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Belarus, our future neighbour Building a civil society through partnership Civil Society Development Programme in Belarus, 2000-2003 Media, NGOs, Institutional twinning Brussels, 19 November 2003 . V. Kozyreff, AIDCO A3.

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Belarus, our future neighbourBuilding a civil society through partnershipCivil Society Development Programme in Belarus, 2000-2003 Media, NGOs, Institutional twinningBrussels, 19 November 2003

V. Kozyreff, AIDCO A3


Also spelled Byelarus, Belorussia,  or Byelorussia,  officially Republic of Belarus,  Belarusian Respublika Byelarus',  also called White Russia, country of eastern Europe. Until it became independent in 1991, it was the smallest of the three Slavic republics that formed part of the Soviet Union. It covers an area of 207,595 square kilometres. On the northwest Belarus adjoins Latvia and Lithuania, while Russia lies to the northeast and east, Ukraine to the south, and Poland to the west. The capital is Minsk. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)


Historical basis


The 1997 Tacis Civil Society Development Programme for Belarus (CSDP) included a selection of actions in 3 selected areas of cooperation:

  • (a) support to the media

  • (b) support to the NGOs

  • (c) institutional twinning for the education and training of the younger generations


Objective of these actions:

  • to assist the democratisation process in Belarus

  • through the support of three pillars of the civil society.

    (Council Decision of 18 December 1997)


  • The programme has been financed through an EC grant of 5 M€.

  • It complements assistance provided separately by

    • the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights

    • actions under the Tempus,

    • Institutional Building Partnership and the

    • Cross-Border Cooperation Programmes.


During phase I (macro-projects) more than 30 projects were undertaken

  • to support independent Media and

  • NGOs,

  • to create an MBA programme for Belarusian students

  • to promote the diffusion of information about the EU through the strengthening of the European Documentation Centre.


  • During phase II, more than 30 NGOs’ projects are being supported through micro grants up to €50 000


Preliminary actions and administration (as of 2002)


Administrative workload for realisation of programme

  • Meeting in Brussels

  • Timo Summa meets with National Co-ordinator Vladimir Shimov for discussions on the programme

  • Missions to Belarus by HQs

  • Hugues Mingarelli, Emma Toledano Laredo, Margaretha Letterhag, Vladimir Kozyreff, Soeren Poulsen (European Training Foundation)

  • 3 Missions by HM and ETL: 1 for identification of the projects, and 2 discussions with the Belarussian government

  • 2 missions by ETL: 1 to assist Kiev Delegation in finalising the technical agreement between the Belarussian side and COM on the contents of the programme, 1 for discussion with Belarussian officials on re-registration and other issues, TBO and donors

  • 3 Missions by ML: 1 to update projects, 2 with VK for seminars and conferences

  • 1 separate mission by VK to participate in Conference on Enlargement and supervision of projects

  • 4 Missions from SP to participate in steering committees, conferences and seminars, and to supervise the Institutional Twinning component


Missions to Belarus by Kiev Delegation

  • Andre Vanhaeverbeke (HoD until August 2001) and spouse, Norbert Jousten (HoD since November 2001) and spouse, Daniel Giuglaris, Sven Holdar

  • 5 AV and spouse: discussions with the National Co-ordinator and other Belarussian officials, including in the last period monitoring of projects.

  • 4 NJ and spouse discussion with NC and other Belarussian officials, administration of micro-projects and signature of contracts

  • 1 DG to finalise and sign the technical agreement between the Belarussian side and COM on the contents of the programme

  • 4 SH: 2 to participate in discussions with the Belarussian government and 1 to evaluate and monitor projects and 1 to monitor projects and discussions with donors.


Monitoring visits to projects

  • 8 monitoring reports summarising the results of visits to projects for the media component of the CSDP

  • 9 monitoring reports summarising the results of visits to projects for the NGO component of the CSDP

  • 4 monitoring reports summarising the results of visits to projects for the Institutional Twinning component of the CSDP

  • participation in steering committees and to activity of projects.


Seminars and Conferences

  • 1 seminar for contractors in Brussels

  • 1 seminar for beneficiaries and local contractors in Belarus

  • 1 Conference to present the results from the macro section of the CSDP.


Gomel


Specific CSDP projects implemeted


Media Support


Support to TBN

  • improving the professionalism of journalists and technicians working in the “Television Broadcasting Network” (TBN)


Press project

  • School Newspaper Boardin Gomel

  • newspaper Svobodnye Novosti Plus

    Online project

  • Internet-based resource centre in Minsk for the Support Foundation of the Independent Press


Multimedia project

  • intensive training on newspapers, magazines, radio, television and online sites in EU member states focused on the workings of the European Community and the relationship between Parliament, government and non-government institutions and the media.


NGOs Support Programme


27 NGO projects

two main categories:

  • democracy matters such as human rights, awareness building, NGO development

  • social problems


Institutional Twinning


MBA Programme

  • the Higher School of Business and Management of the State Economic University

  • the private Institute for Privatisation and Management

    strengthening the capacity of the European Documentation Centre


  • In August 2002 Belarus discontinued the application of Tacis General Rules in relation to taxation and import duties.

  • Contracting under Tacis became impossible.

  • President Lukashenko on 22 October 2003 signed a decree establishing a « uniform procedure of granting tax and customs exemptions for international technical assistance projects ».


Results


In spite of various difficulties

  • it has been possible to obtain good results in the implementation of the CSDP

  • The CSDP proved interesting for NGOs and media, as well as for the Belarusian government, as tool to promote dialogue inside the highly divided Belarusian society.


NGOs and independent media used this difficult dialogue with governmental bodies and media

  • to gain recognition for their good work in the society,

  • to promote their values and views

  • to improve their effectiveness in reaching out to marginal sectors of the society or to the general public.


  • They are also increasingly winning government and local authorities recognition

  • for the importance of their work in a number of areas, including Human Rights.


  • The government and local authorities used this opportunity to bridge across the divided Belarusian society.

  • They actively participated in many projects and many results would have been impossible to achieve without their contribution.


  • Through this activity, the image of the Civil Society improved

  • in many cases the government learned to value the contribution that NGOs can give and the results that can be achieved through their assistance.


We should not hide difficulties


  • This programme has been completed with comparatively few problems is, given the beginning, a great achievement.

  • the 1997 CSDP could not but plant some seeds.

  • The process needs to be strengthened and improved to reach the final goals of a more open Belarus firmly within the shared set of European Values.

  • Assistance by Tacis and other donors will have to continue in order to build up on the current positive developments.


Success of the Tacis method


The importance of

  • the demand driven and

  • dialogue based approach

  • to identification and implementation of common activities/projects.

  • This is at the root of the peaceful, but engaging Tacis method, which proved its value in the difficult context of the current Belarusian history.


  • Total budget : €3 613 277

  • Media, NGOs and Institutional twinning sections

  • All projects have been concluded or are being concluded

  • Overall results positive

  • Relevancy of small projects obvious

  • Good cooperation with authorities and NCU

  • Difficulties related with delay from project design to start of implementation

  • Difficulties experienced with the taxation question


  • Flexibility on the Commission’s side (addenda) to compensate for sometimes heavy procedures

  • Some uncertainties regarding sustainability


Grodno


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