Civil Society Platform, Republican Social Forum held in Belarus - Civil Society Digest

Conference of the Belarusian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society, unsuccessful legal challenge of new laws restricting civil society activities were among the main developments last week. 

Conference of the Belarusian National Platform. On October 29, Conference of the Belarusian National Platform of the EaP CSF "Civil society of Belarus: on the eve of the third annual meeting of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum" was held in Minsk. According to the adopted Memorandum, the purpose of National Platform is to strengthen the institutional capacity of civil society organizations to influence the processes of democratization of the country, the Belarusian-European cooperation, agenda for reforms in Belarus towards European standards in all spheres of society. The National Platform elected an interim Steering Committee, headed by Vladimir Mackievich. Ales Byalyatsky was elected Honorary member of the Committee.

Public Statement of members of National Civil Society Platform. The leaders of a number of NGOs issued a public statement cautioning against politicization of Belarusian National Platform of Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, which they see in the proposed 2012 Strategy. In their statement leaders of 13 NGOs express support for the National Platform as a platform for communication and dialogue towards modernization of Belarus and its European integration. The signatories include Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies, Human Rights Center "Viasna" and others.

Republican Social Forum in Homel. On October 24-25, Republican Social Forum "Authority-Business-NGOs: Together Improving the Quality of Life" was held in Homel. Among the organizers there were Gomel regional executive committee, International Education Center (IBB), NGO ACT, etc. The number of participants was about 200 representatives of government agencies and NGOs, as well as German and Italian partners. The main idea of ​​the forum became the important role of NGOs in social work, the need for a mechanism of social contracting and the need to change legislation.

Forum of International Youth Projects in Hrodna. On November 24-26, Grodno will host the 1st Forum of International Youth Projects «U-Active: Networking for developing youth projects». The Forum is organized by an informal association of students of Hrodna University «Youth-In-Club». The forum name «U-Active» has a threefold meaning: “you active”, “active youth” and “active University”.

Civil society groups petition Constitutional Court over controversial draft laws. On October 24, twenty-six civil society groups have petitioned the Constitutional Court over controversial draft laws that would extend the powers of the Committee for State Security (KGB), introduce additional restrictions on street protests and tighten penalties for political and civil society groups receiving foreign aid. The petitioners included, among others, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Legal Transformation Center, movement “For Freedom”, etc.

Constitutional Court endorses controversial amendments. Constitutional Court of Belarus upheld amendments to the law of mass actions and laws governing political activity. The decision was adopted on October 28. The bills toughening the rules for public events, as well as the conditions for political parties and NGOs were adopted by the House of Representatives on October 03 in two readings at a closed meeting for the media. The Upper House of parliament approved the document on October 21.

Perspektiva NGO has once again petitioned the President's Administration about the problem of hiring employees. According to its chairman Anatoly Shumchenko, "Perspective" proposes to abolish all restrictions on the hiring of employees by individual entrepreneurs. Currently individual entrepreneurs can hire only close relatives.

About a thousand people celebrated Dzyady (Forefathers). On October 30, in Minsk the Conservative Christian Party held a march to Kurapaty, where for the years of Stalinist terror more than 200 thousand people were killed. Among the participants there were many young people, including activists of the Young Front, the civil campaign "European Belarus", Belarusian Christian Democracy, etc. Since the action was sanctioned by authorities, the police did not intervene in the proceedings.

The campaign "Free visa!" prepares volunteers to work in Belarus. Belarus Watch (Lithuania) under the campaign "Free visa!" conducted by a coalition of Belarusian and European NGOs starts recruitment of volunteers who will promote the campaign in Belarus. Participants will be invited for trainings in Belarus and Lithuania for the organization of civil activity.

ALDA starts mini grant program in Belarus. ALDA and its Belarusian partners Lev Sapieha Foundation and the Belarusian Organization of Working Women (BOWW) are now officially starting the TANDEM project. The project starts with a call for mini grants and partnership projects for promoting sustainable development in Belarus. The mini grants are open for Belarusian NGOs and municipalities. The mini grants for the civic initiatives are up to 4,000 Euro and for partnership projects up to 8,000 Euro.

International Business Forum. On November 16, Minsk will host the First International Forum of Business under the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Belarus. The International Business Forum will be held in open discussions with representatives from government, Belarusian and foreign experts and professionals in business, policy and education. The official representative of the Global Week in Belarus is Center of business communications BELBIZ.

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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