March 21, 2017
The US government, through USAID, is looking for a contractor to implement its Community Connections exchange program in Belarus. In particular, the Americans plan to train Belarusians to carry out “economic and social transformations” by encouraging active participation by citizens in democratic processes.
As part of the program, the Americans want to train activists who will go on a three-week internship in the US to exchange experiences, visit American organizations, and communicate with experts.
“CC is a comprehensive exchange program that supports the priorities of the US government in providing assistance to foreign states by familiarizing the civil society of Belarus, individuals, and public sector representatives, with democratic practices and the values of the free market, and encouraging them to implement economic and social transformations in Belarus,” — from the announcement posted on the website.
According to the document, among the main tasks of the program are familiarizing the participants with the advantages and challenges of a democratic society, as well as creating a professional environment for the realization of economic and social transformations in Belarus.
The amount of funds that will be allocated to the contractor for the CC program is not specified.
In the name of democracy
The US government is not the first to provide financial support for the formation of democratic values in Belarus through the agency for international development. But the financial assistance of the US State Department to the Belarusians, aimed at supporting democratic and fair governance in the country, is on the rise: in 2016 was $ 8.3 million, in 2015 this figure equaled $ 7 million. For 2017, $9 million is allocated for this purpose.
It is noteworthy that in December 2016 a grant for funding independent Belarusian media also appeared on the US government portal. As reported by RT, the US State Department will allocate $ 520,000 to non-profit organizations for training independent journalists in Belarus.
One of the recipients of the grant from the US State Department is the American National Endowment for Democracy (NED). As previously noted by the media, the same fund was also involved in financing of Ukrainian NGOs.
In Belarus, NED also provided financial support for election observers in 2014, and also supported human rights organizations and activists. In 2016, NED allocated more than $ 2 million for the development of civil society and support for free and independent media in the country.
Protests of the unemployed
American money came in handy: on March 15, in Minsk, a protest rally was held under the name of “March of the parasites” against State Decree No. 3 “On the Prevention of Social Dependence.” The protesters demanded not only the cancellation of the tax on parasitism, but also the resignation of the president. After the protests, President Lukashenko suspended tax collection for a year, although he did not cancel the decree.
Currently, the opposition — in the person of the BNK bloc Nikolay Statkevich and the Right-of-center coalition of Lebedko, Rimashevsky, and Gubarevich — is actively participating in the protest movement. Previously, the Belarusian media reported that Statkevich would lead the “March of Angry Belarusians,” which is scheduled for March 25 in Minsk. Without “orange revolutions”
Grants for Community
Connections exchange programs represents nothing so much as the desire of the US to create centers of influence in countries that are of interest to American special services, believes political analyst and Americanist Alexander Asafov.
“The goal is to influence civil society. Support local activists, educate and educate them, and create their own opinion leaders,” said the political scientist.
Asafov noted that the United States will have to spend heavily to implement this program in Belarus.
“The scenario of the Orange Revolution is old enough and worked out, but it will not work directly in Belarus, as it worked in Ukraine, without significant financial resources,” the expert said.
However, the situation in Ukraine is a significant help for the work of the US in Belarus. President Alexander Lukashenko knows this very well, Asafov underscores.
“Lukashenko understands that the import of the revolution from Ukraine is real, because those oppositionists who got street experience there are much more dangerous than those who are merely trained according to American programs,” the expert said. [On this subject, see also armed provocateurs.]
Note that earlier in an interview with Bloomberg, Alexander Lukashenko said that he was satisfied with the Belarusian opposition. “I do not need another opposition, I have to look to the one I have, keep it in today’s form,” said the President of Belarus.