Updated at 10:54,14-11-2017

Foreign donors scaling down cooperation with government institutions

Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Major foreign donors have been reducing the amount of aid provided to Belarusian government institutions, Andrey Yahoraw, director of the Center for European Transformation, said while presenting a report in Minsk on December 9.

At the same time, he said, Belarus` civil society has been acquiring a greater role both as a recipient and a distributor of foreign aid.

The largest amount of aid provided to Belarus through civil society came from the United States. It totaled $55 million between 2006 and 2012. As much as $45 million was given to Belarus through NGOs by EU member states and institutions in the period.

Fifty-four percent of EU aid was distributed through government agencies and only 13 percent through civil society in 2006-2011. However, the shares changed to 40 and 22 percent, respectively, in 2012, according to Mr. Yahoraw.

EU institutions still prioritize cooperation with government institutions, said the expert. In 2012, the EU`s cooperation with the government included projects to build a biogas plant at a farm in Maladzyechna, Minsk region, provide training to experts in the sphere of nuclear safety and renovate border crossings.

The distribution of foreign aid through civil society does not necessarily mean that the money is spent on the development of civil society, Mr. Yahoraw warned. NGOs are used by foreign donors to distribute aid to hospitals, social centers and children`s camps, he said.

He stressed that foreign donors had started cutting foreign aid for government agencies after the authorities` post-election crackdown on political opponents in late 2010.

Foreign donors lack a single strategy of providing aid to Belarus and need to make changes to the current system of aid distribution, said Mr. Yahoraw.

He criticized a practice where the EU provides funds to the Council of Europe for implementing an anti-corruption program in the Eastern Partnership countries. "The EU believes that if it gives funds to the Council of Europe, it will achieve more than the Belarusians would if the money were provided to them directly," said Mr. Yahoraw. "But the organization of providing money through the Council of Europe or the UN is horrible. There cannot be a worse scheme of money distribution. But they continue doing that. Maybe this is connected with these countries` commitments regarding the involvement in CE and UN activities."