FY 2008 Foreign Operations Appropriated Assistance
FY 2008 Foreign Assistance Goals
Belarus continues to be one of the most repressive countries in Europe. The Belarusian authorities forced Embassy staffing down from 35 to five American staff in FY 2008. However, this did not affect the scale of United State Government (USG) assistance to Belarus and USG-funded programs achieved significant results despite reduced Embassy staffing. USG assistance focused on three major areas: Governing Justly and Democratically, Investing in People, and Humanitarian Assistance. Broad objectives in democracy building included: bolstering the capacity of democratic political parties to unify, strategize, organize, and connect with constituents; increasing the capacity of civil society to operate, coordinate, build constituencies, and advocate effectively for democratic change; and increasing access to independent, high-quality media. In the area of Investing in People, USG assistance supported the development of non-governmental organizations and local community commitment to provide needed services. The objective of the humanitarian assistance program was to relieve the suffering of vulnerable people, and to build public-private partnerships between people and organizations in Belarus and people and organizations in the United States.
Highlights of FY 2008 Performance by Area of Focus
Governing Justly and Democratically
In FY 2008, USG assistance:
- Aided the United Democratic Forces (UDF), the coalition of pro-democratic forces in Belarus, in preparing for the September 28 Parliamentary elections. USG assistance helped the UDF implement its strategy of selecting and campaigning one pro-democratic candidate in each of the 110 mandates through training on how to effectively canvass door-to-door to spread the coalition’s message. These efforts supported the UDF’s partnership between democratic political and civil society leaders in the months before the elections. To this end, USG assistance supported three election-related trainings – one for candidates and two for campaign managers with a total of 70 people trained. In addition, approximately 2,200 party observers were trained in partisan poll watching and the capacity of 1,500 volunteers to deliver the UDF’s message was strengthened. USG assistance also focused on increasing youth participation in political processes through youth trainings and roundtables for 120 participants.
- Awarded approximately 90 grants to strengthen civil society. These grants built the capacity of national and local non-governmental organizations and associations to address issues such as human rights, legal defense of activists and consumers, women’s and labor rights, civic education, and youth activism. USG funds assisted youth and women to conduct advocacy campaigns including a social benefits campaign run by a coalition of youth organizations. Other USG activities supported the infrastructure and capacity development of five legal clinics throughout the country, enhancing their ability to continue providing free legal services to Belarusians such as pensioners, women and new mothers, students, the very poor, and prisoners and their families.
- Supported a campaign to raise awareness of religious and human rights. USG assistance supported the production and distribution of 75,000 bulletins on the biased religious law, 3,000 “how to” manuals on conducting a petition campaign, organization of 40 seminars that trained 1,500 activists to conduct the campaign, and establishment of a website for the campaign. As part of the campaign, activists collected more than 50,000 signatures to amend the religious law at over 100 locations throughout the country. Information about the campaign has reached more than 100,000 citizens.
- Strengthened independent media and increased access to information by supporting a network of 63 NGOs that published 49,000 copies of 26 weekly issues of the largest unregistered independent newspaper in Belarus. USG assistance developed the professional capacity of over 90 journalists within Belarus through direct training. In addition, USG funding supported the European Radio for Belarus (ERB) and BelSat TV, two external media outlets that deliver balanced information to Belarusian citizens via terrestrial and satellite radio, satellite television, and the Internet. With USG assistance, ERB expanded its Internet audience to nearly 28,000 users per month, a seventeen-fold increase over the past two years.
Investing in People
In FY 2008, USG assistance:
- Provided, with other donors, funding to the European Humanities University (EHU), which has been ousted from the country. It has since resumed its operation in Lithuania and is providing Belarusian youth an alternative to state supported education through a distance-learning program. The number of courses offered for correspondence degree programs in humanities have been extended and diversified, and the quality of education has increased significantly. In addition, students have shown great interest in registering for these new courses with over 1,000 new students enrolled in the EHU courses. The University now offers 144 courses on various subjects including European studies. In 2008, 28 new courses were developed; twelve of which were internationally certified during FY 2008.
- Helped build the capacity of key community groups and the quality of integrated community-based services. Among the successes were alternative family-type care, parenting education, life skills programs, and health education. Another project worked with HIV service NGOs, which developed a network of 50 trainers representing 30 HIV/AIDS organizations from all over Belarus.
- Introduced a new model for recruitment and development of foster and adoptive parents decreasing the risk of institutionalization for children. USG funding was also directed at the development of the national quality standards on child protection and family type care for orphans. HIV/AIDS service organizations were served by the network of about 50 trainers from 30 organizations. In another project, potential victims of human trafficking were provided job training with 71 percent obtaining full-time jobs. Last year, national NGO partners working to facilitate the reintegration of trafficking victims into society provided psychological assistance to 108 victims. In addition, 97 percent of the Belarus population is aware of the problem of trafficking thanks in part to a USG-funded awareness raising campaign.
In FY 2008, USG assistance:
- Delivered 24 surface containers of donated assistance valued at over $3 million. The humanitarian program relieved the suffering of vulnerable people in Belarus by providing donated assistance including clothing, footwear, wheelchairs, medicines, and medical supplies such as bandages and syringes to recipient institutions and organizations identified as among the neediest by NGOs in-country.
Humanitarian Program Delivers Medicine – Early in FY 2008, a Department of State grantee, CitiHope International, delivered over $1 million in cardiovascular drugs targeted mainly toward elderly patients. These drugs were distributed free of charge to medical facilities throughout the country. Ambassador Karen Stewart took part in a distribution of this assistance, visiting Starye Dorogy District Hospital for a handover of pharmaceuticals to the local medical staff.