Social Initiatives Inside Belarus and Political Conferences Outside - Civil Society Digest

Hilary Clinton Meets Belarus Activists in Vilnius (Photo: Charter97)

Despite unfavourable environment, Belarusian NGOs continue to launch various initiatives and campaigns in Belarus. Most of initiatives relate to education, human rights and social issues. However, conferences on political issues have to take place outside of the country - in Vilnius and Brussels because often authorities prevent them from taking place in Belarus. 

International Events 

US Secretary of State meets with Belarusian civil society delegation. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with a delegation of Belarusian civil society in Vilnius on December 06, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ms Clinton said that the United States and the European Union would fight Lukashenka's regime through sanctions and travel bans.

In attendance there were Natallya Radzina, editor of charter97.org; human rights defenders Valyantsin Stefanovich and Tatsyana Ravyaka; Aleh Hulak, BHC Chairman; Syarhey Matskevich, leader of the Assembly of NGOs; Zhanna Litvina, BAJ leader; and Hanna Herasimava, director of the Vilnius-based Belarusian Human Rights House. (Photos)

Civil Society Conference in Vilnius. On December 04-05, Vilnius hosted the Civil Society Conference held in parallel with the 18th session of the OSCE Ministerial Council. The OSCE Civil Society Parallel Conference adopted a Resolution "On Reaction of the OSCE and the International Community to Human Rights Crisis in the Republic of Belarus".

In particular, the resolution urges the international community to stop all cooperation with the authorities of Belarus that provides for the transfer of funds to the Belarusian authorities either directly or through companies their control. The document also suggests discussing the prospects of suspending the voting rights of the representatives of Belarus authorities and even suspending the membership of Belarus in the OSCE.

'Transforming Belarus: Ways Ahead' in Brussels. On December 07, Carnegie Europe, BISS, and the Office for a Democratic Belarus with the support of Pact hosted in Brussels an expert forum “Transforming Belarus: Ways Ahead”. The forum discussed the European Union’s policies on Belarus in the context of the latest developments in the country and provided recommendations from Belarusian experts on how to change the existing status quo in Belarus according to the will of the country’s citizens. (Photos)

In particular, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle underlined that the EU’s ‘multi-dimensional’ approach to Belarus had two strands, namely “a tough line towards the current repressive regime” complemented by the policy of engagement “with all those in Belarus who support reform and modernisation.”

 

Initiatives and Campaigns in Belarus

Public Bologna Committee established. The expert community and a number of NGOs have decided to establish a Public Bologna Committee on the basis of National Platform of Eastern Partnership CSF. The Committee's aim is to develop "road map" of integration of the Belarusian higher education in the Bologna process. On December 13, the Committee's founders will hold a press conference on the integration of the Belarusian higher education in the Bologna process.

Video and Talk Show about Social Contracting. Promoting the mechanism of state funding of NGOs, ACT has released a video about the state social contracting and a talk-show "Social Partnership" produced by Gomel TV. Activities are supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

BRCS Initiates a Law on Volunteering. Belarusian Red Cross Society (BRCS) which conducts a significant work with volunteers initiates the development of a draft law on volunteering. Earlier a bill on volunteering was prepared and introduced to the Parliament, but it wasn’t adopted. A new attempt to draft a bill is scheduled for 2012.

New Campaign “1%”. International foundation "Idea" is launching a public campaign "Project "1%". The campaign aims to enact a law on charity and making changes and additions to the Tax Code of Belarus, namely to develop a "rule of one percent."

Manual on New Media. The new manual is the result of the 2-year Belarusian-German project, in which 10 Belarusian NGOs took part. They learned to shoot video, work with Google program resources, use social networks in order to increase NGOs’ capacity.

"Human rights activists against the death penalty". It was announed at a joint press conference of human rights activists on December 9 in Minsk that more than 165,000 petitions for the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus were sent to the Presidential Administration by mail. 

Winners in the field of human rights. On December 13, human rights NGOs will announce the names of a journalist, a human rights activist and a lawyer, which have gained exceptional achievements in the field of human rights in 2011. The competition was established by Human Rights Alliance.

The fourth BCD attempt to register. On December 17, in Minsk party "Belarusian Christian Democracy" will hold the fourth founding congress. Since 2009, for three times BCD held the founding congress and filed registration documents to the Ministry of Justice, but so far the state registration has not been received yet.

Coalition of “Six”. Belarusian Popular Front, United Civic Party, “Fair World” Party, Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Movement "For Freedom" and the campaign "Tell the Truth" – Coalition of the “Six” – will participate in the Parliamentary elections in 2012, but they have not yet defined the format of participation.

BISS vacancies. Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies announces new vacancies of an analyst and a public relations specialist. The deadline for applications is December 20.

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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