Creation of new projects in the field of non-formal education and social "inclusion" of youth - these are the results of the partnership building events in Brest and Minsk which took place on 11-12 September 2014 in the framework of the Clearing House programme. About 50 Belarusian organisations took part in the meetings. Together with colleagues from Armenia, Slovenia, Estonia, France, Turkey many of them have already started to discuss future joint projects.
The purpose of these actions is the establishment of new contacts, exchange of experience and cooperation between Belarusian and European and other international organisations.
Such contact-making events are held regularly as part of the Clearing House programme. The value of these seminars is that representatives of Belarusian and foreign public sector meet on the same ground. They not only have the opportunity to meet, but also to develop ideas for new joint initiatives, to discuss the innovations and approaches that can be applied in Belarus, to agree on mutual visits. Experience has proven that a stable partnership is only born through personal contact.
According to the meeting participant, board member of the Estonian Institute of Baltic Studies Christina Kallas (Estonia), today "it is much more difficult to establish contacts remotely via the Internet - it is better to come and meet in person".
According to her, plans for cooperation with Belarus has been there for three years, and today Belarusian organizations have a strong interest in working together. "Belarusian organizations were interested in everything that we do, they were very interested in us, it's positive. I hope we will have very good joint projects. Early next year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia will announce the contest specifically designed for cooperation with NGOs in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other countries of the Eastern partnership," says Christina Kallas.
According to her, over the past few years, the activity of the Belarusian youth organisations has grown: "We already have specific ideas, as for cooperation, in Minsk we met with organisations that work with young people, in particular, Student Rada. We would like to invite them as guests and participants to the Festival of Opinions (Arvamusfestival) - an annual event which hosts a variety of public debates on issues of relevance to Estonia. In the coming year, the festival will be a separate section of the discussion on the topic of youth and the future of the youth of Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. According to her, they already have experience of working with one of the Belarusian organizations raising the interest of young people in social problems and participation in solving them.
"Such meetings aimed at forging partnerships make it possible not only to find new partners but also to immediately discuss possible joint projects and begin to build a relationship of trust," said the project coordinator of the Belarusian youth organisations New Faces Olga Kopachenya (Belarus). She believes that such meetings can easily help find partners not only among the organisations of other countries but also from Belarus. French organisation CEMÉA (Training centers for the promotion of progressive education) has expressed interest in youth organization New Faces. The CEMÉA NGO was founded in 1937 and today its mission is to spread the ideas and principles of progressive education at national and international level. At present, the organization develops its activities at the international level with the 107 institutional partners in 65 countries around the world. Among the main partners of CEMÉA are the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ) and the National Agency Europe-Education-Formation-France.
As the CEMÉA project manager Eduard Portefe (France) noted, meeting in Minsk and Brest helped get an idea of civil society organisations in Belarus, as well as to learn about the challenges they face. "We are planning joint projects in the field of youth and non-formal education," said the French representative. "In general, I was interested in the mechanisms and those areas where the projects and their implementation were possible with participation of the organisations that were represented at the meetings. We have the experience with organisations in the countries of Eastern partnership, in particular, in Ukraine and in the Caucasus. Before that, I almost never worked with Belarusian organisations. So for me it was also important to know the context and the perspective. Also, an important thing in these meetings is the possibility of a lively exchange of views directly with the people and not by e-mail. I noticed a variety of Belarusian organisations and projects that have been implemented here. I was pleasantly surprised." After the meetings in Brest and Minsk, Eduard Portefe visited Ukraine and Azerbaijan. According to him, today there is a real opportunity to start future promising projects.
From the Belarusian side, the meetings to forge partnerships were attended by NGOs working in different fields: non-formal education (particularly BYPU New faces and Student Rada), social policy, the rights of people with disabilities (Disabled Peoplpe and Environment), and others. At the same time some of the key themes of the meetings became a social problem of involvement, as well as issues of social entrepreneurship. Their discussions were also attended by representatives of government agencies, including the School of Business and Management of Technology at BSU, as well as chair of the National Youth Policy Institute for Higher Education. The outcomes of the meetings were not only the new contacts between civil society organizations in Belarus, the EU and the Eastern Partnership, but also the scope for cooperation between them in various fields.
At the meetings, participants were able to obtain complete information on the European and international programmes of support, learn about the possibilities of funding for future projects, book a consultation of experts of the Clearing House. For many foreign participants the meetings in Minsk and Brest became the first opportunity not only to discover the prospects of implementing projects in Belarus, but also to expand the geography of its own partnership.