CharkaShkvarka Index, McDonnald's in Belarusian, Talaka.by – Belarus Civil Society Digest

Belarusian civil society organisations try to measure the falling value of the Belarusian rouble. Internet platform “Talaka.by” has launched a new service that will help spread the word about about civil society projects.

McDonald’s launched its website and menu in Belarusian. A crowdfunding campaign help independent publisher Lohivau raise over $32 thousand in a month.

Civil Society Initiatives

BIPART develops CharkaShkvarka Index. The Index helps to calculate the real rate of the Belarusian ruble. The basis for the Index is cost of standard glass of vodka and 100 grams of pork. In this "currency" BIPART independent think tank counts the salaries of the population and finds out how far the ruble can be devalued. Among neighbouring countries, Poles have the highest CharkaShkvarka Index; Belarusians take the penultimate place.

McDonald`s website now in Belarusian thanks to Mova Nanova. The world famous fast-food chain McDonald's launches the menu in Belarusian, thanks to free translation from Mova Nanova (Language Anew) initiative. The free Belarusian translation Language First-Aid service has been available on the Mova Nanova website for several months now. About 40 firms and entrepreneurs have already benefited from it, among them a network of petrol stations A-100, Protection of Homeland Birds and others.

Internet platform Talaka.by launches a new service #TalakaNavіny. The service allows anyone to share the news about social projects, urban practises, events or activities beneficial to communities. The news should not affect politics or religion. After posting the news become available to more than 6.5 thousand subscribers in Talaka.by groups.

Belarus in Numbers

In Belarus there are 2,596 registered NGOs. In 2014, the Ministry of Justice registered 86 newly-established non-governmental organisations (1 international, 13 republican, 72 local), 3 unions (associations) of non-governmental organisations, 11 local foundations. In comparison to 2013, the total number of registered NGOs increased by 2.9% and to the moment reaches 2,596 NGOs. The most frequent activity among registered NGOs is sports and physical training (684 NGOs).​

CSR Forum gathers over 150 participants. On 26 February the IV International Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility was held in Minsk. Organised by the Fund of Ideas, the Forum became a platform for the exchange of ideas and experience in promoting corporate social responsibility for over 150 representatives of CSOs, business, local authorities, international and national experts. Among partners of the Forum there are UNDP, Pontis as well as Pact with USAID support.

New discussion What Do Belarusians Think will take place on March 12. The Office for European Expertise and Communication (OEEC) and the Belarus Research Council (BRC) invite to the seventh live panel discussion titled What Do Belarusians Think: Who Is Your City Minsk? to discuss the tendencies and problems of development of the Belarus' capital - the city of Minsk. The event will be held on March 12, in the TUT.BY Gallery starting at 7 pm (Minsk time). The online streaming will be available on Naviny.by, New Europe, Citydog and Delfi.ru.

Amnesty International Report 2014/15. The Amnesty International has released its regular report 2014/15 that documents the state of human rights in 160 countries and territories during 2014. Namely, the report states that Belarus remained the only country in Europe to carry out executions; the right to freedom of expression was severely restricted and journalists faced harassment; NGOs continued to be arbitrarily denied registration.​

Interaction between State and Civil Society

Ministry of Information and independent newspapers: 5 warnings in 4 days. Within four days, independent newspapers received from Ministry of Information five warnings. The recent ones went to newspapers Intex-Press, Gantsavitski Chas, Borisovskiye Novosti, Reklamny Borzhomi and a regional Gazeta Slonimskaya. One of the reasons for warnings is shortening Republic of Belarus to RB. Until now, there were only two warnings, and only for Narodnaya Volya.

Crowdfunding helps raise half of fine for LohvinaŬ book shop. People have collected about $32.5 thousand in a month during the campaign #SaveLohvinau. Minsk Economic Court fined the bookshop LohvinaŬ and ordered to return ‘the illegal income’ (about $63,000) to the budget for selling books without a license. Under the campaign, an online auction of art works was launched to support Lohvinau book house – artists sell their works and donate the funds received to the book house (the auction is to work until March 10).

Journalist denied visa to Belarus. David Crawford was going to be a lecturer at the Press Club Belarus on 27 February. The topic of the long-time planned seminar was journalistic investigation and work of Berlin-based CORRECT!V, among all their participation in investigation of the shooting down of the Malaysian plane over Ukraine last summer. The seminar has not been cancelled, instead it will be held in the format of a webinar on 27 February at TUT.by Gallery.

Information Ministry is the most closed state body. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) held a survey among its members asking to evaluate the work of press services of state agencies and the degree of their openness to the public. The Ministry of Information was named the most closed state body; the best grade was given to the Ministry of Emergency Situations. The aim of the survey is to ensure better access to information, more openness of public institutions.

Program to support rural initiatives. The Representative Office of the German Adult Education Association (Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband e.V.) in Belarus announces the launch of educational and counseling Program to support rural initiatives Adult Education and Rural Development. The program’s objective is to strengthen the capacity of rural initiatives that undertake historical, cultural and educational activities in rural areas. Deadline for applications is March 25.

Mikalaj Dziadok to spend one more year in prison. On 26 February Mikalaj Dziadok’s trial ended in Mahiliou prison #4. He was supposed to be released a few days later but the court imprisoned him for one more year. Anarchist movement activist, recognised as a political prisoner by the Human Rights Centre Viasna, Mikalaj Dziadok was imprisoned for 4.5 years in May 2011 under Article 339-2 (malignant hooliganism).

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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