27 October 2014
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
Two human rights organisations, the Moscow Helsinki Group and the 'For Human Rights' movement, have received presidential grants as a result of a competition held by the 'Civil Dignity' organisation, according to online newspaper The Morning News
Russia's human rights commissioner, Ella Pamfilova, who chaired the competition commission, informed journalists of the results yesterday.
She announced that the Moscow Helsinki Group had received 1.8 million roubles, and that For Human Rights had received more than 6 million roubles.
Other organisations which received a grant included the Centre for Criminal Justice Reform and the Independent Legal Expert Council.
Pamfilova pointed out that no NGOs declared to be 'foreign agents' applied to take part in the competition.
'Many of them obtained grants in previous competitions. If organisations which have foreign funding can be considered potential foreign agents, then this includes some of the winners of this year's competition', she commented.
As Ludmila Alekseeva, president of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told the National News Service
, Moscow Helsinki Group will be able to continue its monitoring programmes thanks to the presidential grant, especially its programme for interaction between the police and public organisations.
'Our state institutions shy away from contact with citizens. They prefer to act according to their own understanding of the situation. But we are fighting for activists to be invited – not in an ingratiating way - to participate in Public Councils of regional divisions of the MVD (Interior Ministry), so that real activists can also be present during unannounced inspections. It's a very beneficial programme, but of course we do much less than we could if we had more funding,' Alekseeva admitted.
'We are just surviving at the moment,' she continued. 'We are grateful for the presidential grant, of course, but it is a much smaller sum than the funding we used to have. So we have had to stop our most expensive awareness-raising programmes, even though it was important work. Once, the Moscow Helsinki Group used to hold summer schools and winter schools on human rights, which trained 340 people. But it was a very expensive programme because we had to buy train tickets for the participants who had won a place. We can't do that any longer, so we have had to close that particular programme.'
Ludmila Alekseeva accepts that not all organisations are able to make such decisions, however.
'Different organisations work under different conditions. Some can function on a voluntary basis, but others cannot. Memorial, for instance, has to be able to pay its staff in order to continue. The monitoring programmes, our primary activity, can be carried out by volunteers. Of course, volunteers work less effectively because they cannot dedicate themselves completely to the task – they also need to earn their living and pay their rent. You can't just live under a palm tree – palm trees don't grow in our climate! That's why many organisations can't function without money. However, presidential grants are given to far fewer organisations and supply much less money than we used to receive from foreign sponsors,' concluded Ludmila Alekseeva. Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts