Closed doors in Belarus to civil society: denied a place for the conference of the Civil Society Forum

Mar 21, 2011

Good governance

The National Platform of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership (CSF EaP) has been denied a place to hold its Conference Civil Society Role & Place in the Future Strategy. The Conference was to be held on March 19-20 at the Minsk International Educational Centre (IBB).
The IBB was unable of getting an approval for providing premises to hold the event due to a decision made by one of its founders, the Minsk City Executive Committee. For formal reasons, the Crown Plaza hotel administration has also all of a sudden rejected the idea of becoming a possible Conference venue.

The Conference Organising Committee regards these decisions as single-minded actions taken by the Belarusian authorities conductive to putting obstacles in the way of the activities carried out by the National Platform of CSF EaP. The topic and the expected event membership could provide a reason for any such obvious countering actions. The National Platform of CSF EaP has been promoting the idea of the civil society and democratic opposition consolidation and putting under discussion a possible integrated strategy of the united forces. Representatives of a number of political forces, as well as civil society activists and experts have been invited to participate in the Conference. A de facto ban imposed on the Conference seems a particularly non-constructive step against the background of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s public declarations as to the importance of the Eastern Partnership initiative for Belarus. By ignoring a major component of this European Union’s initiative, the Civil Society Forum, the Belarusian authorities are actually violating their commitments assumed within the Eastern Partnership framework.

Co-Chairperson of the Eastern Partnership’s Civil Society Forum and its national coordinator in Belarus Ulad Vialichka offers his comment on the situation as follows: It is an absurd and incomprehensible step taken by the Minsk City Executive Committee. The National Platform of Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership has always been and remains an open site for discussing the momentous issues in the country’s development and civil society. While adhering to the idea of a high value represented by the mutual dialogue, we have never opposed any public organisations and initiatives, including also evidently pro-government associations, participating in our events. I am convinced that these actions taken by the Belarusian authorities will not remain unheeded by the Civil Society Forum Steering Committee, national platforms of the Eastern Partnership member countries and the European Commission.

Under the present circumstances, the Organising Committee of the conference has been forced to take a decision on postponing the Conference for a later period. Nonetheless, no obstacles must stop the process of putting under discussion an integrated strategy for all the democratically oriented forces of this country.