Research: What Belarusian civil society thinks on reforms

The success of reforms in Central and Eastern Europe came largely on the back of the inclusion of representatives of various groups, organizations and institutions in the shaping of the transformation policy. Politicians were encouraged to experiment and were effectively stopped from asserting interests of a single group of stakeholders. In this context, the inclusion of civil society in the transformation process becomes a crucial factor. A logical question is to which extent Belarusian civil society and political opposition are ready to be involved in the reform process and what attitude they have to reforms.

As part of the REFORUM project, BISS conducted opinion polls among representatives of 101 third sector organizations and political opposition (hereinafter ‘civil society’, CS). The subject of the study is the attitude of CS representatives to introducing reforms in our country.

The main objectives of the study were to assess the general attitude to reforms and relevance of putting these reforms in practice, to identify the priorities and substance of the anticipated reforms, and to determine the extent, to which civil society is ready to participate in the development and implementation of reforms in Belarus.

Key findings

-  Civil society representatives believe that the political system is the sector that requires reforms more than any other sector of public life, followed by the national economy and the education scheme.

-   CS representatives call for political liberalization, reduction in state influence and control, introduction of insurance medicine and development of private pension funds. They are not as enthusiastic about the full liberalization of the national economy, specifically, the privatization of major enterprises or private ownership of land. The reform of the political system is understood as an increased role of the parliament, election of heads of executive committees, possibility for citizens to receive complete information about budget allocation, and amendments to the election legislation.

-  Unlike the population at large, civil society organizations prioritize the European development path, whereas when it comes to support in the implementation of reforms, they pin hopes on the European Union and international organizations.

-  Although the respondents believe the current level of the engagement between civil society and the state is insufficient and inefficient, most of third sector representatives advocate joint efforts of all stakeholders in the development of reforms. CS organizations most frequently express their willingness to participate in the development of reform proposals.

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