The advantageous dialogue

Cooperation between the civil society and the state brings tangible fruit
Governmental prize — the Frantsysk Skaryna medal was awarded to Helmut Kutin, president of international charity organization "SOS — Children village". Hundreds of orphans and children whose parents were void parental authority found family and self-actualization within 10 years from the moment the first children village started in Belarus. This project held by Belarusian fund "SOS — Children village" non-governmental charity organization has become one of the most vivid examples of cooperation between society and the state in the realm of implementation of most important objectives of social policy.

Health establishment in Vileika district, one of the most picturesque parts of Belarus, created with the active participation of International Association "Hope- 21st century" receives children from radio nuclide contaminated areas and gives them an opportunity to recreate and improve their health facilitated by unique rehabilitation and health improvement programs.

Ecology camps have their primary objective in bringing order to nature and driving public attention to nature protection and have been working in Gomel region for several years already due to social organization "Association of children and youth".

There are many such examples of real advantage brought by public organizations in Belarus. "The third sector′ that represents most diverse branches of civil initiatives, habitually participates in solving most acute problems and gives citizens a unique self-actualization opportunity.

Oleg Slizhevsky, chief of public associations department of Ministry of Justice, says: "Today Belarus provides all conditions for normal development of the third sector, which involves 17 political parties and 2274 public associations". "Despite certain "waviness" in public activities, each year the number of associations grows, though by little. This year 51 new public associations were registered in our country. As a rule, they are created to answer a particular problem. The state is willing to but cannot embrace all sides of life in full. Thus, when public organizations focus in protection of veterans, taking care of diseased persons, invalids, preserving culture, solving ecology problems, this is an advantage for everyone. Joint efforts of governmental bodies and public organizations towards finding solutions to nationwide problems is a real path to faster pace in welfare improvement of our citizens."

From birth to maturation

It is acknowledged that civil initiative was awakened by perestroika. Drastic change in the society have given an impetus to unprecedented emotional upsweep, which started mass emerge of public associations. The diversity of political establishments, ideologies and views has become reality. In 1994 two special laws: "On political parties" and "On public associations" were enacted. The 90s saw a peak in creation of public organizations. At that time there were about four dozens political parties alone in the small Belarus. Yet they were often created chaotically, sometimes to serve particular leaders and without particular aims. Thus they collapsed equally fast, as a rule.

According to Oleg Slizhevsky, the situation normalized by late 90s. These years saw stabilization in number of public associations and distinct division of the latter by areas of activities. Today local, international and republican public organizations can be found in Belarus. As for areas of activity, it looks like this: the biggest number of public associations falls on sport organizations (22%), followed by charity (16%), enlightenment, culture and pedagogic (14%), youth (7%), associations of war and labor invalids and veterans (6%), national minorities organizations (4%). As a rule, these areas reflect today′s most prominent problems, interests and aspirations in the society. For example, in early 90s a big number of Chernobyl-related associations started, especially in Gomel region. In first years after the Chernobyl NPP accident, problems of social protection of Chernobyl emergency workers and people living in polluted areas were very acute and the society could not stay indifferent.

Today public association "Belarus republican youth union" is among biggest in Belarus and unites over 100 thousand young people. The charter purpose of this organization is creating opportunities for all-round development of youth and revealing their creative potential. Organizing student labor teams, leisure activities, and various youth activities is a brief list of affairs that brought BRYU fame in Belarus. The objectives of this organization are in full coincidence with youth policy led by the state, which supports BRYU.

Besides, three public organizations were acknowledged the status of republican state public associations, with regard to relevancy of their activities; now these three enjoy governmental finance. These are the widely known DOSAAF, OSVOD and "Dynamo". Several generations have completed military courses in DOSAAF. And how much was done by OSVOD in rescuing human lives in water! This is that very case when objectives of public organizations reach state national scale.

Cooperation for the sake of unified aim

Recent years saw strengthening of cooperation between the state and public organizations. Coordination councils on public association affairs are more and more often created under regional executive committees, ministries and departments. This allows to reveal problems of cooperation and find solutions.

Taking into account that over 100 national-cultural public associations work in Belarus today, such council was created under the governmental Committee on religious and national affairs; among those 100 are: "Belarus Gipsy Diaspora", Union of Belarusian Jew public associations and communities, International public organization "Afghan community", International public organization of Dagestans "Ochag". Culture, enlightenment, charity and educational programs of these organizations often enjoy support from republican and local authorities.

Public coordination council under the Ministry of natural resources and environment protection is also efficient. It involves representatives of 17 public ecology associations out of 50 registered in Belarus. Natalia Fedorova, chief of information department of the Ministry, says: "About six years ago our state was among the first to ratify the Orhus convention that declared opportunity for common citizens to participate in taking decisions on environment protection. And establishment of the Coordination council in 2001 was a logical step in this direction. It is remarkable that the initiative was originated by Leonty Horuzhik who was head of the Ministry that year and invited non-governmental organizations to join. As before, Minister leads the policy of close cooperation with public, strengthening contacts with the third sector and involvement into cooperation aimed at environment improvement and protection."

The Council considers a wide range of ecology problems, which are solved with participation of civil society — from discussing new laws to performing nature-protection activities. The attention from the state is a good stimulus for organizations that show initiative and creative approach.

For instance, public association "Protection of Belarus birds" was met with approval for its activities in protection of bird fauna. Organization′s annual ecology campaigns "Bird of the year" have become popular among our citizens and contribute significantly to nature protection and propaganda of ecological values. According to Alexander Vinchevsky, head of the organization, people of most diverse age and social status take part in this campaign, which helps ecology education in the society as well as its amalgamation in general.

Public association "Center of humanitarian initiatives" was highly appraised for its project "Campaign for most favored migration of animals in specially protected areas and motorways". Volunteers who carried hundreds of frogs over motorways during their migration season looked so impressive that it was decided to finance them from local budget to save amphibians in motorways. Additionally, it was decided to implement Minsk-Vitebsk road reconstruction project to adapt it for crossing by animals. An important result was that a new road sign is to be introduced in Belarusian roads: "Seasonal migration of amphibians". Two more road signs are under discussion now: "Frogs crossing" and "Hedgehogs crossing".

Large amount of work is performed by public organizations in regions. As an example, ecology and ares-study public association "Nerush" works in Baranovichi and Baranovichi district and focuses mainly on enlightenment and research. Winter contests "Help birds" and children drawing contests devoted to energy saving are held annually. "Improvement of consumer awareness in ecological safety" program was launched; under this program a research of food product market was held. Following the research data, 5 types of booklet were issued with recommendations to citizens. Additionally, "Nerush" acts as Belarusian coordinator of "Clear the Earth" global campaign with headquarters in Australia and is a member of European Union for protection of water banks.

"Unlike social problems that disappear with the pace of economy development and involvement of technological advance, nature protection problems persist and become more topical with every passing year," — thinks Natalia Fedorova. "Thus ecology problems are likely to be agitating and, consequently, the importance of public associations will grow."

Alongside with that, recent years public organizations tend to unite like-minded persons with common professional interests and hobbies. So, several weeks ago Ministry of Justice has registered "Belarusian society of decorative floriculture "Katleja", Belarusian public association of microbiologists, and Republican public organization of hairdressers. According to Oleg Slizhevsky, this is another affirmation to the fact that our country provides all necessary for free personality development.

Lilia Hlystun
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