Population: 9.6 million
Area: 207 600 km2
GDP (PPP): 168,2 billion dollar (2015 estimate)
GDP per capita (PPP): 17 800 $ (2015 estimate)
Rate of growth: – 3,6 % (2015 estimate)
Head of state: Alexander Lukashenko
Head of government: Andrey Kabyakov
Belarus has been called the last remaining dictatorship in Europe. Politically, Belarus is dominated by the president and his despotic exercise of power.
Supporting the opposition in Belarus may at times seem like a daunting task without any visible results. Why educate the opposition in campaign techniques when the regime prevents this education from being put to use? Because authoritarian leaders are not invincible, a fact clearly illustrated by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. If Belarus is to follow the example of former Soviet republics such as the Baltic States and Ukraine, in terms of the transition from communism to democracy, then there is a need for a strong and educated opposition capable of removing Lukashenko from power.
The work of the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation in Belarus is focused on providing the knowledge and the tools needed in the struggle for democracy. Due to general lack of democratic tradition in Belarus, such knowledge must be built from the bottom-up. This is a slow process with many pitfalls. By teaching the political handiwork and by mediating contacts with politicians abroad, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation is preparing the opposition for the work ahead after Lukashenko. Experience from the Baltic States tells us that such preparations are crucial when it comes to making up for time lost during dictatorship.
In Belarus, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation works with both the leading strata of the opposition and with the young. When working with young aspiring politicians the goal is not only to improve their ability to spearhead democratic development but also to give them a chance to develop skills relevant to their day to day work. Most of the work related to the youth is conducted outside of Belarus.
An important part of the Foundation’s work is the forming of alliances and discussing cooperation. Cooperation between political parties is not only an important factor in the struggle for democratization but coalitions are an integral part of political work in a democratic system. Furthermore, the party leadership is provided with the possibility to inform those outside of Belarus of the current situation. This work is conducted by means of international seminars with Belarusian speakers. Also, conferences are held where politicians from Belarus can meet with their counterparts from other countries.