Citizen participation is a priority for USAID and important to a country’s continued development. USAID has invested in strengthening civil society organizations (CSOs) and grassroots initiatives. In the last few years, CSOs and activists have spearheaded improving life in local communities. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic became an outstanding challenge for the Belarusian civil society. Local crowdfunding platforms, CSOs, and activists took the lead in confronting COVID-19. Following the pandemic, the post-election political crisis further highlighted the essential role of civil society in promoting democratic changes in Belarus.
For over a decade, USAID has contributed to CSOs capacity development and training programs, community building, networking and small grants. Community Connections, a 3-week exchange program, has introduced Belarusians to American best practices and culture. Each year, 60 or more Belarusian professionals in business, civil society, media, education, and local government traveled to the United States.
Since 2014, USAID has supported a Leadership in Local Communities program empowering grassroots leaders, youth, and women through interactive education, gamification, and IT tools.
Since August 2020, the Government of Belarus has put pressure on the civil society. Belarusian civil society has returned to survival mode with many organizations forced to close and activists leaving the country. USAID continues to stand by the Belarusian civil society.
- Over 650 leaders of CSOs and grassroots initiatives attended the March Civil Society Forum in 2016-2019 promoting grassroots activities and networking.
- The Leadership in Local Communities program trained 100 leaders across the country who mobilized 10,000 residents to address local issues leading to positive changes.
- From 2014-2017, USAID supported grassroots and experienced CSOs in combining programmatic activities with strategic development. CSOs, with small grants support, organized 191 public events to serve their constituencies for 5,866 participants, in addition to 138 internal events to strengthen their organizational capacity with the participation of 2,539 people.
- With USAID support CSOs introduced 47 new services for the population.
- From 2014-2017, representatives of 180 CSOs were trained in different competencies. CSOs completed over 11,000 hours of training and received over 2,500 hours of individual consultations.
- From 2006-2019, 775 professionals, including 512 female leaders, participated in the USAID Community Connections exchange program and learned innovative practices in topics such as: CSO management; innovative entrepreneurship and venture funding; women’s empowerment; business and economic education; service provision for vulnerable populations.
- In 2020-2021, 372 Belarusians participated in 10 all-virtual educational programs implemented during a break in the exchange groups’ travel due to COVID-19 pandemic.