People protesting in Belarus

Response to Sida’s Decision on Belarus

Due to the recent events and actions by the government in Belarus, Sida has decided to freeze the remaining funds to the RWI Academic Cooperation in the country. See their Swedish press release here.

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute is a significant partner who we want to continue to collaborate with, but in these times we need to freeze the remaining funds to their work in Belarus. We’ve had a good dialogue and are united around the way forward during the short remaining time of the cooperation, says Christina Danielsson, Head of Sida’s Unit for Eastern Europe.

Message from our Director of Europe Office

Zuzana Zalanova RWIWe acknowledge that the decision about freezing was made in a particularly challenging situation. We think it is unfortunate that we cannot continue to support human rights in the Academic Institutions in Belarus, especially now, when our support is needed the most. We continue being humbled by the high commitment of students, teachers and partners we have worked with during these difficult years and truly hope that their actions will inspire a positive change for human rights in Belarus, says Zuzana Zalanova.

Our work in Belarus

The overall objective of RWI’s Academic Cooperation in Belarus is to strengthen the capacities in human rights (including gender equality) at targeted Academic Institutions and among students, through enhanced access to education and research in human rights and strengthen their involvement with other actors in society on human rights. The Academic Cooperation has been supported by Sida for over ten years and implemented in a close and constructive dialogue with Sida counterparts.

Increased knowledge of human rights and gender equality for academia and beyond

Our work is aimed to help increase quality and development of human rights and gender courses as well as increase availability of relevant academic research products on human rights and gender.

We also support our partners in Belarus to intensify interaction and involvement of academics with different actors in the society on relevant human rights and gender equality issues and enhance access of Belarusian students and academics to human rights and gender equality education and research in Europe.

Why we work in Belarus

Our global experience of over 30 years shows that universities can serve as multipliers to bring change to people’s life in various ways. Not only do these institutions educate the leaders of tomorrow who will be able to practically apply human rights once they take up positions with civil society, government or academia once they graduate, but also through the research, they produce that can inform policy debates and decision making with human rights issues in society.

Their outreach/civic mission, e.g. through legal clinics, helps other members of society, especially vulnerable groups, get legal assistance to better realize their rights. This continuous and systematic engagement is crucial to communicate human rights principles to wider society, thus forming critical mass who is not only aware of human rights but also knows how to defend them with well-grounded arguments. Especially in the context of Belarus.

In countries with very limited civic and democratic space, universities can still be a safe place to speak out ones opinion and universities can function as a legitimate platform for different actors to come together.

In Belarus, where most human rights debates are silenced and sanctioned, our engagement with universities has allowed us to engage on human rights a high number of people and do so continuously.

  • We have targeted the youth- students that will become the new generation of Belarusian lawyers, judges, politicians, academics and others. Those are the ones who can form a critical mass for human rights change in the society and who have potential to multiply this engagement with others and own it locally.
  • We have been cautiously working on transforming academic culture to enable platforms for dialogue between academics and civil society. A number of CSOs have engaged together with academics in research work of our Human Rights Centre, gender education as well as legal clinics work to make sure that academia serves with its knowledge the needs of those who actually need it.
With whom we work in Belarus

We work with academic institutions and mostly on an individual level – with people belonging to particular professional groups (managers, teachers, researchers, students, librarians). We help develop their individual capacities as well as the corresponding capacities of other groups in these institutions, that consequently supports institutional development as well.

We primarily cooperate with the Faculty of International Relations and the Faculty of Law at Belarusian State University (BSU), the Faculty of Law at the Belarusian State Economics University (BSEU), the Faculty of Management Technologies and Humanities at the Belarusian National Technical University (BNTU), the Faculty of Law at Polotsk State University (PSU), the Faculty of Economics and Law at Mogilev State University (MSU) and the Faculty of Law at Gomel State University (GSU).  Academics and students from other institutions have been increasingly engaged in activities on an ad hoc basis.  Increasing amount of activities have also benefited from the engagement of other stakeholders, i.e. CSOs.

Read our press release in Swedish here

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