Presentation of a paper
HSE International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development (ICSID) and NES Center for the Study of Diversity and Social Interactions held their joint Research Seminar on Diversity and Developmenton on May 30, 2017.
Lauren McCarthy, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst and ICSID Associate Fellow, presented her paper "Managed Civil Society and the Realities of Police Oversight in Russia" (co-authored by Кatherine Stolerman and Anton Tikhomirov).
Abstract: In recognition both of the importance, and also the changing nature of civil society in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, this paper seeks to shed light on the workings of consultative bodies attached to government agencies, called obshchestvennyi soveti (OS), or public councils. In particular, we examine the councils attached to the police (MVD). A 2011 law required that such councils, which were previously present in some regions and cities, be established in all regions across the Russian Federation. It empowered them to gather and present information on the work of the police, make recommendations, advise on laws and regulations, ensure citizens are informed of police programs, and provide general oversight for police activities. This paper explores what kinds of citizens make up these bodies, and what activities the councils actually participate in. To this end, we analyze membership lists, coding for gender, occupation, and other relevant characteristics that indicate which sectors of society are represented. We also study organizational documents such as work plans, meeting reports, and news stories, as well as information like term length, commissions, and working groups from council websites in three federal districts (Northwest, Central and Volga) covering approximately 50% of Russia’s population. We find that contrary to existing literature's claims that these bodies are simply window dressing, regional OS’s are often made up of highly qualified and educated citizens from legitimate civil society organizations, as well as from academia, business, media, and some former law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, while, as expected, OS’s do focus on promoting a positive image of the police and avoid politically charged work, they also are actively engaged in their regions sponsoring programs aimed at road safety, reducing crime and corruption, countering terrorism, engaging with local youth, and overseeing police personnel and police activity.
The event was held jointly with the seminar “Political Economy”.