. And you know that we have always expressed and intend to express our position which is independent from the authorities on issues which we consider issues of principle in safeguarding the interests of society.
This offer has been made, and I find that the Public Council has a unique role to play as a bridge between the authorities and the public. It will let us ensure this interaction at the highest level. In this particular case, I act in two capacities as the head of the President's Council and a member of the initiative group, along with my colleagues. You also have lists of others who have voiced their intention to take part in this process.
As an initiative group, we will now try to announce as widely as possible that we are starting work and all those interested, those working in this sphere, we invite them to join in, pool our efforts. We will try to come to terms and form a consultative body, as a result of negotiations with our colleagues and with counterparts in other countries. I would like to tell you that quite many authoritative international organizations have voiced their willingness to interact closely with us. And we would like to see authoritative organizations from Britain as a country whose G8 presidency is coming to a close, from Germany as a country that will be Russia's successor as G8 chair, and other G8 countries, those interested in that, to take part in the activities of that consultative body.
I find it important to ensure this succession, this persistency. I do hope that despite all difficulties our civil organizations will develop in a new way in 2006. And I do hope that even after the end of our presidency in the Group of Eight, our public and our civil organizations will be equal partners and members of the international processes and be able to influence international processes so that their voice be strong and professional, in terms of public interests, and that it be heard.
I think my colleagues will speak now too.
Auzan: Colleagues, let's talk about the painful. Tomorrow the Duma may pass a senseless and merciless law in the second reading. But what depresses me mostly in this law on commercial organizations is not so much its mercilessness as its senselessness because it does not solve any problem. We have exerted a lot of efforts over the past month to make sure this law does not pass. On the one hand, we speak about world ties and about inviting guests at a time when there is a family scandal in full swing at home.
Civil societies in the G8 countries have problems with authorities as well. The US abuses death penalty, does not want to join the Kyoto Protocol and taps telephone lines without the permission of the court. Or take Europe. It has problems with electronic databases, with access to personal information and so on. So, I think that our colleagues from G8 civil societies are well aware of the fact that we have big problems with authorities over this legislation and that we are determined to discuss, and we are discussing, these problems with them. However, pressure on the G8 may not stop because the purpose is to influence the policy of the G8 countries.
Will we advance Russia's interests in this process? We certainly will. But what kind of Russia? Of civil Russia. There is such a Russia as civil Russia, and we are determined to advance its interests in the international process. What is the purpose of putting pressure on the G8? The purpose is not only to respond to the agenda worked out by the summit but also to try to develop the next agenda for the G8 in order to pass on this business to our civil colleagues from other countries.
We will try to cooperate with sherpas on this agenda because there are two ways to go. One is to take to streets, as globalization protesters do. The other one is to promote our proposals through the sherpas who prepare the decisions of their governments. So, I think that while realizing the complexity of our internal situation, namely relations between civil societies and authorities, we are entering a process that should help us solve internal problems and raise questions that we think are important. Thank you.
Dzhibladze: Good morning, dear friends. At this time yesterday I was in the square with my colleagues and comrades, taking part in a picket against this bill, which many representatives of civil society described as a bill strangulating civil society. We have come to this press conference to tell you about how we are going to cooperate, jointly with our civil society colleagues, with the G8 countries and our governments. There is no contradiction there. We are using all possible means that are available to us, including negotiations, pressure, campaigns, protests, civil control and so on.
By the way, one of the mottos formulated in the picket yesterday read as follows: "No to control of citizens. Yes to civil control." So, I regard this situation and the possibility to influence the G8 summit and use this event in order to influence the situation in the country, in Russia, and in the world as an important element of civil control because we cannot allow politicians to monopolize this process and ignore the role, the opinion and the position of citizens.
Problems in our country are very serious. Human rights are not on the official agenda. However, no problem in any one country could occur if it were not for global problems and a lack of strong position and influence by other countries. In this respect, developments in Russia are closely connected with problems in other G8 countries, including the war in Chechnya, legislative changes, the curtailment of democratic institutions. In my view, all this would not have been possible if it had not been for the very weak position on security and human rights, as well as terrorism and human rights in other countries. So, all these countries are intertwined, and we will demand that G8 countries change their position, including Russia and probably Russia in the first place.
