Frequently Asked Questions about GR and Lobbying

The team of Baikal Communications Group prepared answers to the most frequently asked questions, regarding Government Relations and lobbying in Russia.

What are the fundamental objectives of lobbying? Who benefits from lobbying services?

Lobbying is an extremely significant political and legal phenomenon, which is substantially influencing the democratic decision-making processes in society. Lobbying is aimed at resolving the full range of high profile, publicly important issues, thereby ensuring protection and representation of interests of numerous social groups and the business community at different levels of public authority.

  • Utilization of the progressive lobbying “toolbox” in the domain of public administration makes it possible to take into account the multifaceted interests of individuals and their associations during the political decision-making process. And, in this regard, lobbying facilitates the self-organization of civil society as well as the maintenance of the mutually beneficial dialogue of its representatives with public authorities.
  • In recent times successful interaction with public authorities has become an essential condition for the development of business and nonprofit sectors, due to the fact that it is impossible to implement substantial commercial projects, socially significant programs as well as long-lasting investment strategies without effective communication with the engagement of governmental interests. On top of that, the very problem of representing the interests of business and nonprofit structures not only at the level of regional and federal authorities but also within the supranational space, particularly, in the EEU, has become more and more relevant. Mechanisms of GR and lobbying are able to secure the strategic mutual understanding with member states and prevent regulatory risks on the single markets.
  • Technologies of GR and lobbying are capable of mitigating and minimizing the negative effect from the activities of public authorities, which manifests itself in the extremely bureaucratic decision-making, abuse of power, etc. And it means that these technologies of GR and lobbying can be successfully utilized to combat corruption and form the high-quality legal culture in our society.
  • Efficient problem-solving in the aforementioned domains, using the transparent legal “toolbox”, eventually, undoubtedly, expedites the effectiveness of legal regulation and normal administration of the political system, which takes into account the different interests of the population in the social, economic, spiritual spheres of public life.

Moreover, clients are not the only beneficiary of the lobbying services: the government also needs dialogue with business and public entities for the purpose of elaborating the most efficient approaches to concrete problem-solving as well as the development of democratic values in general.

What is the essence of lobbying?

Lobbying is a complex activity, it comprises communication, legal, analytical, crisis management, and other numerous functions.

Lobbying is predicated on two fundamental principles: the legitimacy of protected interests and the use of the transparent legal “toolbox”.

First of all, we are talking about the high-quality, all-encompassing expertise, including the analysis of legislation and regulatory policy, evaluation of risks, proficient strategy elaboration, and results’ forecasting. Precisely such an expert evaluation (not an opportunity to tackle and resolve different public and political challenges at the unofficial, informal level) creates the value of these GR and lobbying technologies.

Qualitative relationship between competencies of the GR and lobbying “toolbox”. What is the difference?

In theory, the GR (that is, Government Relations) function envisages the establishment and maintenance of collaboration with public authorities at the municipal, regional, and federal levels, while the lobbying activity is aimed at influencing the specific political and administrative decision-making process by the certain interest group.

However, in each individual case, these competencies are overlapping and inter-related, and very often are executed in a combined manner, that is why, matter-of-factly, such a division of GR and lobbying practices is reflected in the organizational structure of the relevant services’ market: it consists of in-house specialists of the corporate GR-departments as well as external, independent consultants – lobbyists, who are responsible for the implementation of a variety of projects. Nowadays, a CEO of any large company most often understands the significance of the GR function and creates a specific structural entity, aimed at establishing communication with public authorities. Additionally, representatives of the GR&Lobbying consulting domain frequently possess more extensive expertise and “general-purpose” experience. In view of this fact, internal and external experts very often collaborate for the purpose of the joint implementation of lobbying projects, depending on the relevant questions and strategic objectives of different sectors.

Is there an established market of lobbying services in Russia?

Nowadays, the market of lobbying services is still in its infancy in Russia. It is caused by the historical peculiarities of the social and political system, as well as it is associated with the serious deficit of educational programs in the field of GR and lobbying and some social distrust in such a profession as “lobbyist”. As a result of that, few representatives of the market have to encounter the current misunderstanding, regarding the very essence and meaning of lobbying. Above all, companies are experiencing staffing shortages, as they cannot find specialists, who are capable of combining the most important competencies and effectively executing lobbying projects. That is why, taking into consideration the existing potential and the rising demand for professional lobbyists, the paramount goal is to create and develop the market of lobbying services as well as to promote and enhance the professional image of lobbyists.

Professional lobbyists – who are they?

Lobbying encompasses a number of functions, that is why, a modern lobbyist should possess special knowledge and competencies in the field of communication, legislative affairs, economics, politics, and public administration. Among these aforementioned competencies are the systemic approach to the specific problem-solving process, strategic and projective thinking, analytical capacities, extensive skills of interpersonal and intercultural communication, knowledge of legislation and regulatory processes within main economic sectors, understanding the logic and mechanisms of decision-making at the level of executive and federal authorities and knowledge of the political system of Russia and countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, European Union, etc.

