Speech by Russian Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov at a meeting of the Presidential Coordinating Council for Implementing the 2012–2017 National Action Strategy for Children on the subject, Children as Actors in Implementing the National Strategy
Members of the Coordinating Council,
Protecting the rights, freedoms and lawful interests of Russia’s juvenile citizens abroad is a priority for the Russian Foreign Ministry and its offices in foreign countries. It comes up regularly during discussions with foreign officials at high level meetings and at leading international forums, including the UN Human Rights Council and its specialised agencies, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the CIS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and others.
Over these last few years, we have developed a system for the permanent and comprehensive monitoring of the protection of the rights of Russian minors abroad. We carry out this work through the Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights and in active cooperation with our agencies and offices abroad, and with the Russian Presidential Human Rights Commissioner and the Ministry of Education and Science.
Among the issues of greatest concern today are violations of the rights, freedoms and lawful interests of Russian citizens adopted by Americans. Allow me to recall that according to US State Department figures, more than 62,000 Russians adopted since 1991 reside in the US.
Looking back over the last two years since the Dima Yakovlev Law was adopted, we can see that the Russian authorities were fully justified in taking this measure in response to the numerous acts of maltreatment and illegal actions committed by Americans against Russian citizens.
The Russian Foreign Ministry continues to work actively with the US authorities to resolve outstanding issues that have built up over these years, including such serious matters as investigating the deaths of Russian children at the hands of their adoptive parents, the Reuters Affair (named after the investigation conducted by this news agency, which showed that at least 26 Russians had fallen victim to a scheme, widespread in the US, of illegally passing adopted children on to other families) and visiting the notorious “children’s” institution, the Ranch for Kids in Montana, where failed adoptive parents left their children if they had become fed up with them or weren’t happy with them, and so on.
We are studying the possibility of organising a joint visit by Presidential Children’s Rights Commissioner Pavel Astakhov and the Foreign Ministry Commissioner to the US to discuss with the US State Department and Justice Department the various issues concerning children in the context of our bilateral relations.
We sometimes encounter problems arising out of conflict situations in mixed marriages abroad. This kind of problem crops up in a broad range of countries, including parts of Europe and the Middle East. Local laws and their implications for the status of minors in the case of divorce in mixed marriages remains a sensitive issue for Russian citizens in Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Iran, where citizenship is assigned to the child automatically at birth.
We work actively through our embassies and consulates to identify and monitor such cases and to provide timely, comprehensive and qualified consular and legal support for our compatriots abroad. We also work to inform people, in order to prevent these sorts of crisis situations from arising with our citizens abroad.
The Foreign Ministry is making concerted efforts to conclude bilateral agreements with foreign countries on international adoption, establishing effective mechanisms for monitoring the living conditions of Russian children adopted by foreign citizens, ensuring their best interests are looked after and protecting traditional moral and family values and ethical foundations. We have made substantial progress in this work. In 2009, we signed an agreement on adoption cooperation with Italy, and we signed similar agreements with France in 2012 and with Spain on March 16, 2015. We are in talks with Israel on such an agreement now.
Following the legalisation of same-sex marriage and the adoption of laws allowing same-sex families to adopt children in a number of European countries, such as Ireland, Iceland and Finland (the changes to the law will take effect starting in March 2017), we have suspended the work we were conducting with these countries on bilateral agreements.
We constantly monitor the proper implementation by our foreign partners of the agreements already concluded, including those that bar people of non-traditional sexual orientation from adopting Russian children, and we hold focus interagency consultations with our partners. Our most recent consultations, with the Italians, took place in December 2015.
We will strictly adhere to our publicly announced position of distancing ourselves from the provisions in the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child that do not conform with the interests of Russia’s children and of our society as a whole.
The Russian Federation is a generally recognised leader and point of reference among countries promoting an active agenda for real protection of traditional family values, protecting children and youth from harmful information on the internet and propaganda containing ultraliberal notions and other threats to their best interests.
The Russian Foreign Ministry works consistently on various international platforms to protect and promote traditional family values as a counterweight to Western-inspired neoliberal approaches.
We work through the UN on a regular basis to monitor and prevent resolutions of the UN General Assembly, the UN Economic and Social Council and its commissions from enshrining provisions that would expand the rights of sexual minorities.
Furthermore, Russia was directly involved in establishing, and takes active part in, groups of likeminded people (the Friends of the Family group) in New York and Geneva. Through our common efforts, we have ensured that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in September 2015, includes family-related issues based on the prosperity and solidity of the traditional family as a key condition for social stability and long-term sustainable development. The speech by the Friends of the Family group at the UN General Assembly plenary session on December 11, 2015, marking the 20th anniversary of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, stressed the family’s crucial role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals as the conduit for social integration and expansion of the development opportunities for a family's members.
At the UN Human Rights Council’s 29th session in Geneva on July 2, 2015, at the Friends of the Family group’s initiative, a resolution – On Protection of the Family: the family’s contribution to exercising its rights and the rights of its members to adequate housing standards, in particular, though its role in eradicating poverty and facilitating sustainable development – was adopted with 29 votes for, 14 votes against, and four abstaining votes.
On May 16–17, 2016, at the UN in New York, the Friends of the Family group (which unites 25 countries, including Russia), and a number of NGOs, held a series of high-profile events, with key Russian support, to support traditional family values and counter aggressive lobbying of LGBT ideology.
At the OSCE in 2015, we also took an active position to support traditional family values at the OSCE conference on preventing and combating intolerance and discrimination with regard to Christians (Vienna, May 18, 2015), at a seminar marking 20 years since the 4th World Conference on Women: success and progress in realising economic and social rights (Vienna, November 24, 2015), and at the 19th annual OSCE conference on fulfilment of obligations in the human dimension (Warsaw, September 21-October 2, 2015). Constructive-minded Russian and foreign NGOs provided great support to the official delegations, highlighting traditional and family values in their speeches at the meetings and at events they organised on the sidelines of these gatherings.
Taking into account our CIS partners’ commitment to promoting traditional family values, we took the initiative of declaring 2017 the Year of the Family in the CIS. This proposal was made at the CIS Council of Heads of State summit on October 16, 2015, and was subsequently supported by the participants in the 10th Forum of CIS Creative and Scientific Communities (Astana, 22-23 October, 2015).
The Russian Foreign Ministry will continue active and regular efforts to guarantee the rights, freedoms and lawful interests of Russian minors abroad and to protect traditional family values. We will continue to work closely in these areas with both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly, the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights and the regional children’s rights’ commissioners, the Ministry of Education and Science and law enforcement agencies. We are also taking steps to get non-governmental organisations more involved in the work on protecting children’s rights, as these organisations have an ever more relevant part to play in this area.
Thank you for your attention.