Thursday, October 11, 2018

Think Tanks in an Authoritarian State – the Belarusian Case

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 10 – Think thanks are often considered to be one of the characteristics of democracy societies or even as a precondition for its rise, but they exist in other kinds of countries as well, often under difficult conditions and for relatively long periods of time, as a new study of the functioning of independent analytic centers in and for Belarus shows.

            Yaroslav Krivoy and Olga Grinyuk of the Astragorsky Research Center conclude on the basis of their research that some of these think tanks do exceptional work but differ profoundly from their counterparts in the West because they have little opportunity to interact with the state or affect public policy ( in Belarusian; in Russian).

            Government officials, “as a rule,” they write, are suspicious of these independent think tanks because many of the latter are forced to survive on financial assistance from the West.” And Belarusian institutions don’t want to cooperate with them lest they be frozen out as well, especially when the think tanks touch on politically sensitive issues.

            Nonetheless, Krivooy ad Grinyuk say, a study by the Belarusian Research Council two years ago showed that the best of these think thanks have done significant work and merit attention. The analysts group them according to three things: their organizational potential, the information they draw on, and their research and publication activity.

            Organizationally, the two continue, the strongest are the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, the Warsaw based CASE Center for Social and Economic Research on Belarus, and the BEROC Center for Economic Research. 

            In terms of the sources of information, the leading think tanks are the Belarusian Center for European Research SYMPA/BIPART, the Astragosky Center, and the Liberal Club. And in terms of research productivity, they are BEROC, the Nashe mneniye expert group NMNE and the Research Center of the Institute of Privatization and Management.

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