Hello, I’m — a foreign agent

 The head of the charity fund about the law on non-profit organizations  07/16/2012, 13:53

Daria Makarova
fighter for the rights of children
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Hello, I’m — a foreign agent
Photo by Anton Karliner

The NPO law was approved in the second reading on Friday 13th in the State Duma. Well, not exactly the law itself, but the amendments to the existing legislation, which has undergone over many changes during past 15 years..

I’m a head of charity organization and it was weird and crazy to read the amendments that have deputies from the ruling party made. First of all, because they encountered dual feeling- on one hand you could read between the lines, that this action is directed against the very individuals and non-profit organizations (NPOs), and on the other — a profound misunderstanding of NPOs activity spheres and their role in the country’s life.

The amendments declare, that if NPO is involved in a political activity, if it influences the policy of the state, receives funding and other valuables from foreign bodies (including Russian companies with foreign capital), receives donations from individuals, who, in turn, receive money from abroad , then such NPOs must take the special account — to recognize themselves as a «foreign agent.»

It seems to be like: "ok, so what? Yes, you are an agent... yes, you are a foreign agent«...Our outrage seems strange and somehow provocative opposition to the ordinary people, but it is not like that.

What does threaten this status with? Firstofall, itisan additional cost on the changing of the title documents. The total cost of the package for our fund «Healthcare — for children» —wouldbe about 10 000 rub. (around 250 euro). I’d prefer to spend this money on books and toys for the children in hospitals.

And secondly it would mean nonstop extra reporting. In addition, each Fund, each NPO with legal status, is obliged to report to the tax inspection, to the Ministry of Justice and to the donators. NPO reports up to four times a year to tax inspection, once a year it has a statutory audit, and annual reports with the mandatory publication in open source — for example, on its website. I personally do not understand why we have to make twice as many reports. What do the deputies from the «UnitedRusia» want to get? In my opinion they want to make life for NPO as difficult as possible, so that they would have neither resources, nor the willingness to work. Additional reporting requires additional expenditure, and yet this money can be used more efficiently.

Charitable Foundation «Health care for children» under the project «Hospital doesn’t mean pain,» has established the first playground in the Novosibirsk Children’s Hospital № 1

My personal fears (I hope they willneverbe true) are the possible problems with the banks and bank transfers, the problems with the media, as not all publications will cover the activities of the «foreign agent.» Besides, the reduction in the number of donators is highly likely as many of them might cease to trust their money to «foreign agents», many will be forced by life circumstances, especially the companies with state capital. And it will be just the top of the iceberg.

Mr. Kudrin (Former Minister of Finance) has given a very accurate estimation of that action:

«...Adoption of [the law] is fraught with downsizing activities of socially oriented organizations in Russia, as a literal interpretation of its rules can recognize as „foreign agents“ and expose to the discriminatory, by their nature, actions not only NPOs, protecting human rights, but also many Russian universities, Save the Children foundations and the Media».

Mr. Sidyakin and his companions endlessly poke a finger at the West, and say that they have had the same law therefore almost 100 years.
But it is a half-truth. The law, which they talk about, is FARA, Foreign Agents Registration Act, passed in the U.S.A. in 1938 to counter the propaganda of fascism, works quite differently than ours.

The important difference is that the foreign agent is a person who «claims that carries out, or pretend to work as a foreign principal» (section © (2) of Art., p. 611).

And in our case, the law makes everyone unconditionally declare itself as one of the «foreign agents», even before receiving the foreign funding and / or political activities, because the sanctions for those, who violates law are very severe. There are high fines and / or imprisonment.

I feel a little uncomfortable. I’m a head of the Fund and we help to the small patients and we protect their rights (human rights activities), we improve the conditions in hospitals (the introduction of international standards, so called child-friendly), we change the health care system and health care for children in our city (political activism). Our fund falls in the list of «foreign agents», fulfilling all three conditions.

So if we don’t spend our, effort, time and money on legally acknowledging our organization as «foreing agent», though it is not in any sort a foreign agent, , and if we do not to add our self to the list of the Ministry of Justice, we will be immediately fined for 500 000 rub. (about 12 500 euro) and more, and in some specific cases, the manager can be sentenced to prison.

I’m a mother and I’ve got a baby, but this will not be sufficient for our justice system. It turns out that for me and my colleagues it is easier — or even «cheaper» to forget all the sick kids, forget about the fact that our own children are sick, forget about their citizenship and simply close down.

Honestly speaking, I’ve been dreaming about vacation for a long time, but the situation in the child healthcare sector in our country and in my city still does not suit me. The state does not have the political will and ability to change the situation in the healthcare sector.

In 1938, the American magazine «Time» called Adolf Hitler a «man of the year», as he became the biggest threat to the democratic, peace-loving community of the different countries

To begin with, during the next few years, they just have nowhere to take extra 200,000 physicians (the number is from the report of the former Health Minister in Russia, Mrs. Tatyana Golikova), which still would not be enough for the normal functioning of the medicine in the country, not to mention the middle and junior medical staff.

So my vacation is cancelled, because, thanks to the tireless care of the legislature, in the scope of my responsibilities now will not only gratuitous aid to child health facilities and their young patients included but also the search of the means and opportunities to perform silly and unnecessary legislation.

Several funds from Siberia have written an open letter to the legislature of the country, as well as to the deputies of the State Duma of the Novosibirsk region.

We asked to delay and perform more detailed and thorough work on the amendments. We asked not to adopt the amendments in the form, they have been proposed. None of the recipients did respond to that letter. They just are not interested in us, our work and the people we help to every day.

Of course, the Prime Minister promised to increase funding for NPOs that are «in general useful and positive for the country.» But forgive me for such statements, who are the judges? I fear, that it might be reduced to vicious practice of funding only those NGOs that are beneficial for the state.

The only significant change that is made in the amendment is the exemption of religious organizations from the need to declare themselves as «foreign agents.» No comments.

In general, the position of denying a second opinion is sabotage. Moreover, all the defenders of the law say the same thing: «Damn the State Department as its financial investments undermines our country from within.»

UNESCO experts believe that the ski area on the plateau Lagonaki, which construction is supported by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, is fraught with devastating consequences for wildlife

Well, maybe there are some structures that underminesomething, though, in my opinion, our government tirelessly undermines itself in its actions, but there are hundreds of other international funding programs apart from the State Department, like grants from UNESCO or international environmental programs WWF. What do they undermine?

Although ... UNESCO undermines the possibility of squandering cultural heritage and WWF persists in the struggle for the preservation of wildlife, which makes it difficult to extract minerals.

The government wants all financial flows to be easily understandable and transparent.. That’s a praiseworthy ambition, but why don’t you start with yourself? Let’s make the budget’s expenditures public and transparent. I have already offered to make the country’s health budget completely transparent, to conduct an independent annual audit, to provide an opportunity for every citizen to know where and how the funds have been spent or withheld from his salary. But somehow the idea did not take root in the minds of the legislature, which is strange, because according to them there is nothing to hide. What kind of transparency regarding to NPOs may be involved if any such organization shall report, if all foreign financial flows are monitored and shall annually be presented to the Justice Ministry, which, in turn, post them on the site? What more do the deputies want? Maybe they just have no idea about who we are, how we are organized, what we do?

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