Cooperation between civil society across borders is much more effective than cooperation between states. And we do have some advantages in this regard. I hope we will be able to use these advantages. Thank you.
Monegen: Good day, I am a representative of the International Chamber of Commerce of the World Business Organization. Business in industrialized countries is naturally perceived as a big portion of civil society. I do hope that business in Russia will also be perceived in a similar way very soon, if there is still someone who does not think so.
In its address to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the British Foreign Office described the ICC, the World Business Organization, as a traditional partner of the heads of state in preparing meetings between business and civil society on the one hand, and the head of state of the country that hosts a G8 summit on the other hand. Last year our organization made a traditional address to the G8 heads of state. It is available both in Russian and English. It is titled Business and Global Economy.
What does the World Business Organization do every year as it prepares for a G8 summit? It identifies critical problems facing the world, the problems that can hardly be solved without the help of private capital and business. This allows business to state its readiness to help to address these problems and to bring the most critical issues to the attention of the government. Last year business emphasized the situation in Africa, energy security, and intellectual property.
We know that next year it will be Russia's turn, and the most important issues that have been identified by Russia are energy security, the struggle against infectious diseases, education, and certainly intellectual property. The ICC of the World Business Organization is beginning to prepare its next address to the G8 heads of state. The Russian National Committee, of which I am the secretary general, will take the most active part in the preparation of this address and in the work of civil society in Russia by identifying the most vital issues that we will all have to address today. Thank you.
Chestin: I want to say very briefly -- my name is Igor Chestin of the World Wildlife Fund Russia. I want to tell you about one of the projects we plan to implement as part of civil society's contribution to Russia's presidency in the G8, namely a meeting of leading international public organizations ahead of the summit. It will involve such organizations as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and World Wildlife Fund. These are the biggest international and national organizations that represent tens and hundreds of millions of people who make donations to them every year.
Why do we think it important? Civil structures -- all of us participate in different national or international events, primarily through our professional activities. We are involved more in activities related to environmental protection and sustainable development, the Red Cross with health care and so on. We thought it would be appropriate to organize a narrow format meeting of the heads of major public organizations here in Russia, in parallel to the G8 summit, in order to discuss the main problems facing humankind as seen by civil society and to invite the G8 leaders to include them in the list of their priorities for the subsequent years, and on the other hand, look at how the decisions and proposals adopted by the G8 in the previous years have been implemented because there are both positive and negative experiences. So, it would be a good opportunity to look at how it works and if something doesn't work, then find out why it doesn't work.
This will be the first such initiative in the world and we do hope that it will be supported by our international colleagues and that the summit of major public organizations will for the first time take place in Russia. Thank you.
Tsyplenkov: It's hard to add anything new because practically all the main points have already been made. I am Sergei Tsyplenkov, director of Greenpeace Russia. My colleagues named practically all of the main problems. I can only try to summarize what has been said.
First, we want the voice of the public to be heard by all the G8 leaders. Specifically, we wouldn't want Mr. Bush to convince the other seven leaders to reject the Kyoto Protocol. We would like to help the seven leaders to convince Bush to join the Kyoto process. And there are many other concrete objectives we are pursuing. The most important thing is that we have never thought and never will think that only these leaders have the right and possibility to identify global problems and ways to solve them. We think that society also has such a right and must say what it thinks about global problems facing humankind and about possible solutions to them.
It would be stupid if Russian civil society did not try to use this process, I mean the G8 and Russia's presidency in it next year. As practically all of my colleagues have already said, we will use this process in order to help Russia's civil society grow and develop, and we will use this process in order to block initiatives like these changes to the law on public organizations. Thank you.
