2020 wasn’t easy on us — just like it wasn’t on many NGOs. Still, we are proud to have done a lot last year.
We launched a new website, and now you can follow us on interakcia.by. We finished two large infrastructure projects that we had been working on for five years– one in Volozhin and another in Polotsk. We continued to support Belarusian signatories of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy as part of ongoing and new projects. We had been helping Belarusian beneficiaries of the Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus cross-border cooperation programme to coordinate and manage their projects. And we also launched a new international R&D project on innovations.
In early 2020, public lighting modernization works in Polotsk were finally over. Thanks to the project, almost two thousand LED lamps, new lighting poles, light control boxes, and 12 autonomous solar-powered lamps appeared in 28 streets of the city, while 26 city objects received new decorative illumination, including stairs to the St. Sophia Cathedral, a boulevard along the central Skaryna avenue, and a bridge across the Zapadnaya Dvina river.
To find out whether city residents are happy with the new lighting, we ran a public opinion survey and compared the findings with those of a similar questionnaire four years ago. In both surveys, the number of participants was more than 2,000 people. Almost 60% of the respondents believe that street lighting on the 18 modernized streets and 26 city objects has become better than in other parts of the city. The same 60% are generally satisfied with the quality of public lighting in the central streets and avenues of the city; in 2015, less than 50% of the respondents believed so. If you want to learn more about the survey results, click here.
In February, we closed the project by holding a big conference in Polotsk. At the conference, we talked about the prospects of smart lighting in Belarus, shared ups and downs that we faced while implementing the project, and officially launched the modernized street and decorative lighting, along with a new automated control system.
While summarizing the project’s results, we decided it was fair to share not only our successes, but also to talk about challenges that we had been facing, and maybe even give advice to those who are still in the beginning of this long journey. This is how we came up with a publication ‘How to Modernize Public Lighting: a Complete Step-by-Step Guide Based on the Case of the City of Polotsk’. If you are planning similar changes in your city — this brochure is for you.
And in June, PubLiCity became a finalist of a prestigious contest of EU Sustainable Energy Award 2020 for Eastern Partner Countries. Only one project from each of the six Eastern Partnership countries made it to the final!
Modernization of public lighting in Polotsk was supervised by Interakcia’s Dzmitry Pauliushchyk, Marina Borisova, Volha Varazhun, Ivan Shchadranok, and a team of experts from our partner, Polotsk District Executive Committee.
The project was funded by the European Union. We thank the EU and the EU Delegation to Belarus for supporting us throughout its implementation.
PROJECT “VOLOZHIN WITHOUT BARRIERS”
In July, we joined forces with our project partners and the EU Delegation to Belarus to open the new centre for inclusive tourism in Volozhin. This was the final event of our project “Volozhin without barriers”, which we had been working on since 2016.
Thanks to the project, second floor of the centre for inclusive tourism how has a 20-bed hostel and a modern conference room — both fully adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. Tourists with disabilities and other persons with low mobility can now spend several days in the Volozhin district: walk along the Bielakorac nature trail, the first accessible nature trail in Belarus, visit historical landmarks and architectural sites, and stay at the hostel or on a rural farmstead. To plan your accessible trip, use the brochure “Volozhin for all” (in Russian) and website volozhin4all.by to choose any of the 7 accessible tourist routes around the Volozhin district.
Watch this news report from the STV TV channel if you want to find out more about the opening of the Centre for Inclusive Tourism in Volozhin. And to read a detailed article that summarizes results of the Volozhin without Barriers project, click here.
Changes in Volozhin happened thanks to our own Irina Ivanova, Yuliya Kukhtsinskaya, Sveta Paddubnaya, Nastya Ryzhankova, Volha Salakheyeva, and our project partners: Volozhin District Executive Committee, Public Association ‘Belarusian Association of People with Disabilities’, and Belarusian Public Association ‘Country Escape’.
We are thankful to the European Union for financial support of this project.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION PROJECTS
In 2020, we continued to provide expert support to the beneficiaries of two cross-border cooperation projects within the European Union’s Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus programme.
One of these projects, Development of Telecommunication Infrastructure at the Belarus-Lithuania Border (BOMBEL-4), aims to establish an optical-fiber communication system linking all Belarus border stations/posts, border crossing points and border detachments at the border with Lithuania into one common digital data transfer network.
Another project, ClimaAdapt, will contribute to better preparedness to natural disasters of emergency and rescue services (ERS) and local authorities in the border regions of Latvia and Belarus.
Throughout last year, our own Dzmitry Pauliuschyk, Yuliya Kukhtsinskaya and Katerina Zykava had been providing consultations to project partners and supporting them in organization of project activities, procurement procedures, communication, and reporting.
In 2020, 3 Belarusian cities joined the Covenant of Mayors community. As of today, 56 local communities in our country have committed to develop sustainable energy and flight climate change.
If you still haven’t heard about the Covenant of Mayors, watch this video (since 2020, it has Belarusian subtitles!).
