Belarusan National Platform: Successes backgrounded by a crisis
29.06.2015 |Society| EuroBelarus Information Service,
photo by "EuroBelarus" Information Service
“Belarus’ civil society: challenges of standstill and governmentalisation of the third sector”. The conference under such name took place in Minsk on June 15.
When opening the Report-and-Election conference of the Belarusan National Platform (BNP) of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF), Oksana Shelest, a member of the Coordinating Board of the National Platform noted that this event is considerably different from the similar forums that took place earlier, and first of all, because of the situation that the National Platform is in. Oksana Shelest described it as a dichotomy, i.e. a division. On the one hand, the Eastern Partnership region is facing a crisis, and Belarus is experiencing standstill. On the other hand, we see the start of the dialog between Belarus and Europe, though there is no place for that in the civil society. As Oksana Shelest believes, the conference will help to find out how one can oppose these challenges.
Andrei Yahorau, chair of the Coordinating Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, national coordinator of the EaP CSF for Belarus, the co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, and the Director of the Center for European Transformation, talked about the problems and challenges more specifically.
He recalled that the crisis processes in the National Platform have already been voiced at the last conference and at a certain stage Andrei Yahorau himself has suggested to freeze the work of the Belarusan National Platform. However, in the period of 2014-2015 Belarusan National Platform achieved a number of successes. In particular, it is by initiative of the Belarusan National Platform that the partial reformation of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society took place – for example, curtailment of the members of the working committee of the EaP CSF, which increased the efficiency of its work. Besides, offers of Belarusans were included in the final variant of the EaP SCF Strategy – the leading document of the Forum.
But at the same time Andrei Yahorau emphasized that the reforms of the CSF haven’t still ended and this year, probably, the issues of election of the representatives of the national platforms of the Eastern Partnership countries will have to be moved to the Forum’s agenda.
However, the main success of the Belarusan National Platform reached together with the Public Bologna Committee, according to Andrei Yahorau, is the inclusion of Belarus’ to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). “It testifies to about the potential of the National Platform”, - expressed his conviction Andrei Yahorau.
However, apart from successes there were also problems. At the national level, BNP to a large degree depends on the legitimization of its work, in particular, the one related to the position of the EU Delegation to Belarus. But as Andrei Yahorau noted, after 2011 the relations between the National Platform and EU representation to Belarus have been quite limited. Situation started improving in 2014, when contacts with the EU delegation in Minsk started improving, a number of meetings with the diplomats and foreign guests were held; however, all that doesn’t speak about the significant progress either. “If earlier they didn’t speak with us, now they do. But that are only talks”, - described the situation Andrei Yahorau. According to him, this communication doesn’t promote the institutialization of the National Platform.
In result, admits the head of the Belarusan National Platform, today this structure basically doesn’t influence any of the spheres in Belarus; it is basically unable to oppose the information influence of Russia, and hardly promotes the idea of democratization and observation of human rights.
“We have to state that today we are very far from starting the realization of the National Platform’s mission in the form we saw it when we founded it”, - noted Andrei Yahorau. At the same time, Belarusan National Platform still needs to be preserved so that to not get from the realization of those ideas even further.