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May 28th, 2009 (Thursday)
10.30 a.m. – 1.30 p.m.
Stefan Batory Foundation
Jerzy Turowicz conference room

Conference Belarus: social contracts, civil society and identity – in search for „agents of change”

The conference will feature presentation of three studies of the Belarusian society conducted by the Belarusian independent analytical centers and exploring less known or unknown aspects of its functioning in today’s Belarus:

1) Social contracts in Belarusian society

The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies undertook, in collaboration with partner institutions, a year long investigation of the nature and content of ‘social contracts’ in contemporary Belarus. The focus of the study was the relations between the state and society in Belarus, as the study strove to solve the puzzle of enduring political and social stability in the country with repressive political system, unreformed economy, and isolated society. The implicit social contract, or a set of mutual expectations and exchanges between the government and various social group, an unwritten ‘code of conduct’ understood and observed by both the society and the state, had been in the center of investigation that included a dozen of focus groups, a nationwide opinion poll, content analyses of press, analyses of statistical data and legislative materials.

The research team comprised of representatives of BISS, IPM Research Center, NOVAK laboratory, and Indecom opinion research company, will present the findings of the study, focusing their presentations on answering the following questions:
  • Is the status quo genuinely accepted by the citizens of Belarus? IS there a social contract in Belarus, or Lukashenka’s rule is tolerated out of fear or habit?
  • What is the content of specific contracts with various social groups, including elites, workers, youth, and entrepreneurs?
  • Are there ‘agents of change’ in the Belarusian society? Why citizens who don’t buy the state’s paternalism evade voicing protests and abstain from political activism?
  • How the ‘social contract’ is being reformulated in the conditions of economic crisis? Is Lukashenka offering a new pact to the population once maintenance of the old social and economic system is no longer feasible?
  • How identifying of the specifics of social contracts in Belarus help to predict the political and social dynamics in the country in the future?
2) NGO potential for democratization and development of Belarusian society

A team of Belarusian NGO leaders coordinated within Assembly of Belarusian NGOs has been implementing a complex research aimed at getting full and objective picture of the resources and potential of NGO sector in Belarus. It was to show the NGO capacity to overcome possible obstacles and its influence on democratization and development of Belarusian society. Conducted in cooperation with several Belarusian think-tank groups and independent experts ,the research was oriented to find answers to several key questions:
  • What is the potential of Belarusian NGOs?
  • What changes are possible to achieve via using this potential?
  • What kind of obstacles and threats could prevent NGOs from using this potential?
  • What king of NGO capacity is necessary to initiate and promote changes in the society?
There has never been conducted similar research before. It has succeeded to cover more than 440 Belarusian NGOs and non-registered initiatives, 23 NGO leaders and 12 donor institutions working with Belarus. An original methodology has been developed to better suite to specific Belarusian situation. The research consisted of combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The most important were deep semi-structured interviews with leaders of the well-known public organizations in the regions; with representatives several of donor organizations, which support Belarusian NGOs as well as representative survey of members of public organizations and initiatives using face-to-face interviewing with standardized interview form.

Findings and conclusions of the research will be presented by the team leader Ulad Vialichka.

3) Budzma civic campaign (

Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies is also involved in conducting the study of a national self-consciousness in contemporary Belarus. The study began as an effort to help Budzma campaign, which promotes the Belarusian-language culture among the ‘Russified’ Belarusians, is evolving in the comprehensive research that aims at answering the grand questions:
  • Who are the modern day Belarusians, how they see themselves?
  • What kind of Belarus they imagine as a land they would be proud of?
  • What is the role of culture in the self-identification of Belarusians?
  • Can the non-Soviet, pro-European identity be promoted among them?
The first stage of the study, seven focus groups with various strata of Belarusian population, had just been conducted.

November 2005
Decision on grants for regional partners from I edition of the grant competition for continuation of program activity and institutional development in 2006-2007.

October 9-22, 2005
Working meeting of regional partners of the program in Donetsk devoted to experience sharing in the field of citizens advice bureaus’ operations.

October 2005
Decision on grants in II edition of competition for regional partners of the Program. 19 organizations were selected by a panel of international experts to serve as Program’s regional partners. They received grants to support local initiatives on their territory in the areas of legal education and information for citizens, enforcement and protection of individuals rights, civic education for youth, setting up local civic activity centers, transparency of local government, and access to information (see: list of partners).

September 2005
19 organizations received grants in the competition Credibility and partnership – non-governmental organizations in local communities.

July 2005
Meeting of the new pool of candidates for regional partners of the Program
35 organizations from Belarus and Ukraine that qualified as the candidates for the Program’s regional partner organizations came to Warsaw for a five days study visit to prepare for the partnership in Citizens in Action program. The agenda of their visit included: the presentation of the Program’s idea, rules and procedures (i.a. discussion on grant management and reporting guidelines, seminar and workshops conducted by Polish NGO experts and practitioners on the principles and practice of social economy, cooperation with local government and partnership of the NGOs with business on the local level, trainings of the executive directors and program officers on finances and accounting, and individual discussion and consultation with Program staff.

December 2004
Study visit of partner organizations in Poland
The 28 representatives of partner organizations were presented with exemplary local civic initiatives, especially those based on strong and fruitful cooperation of various sectors, and with examples of model NGOs which thanks to their professionalism and openness have become important partners in resolving local problems. The meetings provided an opportunity to learn the opinions of various partners involved in local initiatives: NGOs, business and local government. Our partners visited 20 Polish NGOs in 18 towns across various regions of Poland.

July 2004
First meeting of regional partner organizations in Warsaw
The meeting was combined with a conference devoted to various aspects of NGO activity in Belarus, Ukraine and Poland: the legal environment of their functioning in particular states, cooperation with local government and business and building the image of the third sector. In the discussions at the conference about 100 people participated: experts and NGO leaders from all three states.

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