Museum Fair, Internet for Activists, SocStarter - Belarus Civil Society Digest

In this issue of Belarus Civil Society Digest: demands for a special amnesty on the occasion of the ice hockey championship, training for social activists, competition for bike-friendly companies, discussions of Belarus investment possibilities and transparency of university budgets.  

The digest also covers several recent cultural initiatives, including Museum Fair, festivals of Hrusauka and of Belarusian advertising and communication. 

Civil Society and the State

Appeal for special amnesty on IHWC occasion. On the occasion of the Ice Hockey World Championship, the human rights organisation Libereco - Partnership for Human Rights demands a special amnesty from Belarusian president Lukashenka for the release of all political prisoners. Another appeal has been launched by representatives of international and national human rights organisations which call the concerned States to refrain from sending official government delegations to participate in the events related to the Championship. One more statement named Belarus Must Play Fair, in Sports and Beyond calls on Belarus' leaders and citizens to take decisive steps towards making Belarus an open and democratic country.

Legal Transformation Center Lawtrend continues its activities on researching an access to government online. On April 28, Lawtrend conducted a round table to discuss the methodology and results of the last year monitoring of 45 governmental websites. The event was attended by about 20 representatives of government organizations, including the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Communication and Information, the Ministry of Defense, state committees, etc

Memorandum of Partnership Alliance signed. On April 23, in Minsk, six CSOs signed a Memorandum of Partnership "Alliance" - the initiative Europerspectiva, Institute of History and Culture, Lastovsky History Society, International Association of Environmentalists, the initiative Sober Life, analytical project Belarus Security Blog. The mission of the new coalition is to increase public control over the decision-making and implementation processes at the state level, to achieve real changes in the Belarusian society, etc.

Social activism

Contest of small deeds Let's Make it Better 2014. The Assembly of pro-Democratic NGOs continues its campaign Let's Make it Better! and announces a new contest of positive ideas. Any CSO which is a member of the Assembly is invited to participate in the campaign aimed at revitalization of society through involvement of citizens in solving local issues. The application deadline is June 15.

Internet for activists. Basics Manual. The Assembly of pro-Democratic NGOs prepared a second edition of the manual, which aims to help civil society activists to find their way in the world of modern technology and adapt it to their needs. The manual is help CSOs to talk about their activities for a wide range of people, promptly inform and educate the public about important issues and offer solutions, find new activists, etc. The book is available in various formats.

SocStarter training program launches its 2nd season. From May till July 2014, the 2nd season of SocStarter offers 10 social initiatives the chance to get a full training with the goal to enable to start their own social enterprise. SocStarter is an International Social Entrepreneurship Training Program organized by SocialWeekend.by, Maesens.by, Bel.Biz, UNESCO Clubs. The program invites to the participation teams (from two people) who want to implement social business in Belarus.

Competition for bike-friendly companies. Minsk Bicycle Society and Center for Environmental Solutions launched a competition Business Bike among bike-friendly companies. The contest covers Minsk and Grodno and will identify an organization, that develops internal cycling infrastructure and support staff using bikes. The website of the competition describes the rules and criteria of the winner's selection, as well as suggests useful tips for managers who want to make an active lifestyle as part of a corporate policy.​

Conferences and Roundtables

Panel on investment possibilities in Belarus. On April 22, in Minsk, analytical community Liberal Club organized a panel discussion Is it possible to do business in Belarus? The discussion raised such issues as success factors for foreign and Belarusian investors, the examples of business projects developing in Belarus despite or because of ambiguous investment reputation of the country, etc. Among the speakers were Pavel Daneiko, the Belarusian Economic Research and Education Center (BEROC), Mikhail Borozdin, Investment Consulting Company, Daniel Krutzinna, International consulting company Civitta.

International conference on protection of children. On April 23-24, Minsk hosted the 5th International Conference Safe Belarus and CIS Region for Children. The results achieved in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States were thoroughly discussed as well as practical recommendations in the field of law, treatment, training and education were worked out. Master-classes and presentations of the speakers answered the question HOW to PROTECT children and PREVENT child abuse. The organizer of the Conference is the International Ponimanie NGO.

Discussion on transparent budgets of universities. On April 24, at the Minsk Gallery Ў, Analytical Laboratory of Development Center of Student Initiatives held a discussion titled as of Making transparent budgets of Belarusian universities!During the discussion, a new campaign of student organizations on transparency Belarusian universities was presented. The discussion was attended by representatives of the research project BIPART, public Bologna Committee, Association of Belarusian Students (ZBS), Studentskaya Rada/ Student Council.

Cultural events 

Local Hrushauka Festival took place on May 1, in Minsk. The Festival became the first ever local community collaboration in one of the Minsk districts. The event was initiated by a private person and facilitated by a crowd-funding platform Talaka.by. Hand in hand with inhabitants of the district the Festival was joined by some organized groups – Youth union Falanster, CPM independent project, Center for Environmental Solutions and some others. The Festival had a big rotation of people to come and to leave according to varied day-long programme and gathered up to 1000 visitors.

Art-Siadziba says goodbye to the premises with a big concert. On April 25, Art-Siadziba held a farewell concert party Solidarity with Art-Siadziba, headliner was NRM band. The concert had a charity nature - all the musicians performed for free, and the money will go to purchase of own premises. On May 1, Art-Siadziba should release its current office - the fifth one for the last two years. Meanwhile, the total amount of funds raised on the new office already exceeds $7,100 out of 200 thousand dollars needed.

Museum Fair. On May 15, the cultural campaign Budzma conducts Museum Fair dedicated to new, relevant ways to expand the audience of museums and modern models of working with visitors. Special attention will be given to projects that not only stimulate scientific and educational activities of the museum, but also take into account the needs of today's Belarusian society. Both professionals and amateurs are invited to participate. Professionals in the museum field will assess the project ideas.

AD.NAK! launched for the fifth time. On April 22, the Fifth Festival of Belarusian Advertising and Communication AD.NAK! was launched with a press-conference. The Festival is traditionally presented in a new concept, namely Think globally - Act locally! The current Festival promotes the idea of the high value of the local communications that can be developed via the new modern formats. The final awards ceremony will be held on June 27 in Minsk. The initiator of the Festival is the campaign Budzma.​

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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