Pamfilova: I just want to add a few words. There is the e-mail address in the press release, and we want to use this press conference to invite all organizations that are interested in cooperation to submit their preliminary proposals. After the talks, after we have formed a consultative council, we want to launch a new website, and I thank the Independent Press Institute for helping us and for giving us information support. It is also a non-profit organization. We want to create a public website and we plan to organize several forums, a sort of public G8, where proposals for the official G8 summit will be made.
Anticipating your questions, and someone may say that we have problems with democratic institutions, that some processes are being curtailed and so on, but you are talking about things that are absolutely irrelevant. We really are! If you remember, major international events that have taken place in Russia always produced positive results. Even if we recall the international youth festival held in Soviet times, what was left after it? I'd say the Òiron curtainÓ has been opened and international children were left after it. And what was left after Russian Olympic Games? Stadiums and sport facilities open to the public were left. And I want the G8 summit to leave civil society after itself, which will become stronger and will grow. I think that's my dream and our objective. Let it be so.
Q: Two short questions to Ella Pamfilova. As the member of the Public Chamber do you insist that the second reading should be delayed or are you satisfied by the amendments approved by the Duma committee? And second, can we already sum up some results of the year in terms of the development of civil society in the country and human rights? What would be the main positive event and the main negative event that have occurred in Russia this year?
Pamfilova: While we are sitting here, the work on the bill is in progress, and I want to believe that the fundamental recommendations issued by the President and public experts and NGOs will be taken into account as much as possible.
If deputies debate it in the second reading tomorrow in the form that will not cause damage to the development of civil society in the country -- but we have to wait and see what kind of bill will be debated and adopted tomorrow. We will act depending on that. We yet have time.
As for the events, I want to say that the attack on civil society in the form of this law is the biggest negative event. But the reaction of civil society is the biggest positive event, even though we keep on hearing that there is no civil society in Russia, and I'd say there is civil society and there are strong organizations that can self-organize when it comes to their vital interests, we do have civil society, it is quite professional and it knows how to state its position.
Auzan: I would like to voice my personal view on the draft. I believe that the leopard cannot change his spots. The idea of the law is senseless. It does not deal with the problems it would be worth dealing with. If it is about combating Western funding of political activities or Islamic money used for some destructive processes in Russia, the draft does not deal with those.
If the lawmakers find it necessary to have legislation on those problems, they should prepare it. But, dear friends, you have drawn up legislation that has nothing to do with that. They must have decided to crush those smaller non-profit organizations, if they cannot cope with major political objectives. In my opinion, the law cannot be improved. It will remain a shameful measure anyway. In that case, it might be possible to neglect it, because it would be senseless. In that case, it might be possible to just forget it.
Besides, I believe that the Public Chamber was right to find that the very procedure of the adoption of this legislation was a disgrace. I cannot quite understand how they will work with the State Duma in the future. The State Duma has twice neglected the Public Chamber already. There is also a procedural aspect. They failed to pay attention to the Public Chamber's status and the law on it. I can understand them. But I believe that it might be possible to drop this draft forever. We have lots of draft laws adopted in the first reading which have never reached their second reading.
In 2003 a draft law on self-regulating organizations was adopted in the first reading, but it has not been considered in the second reading so far. It might be possible to do the same with this new draft.
Dzhibladze: Let me note briefly that a huge number of civil society organizations find that the draft law prepared in a new variant for the second reading has not been modified in concept terms. That vile concept whose goals are wrongful, as Alexander has said, has not bee reviewed. It is aimed at establishing sweeping control over all organizations of civil society, interfering in the activities of independent organizations. It will do harm not only to those organizations. It will do harm to Russia. In this sense, it should be rejected.
And there should be no haste. I cannot understand it. I have not heard parliament members ever say why it is necessary to adopt this legislation as soon as possible. It might be considered calmly. It might be possible to try to improve existing legislation to create conditions for the development of civil society, which the country needs so much, and, on the other hand, protecting the country against certain unlawful activities.
Chestin: As a Public Chamber member, I would like to add that the Public Chamber appealed to the State Duma twice, as Alexander has mentioned. The last appeal was the day before yesterday, on Sunday, when we had a working meeting.
