AD.NAK, 'Tell the Truth', Social Contracting - Belarus Civil Society Digest

The most important civil society events in Belarus included the festival of Belarusian-language advertising, a civic campaign of Tell the Truth and arrests of its leaders as well as a number of training courses organised for civil society in Belarus. 

AD.NAK! The 3rd Festival of Belarusian-language advertising and communications AD.NAK! opened its doors to members of the competitive program. The main objective of the 2012 festival is to give new impetus to the development of the advertising and communications market in Belarus. The idea for ​​the festival belongs to the cultural campaign Budzma Belarusians! The organising partner of the festival is online resource Marketing.by.

Civil contract with Tell the Truth. The Tell the Truth campaign released a video  titled Civil contract wins China's industrial park. The video explains in an accessible form how citizens can influence the government through a civil contract with the Tell the Truth campaign.

Belarusian internet party. According to EuroBelarus, Facebook community Belarusian Internet Party is the most interesting and promising among Belarusian internet communities. The group was established to consolidate Belarusian society, the revival of interest in political debates, to discuss current issues and find possible ways to resolve them. As of 1 May, the number of participants was about 2,300. The group is represented in several social networks and on Facebook it has a few pages.

Coalition of the six. On 2 May, a meeting of the “coalition of six”, a group of opposition parties and movements, took place in Minsk. According to public information, issues concerning running in the parliamentary elections were not discussed. Instead, the coalition focused on the issues of Belarus’ modernization and cooperation between political parties, NGOs, and the expert community. The experts of ‘Solidarity with Belarus’ Information Office (Warsaw) commented on the meeting’s results as "personal ambitions continue to outstrip strategic aims of the opposition".

Belarusian Human Rights School. The Belarusian Human Rights School, organised by the community of human rights organisations, announces a competition for participation in the 2012 Summer School on Human Rights. Under the program, participants will learn about the history and philosophy of human rights, as well as the methods and tools of protection at the national and international levels. The School invites participation from young Belarusians of 18-25 years old interested in the field of human rights. The Program takes place in Vilnius (Lithuania), at the Belarusian Human Rights House.

Rally of wheelchair-bound disabled persons. On 5 May, a rally organised by the Republican Association of Wheelchair-Bound Disabled Persons, devoted to the support of the international movement of disabled people for equal rights and against discrimination, was held in Minsk. About 100 people with posters were talking about their rights and problems, and about the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. A cat in the cage became the symbol of the meeting. The poster read, “I’m OK, I live in a cage”.

Opening of the cycling season in Minsk. On 6 May, the opening of the 2012 bike season took place in Minsk. A Traditional spring sports Festival was organised by the website poehali.net, the Federation of Adventure Races and Minsk cycling organization. The festival programme included competitions for cross country, figure driving, and orienteering, and contests for children. Registration and participation were free.

A new network of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). For the first time in Belarus, CSOs working in the field of preventing domestic violence will join the network. The network has been created to enhance the role of CSOs in the prevention and combating domestic violence in Belarus by increasing their capacity to conduct preventive work and to provide expert assistance to victims of domestic violence. The institute meeting for the network members is to be held on 26 May. According to the BASW newsletter.

HIV awareness. Between 7-21 May, the photo exhibition "HIV awareness" will be held in Minsk. The purpose of the photo project is to reduce stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people. The photo project is part of the Message information and cultural campaign, implemented by the Belarusian NGO Positive Movement and supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Trip to Tbilisi for higher education specialists. The Brussels-based Office for a Democratic Belarus together with the Office of European Expertise and Communications (Minsk) is organizing a trip to Tbilisi for 5-6 Belarusian specialists in the field of higher education under a program titled The EU and Belarus: Sharing Experience. During the visit Belarusian specialists will be able to establish contacts with colleagues from leading universities in Tbilisi, to learn about local universities’ experience of their transition to the Bologna system. The trip will take place in early June 2012.

Training courses on writing proposals for NSA/LA program. The Office of European Expertise and Communications (Minsk) is organising a series of training courses titled Development and Submission of Project Proposals to European Commission Competition "Non-state actors and local authorities (NSA/LA)" for representatives of governmental and non-profit organisations, and local authorities. The closest training course will be held in Vitsebsk, on 12-13 May.

​Interaction between State and Civil Society

Andrei Dzmitryieu and Mikhail Pashkevich sentenced to 10 days arrest. The Smaliavichy district court sentenced Andrei Dzmitryieu and Mikhail Pashkevich, activists of the Tell the Truth civil campaign, to 10 days arrest. The activists were accused of violating the rules for holding mass events for a meeting of summer houses owners in the Smaliavichy district. They protested against the construction of a Chinese-Belarusian industrial park on the territory of nearby villages.

Presidential administration thanks opposition activist. Jan Dziarzhautsau, a Belarusian Popular Front activist from Vitebsk, received a formal response from the presidential administration written in Belarusian thanking him for his active civic position. Mr. Dziarzhautsau complained to the presidential administration against local public officials, who refused to respond to written inquiries in Belarusian.

MoU on cooperation in environmental protection. On 8 May, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Belarus, the non-governmental organisation APB BirdLife Belarus and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) of the United Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in environmental protection. The memorandum envisages information exchange on climate change and biodiversity as well as building partnership in environmental protection.

State social contracting develops in regions. The regional executive committee in Slutsk has called for social projects aimed at preventing HIV in their districts. The competition invites participation from registered non-profit organizations, except political parties. The selected projects will be funded by  the executive committee and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Earlier the same social projects’ contests were announced in Zhlobin, Svetlahorsk, Salihorsk and Osipovichi. All competitions are held at the initiative and with advisory support of the NGO ACT.

Hearing of Syarhey Kavalenka's appeal. The hearing of Syarhey Kavalenka's appeal against his prison sentence will resume in the Vitsebsk Regional Court on 18 May. He is currently being held in solitary confinement in a detention centre in Vitsyebsk.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.

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