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Cleaning day, IT forums, and feminist art-projects – Belarus Civil Society Digest

As new NGOs managed to register in Belarus in 2018, the interaction progress between the authorities and civil society has increased. At the same time, the recent arrests of the journalists from the media outlet TUT.BY have worsened Belarus’s...

As new NGOs managed to register in Belarus in 2018, the interaction progress between the authorities and civil society has increased. At the same time, the recent arrests of the journalists from the media outlet TUT.BY have worsened Belarus’s international stance in the human rights rankings.

Belarus hosts a series of IT-related and gender-related events. On October 3,  Minsk hosts the Internet Governance Forum aimed at the discussion of the progress of the Internet in Belarus. Free mentoring leadership programs for career women will take place in September-October.

The Center for New Idea releases the Index of Future for Belarus. Mogilev to host a culinary Dranikfest on September 29.

This and more in the new edition of Belarus civil society digest.

Civil Society

66 new NGOs registered in the first half of 2018. In total, as of July 1, the following non-profit organizations were registered in Belarus: 2,907 NGOs, 28 trade unions, 39 unions of NGOs, and 207 funds. The registered NGOs mostly deal with sports (809 organizations); charity (403), and youth (355).

Study: Interaction of civil society and authorities at a local level. In July 2018, SYMPA conducted interviews with 11 representatives of Belarus’ local authorities. The respondents unanimously note that in recent years the situation has changed significantly: the interaction between civil society and authorities has become more close and constructive. However, officials generally view civil society as a free labour to solve local problems, rather than as a force affecting a regional policy.

Let’s do it! Cleaning Day was held in Belarusian cities. On September 15, Belarus closed the 6th season of its participation in the global action Let’s do it! to clean unauthorized dumps. Organized by environmental CSOs, the action takes place in Belarus from 2012. This is one of the largest volunteer actions in the country – the most massive one of 2016 involved over 24,000 people.

Civil society and IT technologies

IT technologies for civil society master classes are being launched by the Office for European Expertise and Communications in cooperation with Estonian partners. A series of educational events will present the best practices of Estonia and Belarus, which will help Belarusian CSOs to effectively use the available technologies. The first master class on October 4 will present online tools for teamwork.

Belarus news

One of Minsk’s regular IT Forums. Source: ngo.by

‘Sofa troops’: Belarusian civic activity on the Internet. On October 3, Minsk hosts the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a unique multi-stakeholder platform aimed at finding the best ideas for the progress of the Internet in Belarus. One of the panels is devoted to the discussion of the growth of civil activity of Belarusians on the Internet and the possibility of its transition to offline.

Media Management & IT Forum will be held in Minsk, on October 25-27. The civil-society driven Forum raises a topic of media management in the digital age and brings together 100 participants from Belarus, the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU. Inter alia, a phenomenon of disinformation will be discussed, as well as a low level of investigative journalism and fact-checking in the region. Registration is open until September 30.

Human Rights

Independent trade unions leaders found guilty. On August 24, Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik, respectively Chairperson and Chief Accountant of Radio and Electronic Industry Workers (REP), were found guilty of a large-scale tax evasion. The defendants were sentenced to 4 years of restriction of liberty without imprisonment. Belarusian and international human rights and labour organizations consider the case politically motivated.

Journalists and editors of ‘BelTA case’ banned from leaving Belarus. On August 27, after interrogation in the Investigative Committee, seven editors and journalists suspected in the BelTA case were temporarily restricted from foreign travel.

Alternative report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to be prepared. The Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has initiated the process of drafting the report aimed to provide objective information on the situation of people with disabilities in Belarus to the UN Committee. The ‘Zero’ alternative report was submitted in 2016.

Gender Equality

Feminist art-project becomes viral in social networks. The sexist remark Lady, Comfortable in Daily Life appeared in the state-run newspaper to describe the detained female journalists in the BelTA case. The phrase became the name/hashtag of the project that encourages reflecting the role of women in Belarus and sharing personal stories. The campaign is supported by visual products that present successful Belarusian women.

Belarus news

Feminist art-project takes place in Minsk. Source: 34mag.net

Only 30% of business in Belarus headed by women, no ambitions and the huge burden of household duties. These are the findings of a Women Entrepreneurs in Belarus study by the Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC) that explored major aspects that affect female entrepreneurship in the country. They include social roles, motives, decision-making process, and macroeconomic factors.

Free mentoring leadership program for women launched in Belarus. The unique program presents a model of women’s gratuitous cooperation to move more confidently along the career with the support of another, more experienced woman. Sixty participants will be selected: 30 mentees and 30 mentors. The organizer is Her Rights Center to Promote Women’s Rights.


Dranikfest 2018 to be held in Mogilev, on September 29. The festival is held for the 4th time and has become a business card of the region. Organized by the Center for Urban Initiatives, the agenda includes a contest for the best cooking of potato pancakes (‘draniki’), live music, exhibitions, master classes, etc. During the festivals, guests eat several tons of potatoes.

12-story-high mural appeared in Minsk. “This artwork is about the country’s hope, its image of the young IT-Belarus, which looks confidently to the future and creates it right now”, according to its author Fintan Magee, the street artist from Australia. The mural became possible due Urban Myths crowdfunding initiative that invites artists from different countries to create artworks based on their impressions of Minsk and Minskers.

Planetarium International Eco Film Fest to be held in Minsk, on September 24-30. The cinema Tsentralny in the centre of Minsk will become a festival area. This year, the agenda includes seven movie screenings from the US, Brazil, Lithuania, France, Russia, etc. The civil-society driven festival is organized for the second time and intended to show that environmental cinema is not boring, but thrilling and motivating.


Index of the Future of Belarus is released by the Center for New Ideas based on the forecasts of 26 experts. The Index shows what (most likely) will be with Belarus in economy, demography, education, and inclusiveness of the state for the next five years. Namely, experts predict that status and conditions of civil society development may remain approximately at the same level or slightly improve.

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.

Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk holds degrees from Coventry University and the European Humanities University. She is based in Minsk, Belarus.
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