24 June 201916:48

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a meeting with representatives of regional non-profit organisations, Moscow, June 24, 2019

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Colleagues,

Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. We are happy to receive representatives of non-profits who have come to the capital from a great many regions of the Russian Federation.

We have maintained an ongoing dialogue with Russian non-profits for 15 years, and it has become an integral part of the Ministry’s work; the feedback we receive from the regions helps us to form our views regarding topics on the international agenda. 

We have a special event today because for the first time ever we are meeting exclusively with representatives of regional non-profit organisations

It is in our interest for civil society institutions to be actively, energetically engaged in international activities. We are ready to help these organisations reach various foreign platforms and establish contacts with foreign colleagues. It is obvious that a broad-based dialogue with the public invariably helps maintain trust and mutual understanding, helps different peoples to learn more about each other.

Cultivating such ties and understanding at the level of civil society is especially important today. The global situation remains rather tense. There are constant attempts to aggravate it, while distorting the real reasons for pursuing the policy that our Western colleagues have started to implement. President Putin has said – at the plenary session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, in his recent interviews and in the context of Direct Line – that the reasons for the behaviour of Western colleagues are quite clear. The US, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, came to believe in “the end of history,” it got accustomed to ensuring its well-being at the expense of others, and is trying by all means to secure sole leadership in the global arena. To achieve that, attempts are being made to impede the objective processes leading to the emergence of a polycentric, more just and democratic system of international relations, to constrain the processes leading to the emergence of new global centres of economic growth, financial power and political influence. Various tools are used for that - from outright blackmail and military pressure to demonising competitors in the global information space and restricting access to markets and advanced technologies. Attempts are being made to replace universal formats, like the UN or the G20 that solve all key issues of global politics by consensus, with close-knit “get-togethers” where decisions are taken by the participants which are subsequently imposed on all the rest as the ultimate truth. In place of universally recognised international law as enshrined in the UN Charter, our Western colleagues started inventing certain rules in the past several years, which are changed each time, including retroactively, for the sake of political expediency by the US and its allies.

A special place in this collection of ill-conceived policies is reserved, of course, for unilateral economic sanctions, “trade wars” and the extraterritorial application of the national laws of the United States.

All of these tools are also used against Russia, which is treated by Washington as a major obstacle to their goal of dominating in all things in the world. Our independent domestic and foreign policy addressing legitimate national interests is increasingly a cause of irritation overseas as well as in some European capitals. This is the source of the insidious attempts to “punish” us, to make us follow the Western line. To achieve this, various ridiculous pretexts are used, such as accusations of interfering in the internal affairs of virtually the entire Western world or in whom the Western world chooses as leaders.

It is clear that the attempts to tarnish Russia by these means are destined to fail. We are a country with a thousand year history and unique geostrategic position; we are a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We will never blindly follow anyone whatsoever, but rather formulate our own policies. The sad experience of our neighbour Ukraine clearly shows what blindly following advice and cues from abroad can lead to. Under Poroshenko, who relied on radical nationalists, this country of great potential was relegated to the status of a seeker of international assistance, lost its industrial base and is still suffering from a colossal outflow of labour force, not to mention its internal conflict and the spiritual and civilisational divisions in society. It is clear that it will take many years to overcome this.

Another example of the consequences of geopolitical engineering that our Western colleagues engage in is Georgia, where Western curators are willing to turn a blind eye to ultranationalist acts of violence and anti-Russian sentiment just to sever the entire Georgian people’s ties with our country and re-write our common history.

We have a rational view of the role the US and its closest allies play in the global arena. However, we do not fence ourselves from anyone, we do not withdraw into isolation, we do not shy away from dialogue on issues which offer a chance for mutually beneficial cooperation in order to curb threats common to the whole of humankind, such as terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, organised crime, WMD proliferation risks.

We will continue to advocate a positive international agenda, work to restore trust, and build a renewed architecture of equal and indivisible security for all, which will meet the requirements of the 21st century, and fair economic cooperation on the basis of honest competition,. We will push for permanent solutions to numerous crises and conflicts which, unfortunately, abound in the modern world. We are interested in and open to working with any foreign colleagues on the principles of respect for international law and each other’s interests, in any geographical areas and at platforms of multilateral diplomacy. It is on this equal and mutually respectful foundation that our relations are being built with our partners from the EAEU, CSTO, CIS, SCO, BRICS, and many nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Russian non-profit organisations make their own contribution to our common efforts to promote our country’s interests internationally. We have given a number of specific examples proving this. We hail your focus on operating in the space of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Efforts to promote the Russian language, Russian culture and education as well enhancing dialogue with compatriots are particularly needed there. Projects involving younger generations bear special significance.

