Russia, US agree to jointly tackle corruption

The first ever session of the joint Russia-US workgroup on civil society yielded an agreement with the Transparency International watchdog on monitoring, estimation and fighting corruption.

The workgroup on civil society is working as part of the Russian-American presidential commission created in summer 2009, during Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow. The first ever session of the group took place in Washington DC on Wednesday.

The meeting was co-chaired by Russian Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov.

Read the interview with Surkov

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Ella Pamfilova, a Russian member of the group and the chairwoman of the Russian Council for Promotion of Civil Society Institutions, as saying that Russia and the US had reached an agreement with Transparency International to monitor corruption together in Russia and the United States, and to develop a unified approach and valuation criteria, using both Russian and US experience.

“This is of extreme importance, as American business is now working in Russia and our business is coming to the United States,” the Russian official said.

According to Pamfilova, the founder of the Transparency International watchdog admitted that his organization had never consulted with Russian specialists when creating their ratings and thus, these ratings often depended to a great extent on experts’ personal attitudes to Russia. She said that new unified approach will be presented in about six months.

Last year, however, Russia was ranked 146th of 180 in the Corruption Perception Index, whilst the US was in 19th place.

The commission also discussed children’s rights, adoption problems and fighting child pornography.

“Unfortunately, neither Russia nor the US can boast high standards in the protection of children,” said another participant of the commission, Presidential Ombudsman for Children's Rights Pavel Astakhov.

He said that the number of crimes against children is high in both countries. “America is leading in pornographic information that is distributed via the Internet, while Russia is in second place,” he told RIA Novosti.

However, both sides have come up with ideas on how to address the problems. For instance, Russia is interested in using the American practice of organizing control over people who have served sentences over crimes against children. Russia, for its part, could share its experiences in the sphere of international adoption.

According to Astakhov, nonprofit organizations could help to keep track on a child’s life after the adoption.

Finally, the workgroup on civil society discussed fighting the negative stereotypes existing in Russia and the US about one another.

Russia's official Human Rights Ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, said such stereotypes harm both relations between the two states, and between Russians and Americans. Citing a report on the issue, the ombudsman said that Russians in general feel positive about Americans. However, they are not really happy with activities of the US as a state.

The next meeting of the commission will take place in Moscow, but the date of the session has not yet been set. It is expected that next time the workgroup will focus migration and prisoners’ rights.