Originally, members of the Covenant of Mayors aimed to reduce CO2 emissions by 2020% by 2020. But as time goes by, more and more signatories commit to new EU objectives. That is, to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 (by 30% for Eastern Partnership countries, including Belarus) and become better adapted to the consequences of climate change. We are happy to announce that in 2020 the community of Belarusian signatories who committed to new objectives has increased by 5 new members. As of today, 48 out of 56 Belarusian CoM members are working towards new objectives!
If you want to find out more about the current status of the Covenant of Mayors in Belarus, read our latest fact sheet.
One of the main tasks of CoM signatories is to develop and implement a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP). And for Interakcia, our main task as a Covenant Supporter and coordinator of the CoM-East project in Belarus is to help the signatories with it.
In 2020, we helped more than 20 Belarusian city and district authorities to develop their SECAPs. Out of those 20, 4 cities submitted their SECAPs for approval to the European Secretariat of the Covenant of Mayors, and 2 cities are now approving their SECAPs on the city level. Other signatories are finalizing work on their climate adaptation activities in accordance with the new CoM objectives, so we expect 2021 to be rich on SECAPs in Belarus.
Developing SECAP is one thing, and implementing it is quite another. To implement a SECAP, a city needs money, and in Belarus, budgetary funds are often not enough to finance climate activities. This is why in 2020 we, together with 25 CoM signatories, developed a set of pipeline infrastructure projects that can be financed through international organizations and banks. The pipelines include projects to modernize public lighting, buildings and heating system, develop renewable energy sources and adapt to climate change.
In February 2020, we conducted a session of the Belarusian Covenant of Mayors Club in Polotsk. This informal association of proactive Belarusian CoM signatories was established in 2018 so that its members could exchange best practices. During the CoM Club session in Polotsk, we talked about how CoM signatories can attract funding for implementation of joint large-scale projects to modernize urban infrastructure.
And two weeks later, on the International NGO Day on 27 February, we conducted a two-day communication seminar for National Coordinators of the Covenant of Mayors from six Eastern Partnership countries. We welcomed representatives of various ministries and state bodies, local authorities and NGOs from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in Minsk. During the seminar we talked about effective ways to strengthen communication on the new Covenant in the region and raise awareness of climate and green energy initiatives.
In June, we joined the EU Sustainable Energy Week, as we do every year. This year, because of COVID-19, most EUSEW events took place online or outdoors under slogan ‘Beyond the crisis: clean energy for green recovery and growth’.
In 2020, we supported Energy Days as part of EUSEW in 22 cities. Altogether, Belarusian signatories conducted more than 450 events on energy saving and clean energy!
To read more about Energy Days-2020 in Belarus, click here.
Along with organizing their own local events, local authorities, organizations and residents of CoM signatory cities had a chance to take part in two of our online contests. Schools, libraries and other organizations participated in a national contest of ideas for youth events that can be organized as part of the National Energy Saving Day. And participants of the contest for the best story about clean energy sent us more than 20 photo and video submissions on how Belarusian cities became resilient to climate change! To find out more about the contests and learn who the winners were, click here.
Interakcia’s experts to support CoM signatories and promote the Covenant of Mayors in Belarus are Ivan Shchadranok, Volha Salakheyeva, and Uladzimir Rak.
In October, we started a new project to support Belarusian signatories of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy – this time, with the assistance of the Belarus Support Program (BSP).
In the new project, we are joining forces with a German non-governmental association Climate Alliance to help Belarusian local authorities to synchronize their CoM objectives with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 7, 11, 13, 17). It is of utmost importance that efforts to attain these objectives are complementary and mutually supportive, while also taking into consideration peculiarities and priorities of each individual location.
We are testing this approach in the Korma and Smorgon districts of Belarus. Local authorities of these districts are among the most proactive signatories of the Covenant of Mayors in our country.
One of our major tasks in this project is to analyze the way local authorities monitor the progress of the climate adaptation activities, and synchronize their current monitoring system with the system of indicators used by the Covenant of Mayors programme. This is what we had been focusing on in 2020. And in 2021 we will develop a guide on monitoring and evaluation of climate adaptation activities with reference to SDGs.
Of course, attainment of SDGs in the regions is only possible if local population understands these objectives and supports them. This is why our second component in this project is awareness raising. Our German partner, Climate Alliance, has shared with us one of their recent developments, an interactive communication tool Change the Future.
By taking part in challenges and getting points for each completed task, Change the Future users will learn what each and every of them can do as an individual to contribute to sustainable energy and climate development of their town and district. In 2020, we had been busy translating and localizing Change the Future platform to make its materials and tasks more relevant for Belarus, and in 2021 we plan to test this instrument in the Smorgon and Korma districts and even run a contest between the two districts!
Our team members responsible for localization of SDGs in the Korma and Smorgon districts are Daria Stepnova, Ivan Shchadranok, Volha Salakheyeva, Yuliya Kukhtsinskaya, and Marina Borisova.
