On the invitation of the Slovak Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Bratislava-based Pontis Foundation, ODB director Olga Stuzhinskaya took part in the conference marking the 10th anniversary of the SlovakAid entitled “A Vision of Development Cooperation for a Changing World”.
Addressing the audience, Stuzhinskaya thanked the Slovak colleagues and friends of the Office for a Democratic Belarus, whose contribution has marked the very establishment of the organization in Brussels and continues to play a role in its activities over the years. Belarus-EU Task Force, sectoral exchange and analyses projects take place with advice and support of Slovak experts.
In her remarks, Stuzhinskaya stressed the importance of sectoral exchange programmes, capacity building measures, promotion of European values – areas in which Slovakia can share its accumulated experience with Belarus and provide greater support. Facilitating people’s participation in policy formation on local and national level in Belarus is another top priority, in her view. Slovakia’s experience in public policy domain could provide excellent source for inspiration.
When presenting opportunities in sectoral exchange, ODB director stressed that the Slovak experience in many fields is often easier to understand for Belarusian experts than that of the “old EU” countries due to the similarities of challenges experienced in the past with those of today’s Belarus. She also underlined further opportunities for exchange of best practices among Eastern partnership states, not only on the Belarus-EU level.
Stuzhinskaya elaborated on the importance of the higher education reform in Belarus and suggested that while creating opportunities for young Belarusians to study in the West is important, it is problematic to attract them to come back to the country. In-country reforms, including new opportunities in business education, would bring innovations and promote higher standards for the business environment, support SMEs and create new jobs.
Looking out to the future, Stuzhinskaya named the change of Belarusians’ mindset and greater understanding of universal values in the society as a path to take when it comes to Belarus assistance. She advised to use space that is available for incremental changes; for the EU and its Member States to be present in-country and involve a wide range of actors in joint activates – CSOs, universities, business community, local authorizes, journalists and other. Building capacity of local actors and training managers on all levels will pay off in the future, she said.
With regard to priorities for the SlovakAid, Stuzhinskaya agreed with the participants of other conference panels: it is not about the amount of funding but about its relevance. Innovation, inspiration and ideas: this is where Slovakia can contribute immensely in the coming future.
Olga Stuzhinskaya, the Founder and Director of the Brussels-based Office for a Democratic Belarus that seeks to strengthen ties between Belarus and the European Union (EU). Through its programmes, the Office promotes European values and best practices in Belarus and fosters approximation with European standards for the benefit of civil society and professional groups.
Stuzhinskaya serves on the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum that was launched in 2009. The EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative aims at closer political and economic ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Stuzhinskaya is the co-author of the concept and one of the founders of the newly established international non-profit association - The Eastern Partnership Advancement Centre - which will serve as a hub for information and coordination of the Eastern Partnership activities by civil society organisations, professional associations, government agencies and EU agencies across the EU’s eastern neighbourhood.
To learn more about the conference