The problem is that the Public Chamber's formation has not been completed. We are going to vote on 42 members we have to elect on December 23, after which the formation of the Public Chamber will be completed and it will be able to work properly. We now have 84 members, and they can voice their opinion collectively, but it is not a fully fledged chamber yet.
So, we have really appealed to the State Duma twice to demand - demand, rather than request - that the draft law should be delayed until the Public Chamber's formation is completed, until the Public Chamber can issue its expert opinion as required by the law.
So, the first appeal only partially worked, and the second reading was delayed from December 9 to December 16 and then from December 16 to December 21. But it is still on the State Duma's agenda for tomorrow.
But as the Public Chamber's formation has not been completed, it cannot issue its expert opinion. Only some members of the Public Chamber, including myself, have worked with lawmakers on this problem. There is a working group led by Anatoly Kucherena.
As of today, the amendments to be considered tomorrow are actually even worse than those considered in the first reading. Nothing can be changed in this respect by tomorrow, proceeding from the State Duma's working procedure. That is, it exists in writing and cannot be modified and will be submitted for debate tomorrow.
I absolutely share the view voiced by Yuri and Alexander. The law cannot resolve the problems outlined by the President. On the other hand, it is a farewell by civil servants who have lost their source of income because due to the efforts of the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, registration procedures have been substantially facilitated and requirements have been toughened to minimize civil servants' control over the activities of the commercial sector. But they want to line their pockets somewhere, and they have turned their attention to the non-profit sector. Why? In fact, the non-profit sector's volume is bigger than the volume of Russia's light industry. That is more than $1.2 billion a year, the size of the nonprofit sector. So, once they have lost their source of income in the commercial sector, they have decided to make up for losses in the non-profit sector.
Naturally, no one will control anything in political terms. That is impossible, and there are no organizations to deal with that. But I can imagine the face of such a pleased civil servant, who shows certain instructions and hints that his palm should be greased.
This is about the creation of a corrupt and absolutely nontransparent mechanism, which does not include judicial control, in the nonprofit sector. This draft legislation discriminates public organizations, putting them on an unequal footing with other organizations existing in the country. I do not even speak about the authorities. I mean organizations financed from the state budget. I mean the commercial sector.
What is it possible to do, if the law is adopted tomorrow? I think it will be the easiest solution for us to move to the commercial sector. It is protected much better. Well, we will not make ample profits. But we will work well and normally, while not making profits in the commercial sector. In fact, donations by people and organizations can quite be registered as payment for the provision of services.
For example, those supporting the Wild Nature Fund Russia donate 300 rubles a year as charity. We can just change our registration forms. And it will be fixed in documents that it is not a donation, that it is payment for the services of protecting nature. That is all. And as soon as we register, no inspections would be able to come for three years. That would be much easier. We may join the RUIE, work in the environment unit there. This is a possible way out.
As for statements about the funding of terrorist activities, I do not know what terrorism and all that has to do with non-profit organizations. I know commercial organizations in various countries making money and financing certain parties, for example, the Kurd Workers' Party, which some countries regard as a terrorist organization. But far from all countries see it as a terrorist organization. There are commercial structures that openly make money for this party. It's well known and they are not even trying to hide that. But for some reason non-profit organizations are held responsible for everything. Name at least one organization that supported any party.
Auzan: The impression is that non-profit organizations have carried out a collective terrorist act, and the Duma is urgently adopting an anti-terror package against the non-profit sector. Igor encouraged me because I participated in the development of legislation that should de-bureaucratize the non-profit sector.
Chestin: The commercial one.
Auzan: The commercial sector in 2000-2001, and I am pleased by the evaluation of progress in terms of de-bureaucratization. In July the presidential council proposed a very simple thing when it met with the President. We said, given the contribution of the non-profit sector to the development of the country, let us apply the same norms to it that are applied to the commercial sector. In other words, let's de-bureaucratize it. However, instead we have the opposite process even though we thought the President heard our arguments and issued instructions. However, these instructions are implemented without us and in the wrong way. But this is a normal logic of any bureaucratic system.
