Belarus Authorities Look For Young Analysts for its “Smart Network”
Until 30 June all young Belarusians who want to become political analysts at government institutions can apply for a special competitive program. The organisers of the program say that they are looking for fresh ideas and competent professionals.
The program started last year when the Information and Analytical Centre of the Presidential Administration in cooperation with other state institutions launched an unusual project called “Smart Network”. It aims to find young analysts for the government. First the project’s participants were asked to contribute to drafting Alexander Lukashenka’s annual address to the nation. Now they will make recommendations for the 2016-2020 Program of Socioeconomic Development of Belarus.
The project looks more like a PR campaign or competition between different groups inside the government than a real attempt to recruit young minds. The Belarusian authorities have never expressed much interest in fresh ideas. Moreover, the existing bureaucratic machine discourages young officials from independent thinking and taking initiative.
“Looking for Competent Young Professionals”
According to the deputy director of the Information and Analytical Centre (IAC) Alyaksey Matsevila, the “Smart Network” is a platform for “competent young professionals who want to engage in serious analysis and not emotional discussions”. To find such professionals the IAC together with the Ministry of Education, Republican Institute of the Higher School, Belarusian State University and Minsk State Linguistic University announced an open call in October 2012.
The program targets Belarusians under the age of 35 who either already have graduate degrees or are currently in their last university years. The educational background does not matter as long as applicants meet three core criteria: good analytical skills, wide political science horizons and willingness to create analytical product for practical use by government bodies. Knowledge of foreign languages is not obligatory but an advantage (particularly English and Chinese).
At the first stage of the project all applicants had to submit short essays on one of the following topics:
- Does Belarus need political reforms?
- What model of privatisation can be suitable for Belarus?
- Socially oriented state: patronage or responsibility?
- Can Belarus combine the European and Eurasian vectors of integration?
- Social networks: the basis of the future, cyber weaponry or a journalistic myth?
After a closed revision process, the 25 best essay authors participated in a week-long training seminar. And then they presented their individual projects with suggestions for President Lukashenka’s annual address to the nation and parliament.
The major promise of the project was that the finalists would get positions at the IAC and other government institutions. However, according to Alyaksey Matsevila, because of the 25% cut in the ranks of the bureaucracy only 1 out of the 25 finalists became a government employee at the Ministry of Education.
Now the organisers of the “Smart Network” have announced a new call. The procedure and requirements mostly remain the same. But this time the participants will discuss the post-2015 agenda for Belarus. They will work on ideas for the 2016-2020 Program of Socioeconomic Development, which is the main document in the Belarusian system of state planning.
The scale of the project also seems to be growing. The organisers intend to invite 90 participants to a special conference in autumn. According to the call for applications, the conference will take a more practical than scholarly focus and in a way will remind an ideas fair. The participants will present their recommendations for the program and then choose the best ones.
The IAC’s representatives claim that about 75% of Lukashenka’s annual address contained points suggested by the participants of the “Smart Network”. They expect that their work on the Program of Socioeconomic Development will be as effective.
Wishful Plans and Sad Reality
The words of the organisers do not look trustworthy. In the Belarusian political reality it is difficult to imagine that out of a sudden the government starts listening to some young experts and incorporating their recommendations in the president’s address to the nation.
According to sources in various state bodies, even the suggestions of different ministries often get ignored or distorted by speechwriters in the Presidential Administration or Lukashenka himself. When choosing priorities, they stick to some very specific logic that sometimes has little to do with the realities on the ground. Certainly, there is little place for usually idealistic views of young intellectuals in the reasoning inside the Presidential Administration.
Moreover, the IAC itself does not seem to value much opinions of young analysts. Two months ago another deputy director of the Centre Vitaly Dashkevich publicly criticised young experts and commentators. He said that to give expert comments a person at least needs to hold PhD in a corresponding field of studies. Even though Dashkevich himself holds no academic degree and is chemist by training, this statement seems to reflect the attitudes towards young analysts among the IAC staff.
