In 1991 the deputies of the local councils of Belarus, specialists in the field of law, economics, political science and culture, inspired by local democracy and local self-government principals, realized the need to establish a Foundation for Democratic Reforms Support named after Lev Sapieha. It was established on 26th June 1992 and was registered by the Ministry of Justice on 11th August the same year as a public non-political non-profit organisation. NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» has currently over 150 registered members across Belarus and its regional offices in every region of Belarus.
NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» enjoys vast international contacts and since 2001 it has been participating in the work of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe as an observer.
The main purpose of NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» activity is to assist the process of gradual democratic reforms in the Republic of Belarus, foremost in the fields of local self-government and democracy as well as in the field of economy, science, culture, human rights and ecology.
Principal goals of the organisation are therefore, the:
- development of local self-government;
- support for the establishment of NGOs and associated networks at the regional level;
- protection of human rights and freedoms in local communities;
- development and support for civic initiatives in local communities.
The Informational Educational Centre for Local Self-Government Problems within Lev Sapieha highlighted the European Charter of Local Self-Government to Belarusian experts and stakeholders for the first time in the mid-90’s of the XX century. Much attention is paid to studying the legislation and practical experience of municipalities of Central and Eastern European countries.
There is knowledge sharing with municipal, scientific, and public organizations from other countries of the region such as Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Georgia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia. Such knowledge exchanges take place in the form of seminars, round tables and conferences held in the Republic of Belarus, and in the form of foreign expert visits and study visits of Belarusian experts.
Throughout the entire period of its activity experts and coordinators of the NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» have been actively cooperating with the Parliament and local authorities of the Republic of Belarus and deputies of the Parliament and local Councils have been taking an active part in numerous seminars arranged by the NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation». The representatives of the NGO’s have an observer status in the Standing Commission for study the experience of the State Building and Local Self-Government of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The Bureau on Non-governmental Organizations within NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» is focusing on the investigation of legal and socio-psychological aspects of establishing of NGO’s in Belarus and their activities, as well as analysing current legal frameworks, and further developing of NGO’s and their networks. More than 50 NGO’s were established in different regions of Belarus with the support of the NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» during its operations. Civil initiatives in the field of social welfare, culture, environment, education, youth and sports are actively supported on a local level through the implementation of joint projects and consultations.
In its activities, the NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» has built partnerships with foreign and international organizations, funds and initiatives aimed at the promotion of local government and civil society development as well as citizen participation at the local level.
The NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» is continually developing partnerships with leading organisations such as the European Association for Local Democracy – ALDA, Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL), Foundation in Support of Local Democracy (FRDL) (Poland), Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, Association of Local Authorities of Lithuania and others.
In cooperation with its partners, NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» has been successful in delivering projects supported by the European Commission, UNDP, the Open Society Institute (Soros’ Foundation), and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, PHARE-TACIS, MATRA, USAID programs and others.
NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» offices operating in all the regions of Belarus enjoy a vast array of experience in the area of local citizen participation and local self-government. They plan and tailor their activities to the specific needs of the localities with the support of local NGO’s.
The regional offices offer all stakeholders educational seminars and support to civil society initiatives. They cooperate with delegates of local councils and NGO leaders, acting as resources centres for citizens. Thanks to these activities over the past 20 years of its operations more than 6500 representatives of public organisations and local government have had the opportunity to raise their professional and educational levels.
Throughout its history the NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» has been engaged in publishing aimed at disseminating knowledge and best practices in local self-government, citizen participation and local initiatives, NGO development activities, review of current Belarusian and international legislation, showcase of projects and programs of the Belarusian experts for the promotion of local self-government reform in the Republic of Belarus.
The NGO «Lev Sapieha Foundation» has published over 70 books, publications, periodicals, scientific reviews, journals, guides and reference books for experts in the field of local self-government, NGO and civil initiatives leaders, researchers, academia and students including the following major publications:
- the European Charter of Local Self-Government translated into the Belarusian language;
- the first and currently the only fundamental scientific and practical guide in the country «Local Self-Government in Belarus»;
- quarterly journal «Bulletin of Self-Government» (27 editions);
- review of the major legal acts in the field of local self-government (a set of publications for 2006-2011.);
- a number of publications outlining Lev Sapieha’s role and significance;
- reference book for the deputies of local Councils of the Republic of Belarus (2 editions);
- reference book for teachers of secondary and secondary specialized schools on democracy and civil society development challenges (a series of 10 publications);
- scientific and practical guide «Local Self-Government Associations»;
- a number of publications about some relevant local challenges (in the area of housing and land management, delivery of housing and utility services, environmental security, access to environmental and other information of public interest, guarantee of social rights and freedoms of citizens);
- reference book «Local Self-Government in Belarus and Foreign Countries (questions and answers)», etc.
Among the very latest editions of the NGO “Lev Sapieha Foundation” should be mentioned:
- booklet “The Forms of Citizen Participation in the Implementation of Local Self-Government” (2014).
- booklet “Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process (adopted by the Conference of INGOs at its meeting on 1st October 2009)” (2014).
- booklet “Citizen Participation in Local Decision-Making (case studies in the framework of the European Local Democracy Week)” (2015).
- booklet “The Framework Conditions of Accession of Belarus to the European Charter of Local Self-Government” (2016).
- handbook “The Institutional Development of Non-Profit Organizations” (2016).