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The role of dialogue platforms in preparing the 6th All-Belarusian People's Assembly

Key to the successes of the 6th All-Belarusian People's Assembly was the popular preparation for its holding: almost all issues submitted to the forum became the quintessential public enquiries elaborated in the course of the five-month dialogue of the related parties.

The dialogue was held in several formats at the same time – mainly as dialogue platforms and public reception rooms, expert discussions, through submitting written and electronic appeals to state bodies. Absolutely each citizen had the opportunity to express their opinion, to propose certain issues for discussion.

This approach has become a relevant innovation, implemented by the state in a difficult political period in a short time and at a high organizational level. The equal dialogue between the state and society helped to literally "inventory" ongoing tasks, identify relevant challenges and elaborate their solution considering the existing opportunities. This entailed the clear identification of the society's needs which were the base for preliminary scope of issues for consideration at the 6th All-Belarusian People's Assembly.

It is noteworthy that discussion of vital issues of the Belarusian society involved the political opposition representatives who wished to initiate a constructive dialogue.

In the course of the dialogue, Belarusians paid most attention to topical issues determining the vision of the future of our country, related to its socio-economic and socio-political development. These are the form of state government, the party and electoral systems, the development of public organizations, the main directions of youth and information policy, ways to improve economy and social sphere.

In particular, the analysis of the proposals made at dialogue platforms revealed the following basic guidelines on the future state development:

  • in foreign policy – strengthening the sovereignty, ensuring territorial integrity and independence of Belarus while developing friendly relations with Russia and other CSTO and EEU members;
  • in domestic politics – retaining the unitary state structure, a strong state, while following the principle of separation of powers and exclusive right of the state to operate in the field of national security and defense;
  • in economy – developing centralized management model combined with public-private partnerships, encouraging the knowledge intensity of domestic goods and services, digitalization and automation in economy;
  • in social policy – providing support to socially vulnerable categories of the population, social guarantees to workers, and the state's regulatory function in health, education, and science.

Thus, a substantive analysis of the proposals put forward demonstrates the will of Belarusians to retain the established conservative approaches to the organization of social and political life while gradually and carefully introducing new institutions typical for liberal systems. For example, along with security and prohibition – sustaining historical truth, banning same-sex marriage and unregistered symbols – proposals were made on establishing an Ombudsman, election of judges, expanding the powers of local authorities, etc.

The acquired positive experience of discussions in the future may be the basis for further development of social communication tools – public hearings, expertise, and monitoring. The accompanying effects comprise enhancement of legal awareness of the population, promotion of a respectful attitude towards the alternative viewpoint.

In view of the positive experience and the continuing demand for public dialogue organized by authorities, it is feasible to continue the work of platforms on a permanent basis, which will be the best way to obtain a balance between the interests of the State and society. At the same time, the further development of such platforms is seen by:

  • debates sharpening and expanding the diversity of views;
  • active information and expert-analytical support;
  • increased level of media coverage and expanding channels for bringing information about discussion platforms activities to the public.