Autukhovich Released, Kosht Urada, Civic Audit for NGOs - Belarus Civil Society Digest

Mikalai Autukhovich

The Cost of State (in Belarusian Kosht Urada) project aims to exert civic control over public procurement. The project has noted number of irregularities in public spending.

Can bi-lingualism become a cultural development strategy for Belarus? – a topic of a discussion organised in Minsk by the Flying University and the International Consortium EuroBelarus.

Political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich is released by the authorities after spending 62 months in prison. 

Civil society campaigns

Kosht Urada exercises civil control of public procurement. Project Manager of Kosht Urada/ Cost of State (the Research Centre BIPART), Vladimir Kovalkin made public the fact that the new electronic ticket validation machines in Minsk cost the state budget nearly 12.5 billion rubles, i.e. the authorities in Minsk paid about $730 for a terminal.

Vladimir Kovalkin notes that according to information published on the web site of public procurement, the competition in the supply of equipment involved only two companies, one of which is a subsidiary in relation to the other. Furthermore, in Poland a similar piece of equipment can be bought for $100.

10 non-profit organisations will go through a "civil audit". A joint project of the Assembly of NGOs and the Legal Transformation Centre Civil Audit selected 10 CSOs for a civil audit. These CSOs work in a variety of different fields including the environment, education, human rights, charity, regional initiatives support and entrepreneurial rights protection. Through this program, select Belarusian NGOs will receive a comprehensive assessment of their compliance with accepted legal standards and requirements.

Civil magistrate in Shklou. A constituent assembly of the public initiative Gramadskі magіstrat (Civil Magistrate) was held on 10 April in Shklou, Mogilev oblast. The event was dedicated to the day when Shklou city received expanded powers under the Magdeburg Law in 1762. The first meeting was attended by about 15 people. During the assembly they elected a mayor (Chairman) of the new CSO Ryhor Kastusieu, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front. The CSO aims to inform local authorities about the possibilities for economic development in the Shklouski district.

Nash Dom presents its economic policy proposal. On 7 April in Minsk, civil campaign Nash Dom presented its economic policy proposal, which tries to find a reasonable balance between "shock therapy" and the government's "dull modernization." The program is available at the Nash Dom web site in Russian and English.

Discussions

Bilingualism as a cultural strategy discussion. On 9 April in the Minsk Gallery Ў, the Flying University and the International Consortium EuroBelarus hosted a discussion Bilingualism as a cultural development strategy. The discussion was inspired by philosopher Ihar Babkou, who believes that Belarusian society is not exactly divisible along Belarusian-speaking and Russian-speaking lines, but consists of a large number of bilinguals with different ways to use the two languages. The discussion was attended by philosopher Valiancin Akudovich, cultural expert Julija Charniauskaja and methodologist Uladzimir Mackievich.

‘Ukraine: lessons for Belarus discussion. On 31 March a debate entitled Ukraine: lessons for Belarus took place in Warsaw, organised by the Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, Solidarity Fund PL, and the Polish Institute of International Affairs. Experts from Belarus, Poland and Ukraine discussed the extent to which events in Ukraine can influence Belarus’ policy and her relations with Russia and the European Union. Go here to see the reflections of the event's guests.

Awards for civil society activists

Belarus in Focus 2013 winners awarded in Warsaw. This year award winners came from Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Spain. The award ceremony brought a two day workshop to a close, in which 14 journalists worked together on concepts for joint articles, ranging from energy policy, to underground music and cross-border shopping. Belarus in Focus 2013 is run by Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, and supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers and NIRAS. 

Civil Rights Defenders declare Ales Bialiacki Defender of the Year 2014. Ales Bialiacki, founder of the Belarusian human rights Centre Viasna, is the recipient of the 2014 Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award. The award is given out on 4 April which is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Ales’ wife Natalia Pinchuk and colleague Tatsiana Reviaka are in Stockholm to receive the award on his behalf.

Interaction between state and civil society

Political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich is released. The Vaukavysk entrepreneur spent 62 months in prison. In 2009 the Supreme Court found him guilty of allegedly storing five loaded gun magazine jackets. He was offered the chance to plea out twice but refused.

Fines for online photos of solidarity with Ukraine. On the 3 April, three regional activists were charged 25 roubles, a basic fine (approx. 250 euros), for taking photos with Ukrainian and Belarusian national symbols at historic sites in Hrodna and for posting them on the Internet.

Justice Ministry issues warning to United Civil Party. The Ministry of Justice of Belarus has issued an official warning to one of the country's biggest opposition structures - the United Civil Party. UCP leadership does not exclude the possibility that the authorities may officially liquidate the party.

Student gets expelled for civil society activism. The Institute of Journalism of the Belarusian State University expelled a student and member of the movement For Freedom Mikita Siemianenka. As stated by the Institute's leadership, he was expelled for his poor marks, as Mikita did not receive a needed credit in one subject. The activist insists that the real reason is his active civil position. Stanislau Bula, a local activist of the Youth Front also connected his expulsion from Gomel State University for political reasons.

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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