Carina Autengruber: RADA and their member organisations in Belarus have a crucial role
Newly elected Vice-President of the European Youth Forum Carina Autengruber from OJV visited RADA FORUM in September, 2016. We’re publishing her memories about the event and opinion on youth in our country.
Human rights violations occur all over Europe. But the situation in Belarus differs substantially in comparison to other European countries. Belarus is according to Freedom House a consolidated authoritarian regime. Since 1994 president Lukashenko is in power and his autocratic regime tries to starve every seed of hope for a democratic change in the country. But the work of youth organisations keeps on flourishing.
Belarus is not a part of the Council of Europe, Europe’s leading human rights organisation. The country continues to repress and discourage peaceful assemblies, controls most of the countries media and internet censorship is widespread. Legal and systemic restrictions on freedom of expression and association remain in place. Restrictive nongovernmental organisation (NGO) laws hinder organisations to register as legal entities and threaten them with criminal sanctions for operating without registration.
Often young people and youth organisations are targeted when their engagement is not in line with the priorities of the government. The right to association is limited to pro-governmental youth organisations. Youth organisations that do not correspond to the autocratic system are not allowed to exist. Their only option is to continue to work illegally. This endangers not merely the individual person because of e.g. the possibility of imprisonment but it also limits their availability of resources.
Organisations that are not registered in Belarus are not able to access funding from the government, which makes them depend on international donors. This often limits their structural development as international funding is mainly project-based. Furthermore because of the harsh reaction of the regime towards civil society organisations, society perceives activism as negative. It is associated with punishment by the regime.
A generation fighting for democracy
Despite all human rights violations that occur in the country, youth organisations continue to actively strive for a democratic Belarus. RADA, the Belarussian Youth Council, is one of the organisations leading this fight. In September this year RADA organised the “RADA Forum”. A forum for members of youth organisations and young people from all over Belarus. Along with the National Youth Councils of Finland (Alliansi), Lithuania (LiJOT) and Sweden (LSU), we were invited to join the two days long meeting as international guests.
RADA and their member organisations in Belarus have a crucial role. They equip young people with an understanding of democratic values and provide them with a space to develop and implement their ideas. They build and defend a universal culture of human rights in society. They provide all the values their government is fighting against. Bringing together 100 young people to discuss together the future of their country is a big step when your right to association is constantly violated. But it is also a reminder for us young people all over Europe.
It is a reminder that our work is only done, when human and youth rights become a reality for all young people across Europe. It is a reminder that, when the rights of some of us are violated, the rights of every individual, including yours and mine, are violated too. It is a reminder that we need to work together if we want to achieve substantial change. It is a reminder that history is written every day and that we are the ones that can change the direction where it goes to.