Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting with Russian NGO representatives, Moscow, March 17, 2017
I am happy to be able to attend our traditional meeting. Over many years, we have met in this format once a year, and in-between we have meetings of Foreign Ministry departments and deputy foreign ministers with NGOs. We highly value our interaction with Russian civil society. It is a good way to exchange opinions in a constructive manner and to coordinate joint proposals on more efficient interaction on a wide range of current international issues.
Guided by the revised version of the national Foreign Policy Concept, which President of Russia Vladimir Putin approved in November 2016, we pursue a foreign policy that is based on national interests and advocate a balanced agenda for an international dialogue aimed at improving the global situation and creating a sustainable polycentric architecture of global governance.
Our clear priorities include the creation of a broad counterterrorism coalition based on international law and a political and diplomatic settlement of numerous conflicts and crises, primarily in the Middle East, but also close to our borders, including in Ukraine. Our efforts remain focused on strengthening the CIS, the CSTO and the EAEU, and on promoting President Putin’s initiative on harmonising integration processes in Greater Eurasia.
Russia has been acting consistently towards more democratic international communication, reliance on universal values in international affairs, such as multilateral ties, justice, mutually beneficial equitable cooperation and the right of nations to choose their own development path without external pressure. The overwhelming majority of countries share this approach, and our American and European colleagues have recently started talking about the need to resume dialogue and collective efforts in order to overcome common threats. It is of utmost importance to translate these statements into reality.
We appreciate Russian civil society’s contribution to the common efforts to protect Russia’s foreign policy interests and strengthen trust among nations. The expert potential of Russian NGOs enjoys great demand on the international stage, especially on socioeconomic, environmental and humanitarian issues and dialogue between civilisations and cultures.
We will carry on the positive practice of including NGO representatives in the expert part of Russian delegations at the UN General Assembly sessions. Experts from 23 Russian NGOs are contributing to our work at the ongoing 71st session.
More applications are filed every year for consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), but the number of Russian NGOs with this status is so far modest: 64 out of a total of 4,507. Their representation among UNESCO partners is insufficient as well. At this point, only three Russian NGOs have partner status, while our French colleagues have over 60 NGOs among UNESCO partners. I am convinced that we can encourage broader interest among our NGOs to act more energetically in this sphere.
We are interested in resuming dialogue with EU civil societies, which was not suspended at our initiative. We hope that the planned meeting in May between representatives of Russia’s Civic Chamber and the European Economic and Social Committee will be a major step towards this.
We welcome your active participation in the OSCE’s humanitarian events, which is helping balance human rights approaches and international election monitoring.
Russian NGOs uphold the discussion of important current issues, such as respect for traditional values and the fight against racism, xenophobia, aggressive nationalism, religious intolerance and mass statelessness at the OSCE, the UN Human Rights Council and the Council of Europe. We are willing to strengthen our cooperation in the protection of our compatriots’ rights. We will continue to support your applications to international human rights organisations and will help you prepare reports on human rights violations and recommendations for removing them.
We are deeply concerned about some European governments pretending not to see the growing neo-Nazi trends and systematic acts of vandalism against WWII monuments and graves.
There has been an outcry about threats to liberal European values and, at the same time, there is complete silence over government support for the regular neo-Nazi marches in Latvia. This is a disgrace to the EU and NATO. This inaction amounts to condoning insults to the memory of millions who died in the war, and ignoring the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the UN General Assembly resolution on combating the glorification of Nazism. We believe that this issue will remain the focus of Russian NGOs.
We urge you to pay serious attention to the UN, OSCE and other organisations’ efforts to protect European security and to fight terrorism and the drug threat.
Many Russian NGOs are working within the framework of the Russian-US expert dialogue to promote cultural and humanitarian exchanges. They are helping preserve the shared Russian and US history in North America, including Fort Ross State Historic Park in California and the museum of Valery Chkalov’s trans-polar flight at Fort Vancouver in Washington. We hope that Russian NGOs will contribute to a working group that is being established at the Foreign Ministry to maintain Russian historical and cultural heritage in the United States.
Considering the rapid development of information and communication technologies, stability in global affairs largely depends on objective coverage by the media. The attainment of this goal is now hindered by the deliberate Western campaign to demonise Russia. Numerous restrictions placed on the work of Russian journalists are a cause for concern. We hope that professional associations will continue promoting the high standards of journalism.
We value your resolve to strengthen cooperation with the Foreign Ministry. We hope that today we will be able to hold in-depth discussions of these and other issues of interest to you and outline ways to optimise our cooperation.