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Civil Society Unites Behind Kudrin

Published: December 11, 2013 (Issue # 1790)




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Former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin recently hosted the All-Russian Civil Forum, with about 1,000 people representing all 83 of Russias regions and hundreds of diverse nongovernmental organizations attending. The forums organizing committee decided not to invite President Vladimir Putin, government officials or politicians in general. They held the forum at the pricey World Trade Center in Moscow and made use of the most modern technologies and the newest methods for moderating large gatherings.

Previous forums enjoyed support from opposition leader Garry Kasparov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and the 2001 Forum was even held in the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin spoke at that event and Moscow Helsinki Group director Lyudmila Alekseyeva then, as happened this year, sat in the presidium. However, that old romance between the authorities and civil society soon grew cold, and every forum since has carried a distinct opposition tone.

Alexei Kudrin is attempting to expand his image by serving as a leader for those who advocate civil society, including the opposition.

Kudrin brought together all of the most important organizations of civil society, the most well-known and respected NGOs from the Golos election monitoring association and the remnants of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskys Open Russia, to Transparency International and the World Wildlife Fund. The membership of the forms organizing committee included Alekseyeva, philanthropist and doctor Yelizaveta Glinka, economist Yevgeny Gontmakher, Transparency Internationals Yelena Panfilova, publisher and literary critic Irina Prokhorova, Pavel Chikov of the human rights group Agora, and other key figures from Russias independent NGOs.

The forum included five main sessions, with Georgy Satarov moderating the plenary sessions discussion on The Authorities, former Institute of Contemporary Development head Igor Yurgens moderating The Economy, Gontmakher moderating Life in Russia, and Panfilova moderating Society. The goal of that collective effort: to develop an Agenda for Russia. Over the course of the day, the dozens of working groups of forum participants managed to formulate the Russian third sectors view on the countrys existing problems and their proposals for resolving them.

During the final evening session, the four moderators summed up the results of the discussions. The day of collective brainstorming produced numerous novel ideas for solving the countrys problems. Those will be published by the Forum Organizing Committee and the Civil Initiatives Committee headed by Kudrin.

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