Move Against Independent Think Tanks?
Thus, the motives of the IAC and the government in general remain unclear. Why do they need the “Smart Network” if they have no particular interest in young analysts?
One of the obvious hypothesis goes that the “Smart Network” should serve the purpose of preventing young Belarusians from joining independent think tanks. The latter are becoming increasingly visible in policy discussions and popular among young intellectuals.
This hypothesis can explain a number of things.
Firstly, why the organisers launched such an impressive PR campaign around the project. Normally, if the IAC or other state institutions really needed talented young employees they would simply contact the management of universities and ask for their best students and graduates.
Secondly, why the representatives of the IAC all the time refer to some other organisations and analysts. The coordinator of the project Alyaksey Metsevila stresses it in the press that, in contrast to NGOs, participants of the “Smart Network” are competent to do real political analysis rather than express emotional opinions to the media.
Or Competition within the Regime?
Another hypothesis that circulates in the Presidential Administration points to a possibility of some form of competition among different groups in the governing circles. Usevalad Yancheuski, Lukashenka’s aide and head of the Ideology Department in the Presidential Administration, is said to be behind the idea of the “Smart Network”. Given the rumours about his ambitions for the future, he might indeed be forming a base of support in the government institutions.
Anyway, it would be interesting if the “Smart Network” were more transparent and allowed open discussions. Then everyone could see the level of the project and even learn from the participants (if they are really super competent). Unfortunately, the IAC refuses to make the contents of the project open for the general public. And this only causes additional suspicions.
Why Is the Belarusian Language Dissappearing? – Belarus Civil Society Digest
The disappearance of the Belarusian language from the public space, a visa free campaign, the commemoration of Vitali Silitski and summer schools feature among the top civil society news this week.
Belarusians can learn more about their history in the 1990s thank to the new project ‘90s.by’, European Café held a public lecture on the European Union, and will the protestant church ‘New Life’ face accusations of the illegal use of a building for a prayer? All this and more in this edition of the Belarus Civil Society Digest.
Samakhod 2013. The campaign "Visa Free!" presents the second Festival of mobility "Samakhod" (Self-Propelled) which is to be held in Minsk on June 21-22. The Festival will be opened with a concert of groups Akute and Clover Club and be continued at the creative cluster ME100. The second day of the event's agenda includes workshops, lectures, and performances. The Festival's topic is human mobility. Participation in all events is free.
Silitski is remembered. On 11 June two years ago Vitali Silitski, a prominent Belarusian political scientist, and the first BISS director, passed away. Silitski became well-known in the international scientific community with his concepts of preventive authoritarianism and authoritarian international. This year Silitski's colleagues and friends gathered for an evening of remembrance in Minsk.
Nash Dom initiates an amendment to the Law on the status of deputies. Activists of the civic campaign Nash Dom appealed to the Committee on Regional Policy and Local Self-Government of the Belarus National Assembly regarding the amendment to the Law "On the Status of Local Councils' Deputies." Nash Dom offers to reduce by more than three times the number of voters in districts at the written request of which can be heard by an extraordinary report of a local deputy.
Where did the beauty go? Digital-studio «Aguru» launched a non-profit social project admova.by, dedicated to the issue of the disappearance of the Belarusian language. The first video under the project caused, though, the most controversial reaction in Bynet this week.
Culture improves life. The campaign Budzma! released another video in the frame of its concept "Culture Improves Life." The video presents a number of talented individuals who answer the question "why?" with projections for their profession – including the writer Uladzimir Arlou, editor of the Belarusian Wikipedia Pavel Selitskas, lawyer Darya Katkouskaya, athlete Vitaly Gurkou, etc.