We have vested interests in strengthening the position of Russian non-profit organisations at the UN. We continue to support them getting consultative status under the UN Economic and Social Council, and also at the Office of Information and Communications Technology of the UN Secretariat. These multilateral platforms offer a chance to express your position and be heard by a broad international audience, and make it possible to establish useful contacts including for pursuing your ideas and initiatives.

It is gratifying that the number of Russian NGOs with consultative status at these UN organisations is gradually growing, but slowly, I should say, compared to the considerable and overwhelming presence of foreign NGOs. Our NGO statistics are very modest. Of course, we cannot force our public organisations to apply for such a status yet I would suggest that those who have not yet immersed themselves in the issue, should consider the opportunities offered by the status, and make a decision on embarking on this work. We will assist you in advancing all necessary procedures. I am sure that NGOs with this status will be happy to share their experience with you.

We will continue the highly regarded practice of including Russian non-profit organisations in the delegation at UNGA sessions. We have 19 domestic organisations giving us expert support at the current session which started last September and is due to close this coming September. Their number can be enlarged with representatives of the regional NGOs in attendance. They need to have the necessary skills and meet certain criteria. First of all, this includes command of a foreign language, understanding how international associations operate, and the ability to make presentations and argue their positions. I am confident there are a number of experienced colleagues here who can successfully join in this work. 

We expect regional non-profit organisations to get involved in promoting Russia’s priorities at European forums, including efforts to stand up for traditional values and the rights of ethnic minorities, develop inter-faith and inter-culture dialogue and prevent the politicisation of human rights issues.  

In this context, cooperation with our country – through both official channels and non-profit organisations – in the Council of Europe must play an important role. This cooperation traditionally has been intended as a way to facilitate pro-active dialogue with civil society. Hopefully, the crisis in the Council of Europe that was triggered by a Russophobic minority will be completely overcome by getting back to the principles underlying the charter of this organisation, which requires that equal rights are given to the delegations of all countries which are members of the Council of Europe.   

There are good prospects for work at the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations of the Council of Europe. Unfortunately, Russian civil society was poorly represented at the events it has held. I believe we need to build up our presence there through, among other things, non-profit organisations from the regions of the Russian Federation which specialise in human rights, including issues related to defending the rights and interests of our compatriots.   

It is very important that you take part in OSCE events, in particular your efforts to convey objective information to the European public about what life is like in the regions across Russia, as well as about Russian civil society. The discussions at the OSCE regularly cover pressing matters, such as the violation of the right of people to use their native language, the violation of the right to education and freedom of religion, as well as the shameful phenomenon of depriving people of citizenship in Latvia and Estonia and the unacceptability of falsifying the history of World War II and the glorification of Nazis and their accomplices. Non-profit organisations from across Russia, many of which are engaged in scouting activities in their regions, could significantly contribute to these discussions. 

Colleagues,

We, at the Foreign Ministry, are open to dialogue and any proposals for joint projects. Our Ministry with support from Russian embassies and consulates abroad and the Foreign Ministry’s representative offices in the regions of the Russian Federation will continue to help non-profit organisations promote international ties, including at the regional level. We will expand our practice of including representatives of public institutions in the official delegations that attend various international forums – not only the UN General Assembly but also other major events in which members of the public are invited to take part. We expect you to also come up with initiatives and tell us where the knowledge and experience accumulated by your organisations can be creatively applied.  In turn, following today’s meeting we will instruct our representatives in the regions to assist you, help you alert our ministry and the diplomatic missions abroad to your initiatives and ideas, and ensure oversight of the process of evaluating your proposals.    

Today, you will have interesting discussions with the staff of the Presidential Executive Office and federal and regional executive bodies, as well as members of parliament, members of the Civic Chamber, leaders of civic organisations and foundations, experts, political scientists and my colleagues from the Foreign Ministry departments.

I believe this will be useful. I am sure this is not our last meeting with those who are present today and I would like to wish you every success.

***

You have a busy day today. There will be several panel discussions. I believe these will be interesting discussions and panel members will be very engaged, so you will pick up a lot of useful info for your day-to-day work. We will record and make a list of all the initiatives that you will come up with today and see what can be done and what measures can be taken to push your ideas forward. As soon as this work is done, we will certainly inform all the organisations that are represented today of the results. We will keep a close eye on all our future interactions.       

Thank you very much and good luck.

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