of the Belarusian third sector representatives - the participants of the National platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum - to the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Mr. Štefan Fühle
Minsk, 15 November 2010
We, the representatives of public sector of Belarus, the participants of the National platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum,
Recognize that the Eastern Partnership Initiative and intensification of Belarusian contacts with EU served as impetus for further civil society development in the country. Our active participation in the processes and instruments of the Eastern Partnership is based on the fact that we regard it as an opportunity for establishment and support of the dialogue between civil society and Belarusian state (authority), beside other advantages of it.
The Eastern Partnership has initiated the processes of self-organization and consolidation of civil society in Belarus. The evidence of this fact was expressed by coordinated actions of Belarusian delegation at the First Civil Society Forum in Brussels in 2009. Further development of the cooperation and reconciliation of positions made it possible to create the National Platform of the Civil Society Forum as a platform for coordination of civil society parties’ actions in relation to the Eastern Partnership Initiative.
Today, before the Second Forum, we have a consolidated position and a strategic proposals to the Civil Society Forum in whole, and a range of developed and suggested for discussion and realization detailed programs and / or road maps for municipal reform, religious freedom, culture, development of scientific research in Belarus. Similar solutions on education, youth policy, environmental safety, etc. will be presented in near-term outlook.
At the same time, Belarusian civil society exists in utterly adverse conditions which prevent it from being an equal party in the dialogue with the state. Criminal liability for unregistered initiatives’ activity, unreasonable refusals in registration of public associations and other forms of non-commercial organizations, project registration refusals, ignoring the existing platforms for the dialogue indicate the state’s prevalent attitude to civil society in Belarus. This situation can’t be recognized as corresponding to the European norms and principles of civil society and state relations; it undoubtedly needs revision to consolidate the possibilities for constructive and equal dialogue.
Recently, we have observed some actions from the side of Belarusian state which declare desire and readiness to a dialogue and cooperation with civil society:
- 22 October 2010 CSF Steering Committee received the joint address of the representatives of the Socially-advisory council at the Administration of Belarus President which expressed readiness and interest of its members in involvement into CSF activity.
- Within the scope of the project "Development of the potential for interaction between State and Non-governmental Organizations" which is being realized by OSCE in cooperation with International organization CIVICUS, the mechanism of interaction between state and society in Belarus is being developed. The model and mechanism of this interaction were suggested by the Socially-advisory council and include creation of national subject platforms of civil society and nation-wide platform.
As it has been mentioned in the previous public announcements, we are worried by the fact that the undertaken actions may lead not to dialogue development, but to exclusion of existing associations and coalitions of civil society based on self-organization principles from international processes and social life within the country. Our apprehensions are based on the following:
- Declaring readiness to the dialogue, it was the representatives of Belarusian state who set a veto on the presence of CSF representatives at the Eastern Partnership subject platforms even as observers;
- The model of the interaction between the state and society, which was suggested within the framework of the project “Development of the potential for interaction between State and Non-governmental Organizations”, starts to be realized without wide public discussion and with no account taken of alternative proposals, steps and initiatives suggested by self-organized coalitions, associations and separate civil society organizations;
- The steps which declare aspiration to public dialogue are not supported by development of the conditions for open discussion.
These facts make us suppose that maintenance of such actions of Belarusian state without substantial alteration will lead to imitation of the processes of dialogue and interaction with civil society, which will level and cancel the recent achievements in development and self-organization of civil society in Belarus.
We are ready to support any real actions of Belarusian authorities to harmonize relations with civil society at the official level, regarding establishing relations between governmental and non-governmental sectors in the format of dialogue development as the only possible and mutually beneficial strategy for the sake of the national interests of the Republic of Belarus.
The participants of the National platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum have developed a consolidated view of the mechanisms and steps of establishing an equal dialogue with the state, which is the first and the most important subject of discussion and agreement of the parties. What is necessary for promotion in this direction is:
1) Clear positioning of the parties of the dialogue (negotiations) :
- From the side of the state, recognition of the subjects of civil society, which announce their readiness for the dialogue, as a party of the negotiations. It concerns all the parties which make suggestions and addresses but are still ignored as not existing.
- Definition and clear identification by the state of the authorities (and /or officials), which are charged and entrusted to dialogue.
2) Creation of the conditions for the dialogue, where the parties will be equal and will not be pressured and discriminated:
- Ceasing the repressions against public organizations, legal and administrative pressure over them, ceasing the employment ban in relation to public figures and activists;
- Creation of the conditions for wide coverage of the dialogue by mass media. Though negotiations can have a limited number of participants, each public association and a separate citizen must have a possibility to develop one’s own position towards the discussed problems and make it public.
Today, ensuring these conditions of the public dialogue must become the major subject of the interaction between the state and civil society and with participation of the interested European structures and institutions.
We, the representatives of public sector of Belarus, the participants of the National platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum:
- Urge all European structures interested in development of the dialogue between the state and civil society in Belarus (European Commission, OSCE, European Council etc.) to be attentive to the actions, events and processes within the framework of this dialogue to be able to distinguish real steps and actions from their simulation, and to be more responsible choosing organizations which realize projects in Belarus and beyond it;
- Draw attention on the necessity of revision of the strategies and instruments of support of reformation processes in Belarus concerning facilitation of the possibilities of absolute participation in these processes of civil society organizations;
- Declare that we will continue active participation in the processes of establishing closer relations between Belarus and Europe and democratization of our country using all existing instruments and possibilities. We are ready to be involved into preparation and realization of the steps undertaken in this direction, and to propose the programs and /or road maps on the urgent topics of the country development which were designed within the scope of the National platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum as a subject for dialogue and possible joint actions of civil society and the state.
Siarhei Mackevich, Speaker of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, Assembly of NGOs of Belarus
Uladzislau Vialichka, National Coordinator of EaP Civil Society Forum on Belarus, International Consortium "EUROBELARUS"
Uladzimir Matskevich, Humanitarian Technologies Agency
Tatiana Poshevalova, International Consortium "EUROBELARUS"
Elena Tonkacheva, Public Association "Independent Society for Legal Research"
Zhanna Litvina, Public Association "Belarusian Association of Journalists"
Miraslau Kobasa, Enlightening Public Association “Leu Sapieha Foundation”
Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya, Humanitarian Technologies Agency
Siarhej Drazdouski, Public Association “National Association of Wheelchair Users”
Antonina Yelistratova, Youth association “Next Stop - New Life”
Leonid Kalitenya, Public Association “Center for social innovations”
Iryna Zhykhar, National Public Association “Belarusian Organization of Working Women”
Irina Sukhy, Public Association “Ecohome”
Andrei Yahorau, Center for European Transformation
Olga Stuzhinskaya, Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels)
Dina Shavtsova, Civil Initiative "For Religious Freedom"
Oksana Shelest, Center for European Transformation
Yaroslav Bekish, Green Alliance of Belarus
Vyachaslau Pazdnyak, Analytical Center "Wider Europe"
Aliaksandr Karalevich, Public Association “Education Center “POST”
Vitali Silitski, Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies
Olga Smolianko, Legal Transformation Center
Alexander Adamiants, “New Europe” magazine
Katerina Przybylska, Belarusian Schuman Society
Ihar Lalkou, Public Association "Belarusian Popular Front “Adradzhenne"
Alaksandr Łahviniec, Movement for Freedom
Andrei Shutau, Humanitarian Techniques Agency
Galina Cherepok, Legal Transformation Center