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Sida's work in Belarus

The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in July 2021 that Sida's work in the country must cease. Following the Belarusian announcement, Sida has taken measures to protect the safety of our partner organisations in the difficult situation that exists in the country. Sida also adapts its operations to the practical conditions for working in Belarus.

Sida's work in Belarus

Aleksandr Lukasjenko and his government has been in power since 1994 using authoritarian methods. An opposition is present both in Belarus and in exile, but it is working under great pressure. All presidential elections that have been held since 1994 have been criticized by observers for having democratic flaws.

After the 2020 presidential election, Belarusian civil society has organised to change the system. But the regime has responded with persecution, threats and closing down of organisations. A large part of civil society has been forced to leave the country and many activists are imprisoned.

Belarus also has several environmental and climate challenges, including polluted waterways and emissions. The environmental movement that has grown strong in recent years is also subject to repression.

Human rights, democracy and rule of law

There are extensive violations of human rights in Belarus. Limitations are vast regarding freedom of association, freedom of expression, rule of law, union rights, the human rights of women and LGBTIQ persons and the conditions for political opposition and independent media. Belarus is also the only country in Europe that still practices death penalty.

Supports university in exile

Access to independent higher education is limited in Belarus. Together with Lithuania and the European Union, Sida supports European Humanities University (EHU). EHU is a Belarusian university operating in exile from Vilnius, Lithuania since 2004. EHU is an important contribution to a pluralistic civil society in Belarus, as evidenced by the fact that a large proportion of students have previously returned to Belarus after completing their studies, many of whom are found in civil society and local business.

European Humanities University website

Support to civil society under pressure

The civil society operates under pressure. In spite of this, civil society is strong and relatively united in its pursuit of democratic society change, even as many operate in exile. Forum Civ channels support to organisations and initiatives in Belarus, aiming to increase the civil society’s impact in issues such as gender equality, human rights and environment. The support contributes to creating new networks and rooms online for LGBTQI people, fighting hate crimes and creating better conditions for people with disabilities in Belarus.

Forum Civ website

Counteracting destructive masculinity norms

Sida’s works to give more political priority to gender equality. Until 2021 Sida supported partners such as MÄN and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which worked to combat men’s violence against women by supporting victims of violence and counteracting destructive masculinity norms and stereotypical attitudes.

Integration with EU and economic development

Belarus has a long way to go regarding integration with the European Union and there is no political will for this. Much work remains to be done to live up to the EU’s expectations of respect for democracy and human rights.

The official unemployment rate in Belarus is very low. However, a big part of the population is underemployed and many people who do not have jobs are not registered as unemployed. The Belarusian economy has been in recession for the last few years and looks set to continue to develop negatively.

Research in green economy

Sida contributes to modern research in green economy, on how challenges within environment and climate can transform into financial possibilities. This is done through Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and the independent think-tank Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Centre (BEROC).

Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics website

Environment and climate

Many challenges remain in the Belarusian environmental legislation and management of natural resources. Among them are the use of non-sustainable energy and neglected investments in environmental infrastructure. Pollution from industries, agriculture and the large-scale meat industry is particularly problematic.

Improving sewage managment

Sida has been one of the most significant donors regarding local environmental infrastructure in Belarus. Sida has contributed to the improvement of 13 sewage treatment plants in the country. This is expected to result in less effluent reaching the Baltic sea, in which many of the Belarusian rivers empty.

Strengthening the environment movement

Sida is one of few financiers to those environmental organisations still working in Belarus. They play an important role in influencing decisions that risk having negative environmental and climate impact. Sida’s support for civil society’s environmental commitment is channeled through Forum Civ. Until 2021 Sida also supported Coalition Clean Baltic, a network of environmental organisations around the Baltic Sea. The support to CCB aims to increase awareness of good water quality, to strengthen the capacity of environmental organizations in the country and to contribute to an active public participation in the development of environmental legislation.

Forum Civ website

Governance of Sida's reform cooperation with Belarus

The Strategy for Sweden’s reform cooperation with Belarus (2021 – 2027) is currently only available in Swedish on the Swedish government webpage

Updated: June 10, 2022