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The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 8, Issue 3, May 2006

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

Russia and the Newly Independent States

Some Issues Related to Russia's New NGO Law
Natalia Bourjaily

Civil Society and Philanthropy Under Putin
Alexander Livshin and Richard Weitz

Philanthropy in Russian Society Today
Julia Khodorova

Why NGOs? How American Donors Embraced Civil Society After the Cold War
Sada Aksartova

Government Financing of NGOs in Kazakhstan: Overview of Controversial Experience
Vsevolod Ovcharenko

Charitable and Private Foundations in Ukraine
Alexandr Vinnikov

Articles

Approaches to Evaluating the Impact of Legal and Regulatory Reform on Canada's Voluntary Sector
Douglas Rutzen and Michelle Coulton

Nongovernmental Ogres? How Feminist NGOs Undermine Women in Postsocialist Eastern Europe
Kristen Ghodsee

Identifying Nonprofit Institutions in New Zealand
Statistics New Zealand, in consultation with The Committee for the Study of the New Zealand Non-Profit Sector

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Some Issues Related to Russia's New NGO Law

By Natalia Bourjaily1

On April 17, 2006, the Russian Federal Law “On Introducing Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” (hereinafter “NGO Law”) entered into effect.

The Law amends four existing laws – the Civil Code, the Law on Public Associations, the Law on Non-commercial Organizations, and the Law on Closed Administrative Territorial Formations.2 It introduces a number of new requirements for public associations (PAs), non-commercial organizations (NCOs), and foreign nongovernmental non-commercial organizations (FNNOs). These new requirements restrict who may form an organization in the Russian Federation, expand the grounds on which registration may be denied, and enhance the supervisory powers of the state over organizations.

The major changes to the laws include the following:

  1. The power to summon resolutions of the organization’s governing body. The registration authority now can demand documents concerning details of an organization’s governance, including day-to-day policy decisions, supervision by the organization’s management, and oversight of finances.
  2. The power to send representatives to an organization’s events. The law even allows the government to send a representative to all of an organization's meetings and other events, without restriction. Thus, government representatives can attend strategy meetings, board meetings, and other meetings that are strictly internal to the organization. This power will have a chilling event on the ability of organizations, especially advocacy groups, to hold such gatherings, and on the willingness of members, service recipients, and others people to attend. The provision appears to violate Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, protecting the right to privacy, which prohibits authorities from arbitrarily entering private premises or interfering with people's private activities.
  3. Supervisory powers over FNNOs. The law provides the registration authority with two additional intrusive powers over the branches, representative offices, and affiliates of FNNOs. First, the government can terminate any existing program of an FNNO's subdivision.3 The law does not set forth any criteria for when to exercise this power; it appears to be entirely discretionary. Second, the law allows the registration authority to bar an FNNO (through its branch, representative office, or affiliate) from transferring funds or other resources to recipients if necessary for the purposes of “protecting the basis of the Constitutional system, morality, health, rights and lawful interests of other persons, and with the aim of defending the country and the state security.” By conferring such broad discretion to interfere with the operations of a branch, these provisions violate Article 11.

In addition, the law prohibits certain categories of persons from founding, joining, or participating in PAs or NCOs. Among these are foreign nationals whose presence in the Russian Federation is found to be “undesirable.” This designation can be conferred by certain federal agencies, each of which has complete discretion to establish criteria for making that determination.

In sum, several provisions of the law appear to be inconsistent with the Russian Federation's obligations under international agreements. This is particularly so in the case of the European Convention of Human Rights, which, under Article 11, requires a nation affirmatively to protect the right to association, and to interfere with the exercise of that right only where “necessary in a democratic society” for compelling state reasons. It will be critical to monitor implementation of the law in order to determine the extensiveness of the practical problems arising under it.

Notes

1 Natalia Bourjaily is Vice President for Newly Independent States of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

2 The Civil Code of 1994, the Federal Law of the Russian Federation # 82- FZ On Public Associations of May 19, 1995 (“LPA”), the Federal Law of the Russian Federation #7-FZ On Non-commercial Organizations of January 12, 1996 (“LNCO”), and the Federal Law of the Russian Federation #327-1 On Closed Administrative Territorial Formation (“LCATF”).

3 LNCO, Article 23 1.

 

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