Belarusian human rights defenders’ view on human rights activity and questions of cooperation

We present a research results report of Belarusian human rights organisations sector.

The research was conducted by the Center for European Transformation on the initiative of the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House with the expert support of the Legal Transformation Center (Lawtrend) and the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs of Belarus.

Despite the general adverse environment for civil society organisations in Belarus, human rights organisations and initiatives keep being very active and their number continues to increase (from 17 organisations in 2010 to 25 in 2013; although they basically can’t obtain an official registration because of the current state policy). There are newly created organisations and initiatives that do not always have sufficient experience and understanding of how to cooperate, but they are ready to become effective members of the human rights community.

Earlier, there was already some work on the first joint project of a strategic concept for the Belarusian human rights community, which was accepted at the end of 2011. This work demonstrated that Belarusian human rights organisations did not often have any strategic planning and understanding of the way strategies should be implemented, though a need of a wider, holistic approach to activity was discerned accurately. In 2013, there was also big work aimed at defining joint strategic plans of cooperation for human rights defenders. At the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, human rights defenders acted with their joint strategic statements on the situation in the country and the necessary general actions.

At the moment, the orderer of this research and its partners are interested in the implementation of a new stage of work aimed at developing strategic cooperation between human rights organisations. This research is a tool of optimizing this work. Its goal is to reveal what leaders of Belarusian human rights organisations and initiatives think of such questions as the understanding of human rights activity, problems in the human rights sphere in Belarus, problems and achievements in cooperation between human rights organisations, strategic priorities for the Belarusian human rights community, the understanding of various aspects of human rights ethics, and the attitude to ethical self-regulation in the community.

As agreed upon with the orderer, a questionnaire survey among leaders of human rights organisations and initiatives was chosen as a research method. The sample of organisations was made by the orderer according to their purposes. In total 30 organisations and initiatives have been surveyed; the research team polled 50 respondents. In compliance with the confirmed methodology, two people (holding leader positions) from each organisation had to take part in the research. However, due to various reasons (such as: one of leaders refused to participate in the survey; respondents considered themselves leaders of other organisations; there was no second person in an organisation), some organisations were represented in the survey by only one respondent. The field investigation phase was implemented in August-October 2016.

A number of research questions have been aimed at revealing and fixating the current condition of Belarusian human rights organisations: their legal status, time of existence, size of organisations, etc. Although these questions concerned objective data, it is impossible to say that the received results reflect to the full the condition of the human rights organisations sector. Some relativity of the results has to do, first of all, with certain limitation of sociological methods of research because of the factor of subjective perception and space for respondents’ individual interpretations of formulations of questions and variants of answers. In this research, the limitations of the method are combined with the objectively ambiguous position of human rights organisations in Belarus — therefore, even apparently objective facts can be interpreted differently.

Nonetheless, we believe that they substantially reflect the state of affairs and represent the data that can be used by interested parties while their decision-making.

The text of the research can be downloaded in the “Documents” section (on the right).




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