Yesterday I had the honor of participating in a speaking panel on philanthropy organized by the Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty along with George Soros, Zdenek Bakala, Vazil Hudák, and Alexandr Vondra, among others.
Among other comments, Soros expressed his admiration for Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a courageous philanthropist who made a strong contribution to building an open society in Russia – and we owe it to him to protest his treatment. Vazil Hudák, who is the Vice-President of the Central/Eastern Europe and the CIS department of Citigroup, mentioned that it wasn’t possible for individual banks to act alone in the destruction of Yukos and the auctions of its assets. Hudák suggested that a dialogue should be opened up with the banks to better plan for collective actions. On my behalf I talked about human rights in Russia in the context of corporate governance and responsibility. It was my argument that Russia has experienced a tragic regression in terms of transparency, and these muddy, unclear rules for accounting and decision making in businesses (especially companies with state participation) contributes to an environment of lawlessness, which has a negative impact on human rights. The example of what happened to Khodorkovsky poignantly illustrative of why Russia needs to improve corporate governance.