Pamfilova: It's a paradoxical situation when the commercial sector is being liberalized, but the processes in the non-commercial sector go in the opposite direction. Even though I feel somewhat optimistic, I want to say once again that the situation is not hopeless yet, even it is adopted tomorrow.
Auzan: It's not hopeless yet, but it's getting there.
Monegen: Look at the experience of industrialized countries where non-profit partnerships and associations are supported by their governments at the legislative level. And it is these associations that are the driving force for democratic processes in any society.
Tsyplenkov: You know, I want to put in a good word for bureaucrats. Maybe it's not sabotage, maybe it's just stupidity.
Monegen: Then it is absolutely flagrant.
Q: I have a remark to make about the black dog. The brown bear has been washed clean, and I think that the black dog can be washed clean too. And now my question, if you don't mind. There is a strange situation -- (inaudible) -- and our Byelorussian president is also criticized all the same. Is it your own initiative or is there some kind of game played by the Kremlin?
Pamfilova: The entire work of our commission and then the council for more than three years shows that there is no game. If you look at who was the first to have spoken against restrictions on mass media, you will see that it was our council. And who was the first to sound the alarm about the law on rallies? And then about the citizenship law. Or take our constant trips to Chechnya and Ingushetia when we did not allow authorities to force refugees out of there.
You know when it's "under the President", it's great, because we have an opportunity to speak to the President directly and inform him about the opinion of the public, public interests and needs. And very often this opinion is contrary to the opinion of agencies or government officials.
The same is true of Belarus. Why do we single Belarus out? For example, I have sent several appeals to Tajikistan and the Azerbaijani president, addressing the question of the rights of Russian citizens in their countries and outside Russia in general. But the role of Belarus is special because we are building a union state with it. We have an agreement on the creation of a union state with it. And it is not all the same to us what is happening to the rights of Byelorussians in Russia and the rights of Russians in Belarus. When we get appeals, we think we have every right to appeal to the leadership of Belarus when it comes to human rights violations. And we will do so in the future.
I only want to emphasize that it's a public commission. In other words, it expresses the opinion of the certain part of the public, not the official opinion of the authorities in general. And I want to differentiate between the two. There is the official system of relations and there is the public system of relations. They must be separated at all times. I want you to understand this correctly because there have been several appeals from embassies that if the council is under the President, then it necessarily expresses the official point of view of Kremlin. It's not so. If you look at the council's website, you will see that our opinion is very often at odds with the official point of view. We try to defend our opinion, to convince the President, and we often win.
So much has been done already. We should give credit to the council for making amendments to Article 251 of the Tax Code possible. For the first time human rights organizations will enjoy more favorable tax terms. The President also asked the council to devise mechanisms for investing in the development of civil society. And the process seemed to be going in the right direction, and then all of a sudden this law that made a U-turn. But we will not give up, and we will defend our position.
Monegen: When it's "under the president" it's great, because it means that there is a dialogue at last and that the President supports the development of civil society.
Auzan: May I go back to Belarus? We criticize our own authorities over the same issue just as hard as we criticize Byelorussian authorities. In the meeting with the President, the question was raised in the following way: why don't the Russian Foreign Ministry and its consular services protect and represent the interests of Russian citizens detained or arrested in Belarus properly? The President heard this and said that he would issue relevant instructions to the Foreign Ministry because any country must take care of its citizens who are prosecuted in other countries. And I fully agree with those who say that Byelorussian citizens are closer to us than citizen of other countries because we have the Union treaty, and this is why we will be speaking about the interests of Byelorussian citizens. I think we have every reason for that.
Q: What will be the format of the international forums you plan to organize? I mean will they be open to small organizations or will they be open only for those organizations that are loyal to authorities? And do you plan any meeting concurrently with the summit, not before or after it?