Successful implementation for a professional lobbyist depends on the capability to effectively establish relations with clients and stakeholders, arrange the all-encompassing market analysis and “in-depth” legal expertise of legislative regulation, evaluate risks, review prospects for the development of state policy in terms of its impact on the specific economic segment and, as a result of that, create the relevant GR and lobbying strategies.

Is it possible to get an education in the field of GR and lobbying?

Nowadays, the Russian market is experiencing a substantial shortage of educational programs in the sphere of GR and lobbying both at the level of advanced training courses and within universities, this is why one of the most important objectives of Baikal Communications Group is the development and promotion of the lobbying profession and the relevant professional education.

For this purpose Baikal Communications Group in partnership with the MGIMO School of Business and International Proficiency holds the advanced training course “GR and Lobbying in Business and Nonprofit Sector”, based on the principle “practitioners for practitioners” with the engagement of sectoral specialists of the Russian and international companies from the real economy.

In addition to that, it is necessary to launch similar courses within the master’s degree programs of universities in order to provide students with an opportunity to study and, subsequently, choose the lobbying profession. Such specialized courses, first of all, can perform the function of professional orientation as well as enlightening, and, secondly, can enhance the positive attitude of the public towards this profession.

How can lobbying practices combat corruption?

The National Anti-Corruption Plan, adopted by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation, dated June 31st, 2008, envisages that one of the potential instruments of fighting against corruption is the specific consideration of the question, regarding the preparation of a normative legal act, regulating lobbying. It means that the development of lobbying diminishes the negative effect from the activities of public authorities, including in terms of the corruption schemes of the political and regulatory decision-making.

Despite the existing stereotype about the use by lobbyists of illegal, “shadow” means of influence, corruption deeply impedes the effective implementation of the lobbying “toolbox” by companies, whose activities are strictly compliant with legal and ethical principles. The corruption component, creating the national security threat and destabilizing the political system, devalues the role of expertise, which is crucial for lobbying services. This is why the fight against corruption should be one of the key objectives during the direct execution of lobbying projects and within the framework of lobbying practices’ improvement. Other important objectives – promotion of the legal “non-shadow” lobbying activity, positive image enhancement of the profession, ensuring the balance of state, public interests, and needs of the business community.

Curtailing the publicly and economically significant bureaucratic decision-making and, thereby, creating the essential democratic balance, implementation of GR and lobbying technologies facilitates the self-organization of civil society, a mutually beneficial dialogue of its representatives with public authorities, auspicious legal climate.

Legal regulation of lobbying in Russia.

At present, the Russian legislation does not contain any special normative legal acts, regulating the lobbying activity. Additionally, discussions about the necessity to elaborate the relevant legal regulatory system have been held for many decades.

For example, the first attempt to ensure the legal lobbying regulation took place in 1992, when deputies of the State Duma elaborated the draft law “On the regulation of lobbying in Russia”. Afterward, similar attempts were made in 1996, 1997, 2003, and 2013. Draft laws contained provisions about spheres, methods, actors of lobbying, their professional status, lobbyists’ registry, restrictions of foreign influence on the Russian government’s decision-making process. Nevertheless, none of these draft laws were finally adopted.

Attempts to adopt the regulation on lobbying were not successful, mainly, because of their conceptual weaknesses. First of all, all these draft laws did not take into consideration the very essence of lobbying, which not only manifests itself in the close communication of individuals with public authorities but is also, directly or indirectly, linked with numerous spheres of public relations (activities of the media, citizens’ rights to appeal,  political candidates’ financing, participation in political life through different public associations, etc.). These aspects of lobbying remained beyond the proposed legal regulatory framework. What is more, these draft laws, one way or the other, were predicated on the American approach to the regulation of lobbying, while the American and Russian political realities significantly differ, that is why the direct implementation of foreign regulatory norms within the national legislative framework happened to be not so effective. Moreover, the attempts to propose this regulation were preliminary: they were undertaken simultaneously with the arisen interest in lobbying as a political phenomenon. However, lobbying is a complex public and political system, which, apparently, should pass through the different stages of development before the choice in favor of the specific model of the lobbying “toolbox” is made. Otherwise, such a choice cannot be fully viewed through the prism of logic and reasonableness.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that the lobbying activity in Russia is illegal or outlawed without the specific normative legal act: one way or the other, lobbying is based upon the provisions of such federal acts as: “On the public civil service of the Russian Federation”, “On the public-private partnership, municipal-private partnership in the Russian Federation and amendments in a range of legislative acts of the Russian Federation”, “On the mass media”, etc. That is why all the mechanisms of interaction of public authorities and individuals as well as the very opportunity to strike a balance with legitimate measures are legally appropriate.

As for the adoption of the specialized lobbying act, the crucial problem includes the difficulty to determine the optimal frames, “borders” of the regulation. To reach the final decision it is necessary to establish an effective and mutually beneficial dialogue between representatives of the lobbying profession, governmental bodies, business structures, public associations, and the scientific community.

It is possible to find an effective and harmonious manifestation of the idea of the lobbying act through the conceptual agreement, regarding the approach to the lobbying regulation.

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