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1328 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1320 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities



Statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Opening of the Roundtable Session on “Public Diplomacy as an Instrument of Foreign Policy and Civil Society Development,” Moscow, December 12, 2011

Dear Yevgeniy Pavlovich,

Dear colleagues,

We are grateful to everyone who has responded to our joint initiative to hold a meeting today between the Foreign Ministry’s leadership and the Public Chamber of Russia on the theme “Public diplomacy as an instrument of foreign policy and civil society development.”

This is the first time we meet in this format. However, the Russian foreign affairs agency has extensive enough experience cooperating with civil society. This occurs at regular, several-times-a-year, meetings of the Scientific Council under the auspices of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the analogous Business Council; in the course of the annual meetings of the Minister with representatives of leading Russian nongovernmental organizations; and during the regular communication of Russian NGOs with relevant departments of the Ministry.

We also participate in other formats which give us a better feel of the mood in civil society, including the annual Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl, under the patronage of the President of Russia. We conduct contacts through the International Discussion Club “Valdai,” the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, etc. This is not a fad, but a reflection of the demands of life. We are sure – and this is recorded in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation – that the strengthening of civil society institutions, government support for NGOs interested in securing the Russian foreign policy interests, should play an important role in helping Russia to its rightful, worthy place among the leading countries of the world.

Today it is obvious that without the proper use of a solid resource of “soft power” it is impossible to effectively defend the interests of a state in the world. It is in our interest not only to co-operate with civil society institutions for a better understanding of the sentiment on matters within the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, but also to facilitate the integration of our nongovernmental community into various international entities increasingly contributing to the shaping of the international agenda. The Green Movement was once hardly noticeable in the international system. Today, climate change, the task of overcoming the negative effects on the environment are the priorities of government policy for virtually all states.

NGOs and civil societies in different countries can make a significant contribution to inter-civilizational, intercultural and interfaith harmony, the promotion of projects designed to unite nations and peoples and not to bring artificial and confrontational moments into international intercourse.

Therefore, civil society is an essential element of our activities in the international arena. This is associated with the tasks of modernizing the country, covering all aspects of our lives, including civil society, foreign policy, a modern, competitive and multi-dimensional public diplomacy, to which, as noted by President Dmitry Medvedev, belongs a weighty role here.

Recently, on behalf of the President of Russia, we have taken several steps aimed at boosting state support for public diplomacy – the activities of Rossotrudnichestvo and the Russkiy Mir Foundation are being expanded. Created in 2011, the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund and the Russian Council on International Affairs have begun to work actively. The Fund to Support and Protect the Rights of Compatriots Abroad will commence work next year. The Russian Union of Friendship Societies is being re-established in a renewed form.

These examples show the great attention that the country’s leadership pays to capacity building for our civil society able to participate actively in the elaboration and implementation of the urgent agenda for the internal development of society and foreign policy activities.

We appreciate the role that the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation has been playing since its inception in 2005. Last year it adopted its Concept for International Activity, underpinned by approaches consistent with our view of the interests of Russia and the Russian people in the international arena.

There is high demand for your analysis on current themes of international life: inter-nationality relations, counter-terrorism and extremism, environmental issues, the lessons of the global crisis. The annual reports of the Public Chamber on the state of civil society in Russia and, above all, their foreign policy aspects have been of great help to our ministry staff in working with foreign partners. These matters are the subject of our regular consultation with the EU countries and the USA. We want to see these issues discussed on the basis of mutual benefit, without politicization, with a view to accomplishing specific tasks of concern to the citizens of our states.

We believe that contacts between civil society representatives are of great importance. Direct human communication makes it easier to get to know each other better and remove from the agenda the questions being discussed on television and through “microphone diplomacy” that create unnecessary problems. We will do everything possible to support our nongovernmental community in expanding international intercourse.

We are actively trying to connect the representatives of our NGOs to various international activities. Representatives of the NGO community are regularly present in Russia’s delegations at the UN General Assembly sessions and are enlisted in the work of various bodes of the UN system.

We value our work together with Russian nongovernmental entities in the so-called regular Universal Periodic Review of human rights in various countries around the world. It is held under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Today, 47 Russian NGOs have consultative status with ECOSOC. This is the highest status accorded by the United Nations. Of course, this is a modest figure in comparison with other leading nations. We would like to see greater commitment of Russian NGOs to cooperate with the UN. This interaction can not only convey their ideas to a wider international audience, but also provides access to information and other resources of the UN and ability to participate in various activities.

Other forms of cooperation with organizations of the UN system are establishing relations with UNESCO and the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat of the Organization, in which we are also ready to assist all interested persons. We encourage active use of these channels.

It is clear that, at the beginning, NGOs so far not having experience of participation in international events, limit themselves to acquaintance with the work of a specific entity and its procedural capabilities. We would like to see them gain such an experience faster. We are ready to help with advice and tips Russian NGOs promote their initiative agenda at various international forums. This will be important in terms of the formation of a multipolar dialogue, taking into account the entire spectrum of opinions.

We would welcome if nongovernmental organizations and the Public Chamber of Russia would delegate from among civil society activists representatives and experts in various fields to form a registry of Russian experts with a view to nomination to positions in international institutions. This is an important reserve, because until now, those taking jobs in international organizations have, in most cases, been officials. I think that bringing in “fresh blood” will not hurt. We had an interest in promoting M. A. Fedotov to the office of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. His candidacy was submitted along with aspirants to this post from EU countries. Admittedly, Fedotov’s qualification was most competitive, but EU solidarity played a role. So there happened what happened.

I understand that it is more interesting for you to work with Fedotov in his new capacity as Chairman of the Council under the auspices of the President of Russia on the development of civil society and human rights. However, pluralism in the OSCE would have benefited if this respected figure in Russia and abroad had occupied the international position on issues of media freedom, given that Mikhail Aleksandrovich is one of the authors of the Law on the Mass Media adopted in our country in 1991.

We are confident that the aforesaid areas of cooperation are promising. We are interested in ensuring that our NGOs are no less active than similar Western entities represented in the CIS space, especially in view of the ongoing processes of the creation of the integration entities with the participation of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and the Russian interests to deepen partnership with Ukraine and the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia. None of this should come at the expense of nongovernmental relations with the European Union countries and the United States. It would be interesting to see how the capacity of civil society can be involved in cooperation within the SCO, BRICS, NATO and the Council of Europe. For example, SCO University could serve as a powerful stimulus for the development of nongovernmental communication. And there is the mechanism of regular meetings of political scientists, heads of academic institutions, and experts from the BRICS member countries.

We invite you to actively participate in formats that are created for civil society representatives with the support of other states, such as the Association “Russian-French Dialogue,” and the similar forum for Russian and Italian figures. A positive experience has been accumulated in the organization of the cross-years with Italy, France, China and several other countries where there are huge opportunities for the participation of NGOs.

In conclusion, I would like to reaffirm our readiness and openness for broad cooperation with civil society representatives and the Public Chamber of Russia. We are confident that the diplomatic service can be effective only if it keeps abreast of the trends that ripen in society. In turn, we stand ready to support your initiatives and to provide comprehensive support in the framework of the activities of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Thanks again for the meeting.


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