NGOs in Russia: a challenging environment

The past few years have seen growing hostility in the Russian government towards the NGO community. New laws passed last summer by the Duma, the Russian parliament, required NGOs funded from abroad to re-register themselves as “foreign agents,” a move that has prompted a great deal of international criticism by bodies such as Amnesty International. The government maintains that NGOs are vehicles for foreign interference in Russian affairs—charges that are strongly rejected by the organizations in question.
GlobeScan’s data indicate that Russians may be more well-disposed towards NGOs than their leaders are. When we surveyed the Russian public last year, we found that a majority of Russians (57%) trust NGOs to operate in the best interest of their society. This compares favourably with the level of trust that Russians have in national companies (44%) and global companies (28%).
However, Russia remains a challenging environment for NGOs and non-profit organizations. In the post-Communist era, civil society remains relatively underdeveloped in Russia, and trust in NGOs in Russia is somewhat lower than the international average.
Critically, unlike in many other countries, in Russia NGOs are some way behind the national government (68%) in terms of public trust. This suggests that NGOs operating in Russia are unlikely to be able to rely on latent public support as they seek to protect their room for manoeuvre in the face of government pressure.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2012 
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.