Vladimir Putin made a speech at a plenary meeting of the Soobshchestvo forum of proactive citizens.

This year, the focus of the forum is on the integrated development of civil society: its links with the government and business, as well as interaction between civil organisations.

Over 3,500 people are taking part in the forum, including civil activists, representatives of socially oriented NGOs, social entrepreneurs and representatives of the expert and business communities, regional authorities and local governments.

Before the forum, the President met with the winners of a contest of socially significant projects at the Expocentre central exhibition complex. The authors and participants of some of these projects told the head of state about their initiatives.

Speech at the Soobshchestvo forum of proactive citizens

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends. It is a pleasure to welcome all the participants of the final Soobshchestvo forum.

In keeping with a recently established tradition, your forum is timed to National Unity Day. This is logical, because this is a festival of civic activity, volunteering and solidarity. Like the previous forums, this year’s event has brought together very active and energetic people from all over our vast country.

My colleagues and I have been shown socially significant projects and we met with the people who are implementing them, as well as those – this is extremely important – whose lives improve thanks to these initiatives.

To be honest, it was very pleasant and interesting to see what people – you – are doing and how you are doing it. Some of the things you do are amazing. It is astonishing that small groups of people can accomplish so much for modest money.

I would like to congratulate the authors of the projects who will receive their well-deserved awards today. Your achievements are evidence that there are many opportunities and a vast space for self-fulfilment for those who do not sit on their hands but bring people together in order to attain a common goal. Such projects certainly deserve support.

We will certainly continue to create conditions for the development of the non-profit sector. As you know, the volume of Presidential grants for NGOs has increased substantially, or more precisely sevenfold, over the past five years. In all, we have earmarked 22 billion rubles for this.

We began with 1 billion rubles in 2012 and have reached more than 7 billion this year.

As for participation in this competition, my colleagues have told me just now that it has become easier for NGOs to get involved, because interaction with the Presidential Grants Fund is mostly conducted online. I believe we have lifted as many bureaucratic obstacles as we could at this stage.

This approach has produced positive results. More than 16,000 applications have been filed for competition this year, and the best thing is that many of them came from Russia’s regions.

There is no concealing the fact that in the past the bulk of grants were distributed among Moscow participants. The situation has changed: more than 70 percent, actually nearly 80 percent of regional applications are accepted. Of course, it is not only figures that matter but also the practical effect from the projects we support, and the fact that contestants are doing their best for people’s social well-being.

I would like to say a few words about the important initiatives we have implemented together with you. I am referring to the NGOs’ new status of providers of socially useful services, as well as broader access to budget funds for socially oriented NGOs. It was good to hear that you usually develop good relations with the local and regional administrations.

Several hundred NGOs have been entered in the regional registers of providers of socially useful services, and this is only the beginning. We must have thousands of such NGOs around the country, NGOs that will be willing to assume responsibility and become reliable partners for the state in the social sphere. All of you here, all those who are working in this sphere have proved that they are ready for this.

I believe we should continue working to involve the non-profit sector in the sphere of social services. If there are any obstacles to this, they must be removed resolutely. We will do this together.

I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues in the Russian regions, governors, regional and local authorities: we need to rely on civic engagement. We need to work together with the civic chambers to create favourable conditions for NGOs’ social and other activities.

We need to understand people and trust them. This way much can be achieved both in a small village and in a big city. Where people sincerely root for a cause, get involved in the work and offer solutions to problems, a lot gets done and a lot changes for the better.

Citizens should have ample opportunity to monitor the work of government bodies, to influence the improvement of its quality, the effectiveness of this work. They should be able to use various public mechanisms, such as local public councils, to promote their interests.

Those present here today use so-called soft power, that is, you offer solutions and organise work in these areas. Once again, I want to be heard in the regions: there is no option but to support such undertakings. I know that not all regional officials are ready for dialogue, for joint work; but it is your perseverance and persuasiveness that eventually break this bureaucratic ice.

We will do more together, I assure you, we will strive for productive interaction in a variety of spheres, including those complex and sensitive areas your colleagues mentioned here. I mean working with people with disabilities, working with schoolchildren, working in medicine, working on our history, doing search work and so forth.

Interestingly, along with the campaigns in Russian regions, across its vast territory, our volunteers are also working abroad. What they are doing is interesting and useful. This is a good model to follow and learn to work together. What I am saying now is not only addressed to you, but also to my colleagues in the regions of the Russian Federation. I hope that this work will expand, if anything.

I wish you all good luck and success in all your endeavours. Thank you for your work and for your attention.