Representatives from some of the world's leading rights and environmental organizations gathered for the Civil G8 forum in Moscow in the run-up to the Group of Eight leaders' summit scheduled for mid-July in St. Petersburg. President Vladimir Putin addressed the forum in the afternoon.
Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential council on civil society institutions and human rights, said Russian NGOs should advance to international standards.
"It would be good if our NGOs operated more on the international arena, borrowed [international] experience, cooperated with their colleagues, and felt equal on a global level," Pamfilova said.
Over 700 people representing prominent rights organizations such as the International Helsinki Group, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and Charities Aid Foundation attended the NGO forum in Moscow.
Russia this year holds the rotating presidency of the G8 leading industrialized nations comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
"It is the first time that representatives of NGOs are meeting in the country holding the annual G8 presidency, in such a format," Pamfilova said.
The Kremlin and the Russian parliament have been harshly criticized in the West and by Russian liberals for passing a new controversial law on NGOs in December, which they said set too stringent and complicated financial reporting standards for NGOs operating in Russia.
"Some said that only people loyal to the Russian authorities would gather here [at the forum]," Pamfilova said. "But more than half of forum participants represent foreign and international organizations that are completely independent."
As for Russian NGOs, Pamfilova said they were mostly represented by people who had always criticized and continued to criticize the authorities.
"It is normal and it would be strange if human rights champions praised the authorities," she added.
Since the law on NGOs came into force in April, none of the 40 foreign NGOs that applied for registration have managed to complete the process, the Federal Registration Service said in late June. The service said there were between 500 and 2,000 foreign NGOs operating in Russia, and that all of them had to re-register by October 18 under the law.