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Raising Consciousness for Freedom

The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) has been involved in programs in Belarus since 1989, providing support to that country's first independent newspaper, Svaboda, as well as to the activities of the emerging Belarusan Popular Front, the voice of national freedom created by the country's dissident poets, historians, writers, performing artists, teachers, and politicians. Since that time, IDEE has forcused most of its activity in supporting the development of a civil society that could withstand the reintroduction of Soviet-like rule by President Aleksander Lukashenka and foster Belarus's establishment of genuine democracy. In 1996, it helped the Civil Society Center Supolnasc begin its ground-breaking activities as a sparkplug for Belarus's civil society movement. As a result of its efforts, the number of NGOs expanded, the effectiveness of NGOs, especially at the local level, increased, and the Association of Belarusian Pro-Democratic NGOs was formed. IDEE has also provided support to the civic mobilization efforts of Supolnasc and the Assembly (see IDEE Country Report). Supolnasc was an early member of the Centers for Pluralism and has been actively involved in all of IDEE's cross-border programs, including in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Cuba, and former Yugoslavia. Viasna (Spring) Human Rights Center has been an active partner of the Centers for Pluralism as well.
In 2004, IDEE organized a significant election monitoring effort of the general parliamentary elections and republican referendum on whether to allow an extension of the president's term in office. The observer team, made up of experienced Eastern European democratic activists, provided the clearest report on the fraud, manipulation, and irregularities of the process called an election (see Interim and Final Report).

In 2007, IDEE, working with a consortium of ten Belarusan NGOs, launched a new project to support the struggle for democracy in that country called “Raising Consciousness for Freedom.” Supported through a public grant, the two-and-a-half year program is aimed at consolidating pro-democracy forces at a time of heightening repression, developing new generations of democratic leadership, and supporting initiatives that reach out to new constituencies. 

The “Raise Awareness for Freedom” program involves a consortium of ten established Belarusan NGOs formed with the aim of consolidating and generating support for the pro-democracy movement in the face of heightened repression. Consortium members represent a wide range of social groups. Their activities will include training, public outreach, civic mobilization and action, education for democracy, and leadership development, with a high focus placed on women and youth leaders. In each year of the grant, the consortium organized: 

  • Nine training seminars on human rights, activating civil society, networking, developing youth and women leaders, communication skills, and journalism; 
  • Fifty-two public meetings and nineteen roundtables on cultural, independent trade unions, health, youth, and other broad policy areas effecting Belarusan society;
  • New and enhanced websites for educators, doctors, students, and policy makers;
  • Membership consultations to address women’s and health sector issues;
  • Publication of three issues of independent newspapers in 50,000 copies that reinforce the themes of civic action, including one directed at trade unionists;
  • Preparation and distribution of policy booklets, bulletins, and email publications on education, health, independent trade union, and women’s issues;
  • Approximately 50 small grants to support the strengthening of civil society, local education, youth, and human rights initiatives.
  • In the last half year of the grant, ending in December 2009, about half of these activities were accomplished.  Altogether, Raise Consciousness for Freedom reach hundreds of thousands of Belarusan citizens.

    For more information about past programs and current news on Belarus see IDEE's Belarus page within this website. For more information about this program, please contact Eric Chenoweth or Irena Lasota, [email protected]


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