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On January 10, 2020, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor published its stance regarding the RA draft law “On making amendments and addenda to the RA law on ‟Non-governmental organizations”” placed on the unified website for publication of legal acts’ drafts on August 30, 2019, for public discussion. According to the draft law, non-governmental organizations are obliged to make their activity public also regarding their financial matters. The draft obliges NGOs to submit a separate report to the State Revenue Committee on the head of the organization, the number of its members and volunteers, money received and expenditure, as well as goals and state of former and current projects.
Moreover, the draft law was substantiated by Recommendation 8 of the Financial Action Task Force.
HCA Vanadzor qualified the Draft as unnecessary interference into the activity of non-governmental organizations under the name of publicity and recommended obliging NGOs to submit a report on their activity only in case of being financed by public funds.
This disproportional control over non-governmental organizations seems to be becoming a typical feature of EAEU state members.
In December 2019, similar draft laws “On NGOs” and “State registration of legal entities” were placed for discussion by an MP of the Kyrgyz Republic. They imposed on NGOs additional obligations to submit to state structures reports on their financial flows. And in case of state registration and reregistration, in contrast to for-profit organizations, NGOs are obliged to submit to the state information papers regarding their financial sources, tax obligations and statistics of accountability.
It is noteworthy that in this case, too, reference is made to the idea of open governance and publicity, forgetting that the requirement of open governance and publicity pertains to public government bodies.
Civil society of Kyrgyzstan has already expressed its disagreement with the presented draft laws. On January 13, 2020, they applied to the authors of the draft laws claiming to recall them.
In the Russian Federation, foreign-funded organizations are considered “foreign agents” by the law that entered into force back in 2012. According to that law, they are obliged to register in the state register as “foreign agents” and regularly submit reports on their financial sources and activity goals. What is even more, “foreign agent” state has already been established for natural persons who have income or receive salary from foreign organizations.
In democratic states, non-governmental organizations present all the tax obligations set by legislation, present annual reports and the requirement for additional reports has no substantiation. Tax obligations or any issue on the management of financial sources can be examined and checked by the already existing legal measures.
Legislative establishment of various ill-grounded control tools over civil society and its institutes is typical only of states with authoritarian governance or authoritarian governance tendencies.