Belarus Civil Society Organizations in Cross-Sectoral Dialogue

von Wolfgang Sender, Stephan Malerius

Mapping Study

Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) together with Belarusian partners, the Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations, NGO “ACT” and Belarusian Analytical Workroom, has recently released a mapping study “Belarus Civil Society Organizations in Cross-Sectoral Dialogue”. The study was prepared within the EU-funded project “Civil Society. Dialogue for Progress”, which is implemented under the lead of KAS in six Eastern Partnership countries aiming to support civil society organizations (CSOs) to become stronger players in policy dialogue.

The aim of the mapping study was to present the current state of interaction between civil society organizations (CSO) and authorities with regard to political decision-making in Belarus. This study fills in the gap in comprehensive sociological research data available about the situation of the third sector of Belarus and its capacity to contribute to decision-making at different levels. Currently, the only regularly-updated study on civil society in Belarus is the USAID CSO Sustainability Index. Other research studies available have a much more narrow focus on certain sectors and are based predominantly on experts’ assessments and analyses with little use of field data.

The mapping study consists of two parts: The first, “Legal Environment for Civil Society Organizations and Their Influence on Policy-Making”, scrutinizes the legal and institutional framework for cross-sectoral dialogue, including opportunities to create CSOs, legal regulation for CSOs’ financing and their participation in various forms of cross-sector dialogue. The second part, “Activities of Civil Society Organizations and Their Influence on Political Decision-Making”, provides an assessment of current practices of cross-sectoral dialogue by CSOs themselves. The empirical data are derived with a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews and focus groups. A total of 150 experts (leaders or members of the regulatory bodies) participated in the research: 110 respondents (i.e. 73.3%) represented CSOs registered in Belarus and 40 (i.e. 26.7%) were from CSOs not registered in Belarus.

The study’s authors underline that the environment for CSOs’ functioning in Belarus is not favorable, and “it is impossible to speak of an improvement in the status of CSOs, as the state intentionally drives many of them to the periphery of public life. This is facilitated by relevant law-making, which causes deterioration in the legal status and financial position of CSOs, as well as in the general economic situation in the country.” However, Belarusian CSOs are capable to play a responsible and visible role in policy-making and despite the existing political environment “demonstrate a high degree of application of different tools for influencing policies, seeking to initiate a cross-sectoral dialogue and managing co-operation with the authorities to achieve their goals”.

You can download the full mapping study paper in English from the website of “Civil Society. Dialogue for Progress” project.