"Chronicle of Judgement Time" presented at BAJ website. The series of mini-movies "Chronicle of Judgment Time" includes eight films that are dedicated to the members of Belarusian Association of Journalists who suffered in the name of freedom of speech: Ales Bialiatski, Zmitser Bandarenka, Iryna Khalip, Andrei Pachobut, Natallia Radzina, Pavel Seviarynets, Anton Surapin and Siarhei Vazniak. The project originated with the informational support of the Human Rights Center Viasna.
Back to 90's. The new multimedia project 90s.by shares the most intense period of Belarusian history – the decade stretching from 1990 to 1999. The project authors are ambitious and willing to cover everything: from elections and crises to rock festivals and the first "McDonald's." Each article will contain interviews with direct participants, fragments of memories, statistics and interesting facts, archival photos and videos, and related links. Among the goals of the web site is to inspire people, because in the 1990s Belarusians were acting on the principle of "if you want something – do it."
CES environmental videos. Center for Environmental Solutions created a series of videos, called "Collect old batteries separately". The videos are dedicated to World Environment Day and tell why it is important to dispose of used batteries in special urns and what danger these wastes bring to health and the environment. The videos are created with the support of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and planned to be broadcast on national TV.
15 thousand signatures in support of Belarusian wetlands. 15,000 Belarusians provided their signatures against the extraction of peat in the partial reserves which were forwarded to the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Minsk Regional Executive Committee on 5 June. The coordinators of the campaign "In Defence of Wetlands" note that the signatures were collected less than planned.
Belarus and the European Union
Minsk hosts conference on Belarus-EU partnership. The Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus under the auspices of the MFA of Belarus and the EU Office in Belarus host to an international conference “Belarus-European Union: Problems and Partnership Prospects” on June 13-14. The program of the conference comprises reports and greeting speeches on behalf of the MFA, the EU Office and foreign diplomatic missions.
European lecture in café. On 18 June a public lecture "Modernization of the New Strategy in Eastern Europe: the Impasses and Leapfrogging" took place at a Minsk cafe. The lecturer was Dr. Pal Tamás, a professor of Corvinus University (Budapest, Hungary). The lecture was held in the framework of the project "European Café: Open Space of Europe" implemented by the Centre for European Studies.
NP conference in Minsk. On 1 June the National Platform conference titled “Between the Eastern Partnership and the European Dialog on Modernization” was held in Minsk. The conference resulted in the election of a new Coordination Committee and its chairperson – Ulad Vialichka, supported by 37 out of 44 representatives of the organisations attended. 26 Belarusian organisations were recommended for the 5th meeting of the Civil Society Forum out of 33 applicants – a marked decline of 300% when compared to the previous Forum.
Workshop for school teachers. Belarusian School Society and the web site Nastaunik.info invite educators, librarians and teachers to participate in the workshop "The School as a Platform for the Formation of Social and Civic Competencies". The seminar will be held on 22-24 June near Minsk; organisers cover all related costs.
Summer historical school. From June to August, the Skaryna Language Society under the campaign "Budzma" starts summer school of history "History on Vacation" held by Dr Aleh Trusau. The participants will have an opportunity to see and discuss historical films and take part in a historical quiz. The School is free.
Interaction between State and Civil Society
Closed hearings on "espionage case". On 12 June the hearings on the case of Andrei Haidukou, 23-year-old Navapolatsk resident, who is accused of "high treason", started at the Vitsebsk Regional Court. No one, including journalists and human rights defenders, were allowed to attend the hearings. Andrei Haidukou was arrested in November in Minsk "while he was hiding with information which could be relevant to foreign intelligence services".
Economic Court again against “New Life”. On 13 June church "New Life" received a summons from the Minsk Economic Court for the initiation of proceedings against the church. The document offered the church community to leave the building it occupies in 7 days. But the next day, on 14 June the authorities informed the church that they had suspended the proceedings.
Journalist warned for work with Belsat. The prosecutor’s office of Smaliavichy district issued a warning to an independent journalist Ales’ Silich for contributing to a foreign mass media service without accreditation.
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.