Vilnius Summit, Education Code, Bialiacki - Belarus Civil Society Digest

In the last week a number of events on Belarus took place alongside the Vilnius Summit. BўROOM, Reality Check gathered experts, political figures and activists to discuss various issue on Belarusian civil society.

Eco-workshops for children launched in Minsk. Teachers teach young Belarusians on green consumption of energy. Belarusian Association of Journalists revealed the preliminary results of its survey – 50 journalists fell under police detention in 2013.

Two years have already passed since politically motivated verdict on Ales Bialiacki.

The Vilnius Summit and Belarus

BўROOM in Vilnius. On 28-29 November a creative civic space BўROOM was held in Vilnius. Opened by Vice-Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament, Petras Austrevicius, BўROOM run in parallel with the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit to attract local, Belarusian and international attention to Belarus. The photo exhibition by Belarus Press Photo, civil society Fair, actual roundtable discussions, an official EaP CSF side-event on human rights issues in Belarus, informal chats with Belarusian activists, national cuisine were open to anyone offline and via broadcasting live by Euroradio.

EaP Civil Society Conference in Vilnius. Civil Society Conference “Eastern Partnership Reality Check: Political Challenges and Future Agenda for Civil Society” was held on 27-29 November in Vilnius, as an official event by the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council. The event brought together civil society leaders from the EaP countries (including Belarus) and the European Union, as well as distinguished political figures and public activists.

Statement of the Belarusian National Platform of support of the Ukrainian partners. On 26 November the Belarusian National Platform of EaP CSF issued an appeal to express the support for the Ukrainian CSOs which speak in favour of further European integration of Ukraine. The signers expressed sincere solidarity and support to Ukrainian National Platform and in through it - to all the Ukrainian CSOs actively working for the benefits of their country towards European integration.

Civil Society Activities

Study visit on adult education. On 18-21 November ten representatives of Belarusian civil society organisations working in the field of adult education took part in a training visit to Lithuania. The visit was organised by the Association for Life Long Education (ALLE) to establish contacts with the Lithuanian providers in this field.

Open Libraries in Barysaŭ. In November, three apartment houses in different areas of Byrasaŭ, Minsk oblast’, set up “Open Libraries” in the halls.  The idea to organise residents’ communication in such an interesting and unusual form belongs to the local Pravincyja women’s association.

Eco-workshops for children in Minsk. This is a new joint project of alumni of the School of environmental activist (by Green Alliance network), EcoDom NGO and the Centre for Environmental Solutions with the support of the Ў Gallery. The first meeting was devoted to green consumption. In a very simple and fun way teachers together with volunteers told to children how not to harm the environment and human health, how to save water, energy and how to choose healthy products in the store.

Inclusion can become a mainstream. On 11-12 November the UNDP office in Minsk hosted a workshop "An inclusive development agenda after 2015: the practical prospects for people with disabilities in Belarus" attended by representatives of national and international organisations, people with disabilities, foreign experts. On 14 November Association for Life Long Education (ALLE) together with the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities conducted a roundtable "Inclusion in non-formal education" aimed to develop practical recommendations for CSOs to adopt an inclusion principle in their educational programs.

Study visit on national security. On 7-10 November Belarus Security Blog in cooperation with the Estonian CSOs organised a study visit to Estonia. The visit aimed to study the Estonian experience in the organisation of national defence and civilian control over it. The Belarusian activists had a series of meetings with representatives of the Defence Forces, representatives of political parties and academic community of Estonia.

GPSA 2nd Call for Proposals. The Global Partnership for Social Accountability announces its 2nd Call for Proposals. The Call for Proposals is open to CSOs and CSO networks based and operating in any of 33 eligible countries, including Belarus. Grant amounts will range from $500,000 to $1,000,000. Deadline to submit proposals is on 6 January 2014.

DisRight Office’s specialists prepared proposals on amendments to the Education Code. There is a possibility that the next year the Education Code will be amended. The DisRight Office’s lawyers have prepared concrete recommendations concerning the Code, namely, they propose to introduce to the document several terms, such as “inclusion” and “discrimination”.

Global Fund to provide $9 million to fight tuberculosis in Belarus. The UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will provide a grant of $9,080,000 to Belarus to finance the second stage of the Stop TB Strategy. An agreement to the effect was signed on 27 November in Minsk by Belarusian Deputy Health Minister Ihar Hayewski; Sanaka Samarasinha, the UN Development Program’s resident representative in Belarus; and Yawhen Spyavak, an HIV-positive representative of civil society.

Interaction between State and Civil Society 

Ales Bialiacki: Two years since politically motivated verdict. On 24 November 2011, the Court of Minsk’s Pershamaiski district convicted Ales Bialiatski, the leader of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna". Ales Bialiacki was found guilty in tax evasion on a large scale and was sentenced to imprisonment in a high security penal colony for a period of 4.5 years and a confiscation of property. On 25 November Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), reminded the Belarusian authorities of previous calls by OSCE Chairpersons-in-Office for the release of human rights defender Ales Bialiacki and added his voice to theirs, calling Bialiacki’s case a violation of OSCE commitments.

Independent expert on state TV. On 25 November a national state-run TV ONT in a talk-show program “Pozitsya” by Vadim Gigin discussed a topic on relations between the EU and Belarus, namely, what impedes cooperation and how to establish a productive dialogue. Both official and independent experts, including Denis Melyantsov, a senior analyst of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), were invited to participate in the discussion. 

BAJ discusses how to protect journalists. In 2013 about 50 Belarusian journalists fell under police detention, including four administrative arrests - the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) sums up the preliminary results of the year.

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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