The project is implemented under the Belarus Support Program (BSP) of IBB Dortmund on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and German Society for International Cooperation.
In June, we started a new R&D project BorderUAS under the EU Horizon 2020 program.
The project aims to create an innovative multi-role lighter-than-air (LTA) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with an ultra-high resolution multi-sensor system that will increase effectiveness, lower the cost and revisit the time of border surveillance operations, especially on the rough terrain and under extreme weather conditions.
Clearly, the use of such technologies has critical ethical aspects linked to informational security, human rights and illegal migration, among others. Our task in the project is to make sure that these issues are taken into consideration at all stages of development and piloting of the new technology, and to engage civil society organizations into an open dialogue where these issues can be discussed. To help us with this task, we enlisted support of Andrew Sushko, digitalization & human rights expert and co-founder of the human rights organization Human Constanta.
In June, we took part in the project’s online kick-off meeting where we discussed practical aspects of how the project will be implemented with more than 40 representatives of 19 project partners from Spain, Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, and Malta.
From June till December, the project team had been busy developing technical specifications for the unmanned aerial system (UAS) platform, including requirements to the ‘smart’ internal devices, such as controllers, sensors and so on, and software that will ensure coordination and maintenance of all platform components. Project team also planned ways to communicate the project progress and disseminate its results, and launched the project’s website on https://borderuas.eu/.
Our experts Dzmitry Pauliuschyk, Yuliya Kukhtsinskaya and Marina Borisova provided their inputs for a number of project documents, while Andrew Sushko reviewed project outputs from the point of view of human rights standards, ethical norms, and compliance with the EU and Belarusian legislation in these areas.
We also took part in project communication activities in the EU which, because of COVID-19, happened mostly online.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 883272.
CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
Projects that we have been working on in 2020 contribute to the attainment of several Sustainable Development Goals:
- Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
- Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities
- Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Goal 13 – Climate Action
- Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals
In 2020, Interakcia became a member of the Partnership Group for Sustainable Development. This open group exists since 2018 and includes civil society organizations, businesses, international organizations whose work contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Belarus.
Since 2020, we have also been part of a training course “Сapacity Building and Enhancement of Processes for Localization of Agenda 2030 in Belarus”. The course is implemented by the Belarus Support Program (BSP) and aims to support and strengthen the process of localizing Agenda 2030 and SDGs in Belarus.
As part of the training course, we are happy to share our expertise in regional development and climate action, while also contributing to hands-on localization of SDGs 7, 11, 13 and 17 in the Korma and Smorgon districts.
Here are a couple of other things that we did in 2020:
- Conducted a strategy session on how to develop a smart city concept at the Minsk Smart City Forum-2020;
- Shared our expertise with the students of the School for Young Reformers and participants of the Positive Change Summit;
- Conducted webinars and trainings on urban development, climate adaptation, communication and project development;
- Talked about our activities live on Belarusian radio and on TV;
- Acquired new skills by attending various trainings and programs – such as Belarus Support Program’s training course on sustainable event management ‘Events for Future’;
- Our director Ivan Shchadranok became member of the National Coordination Committee of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program SGP GEF Belarus/ UNDP in Belarus.
In accordance with the principles of transparency and accountability, we are sharing information on the allocation of our project funds in 2020.
The information has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Decree of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus №153-1 as of 30.10.2020.
INFORMATION ON CASH AND OTHER ASSETS INFLOW IN 2020
|Name of inflow||BYR|
|Assets handed over by the Founders||None|
|Revenues from events conducted in accordance with the Foundation’s Statute||None|
|Income from business operations in accordance with the Foundation’s Statute||198854.88|
|Revenues from foreign states (organizations), international organizations||153606.69|
|Other legal revenues||None|
INFORMATION ON EXPENDITURE OF CASH AND OTHER ASSETS IN 2020
|Name of expense||BYR|
|Expenses related to implementation of project activities as part of international technical assistance projects and foreign gratuitous aid projects||49059,26|
|Office rent and utility charges||28932,52|
|Communication and Internet services, office equipment maintenance||1889,47|
|Purchase of equipment and appliances||1299,00|
|Expenses related to organization and conduction of events||32310,8|
|Remuneration of labour and services in accordance with civil law contracts, including obligatory deductions||262143,29|
|Per diems and other administrative expenses||2254,14|
|Total expenditure of cash and other assets:||416059,65|
|Average number of employees per year||7|
|Amount of employees’ labour remuneration per year||243103,82|
Information on the number of unitary enterprises or business entities created by the Foundation to conduct business activities, including participation of the Foundation in such legal entities – none.
AND FINALLY… THANK YOU!
We do not know what 2021 may bring. Looks like it won’t be easy. But we will continue doing our best to make cities and regions of Belarus cleaner, more comfortable and accessible for all.
We are thankful to each and every one we have been working with in 2020. See you in 2021!