January 26, 2019
Resolution of the Belarusian National Platform conference
of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
Priorities in enabling environment for civil society in Belarus
For a number of years, numerous international and national studies of the state of civil society in Belarus have unanimously qualified the environment for civil society in Belarus as adverse. The issue of enabling environment for civil society is one of the main priorities/objectives stated in the document «20 Deliverables for 2020» adopted by the Eastern Partnership Summit in 2017. Herewith, the circumstances and the context of the civil society in each EaP country differ significantly. Unfortunately, despite being mentioned in the primary agenda of the Eastern Partnership, presently, the issue of enabling environment for civil society in our country is not considered a priority in EU-Belarus dialogue. Moreover, at the official level, there are no objective description and assessment of the current state of the environment for civil society, as well as desired areas and criteria for its improvement.
Considering the vagueness and generality of this issue as a negative factor in the development of Belarusian society and EU-Belarus relations, contributing to the accomplishment of this objective, the Belarusian National Platform of the EaP CSF initiated in 2018 the study «Civil Society of Belarus: Current State and Conditions for Development (2015-2017)». The study strives, to the extent possible, to substantially fill the existing gap in the comprehensive documentation of civil society in Belarus, covering the status quo and trends of its development in the last three years in at least 15 activity-specific sectors.
Based on the methodology and structure of this study a survey among civil society organisations within the Belarusian National Platform of EaP CSF was conducted on the question: «What should become the main priorities for the development of favourable environment for civil society in Belarus by 2020?» 55 representatives of the public sector, leaders and managers of non-governmental organisations of our country took part in the survey.
We believe that the criterial assessment frame of the progress in enabling environment for civil society in Belarus and the BNP recommendations on the implementation of one of the 20 EaP deliverables for 2020 should be defined by the following quality indicators:
regarding political conditions for civil society:
- Civil society organisations (CSO) of Belarus shall be established and operate in any of the subject areas and fields without having to obtain permission, and free from interference and / or control of the state.
- The drafted legal acts in the country go through a required procedure of public hearings open for the participation of any CSO.
regarding economic and financial conditions for civil society:
- CSOs can obtain and use material and financial resources from private persons and organisations of Belarus without additional restrictions and procedures.
- CSOs notify the authorities about receiving funds and resources from foreign and international sources, the funds are not subject to the procedure of registration and obtaining permits (ITA, Department for Humanitarian Activities).
- Business entities and private persons of the Republic of Belarus receive tax benefits if they provide financial support to CSOs in the form of donations.
regarding legal conditions for civil society:
- Both registered CSOs and informal initiatives of citizens legally operate in Belarus.
- The registration of all forms of CSOs (public associations, establishments, funds, etc.) as a legal entity is implemented with the notification procedure involving a minimal set of requirements.
regarding institutional conditions:
- In their actions and strategies, all actors and sectors (government, business, civil society) draw on the values and principles of the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus.
- Pluralism and meaningful criticism are perceived and practiced by all parties as a standard and mandatory process of public dialogue.
regarding information and media environment:
- Activities of CSOs and their representatives are covered in both public and private media without restriction and censorship.
- The media do not exploit hate speech and negative stereotypes about CSOs. When these precedents happen, the persons responsible for them are penalised within the law.
regarding civil society participation in specific stages of policy decision-making:
- Transparent and straightforward mechanisms and procedures, equal for all, are designed and put in place for CSOs participation in the process of policy decision-making.
regarding the quality of civil society involvement in interaction with governmental agencies:
- CSOs have free access to information on all aspects of good governance, essential for their active participation and engagement.
These criteria, of course, do not cover the whole spectrum of possible issues in the context of enabling environment for civil society in Belarus. However, the criteria are named by the representatives of civil society as the main priorities, they allow specifying requirements for the environment and can be considered the foundation for an appropriate Roadmap or a National Action Plan. Offering them as a criterial frame, the Belarusian National Platform takes responsibility for monitoring their implementation and assessment of the results at the end of 2020. If as a result of the implementation of the Eastern Partnership initiative by 2020 the indicators mentioned above are not achieved, it will attest to the absence of any progress in enabling environment for civil society in Belarus.
We, participants of the Belarusian National Platform, call on the government of the Republic of Belarus:
- To treat this objective within the Eastern Partnership initiative bindingly and to come into direct communication with the BNP representatives and other independent civil society actors on this issue.
- To consider the development and implementation based on the BNP proposals and involving a wide range of civil society representatives of an appropriate Roadmap or a National Action Plan designed to solve fundamental problems of environment for civil society in Belarus.
The Belarusian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum was founded in July 2010 and brings together over 80 organisations and initiatives in different fields drawing on pro-European values.