Pamfilova: If you look at our composition and the list of organizations and initiators of this process, you have the press release, read it, you will see Memorial and the Helsinki Group as members of our council, and many others. Those willing to participate are welcomed.
Today we are an initiative group willing to form a Consultative Council of representatives of Russian and international community. The Council will be responsible for forming and implementing a project "Social 8". We will find common decisions. There will be no control from the Kremlin or somewhere else. Our task is to start the dialogue but not to rule.
Auzan: There is no list here.
Pamfilova: There is a list, it has been handed out. Here it is. And we are finally developing a short list of issues for the agenda, and our foreign partner, a very authoritative organization, Oxfam, and its Russian office have sent in their proposals on how to organize cooperation. And very often they speak of the need for energy supplies when it comes to the energy security of the G8 countries, without giving up on other vital goals such as human rights and conflict resolution.
What I am driving at is that we plan to organize several events, several important forums, not only a forum of major international organizations but also a broad forum to which we will invite regional organizations and all those interested, our colleagues abroad and large Russian organizations that have big networks. It will be an absolutely open process.
The organizations will agree among themselves who will represent their interests, at what level and how. We envisage different formats. First and foremost, our experts and foreign experts will discuss issues at the level of ministries, at the level of sherpas. And as the final result there will be public discussions as the G8 meeting approaches and probably during the G8 meeting. The meeting of sherpas in March is expected to be a broad forum where regional organizations and our international colleagues will be represented. In short, it is open to everyone.
Everyone who has anything to say or propose. And we are ready to cooperate among ourselves and it will be up to them to decide. There will be no overseer. We are just a steering committee, a consultative group which will work on the basis of the agreement. We will just look for common solutions. No control and no directions from the Kremlin or any other quarter. Our task is to establish dialogue and not to be in the driving seat.
Tsyplenkov: If I could just add a couple of words. This is what we want to see. If things follow a different scenario, you will get to know about it, because I am sure that most members of the steering group will simply slam the door behind them, so, loyalty is not going to be the cutoff criterion. I promise.
Pamfilova: And it is for us to do the cutting off, it is for us to decide.
Tsyplenkov: Unless, God forbid... some mechanisms are needed.
Auzan: I think if there is a cutoff on the basis of loyalty to disloyalty, the majority of the members of the steering group will just leave the process and establish some other process.
Pamfilova: Nobody will work. I think we will just quit.
Dzhibladze: And I think another important thing to understand, just like in the situation with the Public Chamber, is that this initiative group has no monopoly and other organizations, parallel and multiple forums of different formats have an equal right to express the opinions of the civil society, there is no pecking order here and we will insist on this.
Pamfilova: And I must also say that if we find a common language with all the initiators, if we manage to consolidate our efforts on areas that are of real concern to society, that would be great. If we fail, may the parallel processes proceed.
Q: Interfax. Ella Alexandrovna, I would like to know your opinion about criticism in the West of the Russian human rights record. Do you share their point of view or not?
Pamfilova: I share their view if it is right. We all know that we have more than our share of problems, yes? In some areas the situation has grown worse. And in other areas it has improved, for example, as regards criminal-procedural policy and so on.
I'll tell you what makes me sad. Unfortunately, some countries that we used to think of as bulwarks of democracy, as leaders in the field of human rights and freedoms are setting a bad example by violating... I don't want to give you a laundry list and point my finger. You know of a number of scandals: prisons in Europe and torture and so on. The last thing I want to do is to be malicious and to say, you see, you are criticizing us, but look at what is happening in your own countries. No, it just makes me sad.
Unfortunately, human rights violations in developed democracies merely strengthens the position of our bureaucrats who seek to impose tighter controls here. They invoke the experience of foreign countries. So, we don't feel any glee. But it is a fact and I think that human rights activists everywhere in the world have met with very serious challenges there. And that applies to us too. I think my colleagues will agree with me.
Dzhibladze: Yes, of course. I would like to add that the G8 meeting is extremely important for us because we have some bones to pick with Russia's partners. Their record tends to justify human rights violations here in Russia and in other countries. In recent years the overall trend in the human rights field in the world has been very negative. The period after September 11 has seen problems multiplying. I think it is normal for the European Parliament and some other organizations to express their concern. Equally, Russia should be expressing its concern with human rights problems abroad. This is part of the normal process of globalization. And there should be no bad blood over this issue. One should take it in one's stride and not to throw tantrums.
Q: Regnum news agency. In your opinion, what items on the agenda of the upcoming summit need to be put to a public discussion? Just a couple of words from each one of you from left to right.
Auzan: Well, we are obliged to react to all the items on the agenda. I would say that energy security is a very many-sided question. It has economic, ecological and social aspects. It is common in government policy not to take into account what the economists call as negative externalities. On the face of it, they have made computations and it appears to make sense. But they ignore damage to a person here, to the environment there, to social links somewhere else, to family and so on. And if one factors in all these things, the result will be very different. I think therefore we should be reacting to all the three items on the summit agenda. But I would single out energy security.
Dzhibladze: I am not happy about the summit's agenda. If we stick only to these issues, to me, in terms of human rights, the most acute issues are human rights in the context of health and my main objective in this process and that of my colleagues would be to raise other issues, for example, there is a catastrophic omission in the agenda of the issue of the right to public security, human rights and security.
Monegen: Energy security is a very acute problem in the world and it is absolutely reasonable that the G8 puts that issue at the top of the agenda. Combating infectious diseases in the world is also a very serious issue. In Russia AIDS is a colossal problem about which appallingly little said in Russia. And that topic must be given a great prominence, young people should get serious education in this area and they should be concerned about the spread of AIDS. According to the UN, unless the Russian government takes measures, the number of AIDS carriers in this country in five years' time will be such that the process will become irreversible and we will face a situation similar to that in Africa today. The issues of intellectual property that loomed large at the previous G8 summit remain very important, and the same holds for fighting counterfeiting and piracy, that is also a very serious problem confronting Russia, especially as Russia is going to join the WTO.
Chestin: We are an environmental group and to us the key issue is also energy security. Why? Because at present it is mainly seen in terms of developing new fields, establishing effective mechanisms, of international oil and gas trade, building of new pipelines, etc. We would like to look at this issue from a different angle. How would energy security be secured after commercial reserves run out? It will happy fairly soon, during the lifetime of the present generation.
What will happen then and what should be done in order not to undermine the basis of life support for the future generations in the midst of the scramble for the last drops of the "black gold," something that we see in the development of Sakhalin offshore oil, the start of the development of the Kamchatka continental shelf and so on. How to make sure that this resource, given us by nature be used and, on the other hand, to preserve the environment for the future generations.
Pamfilova: In general, we are not going to confine ourselves to this agenda. We propose to reach out to our colleagues and the public abroad through all the available networks and thus to get the message from the public. On the one hand, we propose to come up with concrete ideas strictly related to the agenda; but on the other hand, we propose to form a kind of general wish list. Okay, you are the G8 leaders, that is how you see the key problems. But this is how the same problems are seen by public opinion in the world.
We will try to articulate what is really of concern to people, what they consider to be important. That is a mandate for the future, an agenda that takes into account human needs. And of course it will be connected mainly with the millennium development goals as they have been formulated. In general, how to achieve progress in development, in social development, problems of integration and interaction and a whole range of other problems.
So, I think even if some key problems will not fit into the agenda, we will discuss them all the same and make our view known.
Tsyplenkov: I'll try to be brief. In the current agenda the issue of energy security is certainly one of the most important. I agree that not all the serious and important global problems have been put on the agenda. One of the goals of the process we were discussing today is to understand what, from the point of view of the civil society agenda, has been omitted and what should be substituted for the existing items.
In my opinion, one very important, although, perhaps, a very vast theme is connected with the process of globalization. This process is being commercialized. How to lend a social and ecological dimension to this process?
Moderator: Any more questions? Thank you.
Source: Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council of the President of the Russian Federation